TBR #85 (55e, 30p)
Date Finished: July 20, 2019
A gunman hooks up with a wagon train heading toward Oregon, but doesn’t win a lot of friends before a more charming schemer turns the wagon train toward a valley controlled by a rancher. The schemer wants to control that valley and is determined to use the settlers to force an armed conflict. The gunman, who turns out to be the adopted son of the owner, is determined to keep the settlers, or at least one particular female settler, safe from the conflict.
Apparently this was an expanded version of an earlier short story, and filmed as a Joel McCrea movie in 1957. It has been a while since I’ve watched that movie, but I didn’t quite picture Joel McCrea for this role. Although this novel moves along fine, nothing feels very original or unusual here.
Monthly Key Word: Man
TBR #71 (45e, 26p)
Date Finished: June 23, 2019
A gunman from Idaho arrives in a valley to find the rancher who hired him has been killed and his daughter and an Eastern businessman have taken over the ranch that dominates the valley. The remaining ranchers have been gathered together by an ambitious schemer and are causing trouble by tearing down fencing, burning buildings, and stampeding cattle. The gunman is caught between the two factions, refusing to leave town when told to do so, and eventually working for both sides before figuring out where his loyalties lie.
A rather stock situation with stock characters and action, this story is competently told by D.B. Newton, written under one of his pen names. It is enlivened mainly by the descriptions of the environment, painting effective pictures of the West.
Monthly Key Word: Mountain
TBR #56 (37e, 19p)
Date Finished: May 5, 2019
A man raised by Apaches is hired by a gold hunting crew to get them through Indian territory to a mountain held sacred by the Kiowa, where there also seems to be an semi-abandoned gold strike. They come across a man and a woman in the desert, which leads to even more trouble after they join the crew. Greed, cruelty, cowardice all play into the tensions among the crew as they try to avoid detection by the Kiowas and get as much gold as they can.
This story moves along quite well. The story is almost cinematic, which fits in appropriately with Huffaker’s career, with the characters drawn as to fit typical 1950s western character actors. Imagine Clint Walker or George Montgomery as Larimer, Gene Evans or Leo Gordon as Tronco, Jack Lord or Henry Silva as Henry Coffin, Myron Healey as Jud, Mona Freeman as Lorna, Perhaps that makes some if it cliched, depending on your reaction to the many, many movies that fit this bill. Ok, it is cliched, but still fun.
Monthly Key Word: Hunt
TBR #54 (36e, 18p)
Date Finished: April 30, 2019
A lawman is sent in undercover to the newly opened up Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma to capture the Sundance Kid, a notorious hold-up man whose identity is unknown. Hooking up with another outlaw band that is being out-maneuvered by the Sundance Kid, the lawman has to prevent his identity from being known while also trying to discover the Kid’s identity.
This is certainly not the Robert Redford version of the Sundance Kid, as he largely remains at a far distance from this story, appearing only once while wearing a hooded mask. The story largely concerns the lawman’s work within the other outlaw band, which has two main factions and several individuals who may themselves be the Sundance Kid. Much of the story is internal dialogues of the lawman as he examines various scenarios, with very little action. Nye also uses various dialects, accents, and poor grammar for the various characters, making smooth reading very difficult. I don’t remember being this disappointed with other works by Nye, but this one was a big letdown.
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #19
Date Finished: October 16, 2018
Collecting two novellas by Ernest Haycox, this volume features “Guns Up” from the August 25, 1928 issue of Short Stories and “The Hour of Fury” from the April 1, 1933 issue of Argosy.
“Guns Up” tells of two feuding families who control a ranching valley. The families have had a truce for years, but one group turns on their own family members, as well as the opposing family, to further their own interests. The reluctant sheriff, a member of the opposing family, who of course falls in love with a girl from the first family, does his best to preserve peace but fights when necessary.
In “The Hour of Fury” a quiet man comes to town, trying to escape his gunfighter reputation, but soon has to clean out the bad element, rescuing a young woman in the process.
The first story is much more memorable and exciting, with Haycox’s usual quality writing. The second is half as long and not quite so memorable, as I had to page through it again here to remember the plot. Of course, some of the elements were old hat by the time these were published in book form in the 1950s, but Haycox was the one who put many of these cliches in place.
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #18
Date Finished: October 13, 2018
A Confederate doctor, now dissolute in Mexico after returning home to Texas after the war and finding his wife unfaithful, is sought out by a Northerner who now owns the Texas ranch next to his. The doctor’s wife is attempting to split Texas into several new states, one of which she intends to control and use to make herself rich. The Northerner and a young Mexican lady break the doctor out of prison and journey back to Texas, where they face a big showdown with the scheming wife.
Day Keene makes an unusual departure from his usual crime novels to tell this western story, which is entertaining, if not outstanding. It certainly kept my interest even if it doesn’t live up to expectations.
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #17
Date Finished: October 13, 2018
This Tor Double features two 1950s pulp western stories from John Prescott. The first, “The Longriders” appeared in the September 1952 issue of Best Western. It tells of a gang of bandits on the run from a posse, led by Alec, cool and logically, along with Stone, wild, charismatic and unpredictable. Of course, they’ll have to come into conflict before long. “The Hard One” from the July 1953 issue of Complete Western Book Magazine, where it was published as “The Hard One They All Hated,” tells of Clay Forest, a man returning to his home town and his ranch after serving a prison sentence for manslaughter, a crime of which he was innocent. As a teen he had ridden with his father with a faction in the Lincoln County war and the townspeople hold that against him. The leader of that faction was now an outlaw and Clay must defeat him if he is to return to respectability.
Both of these feature quite a bit of character development, with the second using a more standard Western plot. I had difficulty getting into the first story, but that may have just been due to my schedule. The second moved along better and held my interest more.