Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 5, 2013


Rio Renegades by "Terence Duncan" (1989)

Rio Renegades was the eighth and final book in the paperback western series Powell's Army.  The series was created by literary agent Barbara Puechner and the books were published under the pseudonum "Terence Duncan".  James Reasoner contributed three books in the series (#4, 5, and 6) and William F. Nolan wrote this one; I'm not sure who wrote the other four.  (Can anyone help me out here?  Update:  James Reasoner did; see his comment, below.)

The Powell in Powell's Army was Lt. Col. Amos Powell, Adjutant General  for the U.S. Army Territorial Command in Fort Leavenworth.  Powell's "Army" consisted of "three fearless firebrands" whom Powell sent on dangerous missions throughout the west.  This three members of this army
were Landrum Davis, former soldier and Ranger, Gerald Glidinghawk, a Dartmouth educated Omaha Indian, and Celia Burnett, a beautiful redhead equally skilled with horse, firearms, and faro.  Their mission this time is to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico to determine the fate of a group of government geologists and to also gather information on a band of outlaws based in the Mexican mountains who are led by the notorious Silver Man, or El Hombre de Plata.

Author Nolan is big Max Brand fan and has authored a biobibliography on Brand and has edited six volumes of his stories.  It comes as no surprise, then, that the first sentence in the novel is "Colonel Maxwell Schiller Brandt had trained himself to sleep as a cat sleeps, outwardly tranquil but inwardly alert to all possible dangers."  Maxwell Brandt = Max Brand.  Get it?  And "Max Brand" was a pen name of Frederick Schiller Faust.  The thoroughly nasty villain in this book, The Silver Man, is named Barry Silver, whose father came from County Kildare.  One of Brand's most popular western characters is Red Barry and another of his popular characters is Doctor Kildare.  The book is chock full of inside references such as this.  I can't claim to have caught them all, but it was interesting to read about a minor character, an old trapper named Ben Challis; Challis is the family name of the protagonists in some of Nolan's detective stories and "George Challis" was another of Frederick Faust's pseudomyns.

Colonel Brandt was leading the geological party when it was attacked by Silver's gang.  Every member of the government party was murdered except for Brandt and his daughter.  Brandt was kept alive because Silver thought he knew the location of a lode of gold; Barbara Brandt was kept alive because Silver wanted to bed her.  For some reason, the psychotic Silver wanted to seduce the girl rather than take her by force.  Lucky (and plucky!) girl, because Silver's egomania convinced him that the girl would fall to his wiles sooner or later -- giving our heroes planty of time to find Silver's desolate and impenetrable lair.

There's violence and blood letting a plenty, a soupcon of sex, an exciting horse race, a Ned Buntline wannabe, a traveling circus, coincidence piled on coincidence, a villain worthy of James Bond, and a deus ex machina or two.  It all adds up to an entertaining and fast-moving story.  Nothing major, but a darned good time-passer.



Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books will be celebrating its fifth anniversary this month.  Patti will be linking to today's Forgotten Books at Pattinase.  To celebrate five years, she is also republishing old Forgotten Books review this month.  Well worth checking out.


  1. Barbara Puechner wrote the first three books herself, and I believe Neal Barrett Jr. wrote #7. My memory is a little fuzzy on this, but I think I was the one who put Bill Nolan in touch with Barbara and told him she might need somebody to ghost a book or two. I remember the subject came up during one of my phone conversations with him back in the Eighties. I didn't know him well, but we talked occasionally. I think I got acquainted with him through a mutual friend, Joe Lansdale.

    Those days are starting to seem like a thousand years ago in some ways and just yesterday in others.

  2. The gambit of a villain's attempt to win the heart and mind of a captive female gets used in early western fiction. The egotistical confidence in one's seductive powers was nearly as unseemly as taking her without her consent.