WILD AND MEAN,
SHARP AND KEEN
THE ROWDY SERIES, BOOK ONE
Young Adult / Historical Fiction / Western / Action & Adventure
Publisher: Wise Wolf Books
Page Count: 278 pages
Publication Date: February 23, 2022
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Thrust to the mercy of the Mississippi river, thirteen-year-old Rowdy floats safely away as he watches the smoke rise from his burning farmhouse. Now alone in the world, his perilous journey of survival begins, challenging and shaping him into the young man his father would want him to become.
Pulled from the waters, he is given a chance by a lone river Captain and his mate. Rowdy has grown strong working the river but must use his wit as well as his strength to confront a bullying crewman and survive a surprise attack by river pirates.
Growing up on the Mississippi river was a start for Rowdy, but Dodge City, Kansas proves it has its own challenges. He was warned not to get entangled with Patrick Byrne, Dodge City’s most powerful rancher. Unknowingly crossing Byrne, he faces life and death decisions. Rowdy’s only option is to run.
Survival is what he has come to know all too well. His escape across the plains nearly claims his life. Through a stranger’s help, Rowdy recovers and finally discovers Lincoln, New Mexico, and acquires a new friend along the way. Rowdy is settling in when hired guns sent by Patrick Byrne find and confront him. Blood, bullets, and tears bring Rowdy’s world to a showdown. Fighting for what was right is his code, living life for others becomes his way, and staring danger in the face is what he must do if he can truly be Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen.
While Wild & Mean, Sharp & Keen starts out quietly enough: an older Rowdy is preparing for a hunting trip with his old friend, Roberson, it doesn’t take long for this story to really let loose! As the two friends settle in for their first night’s sleep, memories of Rowdy’s past take hold of his dreams. Those memories gripped me, too, as immediately there were boots on the ground and non-stop action and excitement from then on.
The success of this story rests on the shoulders of young Rowdy. He is a likable and sympathetic character, and after everything he’s gone through in his early life, he’s also careful, wise, and deliberate in his actions. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his moments of doubt. He’s got tough decisions to make, and I agonized right along with him as he reasoned his way to what was right and just. The story has thoughtful moments with brave decisions and deeds. Rowdy is supported by some good men, but the bad guys are truly bad, with no redeeming qualities. I also liked that his horse, Delilah, and dog, appropriately named Dog, feature prominently in the tale.
The author uses quotes and song lyrics as touchstones for Rowdy as he matures. Each one is important at different points in his life and acts as guidance in the absence of an adult mentor. Though, at times, he encounters a couple of good men that serve that role for him. But most of the time, Rowdy is alone, trying to make his own way, which makes for a good and satisfying coming-of-age story as well as a pulse-pounding western adventure.
I recommend ROWDY: WILD & MEAN, SHARP & KEEN to readers of all ages who enjoy western, coming-of-age adventure stories.
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Chris Mullen is an author from Richmond, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1997 and began his teaching career. Chris was awarded the 2019 Connie Wootton Excellence in Teaching Award presented by the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools. In 2021, Chris signed with Wise Wolf Books, a YA Imprint of Wolf Pack Publishing, and re-released his debut novel ROWDY: Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen on February 24, 2022. On March 31, 2022, he released ROWDY: Redemption, followed by an April 21, 2022, release of ROWDY: Dead or Alive. Chris currently writes for Wise Wolf Books and is working on the next ROWDY installment.
His novel, ROWDY: Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen was named WINNER in the 2020 American Fiction Awards, a 2020 Best Book Finalist, and 3rd Place WINNER in the 2021 Selah Awards, all in the western category. His YA Western series, ROWDY, continues to grow and attract readers of all ages.
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