Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hangrope Town

One of my all time favorite hardboiled writers is Harry Whittington. Now here was a guy who wrote like his chair was on fire, churning out dozens and dozens of novels in various genres and under various pseudonyms. I'd imagine that most people today would know him for his noir thrillers; books like Web of Murder, Backwoods Tramp, Fires That Destroy to name a few that have been reprinted thanks to Black Lizard Books. He also wrote westerns, historical romances, nurse novels, TV Tie-ins, and good old-fashioned sleaze. Western fans of the Longarm Series by Tabor Evans may have some of Whittington's novels. Currently Stark House Press is releasing some of his thrillers in nice two-for-one and three-for-one editions.

Ballantine Books
Hangrope Town, from 1964 is a short, fast western about a convicted prisoner returning to Sage Wells, the town that sent him away after serving a five-year sentence. Welker Haines is the bad hombre in question. Welker has spent the last five years in the pen at La Paz for the murder of Kel McLoomis. Kel was the son of the local bigshot George McLoomis, a man who kicks a lot of dust in the territory around Sage Wells. Curt Brannon is the Marshall, who doesn't let anyone, including the reader, forget he earns $40 a month and still wears the same old trail-beaten boots he rode in on. Welker hasn't been content to just serve his time quietly. He's been sending death threats to the various leaders around Sage Wells, letting them know that once he's out, they're nothing but buzzard bait. Not only that, he's been courting Ruby McLoomis from behind bars. Ruby is George McLoomis's hot and wild young daughter, with no more sense then a flea when it comes to picking men. Ruby is also Marshall Brannon's girl. At least that what Brannon thought until Welker returns. The whole town is ready to lynch Welker Haines on sight, particularly George McLoomis and his cowhands. Unfortunately, Brannon's job is to uphold the law, which means there will be no vigilante style lynching under his watch. Before you know it, a corpse turns up with Welker's knife in its back. It's a hell of thing to deal with, and Brannon getting squeezed from all sides. Something has got to give, and when it does, lead's going to fly.

If there is one thing Whittington knows how to do it's plotting a yarn. There are some twists and surprises involved, and just enough doubts to wonder if Haines is truly the evil S.O.B everyone says he is, or just a victim of local prejudices. It's a quick enjoyable weekend read. Just like everything else I've read by Harry Whittington.

No comments:

Post a Comment