Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, January 5, 2018


Dallas by Will F. Jenkins (1950)

"He had nothing left but for the Confederacy and his family, and both were dead,but they'd left him a legacy of vengeance to be satisfied."  (page 95)

Jenkins is better known under his pseudonym "Murray Leinster" as a prolific and popular writer of science fiction, but his actual range was far broader.  His books and stories range from science fiction to westerns, mysteries, adventure, historicals, and romances -- everything except (perhaps) sports.  Leinster was one of the few who easily traveled back an forth between the pulps and the slicks.

Dallas, one of two original westerns he wrote for Gold Medal paperbacks, was his first tie-in novel, sticking pretty closely to the 1950 Warner Brothers film starring Gary Cooper, Ruth Roman, Steve Cochran, Raymond Massey, and Leif Erickson.  (Jenkins would go on to write six more tie-ins, all science fiction, all based on television shows, and all as by "Leinster.")

Blayde Hollister, a 22-year-old colonel in the Fifth Georgia Cavalry, refused to surrender his troops to Union soldiers at the end of the Civil War; instead, he formally disbanded his regiment and began his trak home to his family's farm in Valdosta, Georgia (also the home town of Doc Holliday, not that that has anything to do with the plot).  But there was no home to go back to.  A gang of marauders had struck, leaving he farm a burnt-out hulk, his parents were murdered, and his sister kidnapped and shot the next day.  Hollister's home had been taken for taxes and divided up in twenty-acre plots for freed slaves.

The gang that destroyed Hollister's home and family were led by the Marlow brothers -- William, Cullen, and Bryant (their mother was fond of the noted poet).  They had moved on, spreading a path of destruction and death. until the gang had been cornered, but the three brothers managed to escape and to reform their gangs.  Hollister, now a wanted man himself, vows to track down the trio and kill them.

As his search leads him throughout the South, his reputation grows.  Now dubbed "Reb" Hollister by the law, there are wanted posters of him spread across the defeated Confederate states.  Hollister places his own poster -- offering $5000 for information where to find the Marlows -- next to the federal posters about him.  His search leads to other gangs led by brothers, the James gang and the Younger gang, but to no avail.  In Springfield, Missouri, he is befriended by Wild Bill Hickok.  Hickok is about to give up his career as a Marshal for the bright lights and big money of performing in a show back east.  The two arrange a fake gunfight in which Hollister would be "killed," leaving the young rebel free to continue pursuing the Marlows without being wanted by the law.  Their plans go somewhat awry with the arrival of Marshal Martin Weatherby, on his way to assume a post in Dallas.  Weatherby is a motivated but inexperienced lawman and tries to arrest Hollister.  It doesn't work out; Hollister holds Weatherby captive until Hickok leaves town.

Weatherby comes from a rich and influential family from Boston, where he had met and fallen in love with a visiting Antonia (Tonia, in the movie) Robles, who is from an equally rich and influential family from Dallas.  The two becomes engaged.   Weatherby is to travel to Dallas to meet Antonia's family and to explore a lucrative business potential.  His father manages to get him named a federal marshal in order to raise his status in Dallas.  Weatherby's deputy marshal. who would end up doing all the work, was to be Hickok.  Weatherby also tells Hollister that the Marlow brothers are in Dallas and are continuing their reign of terror. 

Hollister and Weatherby travel to Dallas.  Weatherby, realizing how inept he is as a lawman, agrees to have Hollister impersonate him, while Weatherby will pretend to be the deputy -- at least until Hollister manages to complete his vengeance.  The only person to know of this deception is Antonia, who slowly falls in love with Hollister.

In essence, this is a stereotypical western.  A lone man against impossible odds.  A love triangle doomed from the start.  A town terrorized by a ruthless gang.  Bushwacks and gunfights, land grabs and murder. 

The original film is entertaining enough, but is nothing special except to Gary Cooper fans.  Jenkins' novelization takes a minor film and pads it with historical detail, at times leaving on to wonder when the action will start.  In true Jenkins/Leinster style, he never lets the reader forget the major conflicts in the plot, revisiting them often in matter-of-fact narration.  This, however, is not a drawback.  The author is a pro and knows exactly what he is doing.  Despite an average plot, Dallas is a fast, entertaining read and compares well with much of the author's journeyman work but never reaches the heights of his best work.


  1. I didn't know this was Leinster. Cool

  2. Thanks for the pointers! Always felt Jenkins was wasting time with the likes TIME TUNNEL, but this sounds a bit more promising...