• The Filly

    Mark R. Probst

    Cheyenne Publishing




    Reading THE FILLY brought a wave of nostalgia. As a young person some of my favorite books and movies were Westerns. I read every horse story in our public library, and still remember whole scenes from My Friend Flicka, Smoky the Cowhorse, The Red Pony, and The Tiger Roan. I never missed the Western matinee movies on Saturday afternoon (two movies, newsreel, cartoon, superhero serial, singalong, and previews for twenty-five cents!). The film “Red River” made a huge and lasting impression on me; it was and still is one of the best. And, of course, as an adult I never missed an episode of “Rawhide” on tv.


    Mark Probst’s THE FILLY has a lot of things in common with Red River. They are both built around a cattle drive of hundreds of miles, they both have dust, raging storms, collapsing cattle, hardship, exhausted men, fights, threats, and death along the trail. Both “Red River” and THE FILLY have protagonists– in this case two of them, Ethan and Travis–who are brave yet sensitive, not violent by nature but willing and able to fight when necessary. The big difference is in “Red River” Montgomery Clift and John Wayne beat the daylights out of each other, and in THE FILLY Ethan and Travis fall in love.


    Seventeen-year-old Ethan is a dreamer and a bookworm who wants more than anything in the world to own his own horse, a filly he can raise and train. He has no sexual experience and is rocked by his inexplicable attraction to the new cowboy in town, 22-year-old Travis.  Travis, on the other hand, is attracted to Ethan but he knows the score and decides to do something about it. He convinces Ethan to join the cattle drive. Over the months and the miles Ethan and Travis became friends long before they explore either their feelings or their physical need. The explicitness of the sex scenes in The Filly is just right for my taste. Finally, with the cattle drive ended and money in hand, they are free to begin their new life. Suddenly harsh reality and violence from an unexpected source stop them dead in their tracks.


    I have only two very small niggles with the book, and they’re small ones which certainly don’t affect my rating. The first is that, for his age and the era, Travis is a little too calmly self-understanding in his acceptance and explanation of his own homosexuality, giving a very slight feel of being off-kilter historically. The other relates to a time gap at the end, which I won’t detail because I don’t want to write a spoiler. This is Mark Probst’s first novel, and that’s how writers learn. I’m very much looking forward to another book from him… perhaps a sequel?


    Those two very small niggles aside, this is a book that could be given without a qualm to anyone open to a love story between men, but especially to a gay teen. The cover, incidentally, is very attractive and well done. Is it just me or does the man on the cover remind anyone else of Rick Schroeder?


    Highly recommended!