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Let Us Prey, by Bill Branon

The first mention I remember of Bill Branon came via a favorable blurb in Vin Suprynowicz's The Black Arrow. That was sufficient to etch the name in my mind; and when I chanced upon a used copy of Let Us Prey, I grabbed it without so much as a glance at the cover blurbs or its contents. Between its title and Branon's endorsement of TBA, I figured I knew enough to take a chance on Let Us Prey.

I was right. Branon's prose grabs one's attention at the outset, and doesn't want to let go. The pace doesn't slacken throughout the story; this is usually a very good thing, but with the complex storylines of Let Us Prey, some readers might feel a bit overwhelmed as they try to keep up with what's going on and whose side various characters are on. Of course, it doesn't help that the characters sometimes aren't sure which side they're on ...

The story centers on a cast of colorful, misfit individuals who have been recruited by a wealthy businessman to bring down the IRS. Some know each other at the outset, and some get to know each other over the course of the story; even seemingly minor characters are more than meets the eye. Branon's gritty depictions of hit men, call girls, and the seedy underside of Las Vegas life might seem over the top to some readers, but worked for me. I found myself entranced -- and sometimes taken aback -- by a lifestyle that's as foreign to me as a nomadic life on the Russian steppes.

First published in 1992, Let Us Prey is a little dated in some areas, most notably the lack of "security" at certain venues. While that may render the story less enjoyable for some, for me it was a poignant reminder of how much this country has given up, and all too quickly, lulled by the siren song of safety. The plot has immediate appeal to many lovers of liberty, and to anyone who dislikes income taxes. With its fast pace and blunt depiction of the hard life and times of the Vegas underworld, and accurate weapons and other technological information, Let Us Prey might be more to a guy's tastes. If one were to think "Dirk Pitt without the eye-rolling sillinesses", one wouldn't be far off the mark.

Despite its age, Let Us Prey offers a welcome escape for freedom-minded folk. Gritty, violent, sometimes sexy, the book offers a realistic peek into a unique -- and uniquely Western -- culture. Branon's style brought vivid images into my mind -- whether of a hooker's shambled room or the arid beauty of the southwestern desert -- and crafted interesting people. Best of all, Branon delivers a tax weariness message that many can relate to -- even if his novel's form of resistance is one that will give some readers pause -- without once descending into preachiness. Let Us Prey allows plenty of room for sharing and conversations with non-libertarians. All in all, it's a solid story that I recommend to anyone who likes action-oriented pro-freedom fiction.

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More by Bill Branon: Devil's Hole; and Spider Snatch.