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Item - Outlaw Gulch

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Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) — no. 125
Translated Into: Kanyon razboynikov [Каньон разбойников] (Russian)
Author: Montgomery, Ramsey
Illustrators: Wilson, George (cover)
Wing, Ron (interior)
Date: 1992
KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Ramsey Montgomery didn't write as many books as his father, R. A., or brother, Anson. He authored four titles in the original Choose Your Own Adventure series: The Mona Lisa Is Missing! (1988), Grave Robbers (1990), Outlaw Gulch (1992), and U.N. Adventure (1995). Outlaw Gulch spirits us away to the United States of 1892, where you are a student and boarder at the Storm King School on the East Coast. Late one night during summer break, the headmaster rouses you from your bedroom. Your roommate, Northmond the prince of Aggar, has gone missing and is presumed kidnapped. You immediately travel to New York City to consult with a Mr. Ebner Stone of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Northmond's parents hired him to rescue their son, but because you and the prince are friends, they requested that you accompany Ebner on his investigation. You know that Northmond intended to go to Carson City, Nevada and inquire with a man named Cornelius Taggart about some silver mines. You and Ebner plan to trace the prince's route, but before leaving New York you stumble upon a clue suggesting Northmond may have gone to New Orleans, Louisiana instead. Which lead do you think holds more promise?

If you continue on to Carson City to question Taggart, you learn that notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy has been seen nearby. After speaking with Taggart, he doesn't strike you as trustworthy; is he working with Butch Cassidy to smuggle large deposits of silver and gold? Find the weak link among Taggart's associates, an employee whose conscience is bothering him, and you might recover Northmond sooner than expected. Otherwise, you can shadow Taggart to an outlaw haven called Scorpion Gulch, where you'll find he indeed is partners with Butch Cassidy. Butch is no fool, but Isabella Chase, an undercover detective friend of Ebner's, has ingratiated herself with his gang. The three of you could set Butch up to be arrested while robbing the Prospector Bank in Las Vegas, but will Northmond stay safe that long? There's also no guarantee Butch will be caught. You could wind up chasing him all the way to San Francisco, California, where he is rumored to have an island sanctuary. Is this where you'll finally locate Northmond and bring his case to a happy conclusion, or does Butch have a trick or two in reserve?

Did you change your itinerary from the get-go and choose to look for Northmond in New Orleans rather than Carson City? Ebner's main contact in New Orleans—Madame Zagra, a fortune teller—promises she'll ask around to learn if anyone has encountered a kid with a European accent, but she might come up with nothing. You may be better off following a tip from a newsboy whose brother claims that Northmond and some men were headed upriver to St. Louis on a paddle steamer. St. Louis is a thriving Western city, and you'll have access to all the supplies you need for the next leg of your journey. If you spot Northmond there with his kidnappers, don't let excitement overwhelm good judgment and put your friend in jeopardy. Is it better to seize the moment and sneak into his hotel on your own, or first find Ebner on the other side of the city to serve as backup? The wrong move could cost you and Ebner your lives. If you waited in New Orleans for Madame Zagra's report rather than traveling to St. Louis, she turns up a lead on the prince's whereabouts. He's in the company of some criminals by the name of Walkin, bound for Atchison, Kansas. You might go with Ebner via stagecoach part of the way, or split up to accept a delivery job on horseback that will get you to your destination quicker. The Walkins aren't shy about logging travel miles, and if you play your cards right, you'll have a chance to rescue Northmond in Santa Fe, New Mexico. These outlaws are prone to violence, but if you plot a wise course of action then you, Northmond, and Ebner will survive. Besting a Wild West gang is as thrilling as it gets for a kid still in boarding school.

I love the ambitious scope of Outlaw Gulch. The action moves from coast to coast as you and Ebner ply your detective skills to save Northmond. You'll walk the teeming streets of St. Louis, full of opportunity for legitimate businessmen as well as outlaws; search the shadowy byways of New Orleans, where high culture meets criminal enterprise; and ride the dusty trails of the great American West, where lawful authority ebbs to nothing and ruffians like Butch Cassidy know who's really in charge. These elements could form a terrific story, but Outlaw Gulch is a somewhat dry read, and fails on a logistical level. I'm not sure how Northmond can be everywhere you search for him, and yet...he is. If you want a more engaging, thoughtful Western from the Choose Your Own Adventure canon, opt for Edward Packard's Deadwood City or Marc Newman's Longhorn Territory, but Outlaw Gulch is a decent literary companion if you have an hour or so to spare.

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Waluigi Freak 99's Thoughts:

Maybe you'll feel differently, but I didn't like this book all that much. The plot wasn't overly interesting, and I felt bored the whole way through. Even the rare occurance of being able to make a choice didn't excite me at all. Perhaps I was just in a bad mood, or something, or perhaps you'll agree with me when I say that this book isn't all that wonderful.

More reviews by Waluigi Freak 99

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