Robert Gish’s eight stories of the old and new West speak of the search for a region of the mind and heart, as much as for the places in which his characters act out their personal dramas.For some the West remains a place of renewal and hope, like Coronado’s Quivira, promising escape from wrong start and thwarted desires and offering the possibility of transformation. For others it is the graveyard of expectations, where harsh truths and unwelcome realities must be faced.
The title story and the concluding story, “The Hands of Che Guevara,” deal with transformations and disappointments of young men caught between their own needs for adventure and fulfillment and the confining demands and values of their families and communities. “The Quick and the Dead” tells of a first close encounter with death and spiritual transcendence. “Seeing the Elephant” is an exuberant coming-of-age story that explores the interplay between Hispanic and Anglo culture, between the masculine and the feminine, between innocence and experience. “Apple Core, Baltimore” and “The Good Cowboy” look into darker regions of the human heart, while “The Long Night of Elfego Baca” and “Daddy’s Smile” imaginatively recreate pivotal scenes from the lives of two historical characters. Written in a lyrical yet earthy style that reflects the dreams and ideals of his characters, Gish’s stories radiate a love of the region in which the writer grew up and probe the mysteries at the heart of human relationships.