Monday, January 2, 2017

High Lawless - T.V. Olsen

Channing's fingers flexed lightly over the Colt butt; he let his hand drop. You draw lightning once, he thought, and you can't turn back. He had been fool enough to think he could escape it once, mustanging in the lonely hills, only to find himself embroiled again. Once a man drew trouble in this raw country, it marked him. Like the brand of Cain his father had always been fond of throwing up to him. 

2016 has been short and difficult year for too many on the planet and most of us are glad to see it pass. I had a long holiday weekend, of sorts, so I had time to read something that I think is good for the soul, an old Gold Medal western. I'm not as well read in westerns as others are. I came really late to the game in reading these classics. I've long been a fan of hard-boiled fiction, since my mid-teens, but my only exposure to westerns had been occasionally reading a Louis L'Amour novel left in the squadron room at my Air Force base. 

I got more familiar with the genre thanks in part to the terrific blog Pulp Serenade. I went off to the used bookstores with a nice helpful list of writers and books to look for. I found a double novel paperback of T.V. Olsen, including this novel, High Lawless, from 1960. 

The plot is a simple tale of vengeance after Ed Channing's partner and friend gets fleeced of their entire business proceeds by slick cardshark, Costello. Channing confronts Costello at the poker table, only to see his pal take a bullet from Costello that was aimed for him. Costello gets away, his buddy dies, and the chase is on. Channing tracks Costello to the Anchor ranch where Costello had taken cover under his crooked uncle Santee Dyker's protection. Dyker has surrounded himself with a bunch of no-good gunnies in preparation for a range war. When Channing shows up at the Anchor to confront Costello he gets himself horsewhipped for his troubles. What follows is a plot involving shootings, a torture, a couple of fistfights, a couple of kidnappings, a stampede, and a final showdown outside a saloon! 

I liked this novel just fine. It had an appropriate laconic hardboiled vibe about it that always appeals to me. I can't speak to its predictability and such, since I haven't read as many westerns as others have. Certainly Channing is an archetype western hero, a loner looking to settle down but getting pulled back into the life by forces beyond his control. There is a love interest as well that Channing has to contend with. It's not spoiling anything to say how that will turn out. But thankfully, that lovey stuff doesn't slow down the pace of this novel in any way. There are plenty of bad guys to round up and bring to justice before getting to that huggy kissee stuff! 

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