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Review & Giveaway: All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone by John J. Jacobson


Pages: 352
Pub Date: February 23, 2021
Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
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All the Cowboys Ain’t Goneis the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion. 
On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.
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All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone by John J. Jacobson surprised me in all the best possible ways. In my typical fashion, I didn’t read the blurb or summary before diving into this beauty, so I thought I was headed for a good ol’ Western. Y’know, cowboys on a trail ride, telling stories by a campfire, and maybe a saloon fight or two. So when we’re introduced to a young Lincoln Smith who gets busted for reading a book about the French Foreign Legion, I immediately knew that I had miscalculated and was eager to read on.

Jacobson’s knack for writing very natural dialogue allows each scene to play out cinematically in my mind. From the strict but doting former schoolteacher (Lincoln’s mother), to the devious and dishonorable Humberto Hill, Jacobson paints a clear portrait of each character and really breathes life into each of them. So much so that I was completely shocked at how much happened in the first part of the book, a scant 31 pages.

While Part One truly reads like a Western, Part Two has a more modern feel as we follow Lincoln through college and his stateside adventures. After a series of mishaps, Lincoln does what many others have done in his position. He remembers the dream of his childhood and, having nothing to hold him back, turns his dream into reality. Though the people who love him try to persuade him otherwise, our young adventurer is wise enough to know that life is too short to not pursue your dreams. With each new chapter of his life unfolding, Lincoln encounters interesting characters, both good and bad, and it’s entertaining to see how he handles himself in the various scrapes he gets into.

Part Three brings about another shift in tone as we arrive in Mur, as it is at the cusp of joining the modern world. Given that Lincoln romanticizes the place for being part of the old world, it is interesting to anticipate how he will feel once he arrives. And as the author envelopes us in this new place, it is difficult, yet exciting, to imagine how Lincoln’s story will intersect with King Suleiman’s. With each reference to legends, history, and archaeology, I have to admit that my brain immediately drew parallels to Indiana Jones. But I found Lincoln to be wiser and more grounded than Doctor Jones. Also, this book has me raring to do some of my own research on the French Foreign Legion and the history of men fighting for other countries to pay for their world travels.

This book might not be a typical Western (although to be honest, there are trail rides, campfire stories, and saloon fights) but I think that it is so much more. Much like the Alexandre Dumas books that are referenced, this book has a swashbuckling hero, true blue friendships, and romantic love that defies fate. It doesn’t read like a sequel, but I would love to hear more about what happens to Lincoln next.

Though John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.

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