The Gambler’s Apprentice by H. Lee Barnes

H. Lee Barnes, who received the Vietnam Veterans of America Excellence in the Arts Award in 2013, is a novelist and short story writer who teaches English and creative writing at the College of Southern Nevada. His latest novel, The Gambler’s Apprentice (University of Nevada Press, 304 pp., $27.95), is a fast-paced, latter-day Western (it begins in 1917) tale starring Willie Bobbins, a Texas teen-aged outlaw and gambler whose life turns around as a result of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

The book has received rave reviews. Here’s what one reviewer, Robert Lamb, wrote:

“Except once in a blue moon, when else do you find a story packed with action and adventure involving big-as-life characters in settings and situations ready made for the silver screen? Moreover, the author’s powers of description rival those of Cormac McCarthy in showing that the outback of the Tex-Mex border is no country for old men, and that even young ones age quickly there.

This novel has an appeal as wide as Texas and a historic sweep that is purely American. Willy can’t read or write, but he represents the pioneer stock who settled the West, fiercely independent, amazingly resourceful, but touchingly bewildered by developments beyond their rustic ken: world war, plague, drought, and a rapidly oncoming future in which they seem to have no place.”

 Barnes’s website is

Barnes in Vietnam, at left, in 1966