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Sunday, January 26, 2020

WESTERN PAPERBACKS—WAGON TRAIN WEST

WESTERN PAPERBACKS
WAGON TRAIN WEST
WILLIAM HEUMAN
William Heuman contributed a number of titles to Gold Medal in the early days, many of which were reprinted. He’s capable of far better work than Wagon Train (1959), which is among the most paint-by-numbers Gold Medal westerns I've read. It’s principal character is Owen Starr, owner of a freighting company. Starr hates a mining town up north, but gets roped into taking freight there anyway. 

Heuman clumsily introduces a backstory about Starr’s kid brother losing his money and life in the mining town, then clumsily introduces various sub-plots that are telegraphed well in advance, including the upcoming betrayal, the unconvincing love triangle, etcetera. Starr himself isn’t much of a convincing character and the secondary characters are pretty much ciphers, apart from the half-Indian scout.

The plot all makes sense, at least, even if it was practically on rails and lacked interesting characters, and Heuman writes some strong action scenes, but the real reason I didn't flunk the book totally was because of the weirdly engaging and realistic details about wagon train logistics and operations—some of them far more engaging than the story itself. 

CONTRIBUTOR: HOWARD ANDREW JONES

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