Ben Spier
February 06, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Cottonwood

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Scott Phillips (Author)
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B+

Kansas, 1872: Dreams of a new life attracted immigrants, fortune hunters — and the ”Bloody Benders,” a family of serial killers who preyed on wayfarers seeking shelter, or beguiled by their beautiful daughter Kate. Yet Kate and her murderous brood are only supporting players in this fictional re-creation, set in a boomtown of brothels and vigilante gangs. As seen through the eyes of saloon keeper and photographer Bill Ogden, Cottonwood’s rise from frontier lawlessness to respectability sweeps along briskly, unpacking surprises at every turn. Despite occasional patches of lurid grotesquerie, Phillips’ vision adds up to an indelible portrait of a haunted town, as starkly delineated and unsparing as an antique tintype.

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