Book Review: “Panama” by C.S. Boyack

IPanama love weird westerns. Maybe this isn’t technically a western, given that Panama is at approximately the same longitude as West Virginia, but in every other respect, it fits the bill. It’s got cowboys, ghosts, witchcraft, and plenty of good old-fashioned gunfights.

Ethan Stafford and Cooper Hexum are U.S. marshals sent by President Theodore Roosevelt to investigate the disappearances of workers in the Panama Canal Zone. Ethan has a mysterious ability to see and communicate with ghosts, and Cooper–“Coop,” as he is called–is well-versed in all manner of magic and witchcraft. Roosevelt has reason to believe supernatural forces are at work, and he is soon proven right, as Ethan and Coop discover that, in addition to a plot by Spanish invaders, a demonic entity known as “El Chivato” is building up an army of his own using the souls of workers lured into the jungle.

Ethan and Coop are outfitted with considerable weaponry to fight these threats, as well as plenty of magical amulets and talismans that Coop acquires. One of my favorite early scenes was one in which Dr. Welker, who plays “Q” to Coop and Ethan’s collective 007, outfits them with all the weaponry they’ll need for their mission, including a Browning machine gun.

In the course of their mission, the pair meet a witch named Jinx, who has been captured by the Spanish, and Billy the Kid, hiding out under a different name, along with many other interesting characters. The tension builds as El Chivato’s powers grow, until our heroes confront him and his malevolent army in a final shootout, just as any good Western should conclude.

The prose is straightforward and blunt. It reminded me a bit of Hemingway, which is exactly the right style for this sort of novel. The story is well-paced and blends elements of adventure, horror, and occasional comic relief very well.

My only gripe about the book was the number of typos. Mostly minor things–missing apostrophes or glitches like “if” for “it,” etc. There were also a few formatting issues, such as character’s thoughts sometimes being unitalicized. It was nothing that ruined the book for me, but frequent enough that I noticed. To be clear, I’m very sympathetic about this, as I know from my own experience that it’s really, really hard to put out a whole novel and catch every typo. What’s great about ebooks is that it is easy to go back and correct them.

Technical issues aside, I loved the book’s atmosphere and the way Boyack balances a classic cowboy adventure, complete with likable heroes and a cruel villain, with occult demonic elements. And he ties it all together in a way that’s very satisfying. Panama is a very fun read for anyone who enjoys a good adventure story.

17 Comments

  1. Great review….I’m going to have to get this sometime (Typos- ah, those evil cyber-pixies sneaking them in during the publishing interlude)
    PS: Going back to your review of the film ‘Knives Out’. Our copy of the DVD arrived and we thoroughly, indefatigably enjoyed the film. If it had not been for review this would have passed us by. Thanks thanks
    Keep up the good work!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed “Knives Out.” Happy to have been helpful. 🙂

  2. I enjoyed Panama. Didn’t think I would, as it’s not my typical genre, but I love Boyack’s creativity, so I gave it a try. It was a delightful surprise for me.

    1. Thank you! I will definitely be reading more of his work in the future.

      Thanks also for the Twitter share! Have a nice day. 🙂

  3. It’s been quite a while since I read this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like all of the author’s work, it was highly inventive and entertaining!

    1. I look forward to reading more of his work. Thanks for the comment, and the Twitter share! 🙂

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