(Need something to read this afternoon when you're too stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner to get out of your chair and aren't interested in what's on TV? Or this weekend when you're staying as far away from the shopping malls as you possibly can? Well, try a good old-fashioned action Western!)
Hell came to Santa Angelina on a beautiful morning, as the Texas settlement was practically wiped out by vicious outlaws led by the bloodthirsty lunatic Henry Pollard. Now Pollard is in jail in Alpine, waiting on his trial and an all but certain date with the hangman. The only real question is whether an outraged lynch mob will string him up first.
Not everyone wants to see Pollard dance at the end of a rope, however. His gang of hired killers would like to set him free, and so would his older brother, a wealthy cattleman who has always protected Pollard from the consequences of his savagery.
Riding into the middle of this three-cornered war is the Outlaw Ranger, G.W. Braddock, who may not have a right anymore to wear the bullet-holed star-in-a-circle badge pinned to his shirt, but whose devotion to the law means he'll risk his life to see that justice is done!
HANGMAN'S KNOT is another fast-action Western novel from New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner. Brand-new and never before published, it continues the violent saga of the Outlaw Ranger.
from Tales of The Bagman (I love stories about Max Brand)
When Frederick Faust (Max Brand) met Robert H. Davis, chief executive of the Munsey Publishing empire in 1917. The legend goes like this:
"Davis prided himself on being able to spot a comer (he had purchased some of Joseph Conrad's early work, and is credited with discovering O. Henry; this is dubious, however, as Arthur Grissom, Smart Set's first editor, purchased O. Henry's first four stories, which were reputed to have been rejected by every magazine in the country).
Editor Davis gave Faust the outline of a plot and told him to go down the hall where there was a small room with a typewriter, and build a story from it. Faust cranked out a 7800-word story and returned same to Davis within two hours. Davis, amazed at Faust's speed, asked where he had learned to write.
'Down the hall,' was Faust's reply. The story was published in the March, 1917 All Story Weekly without a change."
--The Pulp Western, by John A. Dinan
Max Brand was to write roughly a novel a month for the next twenty years
Hawker #1: Florida Firefight, by Carl Ramm
May, 1985 Dell Books
One of those men’s adventure series that goes for high dollars now, thanks to the current fame of the author, Hawker ran for 11 volumes and, if this first volume is any indication, was pretty good. Unfortunately, given those inflated prices, I’ll only be reading the handful of copies I came upon last year at a Half Price
(Need something to read this afternoon when you're too stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner to get out of your chair and aren't interested in what's on TV? Or this weekend when you're staying as far away from the shopping malls as you possibly can? Well, try a good old-fashioned action Western!) Hell came to Santa Angelina on a beautiful morning, as the Texas settlement was practically wiped out by
Lost Classics of Noir: Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders (and/or Charles Willeford) BRIAN GREENE
From The Criminal Element
In case you’re confused by the author credit in the heading here, let me just say that I join you in your befuddlement. This 1961 noir novel was originally published as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original, withW. Franklin Sanders tagged as the writer. But over time it came to be revealed that Charles Willeford wrote some, if not all, of the book. Sanders may have been his co-author, but then Sanders may have also been a make-believe person. If you’re interested in reading up on that intrigue, there is no shortage of material available on the web. I’m going to leave that subplot alone and just focus on the book, which is a gem of a read.
But first a couple words on Willeford. I doubt I need to sell many readers of this site on the merits of his writing. Some Willeford fans might think of his Hoke Moseley series as his finest work, while others might prefer his earlier titles such as Cockfighter (1962) or The Burnt Orange Heresy (1971). Of the Willeford books I’ve read, it’s his second novel, Pick-Up (1955), that I value the most. When I first started this column, I drew up a shortlist (well, it was actually long) of books I might cover, and Pick-Up was among those. I haven’t gotten around to writing an appreciation of it, and maybe I never will for this series, as I have purposely been avoiding covering the same writer twice, in order to spread the hardboiled love. In any case, Pick-Up is a hell of a noir novel. If you like this kind of stuff and haven’t read it, do so. And while you’re at it, read the one I’m about to discuss; because whether it was written by Willeford or this Sanders guy, or some combination of the two of them, it’s pure.
Whip Hand is one of those novels that’s narrated by several different characters. The primary players are: a trio of Oklahoma bumpkins who, while in Dallas, kidnap the young daughter of an oil tycoon and collect ransom; a troubled L.A. cop who has fled to Dallas to duck an investigation into his questionable police activities; the father of the kidnapped child, and the man’s adult daughter. The plot-line is far-fetched, but in reading along you really don’t care, because the story is interesting enough, and the characters are memorable enough, to carry the tale past that problem. The gist is that the cop happens to run into the Okies at a Dallas bus station and, seeing the fancy bags they’re carrying around (the buffoons purchased ridiculously conspicuous cases in which to tote around the ransom money) and wondering what might be in them, he pulls a switcheroo number on one of the dudes and winds up with a satchel full of the cash. After that, he forces the guy to tell him how they got the money, and after that, he decides he’s going to do a vigilante job in bringing the trio to justice (and meanwhile see what might be in all this for himself).
APACHE. United Artists, 1954. Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, John McIntire, Charles Bronson, John Dehner, Morris Ankrum, Monte Blue. Based on the novel Broncho Apache by Paul Wellman. Director: Robert Aldrich.
You’d think that a movie starring Burt Lancaster with strong supporting roles by John McIntire and Charles Bronson (billed as Charles Buchinsky) would be more captivating and engaging than Apache, a mid-1950s film about the life and times of Massai, one of the last Apache warriors. The film is based on Paul I. Wellman’s novel,Broncho Apache and on fact as well as fiction.
The story follows Massai (Lancaster) as he escapes a prison train meant to deliver him and other Apache prisoners, including Geronimo (Monte Blue) to confinement in Florida. Massai makes his way through the Midwest, encountering Whites in St. Louis and a Cherokee Indian man who teaches him about the Cherokees’ decision to grow corn and to adopt a non-warrior lifestyle. Initially, Massai, who really isn’t all that personable a fellow, thinks little of this approach to living, but eventually decides to crow his own corn when he arrives back in Arizona.
There is, of course, a love interest. Massai falls for Nalinle (Jean Peters), daughter of an Apache man who betrays him to the White authorities. He is a fugitive, after all. On his trail are two men, Al Sieber (McIntire) and the Apache Calvary officer Hondo (Bronson). Both of them are excellent in this otherwise average Western.
Apache often feels labored, almost soporific. It’s not that there isn’t any action. There’s actually action a plenty, but much of it seems so forced and downright tedious. There is, however, one notable exception. In a tense, beautifully filmed sequence, Massai and Al Sieber (McIntire) play cat and mouse in Massai’s small cornfield. For a moment or two, it’s not quite clear who is going to best whom and with what weapon.
Unfortunately, too many of the other chase sequences just aren’t all that thrilling. And then there’s the unavoidable question of whether the casting of the blue-eyed Lancaster as an Apache warrior was a good choice. I’ll leave that to future viewers to decide.
CONQUEST OF COCHISE. Columbia Pictures, 1953. John Hodiak, Robert Stack, Joy Page. Director: William Castle.
On the other hand, for a Western/historical drama that isn’t all that, you know, historically accurate,Conquest of Cochise is nevertheless a fairly entertaining action packed little film. Like Masterson of Kansas, which I reviewed here, Conquest of Cochise is a William Castle/Sam Katzman collaboration that holds up to the test of time far better than many other similarly situated lower budget 1950s Westerns.
Why is this the case? First of all is the strong cast. Although they may not have been the biggest box office stars of their time, both John Hodiak, who portrays Apache chief Cochise, and Robert Stack, who portrays U.S. Calvary Major Tom Burke, are both solid actors more than capable of delivering above average performances. The two men’s attempt to bring peace between the United States and the Apache Nation is repeatedly thwarted by events both in, and out of, their direct control.
The film also benefits greatly from the presence of Joy Page in her portrayal of Consuelo de Cordova, a Mexican woman caught between her family, the Apaches, and Major Burke’s romantic advances. Rico Alaniz, who may be familiar to fans of 1950s TV Westerns, portrays Felipe, a hotheaded Tucson man seething at the Apaches for the murder of his wife.
The film’s story line, if not true to history, is both fairly straightforward and (thankfully) without a lot of the forced, well meaning, anti-racist platitudes that ironically only served to categorize Indians as a people almost irrevocably culturally apart from broader American society. In Conquest of Cochise, the Apaches are neither presented as fundamentally misunderstood “noble savages,” nor as mindless brutes. They are a people caught between the Americans and the Mexicans, with their leader Cochise trying to make good decisions under difficult geopolitical constraints.
Indeed, Conquest of Cochise is a surprisingly thoughtful Western with some breathtaking scenery to boot. Although it doesn’t have the cinematography and sentimentalism of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy or the star power of James Stewart (Broken Arrow), William Castle’sConquest of Cochise, with a running time of around seventy minutes, nevertheless remains a worthwhile investment of one’s time.
True, it’s no classic. But there’s action, moderately well developed characters, internal and external conflict, and romance. Perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t try to be a heavy-handed horse opera.
One final thing to consider: although it can be said about nearly every film ever made, I do think that this movie in particular has to be far more enjoyable when watched as it was meant to be seen on the big screen. Maybe it has something to do with Castle’s unique, if not easily categorized, vision of how a film should be directed so as to captivate the viewer’s attention.
Ed here: I haven't heard anything from the Committee but my friend Teri Moran sent me the following information and as Kramer of Seinfeld said "If it's on the internet it MUST be true."
Ed Hoch was supportive of my work early on. I also had the honor of editing his collection of private eye stories. This is a true pleasure for me, this award because of my respect and admiratiionn for Ed and his work.
In July 2008, with permission from Patricia Hoch, the SMFS renamed its Golden Derringer Award for Lifetime Achievement in honor of her late husband, Edward D. Hoch. With more than nine hundred published stories at the time of his death, Hoch was considered the most prolific writer of short mystery fiction ever.
Golden Derringer honorees are considered by a five-member selection committee. This year’s recipient of the EDWARD D. HOCH MEMORIAL GOLDEN DERRINGER FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT is: Ed Gorman The Derringer Award is determined by a vote of the Short Mystery Fiction Society membership. The four story categories are Flash Fiction, Short Story, Long Story and Novelette. Recipients of the Derringer receive a plaque documenting their accomplishment, but until the official award is delivered, this year’s winners will be presented with this certificate.
Let’s be clear about one thing: gruesome accounts of violence and its results do not float my boat. Or light my candle, or set my blood racing, or any other such popular metaphors. There are authors whose work I avoid, because they seem to delight, if not glory, in the kind of lengthy graphic descriptions that the human imagination can usually achieve in far more vivid detail. And there are authors whose books I’ve put in the charity box after half a chapter for the same reason.
It works for some people, and that’s fine. Talking to readers at a Christmas market the other week, I found that a surprising number actually choose their reading matter for the gore and mutilation. In my previous life I even published one author whose accounts I had to tone down, partly so I could keep my breakfast down while I was editing, but mostly because those accounts went way beyond anything I thought even the most bloodthirsty readers would need. She was one of my best sellers; go figure.
What’s more, there are authors whose work contains plenty of examples of that kind of description whose books stand in whole rows on my shelves.
So today I have two questions: why can I read some books which contain thoroughly depicted violent crime but reject others; and, how far can violent crime in fiction escalate before the tide turns?
I don’t think question #1 is so very hard to answer. The difference between books containing the graphic stuff which I find I want to read and... the other kind is this: the ones I want to read also give me plenty I want to read about.
Usually that means great atmosphere, a central plotline which grabs me and makes me want to follow it to the end, however bitter it gets, and mainly, characters I’m persuaded very early to care about and want to get to know better.
Well-known examples of the above aren’t exactly scarce, but if you want a couple of names, how about Lee Child and Val McDermid?
On the less well-known front, though that may change, I’ve just finished my second sampling of T F Muir, one of the emerging ‘tartan noir’ authors I mentioned last week. A particularly macabre murder was described long before I applied the fifty-page test, but I took a deep breath, read those pages very quickly with my eyes half-shut and kept going. Why? Largely because Frank, as he’s known to his friends, has a deft hand with female characters (he’s a man – it’s not always the case). I wouldn’t have gone back for the second book if those characters hadn’t captured my imagination long before the end of the first, and I wanted to see how they developed.
The second question is trickier. I’m sure a lot of particularly horrible murders happen in real life as well as in fiction – but I can’t be the only person who has trouble with stomach-turning serial killings which seem to happen every few months in peaceful villages or scantily populated beauty spots. If I’d let myself believe there was a grain of truth in Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series, I would have strongly discouraged my daughter from studying at the University of Oxford. And I’m pretty sure the Royal Family would have felt much the same about the next-but-one heir to the British throne completing his education at the venerable institution located in St Andrews if the local newspapers gave any hint that T F Muir might have a point.
But that’s not really the issue here; my real question is, how much gorier and more graphic can the descriptions get? And how much further can the boundaries be pushed? Without giving too much away, Mr Muir will have to work pretty hard to top his latest foray into the realms of grotesque brutality.
There must come a point where readers say enough! I can’t suspend disbelief any more.
lynched the wrong man, Huck!” Stenson stood behind his desk, rigidly straight
and eyes glaring. He was a sandy-haired man, with squinting blue eyes. There
was something of the soldier about his bearing. He wore his suit like a
uniform, a means to identify his status in regards to any he might have to deal
your bellyaching, Stenson,” Huck growled. He was a leathery man, dressed