• Route 7 Review

"Pinebox Collins" by Rod Miller, Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Armstrong

As promised, here’s the first book review by Dr. Armstrong, Professor of English at Dixie State University. The book he will discuss is called Pinebox Collins by Rod Miller, which has a rating of 4.8 stars on Amazon and 4 stars on Goodreads.

When Jonathon "Pinebox" Collins loses his lower right leg to a cannonball in his first Civil War battle, the course of his life is forever changed. While recuperating, he learns "The Dismal Trade" of undertaking, the emerging art of arterial embalming, and coffin construction. His first case turns out to be the victim of Wild Bill Hickok's first showdown, and Collins crosses paths with the legendary gunfighter - and occasionally his victims - across the Old West. ... Often avoided and sometimes shunned owing to his practice of The Dismal Trade, Pinebox Collins learns to drink alone. Love eludes him and friends are hard to come by. His recurring acquaintance with Wild Bill proves the most lasting, even after Hickok is in the ground…

Let’s see what Dr. Armstrong has to say about the piece:

While most of the time I’ve gone back to the books of the same writers I teach in the classroom—W. B. Yeats, Nathanael West, Larry French, Truman Capote and Flannery O’Connor—I also permitted myself the pleasure of reading several books sent to me by publishers and authors, including cowboy novelist Rod Miller’s latest story set in the American West, Pinebox Collins (Five Star, 2020, 232 pages, $25.95). Miller’s titular hero, an undertaker by trade, is a veteran of the Civil War who lost his right foot to a Confederate cannonball. Brought up in rural Utah and a one-time rodeo rider, Miller infuses his tale with a rare degree of authenticity and dramatic directness, not unlike the work of the recently deceased Larry McMurtry. Miller, moreover, infuses his prose with details that--at once concrete, dynamic and expressive--arouse emotions as they engage the senses. Consider this early passage in the novel, where Pinebox speaks to what happened to him immediately following his injury: “Not only had the secessionists taken my right foot, the shoe from my left foot was stolen along with all my clothes save my underwear and what was left of my breeches. They said I was damn lucky I didn’t freeze to death, although the cold may have contributed to the clotting of my blood, thus saving me from bleeding out.”


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