The Rifleman came to the attention of this reviewer in the course of reading With Musket and Tomahawk (reviewed here). The Rifleman was Tim Murphy, a largely forgotten hero of the American Revolution. Although John Brick’s book is a work of fiction, it is a work of historical fiction and based on real characters and real events. The fiction comes in when it comes to generating the Murphy backstory.
The Rifleman reads like a cross between a James Best western and a Lee Child thriller The Rifleman isn’t quite as edgy as Jack Reacher, but a bit more than Steve Dancy. It is definitely an adult book, but the romantic encounters aren’t lurid or graphic. The novel is constructed around historical characters in much the same way the Shaaras’ wrote their civil war trilogy.
Tim Murphy was one of the military’s first snipers, special forces, rangers. Murphy was a woodsman or a woods runner, as Brick calls him. Brick paints him as one tough hombre, always eager to fight. But Murphy was more than that. He was also a crack shot who sported a custom made, two-barrel rifle, which was a highly unusual modification. With this weapon he was deadly accurate at surprisingly long distances. By some accounts, Murphy is reputed to have shot and killed Sir Francis Clerke and General Simon Fraser. In killing the latter, he dealt the British a severe blow. According to Benedict Arnold (prior to his treason), General Fraser was “worth a regiment.” Fraser had succeeded in rallying British troops fighting around Saratoga. In killing him, Murphy may have turned the course of the fight.
Although there are many legends surrounding Tim Murphy, Brick did his best to stick with those he could verify or that seemed highly plausible. In telling his story, Brick succeeded in writing a great novel and sheds light on some largely forgotten history. Highly recommended.