Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, July 9, 2024


"The Naked Gun" by John Jakes  (from Boot Hill:  An Anthology of the West. edited by Robert J. Randisi, 2002; first published in Short Stories, January 1957; also reprinted in More Wild Westerns, edited by Bill Pronzini, 1989; in The Best Western Stories of John Jakes, 1991; and in Great Stories of the American West II, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, 1997)

Boot Hill was a themed western anthology edited, and with an introduction and notes by Robert J. Randisi,  The first Boot Hill may have been in Dodge City (sources differ) and was so called because many of its occupants died with their boots on.  So it's the Dodge City Boot Hill that's the one referenced in this book, and the reader is given a tour by the "Gravedigger" of some of the more interesting graves therein.  The first story in the book is "The Naked Gun," and it is the only story in the book that had been printed before.  The remaining thirteen stories are original.

The grave in "The Naked Gun" is that of G. BODIE (183?-1873; "DO NOT SIN AGAINST THE CHILD" -- GEN.  42.22).

George Bodie is a feared gunslinger with eleven kills to his name, and he is hoping to soon make it an even dozen.  He has this thing for Lu, one of the girls working Chinese Annie's house in Dodge City, and had ridden two hundred miles to hook up with her again.  The house is run by Maebelle Tait (Chinese Annie having long since passed), who has two children, seven-year-old Tad who runs errands, and three-year-old Emma who likes to play with anything she can get her hands on.  Tad brings Bodie a message from the new town marshal, Dale Wyman, which tells Bodie that he must get out of town before midnight.  Reading this, Bodie thinks that he'll get his twelfth kill at midnight.

The marshal is not destined to be Bodie's dozenth kill, after all.  Lu enters and is about to take Bodie upstairs, when the door to Chinese Annie's opens and a cowboy named Fred enters.  He has had a standing date with Lu every six months and he has just ridden sixty miles to be with her.  He tries to get Lu from Bodie, and then makes a mistake by reaching for his gun.  Bodie plugs him in the chest before Fred could clear his gun.  So now Bodie had his twelfth kill; the marshal will make number thirteen.  there's still an hour and fifteen minutes before midnight and Bodie takes Lu upstairs.

Bodie wakes up an hour later.  Lu has gone.  Tad tells Bodie that the marshal is out in the street fifteen minutes early and wants to talk to him.  Bodie leaves his gun in his room and goes outside.  The marshal says he doesn't want o kill Bodie but he will if Bodie forces it.  He says he will not be alone; there will be others outside with guns trained on him.  Bodie calls him a coward and the marshal replies that Bodie is like a big cat going after his beef -- it doesn't matter how many kill the cat just as long as the cat will cause no further trouble.

Bodie heads back inside to get his gun but it is missing.  This throws Bodie into a panic and he rages through Chinese Annie's, demanding his Colt back.  Then he spots young Emma with the gun, plating with it as if it were a toy.  He viscously grabs the gun from Emma and goes out, determined to kill the marshal and any other person with him...

I won't spoil the twist here, but suffice to say that Bodie is now buried in Boot Hill, but we knew that from the start.

An interesting play on the western trope of the killer gunslinger vs. the peace-loving lawman.

The Jakes story is worth looking up on nits own, but I do recommend the complete anthology.  The other author represented in Boot Hill are Elmer Kelton, Wendi Lee, James Reasoner, L. J. Washburn, Tom Piccirilli, Randy Lee Eickhoff, John Helfers and Kerrie Hughes, Troy D. Smith, Robert Vaughan, Richard S. Wheeler, Ed Gorman, Marthayn Pelegrimas, and Marcus Galloway.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of John Jakes's BRAK THE BARBARIAN series and I've enjoyed Jakes's SF, too. I admire writers like John Jakes who can write westerns and SF and fantasy and historical novels, etc.