True West magazine
Review by Sue Ready of EverReady Book Reviews, June issue
Themes of family loyalty, integrity and determination to uphold the law span three generations of the Willford Simms family from the late 1880’s and into the twentieth century. Forever Sheriff is the concluding book in the “The High Mountain” series by Edward Massey. The western novel is told from the perspective of third generation Mark Willford Simms, who wears the coveted sheriff’s star and strives to take care of his people in Coalville, Utah. Massey is adept at keeping the storytelling authentic and well paced. Readers are immersed into the turbulent lawless times of cattle rustlers and meat packing monopolies. The Spanish Flu challenges the sheriff’s leadership as he navigates the health crisis to ensure the townspeople’s safety.
A young lawman comes of age in a changing West in this third installment of the High Mountain Sheriff fiction series.
Summit County, Utah, 1905. When 18-year-old Mark Willford Simms is sworn in as deputy sheriff, he’s following a family tradition. His father, John, is the current sheriff, and his grandfather was sheriff before that. There’s a shooting on Mark’s very first day on the job. A new ranch hand in the area, Tom Hixson, shoots a boy working for a local cattle company owned by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mark soon suspects that one of the local ranchers has set up a meatpacking business in order to hide the fact that he’s rustling cows, and Hixson is at the center of the operation. Years later, when Hixson drowns under mysterious circumstances, Mark can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more to the story. By this point, World War I has come and gone, and Summit County is plagued by more than the meatpackers and their muscle: The nation is in the grip of the Spanish flu. Mark, who has ascended to sheriff following the death of his father, is tasked with leading the county through quarantines and elections. Soon, he’s also got a murderer to bring to justice. All of this gets him thinking: Just how long will Summit County need a Simms to enforce the law? Massey’s prose is as stoic as his characters, as in this description of the town’s longtime liveryman-turned-mechanic: “Old Seth Parker had gone from fixing wagon axles and feeding horses to fixing transmissions and selling gasoline. Like all men in the community, he went about it without comment. When he decided to learn something new, he made no show of it. He made every effort to hide it. Something sinful lay at the center of being imperfect.” The novel spans two decades, and more than any particular conflict, its focus is on the closing of a certain period in the history of the Old West. Fans of the genre will enjoy the pensive precision of the author’s coming-of-age tale as well as its echoes of modern tensions in the spheres of law enforcement and pandemic management.
A slow-burning, engrossing, quietly philosophical Western.
Reviews from Amazon
by Susan – on July 7, 2022
Forever Sheriff is another thought provoking and very readable novel from Ed Massey. Forever Sheriff has at its forefront father/son relationships, mainly the relationship between Sheriff and Deputy Simms and the unique pattern of communication that leads to a successful father/son relationship. Several other father/son relationships are touched upon and Massey introduces the concept that each father sees his son through his “own lens” – an insightful observation.
I look forward to Massey’s next novel. Forever Sheriff is a cinematic read. I can see it as a movie.
Forever Sheriff is a wonderful, historically acurate book
by Julia S. Watkins – on June 29, 2022
I enjoyed this book very much. I learned so much and I didn’t want it to end.
I hope it’s not the end of the line for the Simms family sheriffs!
by Debra G. Hastings – on May 19, 2022
There is suspense and action in this final book of the trilogy saga that spans three generations of Simms family sheriffs. Set in the untamed mountains of Summit County Utah, this story unfolds at the turn of twentieth century with Sheriff John Simms holding the family bible. He is set to swear in a new deputy, his 18 -year-old son Mark who is guided by the desire to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and “take care of trouble”. Cattle rustlers, the crooked Ogden Provision and Packing company, murders, and “accidental” deaths provide plenty of action for the final Sheriff Simms. The ultimate challenge though comes when young Mark finds himself alone and in charge, confronting the crisis of the Spanish Flu of 1918. His rural county is hit exceptionally hard by the disease and he must lead. Have the generations who came before him prepared him for this moment? His decisions will affect the lives of many citizens and he must rely on his own ability and the teachings passed on by his father and grandfather. Experiencing the Spanish Flu through the heart and mind of the 3rd Sheriff Simms presents the history of the time in an engaging way while connecting the reader to where we find ourselves in the present. Also, of note are the complexity and strength of the story’s female characters and the guiding force of the frontier spirit which lives on in descendant generations.
Massey reveals many timeless and teachable truths as the story unfolds. There are many pearls of wisdom and wise observations about society and human nature scattered throughout this book and I found myself underlining and writing them down as I went along. This book is a treasure and reading it was time very well spent.
The best and most readable history of the high plains in Utah
by Marya W Holcombe – on May 28, 2022
This is a very well told saga of the history of the high mountain desert from Sheriff Luke Simms, who was sworn in 1854, to this “Forever Sheriff” Mark Simms sworn in l918. These lawmen faced the challenges from the outlaws of the eary era to the medical problems of the Spanish flu in 1918. By the end there were mansions where the settler’s early cabins had stood, a flourising railroad connection and the nation was on the eve of Prohibition.
More than a story of the West
by Lia – on June 16, 2022
If you want to know the plot of Massey’s newest contribution to the High Mountain Sheriff Series, Forever Sheriff, you can just read the book jacket. But if you want to know what really good writing is all about, you’ll have to look inside. What distinguishes Massey’s work is his near perfect ear for dialog. You don’t just read what people are saying; you hear them. Like the proverbial fly on the wall, the reader listens to the exchanges as though she were right there among them. And what makes them so real is that their dialog is never self-conscious; it is completely without affectation. This is how people talk to one another. Real people living real lives in the real world. Adding to the novel’s sense honesty and veracity is that the people (yes, people, not characters) are as complex, ambiguous, and imperfect as all the rest of us. No super heroes here, no one-dimensional villains. Massey wants us to get to know the people of his Mormon world, their strengths and weaknesses, but he allows us to judge them for ourselves. With Forever Sheriff Massey concludes his High Mountain Sheriff Series, and he does it with a grace and skill that goes beyond one religion or one community, and speaks directly to what it means to lead an honorable life.
Historical fiction of the emerging West with parallels for today
by Edward Eggart – on July 14, 2022
Forever Sheriff is, sadly, the last of Massey’s High Mountain Sheriff trilogy that includes Founding Sheriff and Fugitive Sheriff. Together, the trilogy tells the tale of the twists and turns of Massey’s native Utah as it transformed from a brand new territory to a post-World War I US state through the eyes of three generations of Summit County sheriffs. Forever Sheriff is the story of a father and son’s near two-decade effort to solve a murder and bring those responsible to justice. But along the way, we get a real feeling for the changes and challenges for a small Utah community as they deal with family, war, disease, and the transition from the Old West to an ever-modernizing world. We also learn about the changing political, economic, and even religious powers of the evolving state and feel the frustration of the struggle to deliver accountability and justice. While historically accurate fiction, Forever Sheriff, like the other two in the series, once again has resonance for our current lives. It’s a great tale with strong characters that will have you shaking your head with the parallels and contrasts to today’s world.