Ernest Haycox – A Rider of the High Mesa (1927)

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Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #14
TBR #93
Date Finished: September 3, 2018

A young rancher, Lin Ballou, seemingly does no ranching and spends his time supposedly prospecting in the High Mesa area. His suspicious activities soon cause him to be suspected of all the rustling that is plaguing the other ranchers. The actual rustlers are also actively trying to frame him. Meanwhile, a water diversion scheme is being promoted, but is really a plan to bankrupt the area farms and ranches so that one man can control it all. Can Lin foil this plot, prove his innocence, and win the girl?

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Another exciting, fast moving western, which is the point, I guess. Not much character depth or deviation from the expected norms, but it sure is fun. Originally, this story appeared in the September 25, 1927 issue of Short Stories Magazine. Haycox was a regular contributor, as were many other western writers, such as W.C. Tuttle and William MacLeod Raine. Starting in 1890 and published twice a month for many years, it was one of the premiere fiction magazines in the pulp world and demonstrates the dominance of the western genre.

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Dan Cushman – The Long Riders (1967)

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Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #12
TBR #88
Date Finished: August 24, 2018

Somewhat suckered into taking over part of a cattle herd being driven through Wyoming, Leo Glass and his partner Old Dad have instructions to take the cattle north to the mining camps in Montana. The hard man running the drive, Andy Broadbaker, has other plans involving all of the cattle and enough men to push an Indian tribe off of their prime land further to the west. Conflict arises.

A very entertaining and fast read, this one doesn’t disappoint. The romance business is fairly standard, but the setting of the cattle drive and all of the tag-along settlers is different. This one is much better than the Pecos Kid Cushman story I read last month.

Michael Hammond – Marshal of Bitterroot (1973)

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Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #11
TBR #84
Date Finished: August 18, 2018

A middle-aged marshal is ready to hang it up and finally buy the ranch that he’s always dreamed of. His young deputy isn’t good enough to take over, however, so he joins the posse to help chase a gang of express office robbers. He accidentally shoots another townsman after the gang and has to go on the run himself with the help of a woman on the run from herself and an arranged marriage.

An exciting, well-told story that moved along quickly, but perhaps didn’t turn out to be terribly memorable. Michael Hammonds seems to have written only a few novels, seemingly either westerns or espionage, none of which I’d heard of.

Todhunter Ballard – Incident at Sun Mountain (1952)

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Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #9
TBR #78
Monthly Key Word: Sun
Date Finished: August 5, 2018

Ken English, disgraced former Army officer, is sent by U.S. Senator William H. Seward to Virginia City, Utah Territory, to investigate Southern sympathizers who are plotting to take over the silver mines once the Civil War begins. The secret Southern society, the Golden Circle, has various sinister characters involved, as well as mostly innocent shopkeepers, including one with a feisty daughter who soon becomes involved with English. Can he stop this plot, even as the army post nearby is indifferent or openly hostile to him due to his background?

An entertaining and well-researched western with a fairly standard hero, fighting individually against overwhelming odds, overcoming his shady background once the truth comes out, and winning the love of the girl. Kirkus called this “Stout stuff,” and I agree. I prefer Ballard’s mysteries, which are a little racier, but this was still very entertaining.

2018 Monthly Key Words 2018-08-05

Lewis B. Patten – Top Man With a Gun (1959)

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Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #1
TBR #4
Monthly Key Word: Top
Date Finished: January 10, 2018

A teenager survives the massacre at Lawrence, Kansas in 1863, losing his father and sister to one of Quantrill’s Raiders. Fleeing with a Union Army deserter, he swears revenge upon that raider, but first must go through various experiences that help him grow into a man.

Lewis B. Patten is one of my favorite writers and this one is another exciting story that I did not want to put down. Patten has been mentioned in discussions online about Western Noir. I don’t think this novel has the necessary cynicism or fatalism, but it is a hard, action-packed story, written in a lean style, fitting well in the Fawcett Gold Medal line.

2018 Monthly Key Words 2018-01-10

Harry Whittington – High Fury (1964)

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Date Finished: November 9, 2016
TBR #73

A innocent but still wanted man, on the trail of a man who could clear him of murder, discovers a girl raped and abandoned in the wilderness. Bringing her back to town, he discovers that the man he is after may be responsible for crimes against the girl. Well done western, though not too out of the ordinary in the plotting.

Eugene Cunningham – Pistol Passport (1936)

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Date Finished: August 30, 2016
TBR #65.5

This one bogged me down in a reading funk, or at least had me reading comics and other things rather than novels. The story isn’t too bad, though not groundbreaking in any way. A former Texas Ranger is convicted of murder, but escapes before his death sentence can be carried out. Riding through ranch country on his way to Mexico, he becomes involved with a range war, eventually being hired on at a neutral ranch caught between four feuding ranches, two on each side. There are ranch owners and gunmen for each of these parties, plus train robbers, lawmen, and others, so it all gets a bit confusing. Perhaps all this backtracking to remember who was who bogged me down. I pushed through on the last 70 pages in one sitting and it finished well, wrapping up all the loose ends with convenient shoot-outs. James Reasoner has a better summary.

The copyright renewals from 1963 list the original date as 2 January 1936 and it looks like Houghton Mifflin published it in hardcover that year. It was also published in Complete Western Book Magazine in July 1936, but the title was changed to “Killer!” for some reason. My paperback copy, above, turned out to be missing a number of pages, so the digital pulp version helped fill in that gap.

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