"Incident at Twenty-Mile"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark AUG 4, 1999)

In 1898, 18-year old Matthew Dubcheck arrives in Twenty-Mile, Wyoming from Brushnell, Nebraska. He has his pack, a heavy homemade gun, which is practically a cannon, and several stories about how both of his parents recently died. By this time, Twenty-Mile has only 15 inhabitants and no jobs. "There is nothing happening in Twenty-Mile. And that's on busy days. This is a town without history. Its past is only eleven years long and it has no future at all," Livery owner B.J. Stone tries to tell Matthew. Twenty-Mile's exists purely to give the silver ore miners a place to go on Saturday nights, otherwise, the owners figure, they'd find jobs elsewhere. So the train drops the miners off in town on it's way down the mountain with its full load and picks them and the preacher up the next day to bring them back up for another week of mining.


The remaining businesses in Twenty-mile are a Mercantile Emporium run by Mr. Kane and his pretty seventeen old daughter; room and board for the outrageous fee of $1 at the Bjorkvists; drinks and "girls" at The Traveller's Welcome; and, the Tonsorial Palace offers a bath, shave and a splash of rum. Despite the grim outlook, Matthew pursues employment. He's had lots of experience as the new kid in town since his father was always moving the family. Within a day or so, Matthew has smooth talked his way into getting nearly everyone to give him a little work and sets up home at the abandoned Marshall's office.

While Matthew is making new friends in Twenty-mile, the baddest of the bad, Hamilton Lieder (pronounced leader) has just escaped the Laramie prison with two "moonberries." They are destructively making their way north when they learn about the silver train that stops at Twenty-mile. Self proclaimed patriot, Lieder needs some funds to get his new militant group started and thus arrives in Twenty-mile to await the Saturday train.


I found this book a very good read. But be forewarned, there are some very graphic and violent scenes in this book. I am beginning to believe that it's just part of the American West history. But there's also humor. For example the way Lieder likes to twist quotes and attributes them in a bible kind of way like when he's explaining why it will be the preacher's fault if Lieder has to blow off his knee caps "...For he who tempts violence is himself guilty of that violence... Paul to the Chippawas: 7, 13". And the Matthew's identity with the Ringo Kid and his favorite writer, Anthony Bradford Chumms. All of the town's people are really a little bizarre.

Trevanian occasionally hints at 100 year old current events, such as the Spanish-American war. This kind of detail just adds to the setting. But, I was caught completely off guard that this book could be based on a real incident! From what I had read, I knew that Trevanian was trying his hand at a western and had done a good job. And even though there is a note at the beginning of the book as to the origins of this novel, I still thought it was part of the story. Not until I got to the very end and started reading Trevanian's notes on all of the characters did I truly start to believe that he did indeed weave this fictional tale based on some very real events and people.

But then again, after doing some research on the Internet, I think he's spoofing us and he's made this whole thing up. After all, this is the same man who won't reveal his identity and has managed to pull off bestsellers without having to give a face to face interview. And in all my searches on the Internet, I couldn't find a single item to collaborate what he says is factual. No one who has interviewed him probably had read the transcript so they didn't ask the most obvious question. Well if he did make the whole thing up, all the more credit to him. If he borrowed a transcript, as he claims at the beginning of the book, I think he touched it up just right. Either way, it's a great story and I highly recommend it.

  • Amazon reader rating: from 66 reviews

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About the Author:

Trevanian is the pseudonym used to protect a very private person who has managed to successfully sell 5 million books without making a single promotional appearance. However, rumor has it that his real identity is Rodney Whitaker since it is believed that author was teaching at University of Texas when The Eiger Sanction was submitted, and Rodney Whitaker is in the credits of that same film. Moreover, a Rodney Whitaker is quoted by Johnathan Hemlock in The Loo Sanction. If he is Rodney Whitaker, then he was born in 1931 in Granville, New York and holds a Ph.D. in Communications. Regardless of his true identity, his books have been translated into more than fourteen languages. He now lives in the French Basque Mountains. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014