Ben Grant has spent seven long years in prison for killing a man while protecting his cattle herd. His partner, Pete Cooley, has used that time to build the business. Grant visits Cooley to regain his partnership, but Cooley rebuffs him, giving him only half of what the business was worth seven years before to settle Grant's claim. Grant is not happy about the offer, but he accepts it.
Grant manages to land an Army contract for a year's worth of beef. His plan is to use Cooley's money to finance the catching and taming of wild horses to sell in Montana to get the full amount of money he needs to buy the cattle he needs to resell to the army. But Cooley aims to stop Grant and has hired thugs and gunslingers to help him.
Knowing Cooley is after him, Grant takes his family and his friend Mendoza to Mexico, where he begins to amass his herd with the help of hired vaqueros. He realizes that his hopes of raising the herd before Cooley and his gang find him are likely not to happen.
Meanwhile Concho Reynolds has reached a crossroads in his life. Orphaned young, he had roamed the West and somehow had drifted into gunfighting. He has seen his life go steadily downhill and, in a what-the-hell moment agreed to help a friend rob a bank. The plan, his friend assured him, was fool-proof; no one would get hurt, no guns would be fired, and the money would be theirs. The plan was not fool-proof, however, and Concho's friend was dead and Concho himself was wounded and on the run from a determined posse. Concho manages to elude the posse, but his horse dies and he is lying alone in the desert dying.
Grant finds Concho barely alive and takes him to his camp. Grant's young sister, Julie, is attraced to the young gunfighter and they get close during his recuperation -- something Grant opposes. Knowing that he would have no future with Julie, Concho rides out as soon as he is able. He drifts into a small town and meets Shep Hooker, another gunfighter, who tells him that he had been recognized during the bank robbery and was wanted in Texas; Concho can never go back to the States Hooker also recruits him for a gang that was being assembled by Pete Cooley to kill Ben Grant. A Mexican whose brother had been hired as a vaquero by Grant was willing to show Cooley where Grant was encamped.
Concho kidnaps the Mexican and takes him to Grant, warning him that Grant that Cooley is near and has about eight men -- many of them hired killers -- in his gang. The stage is now set for a bloody climax.
Marvin H. Albert was an entertaining storyteller and his paperback originals always delivered. In The Reformed Gun, his powers are in full force. Strong characterization, a solid plot, authentic detail, good guys and bad guys, blazing guns, flying fists, thrusting knifes, honor and pride, seemingly impossible situations, and the redeeming power of romance -- it's all here. And few did it better than Albert.
(Marvin H. Albert, The Reformed Gun, Fawcett Gold Medal, 1959)
Patti Abbott is taking a well-deserved two-week break from Friday's Forgotten Books. When she gets back, she may (or may not) post a round-up of Forgotten Book reviews published today and next Friday.
UPDATE: The ever-vigilant Todd Mason has posted a round-up on his blog, Sweet Freedom. Go to http://socialistjazz.blogspot.com/