With a title like that, how can you go wrong? Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart, is a novelization of the life of Constance Copp and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette. What starts off as a minor incident — a local man driving his fancy car runs into the Copp sisters’ horse and buggy (the story starts off in 1914) — leads to Constance becoming what Stewart calls one of the country’s first female deputy sheriffs.
While Stewart takes some liberties with the facts, maybe being most liberal with the motivations of the various characters, as well as combining various historical people in different ways, she tells a riveting story. At first, it seems that this is such a trivial matter, but it escalates until the sisters are in fear for their lives. Constance takes matters into her own hands, helped by the local sheriff, and leads the charge against the man, who is a son of a powerful local businessman and a regular bully. The sisters receive death threats and, at one point, their house is almost burnt down. Not only does Constance navigate her family through this mess, she also helps out another young woman that has been badly mistreated by the same man.
What is perhaps most fascinating about this book is the fact that Constance was a real person and yet, despite her adventures (this is the first of several books detailing the adventures of Constance Copp and her sisters), is a figure that is hardly known. In what may be a first, she has no Wikipedia page. For someone who was such a trailblazer, it is almost inconceivable that someone hasn’t created a page about her.
There are times that the story is slow going. The tension builds slowly, and there is a lot of inter-sister dynamics that are explored. However, the tension is real and builds to the point that one is unclear if all of the sisters will make it to the next book alive (given there is a series of books, we know Constance makes it, but it isn’t a given her sisters do). In the end, this was a rewarding read that opened a new era and perspective for me.