Bohannon’s Country

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In BOHANNON’S COUNTRY, Joseph Hansen presents three stories featuring Hack Bohannon, former sheriff turned full-time horse rancher and part-time detective, and two additional stories featuring California’s pre-suburbanized central coast, Bohannon’s stomping ground. Hansen, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America in 1992, is best known for his Dave Brandstetter series. In this, his second Bohannon book, Hansen stays pretty much within conventional parameters. The book is quite distinguished, nevertheless, with the accent on deft character portraits set against stunning natural beauty and disturbing social change.

Whether in the mystery genre or not, short story collections succeed when the quality of the work is consistent and the stories blend well together, avoiding excessive similarity or disparity. According to these standards, BOHANNON’S COUNTRY earns a strong rating. Hansen’s prose is precise and economical throughout. Each of the stories is well-crafted, suspenseful, and, in one way or another, haunting. Taken together, the stories transport the reader to the rural land and people of a part of California threatened but not yet swallowed up by the tides of urban and suburban development. As this last point suggests, there is a melancholy atmosphere throughout this collection. This is not surprising given some of the themes— mental illness, aging, loneliness, economic distress and the like—explored by Hansen. But his treatment of these issues is sensitive and somehow uplifting, balancing the banes of our existence with those qualities such as love, loyalty, and friendship which make life worth living.