Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, May 25, 2018

FORGOTTEN BOOK: TRIGGER LAW

Trigger Law by "Jackson Cole" (1952)


"Jackson Cole" was a house name used the the main story in each issue of Better Publications pulp magazine Texas Rangers (1936-1938).  The name was used by such western stalwarts as Tom Curry, A. Leslie Scott, and Peter Germano.  One of the main characters used by "Cole" was Texas Ranger Jim Hatfield, a.k.a. The Lone Wolf, the hero of over two hundred stories.   As a true pulp cowboy hero, Hatfield is an expert shot, a quick draw, an expert fighter, an experienced cowboy, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  And he's tall and good-looking.  A loner bringing justice to a wild frontier...

Jim Hatfield and Jackson Cole also made it to paperbacks in the early Fifties, evidently both as reprints and as original novels.  Trigger Law appears to be a paperback original (no story under that name was published in Texas Rangers) and Worldcat lists the author as Oscar Schisgall, who has not been identified as one of magazine's house writers.  UPDATE 5/26:  Once again, I am wrong.  Rather, Worldcat is wrong.  See James Reasoner's comment below.)

In Trigger Law, the wild frontier that Hatfield brings justice to is the cow and mining town of Sanders, near the Mexican border.  Hatfield's superior has sent him to investigate stories about an outlaw gang known as Roma's Raiders.  Before he got to the town, however, he stumbles on an old Mexican man who is dying from a snake bite.  Hatfield gives the man the last of his water, but the man dies minutes later.  His last act is to thrust a strange metal object into Hatfield's hand.  Minutes later,a stranger with a gun tries to take the object from Hatfield -- not a wise move.  Then, in the distance, comes a band of men firing guns at him.  Hatfield hops on his horse to make a fast escape, only to come to face another band of men, pistols blazing.  The only way out is down a steep canyon wall to the gulch below.  Luckily, a hero ranger needs a hero horse such as Goldie, Hartfield's magnificent steed.

When he arrives in Sanders, Hatfield finds a town on edge.  The outlaw gang has spread terror throughout the area.  Because they are masked and because they seldom leave victims alive, no one knows who is in the gang and no one knows whom the mysterious "Roma" is.  Roma could be anyone -- even a respected member of the town -- and suspicions are heightened.  Without revealing that he is a lawman, Hatfield takes a job on a nearby ranch where some gold had been discovered and a mining operation begun.

The action comes fast.  Shoot-outs, murders, sabotage, arson, a train robbery, attempted large-scale rustling, a lost Aztec treasure...all take place in rapid sequence.  I don't think it's a spoiler to say that on the last page Hatfield rides off into the sunset toward another adventure.

Pure pulp here.  Nothing major or "lit'ry."  Just plain enjoyable and colorful writing with some inventive descriptions:

"The big fellow seemed to take unto himself wings.  He flew through the air, great limbs revolving, landed on his back and stayed there.  Hatfield rubbed his tingling knuckles and spoke, his voice quiet and unhurried."

Except for some unnecessary (albeit interesting) padding, Trigger Law is a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

5 comments:

  1. Worldcat is wrong about the author of this book. It's definitely A. Leslie Scott. Oscar Schisgall is credited with having originated the Jackson Cole pseudonym on some novels during the 1920s, but by the early Thirties it's a house-name and Schisgall was no longer using it. After Scott stopped writing Jim Hatfield novels for TEXAS RANGERS, he sold some reprints to Pyramid Books, but Ned Pines objected to that so Scott started writing original Hatfield novels for Pyramid. Pines didn't like that, either, which prompted Scott to switch to his other Texas Ranger character, Walt Slade, for new paperbacks (although a few rewrites/expansions of Slade stories from THRILLING WESTERN also appeared as Pyramid paperbacks). Scott believed in squeezing every penny he could out of his books. His Walt Slade Ace Double BADLANDS MASQUERADER is a rewritten Hatfield novel from TEXAS RANGERS, and he sold a number of lending library non-series Westerns that are actually rewritten Hatfields or Slades.

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  2. Thanks for clearing that up, James.

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