Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Colonel Rutherford's Colt
Lucius Shepard, 138 pages

Colonel Rutherford's Colt
Lucius Shepard
Lucius Shepard was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1947. He has travelled extensively in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. He lives in Seattle. Mr Shepard has won 2 World Fantasy Awards including one for his collection The Jaguar Hunter. As well, he has won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Beast of the Heartland

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Colonel Rutherford's Colt tell two stories about the titular weapon. In one story, the weapon belonged to Bob Champion, a white supremacist martyr whose widow is trying to sell the gun to anyone except her former lover, Raymond Borchard. In the other story, the gun belongs to Colonel Hawes Rutherford, a tyrannical American living in Cuba who uses the weapon to kill his wife's lover. Although Lucius Shepard makes it clear, at first, that the modern tale is the real story of the gun, eventually the two tales combine.

Both stories focus on Jimmy Guy, a gun dealer who specializes in weapons with an historical provenance. While attending a gun show in Issaquah, Washington, Loretta Snow approaches him and asks him to sell a Colt on commission. Her only condition is that it not be sold to Borchard.

Jimmy agrees, but as soon as he gets his hands on the gun, Borchard appears and offers well over the worth of the weapon. Jimmy strings Borchard along, remaining true to his promise, despite the influence of his partner, Rita Whitelaw, a Native American woman, whose specialty is manipulating people.

As the gun show progresses and Jimmy finds an alternative buyer for the weapon, he also creates an alternative history for the gun. Only sharing the details of the emerging story with Rita, Jimmy's fiction of an historical romance set in Cuba during the 1910s is the story of lust, power, and vengeance. While the story is Jimmy's, Rita helps guide him, as do external events.

While Shepard does allow the two stories to parallel each other, they do so in subtle ways. Loretta Snow's story of life with Champion and Borchard does resemble Susan Lisle Rutherford's life with the Colonel in any specific, yet there are definite links. Similarly, Borchard and Rutherford and very different men with different goals and attitudes, yet they are clearly linked together. Most of the characters in Jimmy's tale, for instance Susan's lover, Luis Carrasquel, have no counterpart in the contemporary storyline.

Although Colonel Rutherford's Colt is a short novel, less than 57,000 words, it is rich in description and character. Even though Shepard provides more background for his support characters, like Loretta and Borchard, the reader feels as if Jimmy and Rita have even more of an history behind them, both individual and collectively, that remains unseen.

While Shepard is widely regarded as a science fiction author, there is very little of the fantastic in Colonel Rutherford's Colt. Jimmy's story's affect on contemporary events involves neither time travel nor multiple worlds, but rather Jimmy's mental facilities which are alluded to in the opening paragraph. The tale he creates about Colonel Rutherford appears to be a mechanism that helps him cope with the reality he finds.

Currently, Colonel Rutherford's Colt is only available as an e-book, published by ElectricStory. This limits its readership to those who are able and willing to read the book on-line, on a handheld unit or by printing out more than 100 pages. With luck, Colonel Rutherford's Colt will soon find itself in a more widely available format. It does demonstrate, however, that quality literature is being published in electronic format without traditional publication support.

Copyright © 2002 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver in one of SF Site's Contributing Editors as well as one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He is Chairman of Windycon 29 and Midwest Construction 1. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is the editor of three anthologies forthcoming from DAW. He is a two-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer. He lives in Illinois with one wife, two daughters and 5000 books.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide