Travis the Savage - an Unlikely Vigilante
Reviewed By: Editorial Board
The Editorial Board of The Columbia Review selects new books and films of interest, as well as paid submissions and sponsored reviews from authors, publishers, directors, agents and producers.
In a refreshing departure from the hasty beginnings of current-time action novels, “Travis the Savage” by Dale Taylor starts off patiently, introducing the young protagonist, Travis, in a gradual series of scenes that allows the reader to imagine a fully developed, three-dimensional protagonist. Especially well done is a scene showing young Travis dressing up in his dead father’s clothes as a way to connect with, and, in a touching way, have a relationship with, the man he misses. Considering the events that transpire as the story progresses, this classic, in-depth introduction serves the reader well later, when confronted with the hero’s subsequent choices and extreme actions, allowing the reader to understand—and even sympathize with Travis.
The story transitions from Travis’s youth to what he must become when he witnesses a horrific attack on a puppy, an event that transforms him—and the reader. The author’s description of that first brute cruelty shows a consistent capability to describe the most intense action and heinous acts with a detached observation and a calm manner, which makes the novel credible. Thus, the story does not fall victim to gratuitous violence or moral judging; rather, it allows the reader to experience the events as they unfold—and make his own moral judgment.
Travis is capable of great compassion and gentleness, on the one hand, as well as merciless vengeance and vicious violence, on the other hand. The author capably presents Travis to the reader, who is fully receptive to believing Travis’s choices when confronted with shocking situations. This way, the story manages to straddle a fine line between right and wrong, causing the reader to embrace Travis—a lead character who is both a hero and a villain, embodied in the same person.
While the novel has an autobiographical feel, it does not dwell on events outside the main thrust of the story. The novel masterfully shows how a vigilante is created—not by a single bloody crime (as in Charles Bronson’s movies) but with the growing frustration of a decent person watching a painful injustice and, unable to resolve it in a legal way, takes action. And as the injustice repeats again and again, worse and worse, Travis takes matters into his own hands. And because the reader is let in on internal dialogue between Travis and his ‘trusted friend’ (which may be a mental illness, or the normal internal discussions any person would engage in under extreme stress), the story becomes utterly believable.
In summary, this novel tackles an original idea: an unlikely hero, faced with outrageous crimes against animals, becomes a vigilante, exacting justice on their abusers. Balancing internal thoughts and external actions, the author constructs an authentic character in Travis, who is deeply troubled, vicious, and cruel at times, yet earns the sympathy of the reader, who is rooting for him. The action scenes are shocking and captivating, the supporting cast of character well drawn and realistic, and the setting puts us right into the story with all senses absorbing the grungy foulness of real life. “Travis the Savage” delivers an original story with excellent writing and emotional depth, worthy of the underlying social ill it so ably dramatizes.