When it comes to popular culture, a lot of us ask, “Where have all the heroes gone?” It wasn’t that long ago that you could easily stock your bookshelves with admiring biographies of men like MacArthur and Patton, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, Andrew Jackson and George Washington.
When it came to novels, there was no shortage of heroes either, ranging from Jack Ryan to Philip Marlowe to Rhett Butler, not to mention the almost innumerable heroes of pulp fiction.
But now of course everything is “woke,” and historical heroes are toppled from their pedestals (often literally).
When it comes to fiction—good grief—with a few notable exceptions, it’s a wasteland of politically correct anti-heroes out there.
But here’s a great, fun, patriotic series of novels you might not know about it. It’s the Custer of the West series by military historian H. W. Crocker III. Book two in the series is now available. It’s called Armstrong Rides Again! If you’re looking for some politically incorrect comedy relief from all the bad news out there, you’ve just found it.
The idea behind the series is that George Armstrong Custer has survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn and become an undercover soldier-for-hire and frontier marshal in the Wild West. The first book in the series—titled Armstrong, which is Custer’s nom de guerre—sets up that premise. That book won plaudits from thriller writer Stephen Coonts (Flight of the Intruder), Rob Long (Cheers), and Winston Groom (Forrest Gump), which is good company by any measure.
Armstrong Rides Again! is the sequel—and it’s hilarious. Marshal Armstrong is a hero who is not only larger than life, admirably brave, infinitely resourceful, a dab hand with the ladies (and dogs and horses), but also delightfully funny in his innocent vanity and sometimes blissfully ignorant innocence.
Who would love this book? I think just about anyone. For men, the plot is full of action, adventure, battles, and hair-breadth escapes. For women, there’s a bit of romance too. The books are written as novel-length letters from Custer to his wife, Libbie, to whom Custer is unfailingly loyal even while being surrounded by feminine admirers.
Teenagers should get a kick out of the books as well. The stories read very quickly, and teenagers, as much as anyone, will chuckle at the politically incorrect humor.
Discerning readers of any age will nod in acknowledgment and approval at the important historical, cultural, political, and even religious themes that are expressed throughout the series and behind all the comedy. The books—which I suppose are comic westerns by category—are also definitely conservative in their outlook.
In Armstrong Rides Again! that’s more obviously the case because Custer is involved in the political machinations and civil war of a fictional Latin American country. The book features some real-life characters—like the outlaw Black Bart and the soldier turned satirist Ambrose Bierce—while bringing back some of the best characters from the first book, including the woman who rescued Custer from the Sioux at the Little Bighorn, Armstrong’s multilingual Indian scout, and a former Confederate officer turned federal agent who becomes Armstrong’s indulgently sardonic sidekick.
If you want a book that will keep you smiling at the beach or grinning by the fire, Armstrong Rides Again! will get it done. It’s a fun book, and a worthy book. Can’t wait for the next installment—and the movie!
Robert “Buzz” Paterson