Native of Wichita yet sometimes found in rainy Paris, Scott Phillips is at it again. His irreverent, sensual, novel Hop Alley packs a Western wallop. Set in the Wild West in 1878, wily protagonist Bill Ogden, photographer of lynchings, scalped hunters and slaughtered buffaloes, who survives Phillips previous novel Cottonwood, is back. But you do not have to have read Cottonwood to appreciate Bill Ogden. If any actor were to play this role, it would be Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton and Ogden share a love of irony. Ogden who has fled boomtown Cottonwood after having an affair with the beautiful Maggie, who was married to his friend, is running from the terrorizing family of serial killers, The Bloody Benders. He lands in the frontier town of Denver. Not only charming Ogden is witty and clever. Though he had quite a thing for Maggie, commitment is not in his vocabulary. Sensing this, Maggie leaves Ogden. Now a photographer looking for a gig, Ogden has changed his name to Bill Sadlaw. He becomes smitten with Priscilla, a fallen singer, who is smitten with Laudanum, while her rent is paid by another man, but neither man resents the others presence in this triangle. Sadlaw witnesses murders and riots in the Chinese community known as Hop Alley. Fires burn, women are seduced and abandoned. A mysterious murder occurs with Bill Sadlaw the suspect and yet during all this turmoil and an all out riot in Hop Alley, Sadlaw is brushing away the many ladies who are hot to trot for him without his lifting a flattering mot.
Phillips has a way of writing a bon vivant of the Wild West with testosterone raging without it appearing macho or obnoxious or ego centric. His portrait of Bill Sadlaw is most vivid when in sexual encounters and Phillips charm oozes from the pages. His writing is frank, vivid and hot, but the man is rarely the aggressor. The ladies drop their drawers or veils in an instant in his presence and this is great fun to read. Phillips description is lurid, colorful and powerful. He chooses just the right details and the right amount of details so as not to clutter his sentences which flow tripingly on your tongue. It is a joy to read Phillips. I found myself chuckling aloud at the strangest moments.
Alas, Bill Sadlaw must run out of Denver again in a hurry to avoid arrest , yet he is not alarmed, but eager to start a new life in San Francisco with a new alias. Again. And you will just fall in love with Ogden/Sadlaw and whatever his new name will be because he has such a joie de vivre. Though faced with the possibility of arrest, he is not upset, but simply looks on the bright side, like a Monty Python hero, oblivious to anger, fear and dread. No, a positive outlook remains in Bill Sadlaw. This is infectious as you may find yourself eagerly awaiting Sadlaw's next adventure in sunny San Francisco. And at Scott Phillips' deft and delightful hands.