A Tale Out of Luck lacks authenticity, poetry of good, classic western fiction

Let's say someone wronged you. They cut you off in traffic. Stole from you. Backed into your car and didn't leave a note. Hacked into your computer and left a virus.

Let's say someone wronged you. They cut you off in traffic. Stole from you. Backed into your car and didn't leave a note. Hacked into your computer and left a virus.

Things like that make you mad, and you probably plot all kinds of revenge ranging from mild to murder. Sometimes, though, getting back at someone gets you nothing but trouble.

In the new novel, A Tale Out of Luck by Willie Nelson (with Mike Blakely), an old crime follows former Texas Ranger Hank Tomlinson, and someone wants revenge. The problem is, Hank's innocent.

In small towns, word travels fast. So when Hank Tomlinson brought a fine racing mare from Kentucky to tiny Luck, Texas, everybody knew about it.

Hank was famous in them parts. Once a Texas Ranger, then the founder of the town and owner of Broken Arrow Ranch, everybody knew Hank and liked him well.


Everybody, that is, except the neighbors at the Double Horn Ranch. Still, the Tomlinsons got by fine with Jack Brennan and his men at the Double Horn.

Then Hank's mare went missing on his sons' watch. As if rustlers weren't enough of a problem, a stranger with arrows in his body and a branding rod in his possession was found near the Broken Arrow, and soldiers in nearby Fort Jennings attacked the Comanches with little provocation. Being unarmed in Indian Country was suddenly a foolish and dangerous thing.

When someone came pokin' around, asking about the stranger's murder, things got even worse.

As Hank's sons, Skeeter and Jay Blue, went in search of the missing mare, Hank found himself in the fight of his life. Years before, three of his fellow Rangers were killed, and rumor was that Hank murdered them. The distinctive markings on the arrows found in the stranger were identical to the ones that killed Hank's friends.

Hank knows the arrows come from someone aimed at revenge, but he has no alibi and the State Police are on their way to arrest him.

With the help of a heart o'gold saloon keeper, an albino ex-slave and his Mexican wife, two wet-behind-the-ears boys, and several ranch hands, Hank tries to save himself from the noose before time and Luck run out.

Well. All I can say is that author Willie Nelson might want to keep his day job.

That's not to say that this is a bad book, because it's not. But alas, it's not a great book, either.


A Tale Out of Luck lacks the poetry of good westerns and its authenticity is questionable, particularly the language. While the characters are likeable, they're typical western fare. The ubiquitous cowboys-and-Indians battle scene is exciting but culminates in a silly ending with just too many ho-hum, saw-that-one-coming coincidences.

This book reads good enough but could be better, that's all. It's merely okay.

Readers who put cowpoke novels on their reading list just for something different might like this book. If you're a die-hard western fan looking for the next L'Amour or Kelton, though, you're out of luck here.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of the Detroit Lakes Newspapers book review column, "The Bookworm Sez." Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,000 books.

What To Read Next
Get Local