The Blue, the Grey and the Red was the sixth book in the legendary western series and like Killer’s Breed, it is a prequel of sorts to the original series. Once again we are back in the American Civil War when Edge was still known as Captain Josiah Hedges and once again the author brings the battle scenes to life; so vividly that the reader can almost smell the cordite in the air. But where Killer’s Breed suggested that the experiences of the war formed the character Edge would become, this time the dehumanising effects of the brutal war are examined far more closely. And not only on Edge himself but everyone who fought, including Frank Forrest and his men who would, following the war, brutally murder Josiah Hedges kid brother, Jamie and start the chronicles of the man who would become Edge.
In the previous Civil War story, Killer’s Breed, the author had Edge’s fevered mind remembering the events of his war while he recovered from injuries sustained in the town of Rainbow, as told in the third Edge novel, Apache Death. That worked perfectly well but thankfully the author didn’t try and repeat himself here and this time Edge finds himself in jail for a murder he didn’t commit and there is something familiar about the drunk in the next cell that triggers his wartime memories. It all works well and to my mind The Blue, Grey and the Red actually improves on Killer’s Breed, which was in itself an exceptional novel.
“Such a man as Josiah Hedges, for although he had been honed as hard as any man by his experiences, he did have a future, being tenderly preserved by a kid brother on an Iowa farm. Whether he could face that future he did now know. But he did know that Jamie was relying on him, and this was at the root of Hedges’ fear as he urged his horse forward.”
Amongst the sting of warfare there are also moments of tenderness and Edge shares such moments with Jeannie Fisher but when she is snatched from him by a rebel named Bill Terry, he knows that if the girl dies then perhaps the last shred of humanity inside him will cease to exist with her passing. Edge is adamant that should not happen, however the girl dies and Josiah Hedges moves that one step closer to becoming the man we know as Edge.
For when the armies in blue, meet the armies in grey, the land is tainted with red!