Lady JoeRead the first paragraph of Lady Joe, then try to put it down.

I love good fiction, but from experience I am leery of books that cross my desk with horses’ names in the titles and horse trainers as main characters. So I was not prepared when Lady Joe, by Mark Saha, grabbed me on the first page and held me until the buzzer.

It was quite a ride – no less than 78 points on my scorecard.

Aspiring young trainer Lee Estes never has to look for trouble because it always seems to show up like a stray hound. This time it finds him in charge of a Quarter Horse ranch while the owner is in Europe on business. One misadventure follows another, as Estes enlists the help of his hapless buddy Jim Harrison.

Lady Joe’s broad appeal lies in the charm of her characters and the resolution of Lee Estes’ dilemma. But cutting veterans will relish Saha’s portrayal of their sport:

“The brindle had more tricks than a gambler with a crooked deck and played every card.”

“The following week, Lady Joe took on a cow from some other planet to win at South Point with a 231.”

“They wanted to know what it feels like on the hurricane deck of a cutting horse when she gets down in front of a cow.”

Mark Saha grew up in cotton country along the Texas Gulf Coast. He earned a BA at the University of Notre Dame; attended film school at UCLA, where a collection of his short stories won a Samuel Goldwyn Creative Writing Award; and for many years wrote scripts for film and television. He currently lives in Santa Monica, Calif.