These are both short reads, so I thought I’d throw reviews for them in here together.
I believe I picked Stampede County up for free off of Amazon.
‘Some of us decided we’d put the Sorensens across the border into Texas. They wasn’t hurt none, an’ we never even swore in front of the lady.’
The smile switched from his face suddenly.
‘Then this big ape rides up an’ draws a gun on us.’Stampede County – Gordon Landsborough
It’s sort of fun in a goofy way, very fast paced, to the point where it becomes a bit cartoon-like. I have a strong sense the primary readership targeted for this book when it came out was teenage boys and young men, and not the particularly sophisticated readers among them. This isn’t a criticism, really, it is what it is. It’s a quite simply told adventure story with rather cartoon-y characters and actions. It’s entertaining, it’s brain popcorn, occasionally funny, it is completely forgettable, aside from a detail about our hero using wire in place of buttons on his shirt. There is also the use of “rannie” as a descriptor for a person – I’m unsure if this is some sort of typo for “gunnie” as in “gunman” or what, but that’s my best guess.
It wasn’t until I was well into the book that I wondered if the author was British, when I came across a “gaol” instead of a “jail.” Some readers might raise an eyebrow at the geography, which at first seems to suggest there are mountains and canyons near Wichita, Kansas. This is not, however, a writer-failure, this story takes place in Oklahoma, where there are the Wichita Mountains, which approach 2500 feet in height and do have canyons. There does not seem to be an actual Stampede County in Oklahoma, however. Maybe there used to be? This is not a book too concerned with realism anyway.
Gordon Landsborough (1913-1983) was a prolific English writer, as well as being an editor and publisher who promoted paperback pulps particularly in the 1950s. Stampede County seems to have been first published in 1953, as Kiowa Man under the name of Mike M’Cracken, one of Landsborough’s aliases.
It is a quick tale about a hero named Careless O’Connor, who comes in to town one day just in time to save a newspaper man and his daughter from some baddies, and just in time to prevent the outbreak of hostilities between Kiowa and European townsmen due to bad-guy skulduggery involving treaty breaking and land-grabbing, and just in time to save the marshal from the baddies as well. When it’s over, he rides away, presumably off to another adventure, perhaps in a next book.
There is a distinct tang of “white saviour” throughout this book, particularly at one point where our hero saves the good Kiowa chief from the bad Kiowa chief in the nick of time. At least our hero believes in honouring treaties and respecting American Indian land rights. There is some language used that is not going to make some modern readers particularly happy.
While the last half of the book is almost constant action, for all the fightin’ and shootin’, a surprisingly few people end up dead.
For it’s kind of western, very pulpy paperback-y, I would give this a three or even four stars out of five. It’s doing what it’s meant to do for what it is. It’s just that what it’s meant to do is not particularly memorable.
Unfortunately, I found that I didn’t particularly enjoy the recently published western novella Trouble by Any Name – a very short read, published just last year. To me, it didn’t seem particularly well written, with a few typos and inconsistencies cropping up, I think it probably needed another edit. And despite being very short, I found my attention wandering from the story – about a bounty hunter who cleans up a town. I did read it all the way through, but I sadly can’t say I recommend it. However, it is currently rated as a 4 star book over on GoodReads, so I may just be wrong about it.
For February, I am reviewing Dead Man’s Hand by David Nix, thanks to NetGalley.com, who have provided me with an advance copy to review.