Openers: Hayes Dushane sweated under a white scorched sky and stared cold-eyed at the ugly welt of yellow earth. This forsaken, barb-enclosed boothill was as desolate a two-acres of worthless land as he'd ever encountered, yet it represented the end of a long, desperate search for him.
"This here's the grave." The whiskered, gnarled little man beside Hayes glanced apprehensively over his shoulder as if afraid he might be overheard in this bleak cross-starred cemetery. He drew the back of his hand across his tobacco-stained mouth, nodding. "I seen 'em lower him."
Dushane shivered in the heat, a lean, rangy man burned biscuit-brown, his faded levis crusted gray with alkali dust. He said, "You saw 'em lower a nailed box."
-- Valley of Savage Men by Harry Whittington (1965)
"Hayes Dushane was the name, and men flinched when they heard it. Hayes's briether Will, the U.S. marshal, was dead and everyonenin town knew it was a case of cold-blooded murder. They knew, too, that h/ayes would not rest until he's etracted vengeance on the trash that killed his brother."
A lone man seeking vengeance for the death of a relative/loved one/best friend/mentor/take your pick is a common theme in western novels. (In fact, my copy of Valley of Savage Men is from an Ace Double that was paired with Whittington's A Trap for Sam Dodge, in which the title character is seeking vengeance in the murder of a childhood friend.) How effective this plot can be depends on the skill of the authors, and Harry Whittington was a very skilled author.
Athough Whittington wrote a number of westerns, the bulk of his writing was in the crime, suspense, hard-biled, and noir genres. To say Whittington was prolific is like saying water is wet. He wrote over *200 novels+; at least once, he is said to have written seven in one month. (He wrote only (!) twenty-eight westerns**, including six*** in the long-running adult western series Longarm, and four western movie tie-novels.)Whittington was known as the King of the Paperback Original, using at least eighteen pseudonyms, soe of which you may recognize: Ashley Carter, Curt Colman, John Dexter, Tabor Evans, Whit Harrison, Robert Hart Davis, Kel Halland, Harriet Kathryn Myers, Suzanne Stephens, Blaine Stevens, Clay Stuart, Hondo Wells, Harry White, Hallam Whitney, Henri Whittier, J. X. Williams, Howrd Winslow, and William Vaneer.
According to pop culture critic Woody Haut, "It took Whittington, by his own admission, thirteen years to master the art of creating a compelling narrative. But once he did, he would immodestly say, 'I could plot, baby. I could plot.' More importantly, he could also now sell prectically everything he wrote, and live well off the proceeds. Believing that not planning a novel was unprofessional, he admitted to having a range of experience and knowledge of various locales that fit the sort of writing he was doing. Though he wanted to make the reader feel what the charaacters tell, he had the sort of wherewithal to move outside his own experience, that it was wasn't simply a case of writing about one knows. As he said, 'you don't have to die in a fire to write about arson.'\
"...As for his usual working process, Whittington normally started with the climax, crisis or denoument and workd backward, teasing and terrifying the reader, while establishing a plot that would unlock the story. Consequently, the novel's shape would dictate its its effect." And the effect of Whittington's novels provided a tense and exciting experience for the reader. In reviewing 1954's You'll Die Next!, Anthony Boucher wrote, "I couldn't have held my breath any longer in this vigorous tale whose plot is too dextrously twisted to even mention in a review."
Whitting found a more receptive audience in France, where his books were highly regarded. Comparing hiim to authors such as Goodis, Tracy, and Gault, Rafael Sorin wrote in Le Monde, "Even the mosr minor of Whittington's eariest narratives reread today does not fail to charm. Whittington, who acknowledges the influences of Cain, Frederic Davis and Day Keene, is the most violent writer of the genre. His tomb of death can be the apliance freeze, alligators, mosquitoes carrying fatal virus. But his worst enemy can be la femme. She who kills for money and devours those who succomb to her charms," This is the essence of noir and tragedy.
Although never a household name like Chandler or Hammett, Whittington has a growing number of admirers, thanks to reprints from Black Lizard in the 80s and Stark House Press currently. There are many more of Whittington's novels that deserve reprinting.
*Some say only 170 novels. (Only!) I'll let someone more authoratively than I settle this. Any takers?
**There may have been more, It's hard to keep count.
***Some sources credit him with as many as nineteen Longarm novels, but six seems to be the more accurate number.
- Ivan Brunetti, editor, An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoon & True Stories, Volume 2. Doorstop (400 page) coffee table volume showcasing some 80 cartoonists, including Chris Ware, Harvey Kurtzman, Milt Gross, Robert Crumb, Basil Wolverton, Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, Gilbert & Jamie Hernandez, Winsor McCay, Lynda Berry, Harvey Pekar, and Sol Stein. Includes some NSFW pieces. From Yale University Press. Some good stuff here and a lot that went right over my head ('cause I'm old, I think).
- Rick Ollerman, editor, Bullets and Other Hurting Things: A Tribute to Bill Crider. I never met Bill Crider nor did I ever tak with him, but like hundreds of others, I considered him a good friend. Bill was a writer's writer and one of the few truly deccent persons in this world. This anthology collects 20 original stories written by just a few of his friends. The only limitation was that the stories had to be ones that Bill would have enjoyed. Saying that,,this is a book that everyone will enjoy. Contributing authors include Joe R. Lansdale, James Reasoner, Robert J. Randisi, Bill Pronzini, Patti Abbott, William Kent Krueger, Brendan DuBois, Kasey Lansdale, Charlaine Harris, Sara Paretsky, SJ Rozan, David Housewright, and James Sallis. There's also a personal introduction (as well as a story) from Bill's daughter, Angela Crider Neary. My only very illogical complaint was the lack of a story from Bill's very good friend Ed Gorman, who passed away in 2016, two years before Bill passed.
- "Brad Steiger" (Eugene E. Olson), The Hypnotist. "Man, woman, or child. Few can resist the awesome power of The Hypnotist. First he will relax you. Then he will heal you. Then he will try to bend you to his dark, malevolent will." Steiger was the popular author of pseudoscientific books on UFOs, the occult, spirituaality, and the paranormal, The Hypnotist was supposedly his first novel, although ISFDb lists two earlier ones. In all things, Steiger should be taken with a grain of salt.
- It may be wise to stay off 83-year-old Florida Man Victor Ezquerra's lawn or to do anything else that man tick off the Broward County man. Ezquerra was arrested for shooting a neighbor over a dispute about feeding ducks and geese. According to Ezquerra's daughter, her father can be difficult to get along with, but she never thought him capable of such an action.
- Florida Man Basem Saidt has learned the importance of reading the fine print. He sign a contract to have his house painted with Rhino Shield, an expensive paint (costing almost twice as much as other options) that carried a 25-year warranty. After four years, streaks began to appear on the house -- noticable streaks that caught the attention of Saidt's homeowner's association, which was not pleased. Saidt tried to contact the contractor who had charged him $6000 to paint the house but the contractor had gone out of business. When he contacted the paint manufacturer, he was told that the paint wasn't the problem, his house was, due to underlying moisture in the walls and other systemic issues. The warranty covered "chipping, flaking or peeling" but the fine print specifically noted that fading or discoloring was not covered. The company said it would provide free paint to fix the problem, but the cost of labor was not included. A new Rhino Shield contractor agreed to give Saidt a discount but the final cost was $5500, nearly what he had paid to have his painted in the first place. The president of the Forida Paint and Coating Association (not related to Rhino Shield) said this situation was common; it pays to read the fine print of all warranties. Saidt agrees. Now.
- I don't know whether it's that old-time religion in Florida or some new-age religion, but a naked Florida Man was carrying a Bible and knocking on doors at the Sunshine Garden Apartments in Pembroke Pines on Wednesday. Of course he was shot by a neighbor. This is Florida.
- Speaking of religion, an unnamed Florida Man entered the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Melbourne during services las week and struck a priest, waved his gun around, and barricaded himself in the church. Church members were able to escape without harm. the man, who threatened suicide was arrested after a four-hour standoff.
- Florida may be God's waiting room, ut that doesn't mean you have to wait quietly. An unnamed Florida Woman robbed a downtown Jacksonville bank in her motorized wheelchair. The woman, who had evidently come in to discuss her account, got into an increasingly tense argument with a teller. She then announced that she would kill everyone and was robbing the bank. The problem with a motorized wheelchair is that it is not conduive to a quick getaway, especially if the bank you are robbing is just blocks away from the Sheriff's Department.
- Teen collects 30,000 pairs of shoes to donate "dignity" to L.A. homeless https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/lindsay-sobel-donates-30000-pairs-of-shoe-homeless/
- After prosthetic maker said it couldn't be done, an orphaned koala gets a new foot thanks to a dentist https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/triumph-koala-got-a-prosthetic-foot-from-lismore-dentist/
- Hayley Arceneaux, who survived bone cancer when she ws ten, is set to become the youngest person to be launched into space https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/hayley-arceneaux-survived-cancer-at-10-now-becomes-youngest-person-in-space/
- Restaurant owner spends $2000 of his own money to promote competing restaurants that are struggling https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/wisconsin-adolfo-melendez-2000-to-restaurant-competition/
- The public has named over fifty snow plows in Scotland...and they are hilarious. Sleetwood Mac, anyone? https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/scotland-held-a-snow-plow-naming-contest-with-hilarious-results/
- Scientists use novel ink with calcium to 3-D print "bone" with living cells https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/unsw-3d-prints-bone-parts-with-living-cells/