Thursday, August 9, 2012


Because the barbershop was close to the courthouse and city hall, it was a gathering place for those who imagined themselves to be in power. Reputations were made and broken here. And newcomers had to pass the inspection of these men or they’d have serious problems getting set up for business.

(1965--Black River Falls, Iowa)--Lawyer and part-time investigator Sam McCain organizes a demonstration against the Vietnam War.

So begins Ed Gorman’s Ticket to Ride.

At the same time, a crackpot minister plans to burn Beatles records. Songs like the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride" are instruments of the devil.

The wealthy, prominent father of a young man killed in Vietnam interrupts the anti-war protest. Early the next morning, his family finds the man murdered.

Sheriff Cliffie Sykes, Jr., arrests the wrong person for the murder. As usual, he jumps on the first possible suspect, a ne’er-do-well protestor. Sykes acts on circumstantial evidence.

McCain’s employer Judge Esme Anne Whitney, an enemy of the Sykes family, asks her investigator Sam McCain to prove once again that Sheriff Sykes has been a fool. In the process of his investigation, Sam reconnects with a former cheerleader who hardly had the time of day for him in high school. They start to fall in love.

For several reasons, these books are great reading. 

(1) They tell the history in a way that makes the setting come alive. Those of us who lived through that era can’t help but remember.

(2) The stories are socially conscious and filled with humor.

(3) The Sam McCain books portray small towns in a way that small town people find believable. I lived in small towns almost all my life. I found Gorman's portrayal of Black River Falls spot on. In Ticket to Ride, the murder has its roots in Black River Falls.

And, (4) Gorman is a wonderful writer. The stories read straight through. They are perfect if you are looking for a book to help you lose yourself for a few hours.

There’s another thing about these books. They remind me that “what goes around comes around.” Today, presidential candidates trash each other. Ministers, politicians, and bloggers ply their conspiracy theories. They accuse particular people, groups, and religions of the most unbelievable things.

In one sense, things never change. They were much the same (if not worse) in the 1960s. 

I picked up Ticket to Ride because I was looking for an engrossing, fun-to-read book. This book filled the bill. 

Insofar as I can tell, this is one of three Sam McCain books presently available in electronic editions. 

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