From the front cover of this old digest paperback:
"A feud with a wild horse can wait, when human snakes need blasting!"
And from the inside front cover:
"A rip-roaring he-man from the tips of his high-heeled boots to the top of his ten-gallon hat was tall, lanky Chet Holliday. But when Chet rode into Fighting Horse Valley he rode straight into a heap of trouble. For some strange reason thatt he handsome young man couldn't fathom, he had a rough time of it all the way down the line -- men hated him, dry gulchers took pot shots at his back, enemies kidnapped his best buddy and his lovely young sweeheart. And it wasn't long before Chet realized that the time was ripe for some plain and fancy shooting. Putting aside his tiring struggle with the spirited wild stallion, Typhoon, Chet buckled on his trusty six-shooters and headed for Alminas -- just to even up the score. But do Chet's guns settle the score? Does he win Typhoon for his saddle? And does he ever find the gorgeous Carol? The answers -- plus a lot of rootin'-tootin' thrills -- are packed into the inimitable tale of the 'gun-slinging West.'"
Hoo-doggies! That sure does sound exciting, pardner!
And despite this purple and somewhat misleading prose prefacing the novel, Texas Gun Slinger (no hyphen, mind you; real he-men don't need no stinkin' hyphens) is an entertaining read and a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.
First off, there's no mention of Texas anywhere in the book except for the gratuitous title -- and even that's a PR man's sham. The original (and better) title of the book was Fighting Horse Valley when it was published in 1934. Reprinted as Texas Gun Slinger as the first book published by the short-lived Star Books, the novel was "expertly abridged and edited for this special edition." Whoever edited this edition certainily wasn't the same blurb-meister quoted above. The novel reads smooth and even, with no jarring stops. (The novel was also reprinted as year earlier under its original title by Quarter Books, also as a digest paperback; I don't know whether this edition was abridged.)
Also, Chet Holliday was not a gun slinger (with or without a hyphen); he was a champion rodeo rider. Yes, he could use a gun but that was incidental.
And this doesn't take place in the wild West (or the gun-slingin' West). The story takes place in the almost-tamed West -- an unstated period with telephones and trucks and cars and gas stations. Kinda reminds me more of the West of the Roy Rogers television show rather than the West of, say, the Lone Ranger.
And there are the stock characters:
- The determined (somewhat dim-bulbed) hero
- The powerful rancher
- The treacherous town lawyer and politico
- The weak-willed sheriff
- The happy-go-lucky best friend
- The beautiful strong-willed rancher's niece
- The jealous teen-age spitfire
- The drunken squatter
- And the town pariah cum Greek chorus
We begin with Chet riding into town to take claim of an abandoned mine he recently purchased. The price of gold had risen enough in the past two decades to make the mine potentially profitable. The mine had been closed off for years by an explosion. Clearing the debris from the mine, Chet discovers two skeletons, one of which had a knife protuding from the back. He soon finds himself accused of murder and hunted throughout the entire valley.
Leinster is an old pro at mixing standard pulp elements to turn out a fast-paced story that keeps the reader turning pages.
A solid, albeit minor, read.
(Copies, paperbound under both titles, online run from $7.50 to $59.99; hardbound starts at $12.00 -- not including shipping. Best to get it from an inter-library loan.)