Tuesday, March 31, 2020


After picking a copy up in a used bookstore, I read Louis L’Amour’s 1979 novel, The Iron Marshal, for the first time earlier this year. Over the years, I’ve read almost all of L’Amour’s best known works and many of his others, but somehow The Iron Marshal slipped my notice. It was actually a real treat to be able to dive into a top notch, new to me, L’Amour tale—and The Iron Marshal did not disappoint.

I mentioned the novel in a post on the very active and knowledgeable Men’s Adventure Paperbacks of the 20th Century Facebook group, which is my home away from home. The response was immediate as the book was highly rated many in the group who were familiar with it. Other members found themselves intrigued enough to pick up a copy and reported back their agreement with the high praise the book generated in the group.

My wife is also a big L’Amour fan, so I downloaded her a copy of the audio book. She listened with rapt attention. Twice I heard her open the garage door and drive in, but didn’t immediately come into the house. When I went to look for her, she was sitting in the car unable to get out until the current chapter to which she was listening ended. She raved about the book and couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been made into a movie. I agreed. She even made her own casting selections after disagreeing with my choice of Tom Berenger for the title role.

Imagine my surprise (the more I dig into the history of Westerns and Men’s adventure paperbacks, the more surprises there seem to be) when I came across a listing for a DVD copy of Shaughnessy: The Iron Marshal. I immediately purchased the DVD and began tracking down more information on its origin.

In 1996, Beau L’Amour took on the role of producer to turn his father’s novel, The Iron Marshal, into a made-for-TV movie. The result was Louis L'Amour's Shaughnessy. Written by the Emmy award winning William Blinn (creator of Starsky and Hutch, among many other films and TV shows), and directed by Michael Rhodes, the movie starred Matthew Settle (in his debut) as Shaughnessy, and featured co-starring roles for Linda Kozlowski, and Michael Jai White.

Like many made-for-TV movies of the time, Louis L'Amour's Shaughnessy was clearly designed to act as a pilot for a proposed TV series. However, the pilot did not get picked up by CBS, which left the standalone TV movie riddled with unresolved storylines. If the finished TV movie had run two hours instead of ninety minutes, many of these issues could have been resolved. Had this had been the case, the movie would have been far more compelling and, possibly, the best ever screen translation of a L’Amour book. As things remain, viewers are left wanting to turn the DVD over like an old LP looking for part two on the other side.

The first half of the original plot is truncated for the movie. However,  the story is still focused on young Irish immigrant Tommy Shaughnessy—a champion boxer with a reputation as a ne'er-do-well—who finds himself in the middle of battling Irish gangs in post-Civil War New York. After refusing to throw a fight backed by a crooked promoter, Shaughnessy takes a bullet in the back. Badly injured, he flees New York by hitching a ride in an empty train car like a common hobo. 

As he journeys West, a bizarre twist of fate lands him in Haven, Kansas. Further complications ensue—as they do—and he finds himself wearing a marshal’s star while standing between the  citizens and a gang of cowboys, fresh off a cattle drive, who are out for revenge and riding in to destroy the town. As if Shaughnessy's situation isn't tough enough, a murder and a deadly conspiracy complicate the scenario, forcing him to use all his wits and both of iron fists to stay alive.

Despite its drawbacks, Shaughnessy is a lighthearted, rip-roaring, and entertaining B-Western. L’Amour fanatics may not like the simplifying of the original novel, but for the rest of us who appreciate L’Amour at a less intense level, it’s worth viewing. 

Retitled Shaughnessy: The Iron Marshal for DVD, the movie supposedly pops up occasionally on the Western dedicated cable channels—although I have never seen a listing for it. Fortunately, for those interested, an excellent download is readily available on YouTube.

Monday, March 30, 2020


Episode Four of the Six-Gun Justice Podcast is now available for streaming on all your favorite podcast platforms. This week, co-hosts Paul Bishop and Richard Prosch present The New West—Part 2, focusing on the current crop of Western wordslingers successfully using the Internet to bring brand new blazing Western action to wide audience of genre readers...They also review a ten gallon hat's worth of western novels, and roundup the latest wild west news in books, movies, TV, magazines, and more.

New episodes of the Six-Gun Justice Podcast or Six-Gun Justice Podcast Speed Listens are available every Monday on all major podcasts platforms. You can also catch up with prior episodes anytime on the Six-Gun Justice Podcast’s flagship website www.sixgunjustice.com/ where you'll also find a wide range of western related reviews, articles on featured western movies and TV shows, and interviews with some of today's best western wordslingers.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020


Wells Fargo & Company was put together in 1852 by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo. Initially offering express and banking services to the expanding frontier, the company gained control of the Butterfield Overland Mail Company and operated the western end of the Pony Express. In 1866, Wells Fargo acquired the Holladay and Overland Mail stage lines and in 1872 gained rights to operate an express service over the Transcontinental Railroad. It was while the company was at the peak of its powers and influence that Fred Dodge worked for them as an undercover agent. He kept a daily diary of his life—27 volumes total—work inspiring at least two books, The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp and Undercover for Wells Fargo.

In 1957, NBC roped the second book as a basis for an episode of the Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, and Tales of Wells Fargo shot from the gate with Dale Robertson—the left-handed gun—In the saddle. For 201 hard-pounding episodes, Robertson played Jim Hardie, troubleshooter and company detective, a canny fella who often used subterfuge and trickery to root out the bad guys.

Created by James Brooks, Gene Reynolds and acclaimed scribe Frank Gruber, the show spawned a number of books including a Whitman tie-in by Sam Allison called Wells Fargo and Danger Station, and a Golden Press juvenile book, Danger at Dry Creek by Irving Wernstein. The series also spun off a run of Dell Comics—some illustrated by Russ Heath who was best known for his DC Comics war books and Playboy’s Little Annie Fanny.

The best of the books was a paperback collection of eight stories by Frank Gruber. Called a writer’s writer, Gruber wrote more than 300 western and detective stories for the pulps, sixty novels, sixty-five screenplays, and a hundred television scripts. Along with Tales of Wells Fargo, he had a hand in creating two more classic Western series, The Texan and Shotgun Slade.

Gruber might be best known by his compadres of the pen for his assertion that all Westerns employ one of seven plots:

1. UNION PACIFIC STORY—The plot concerns construction of a railroad, a telegraph line, or some other type of modern technology or transportation. Wagon train stories fall into this category.
2. RANCH STORYThe plot concerns threats to the ranch from rustlers or large landowners attempting to force out the proper owners.

3. EMPIRE STORY—The plot involves building a ranch empire or an oil empire from scratch, a classic rags-to-riches plot.

4. REVENGE STORY—The plot often involves an elaborate chase and pursuit by a wronged individual, but it may also include elements of the classic mystery story.

5. CAVALRY AND INDIAN STORY—The plot revolves around "taming" the wilderness for white settlers.

6. OUTLAW STORY—The outlaw gangs dominate the action.

7. MARSHAL STORY. The lawman and his challenges drive the plot.

In Bantam’s Tales of Wells Fargo (1958) readers can enjoy Gruber’s own adaptations of his original teleplays. For my money, Billy the Kid, Belle Starr, The Vigilantes, and The Glory Hole are the best of the collection. Comparing the narrative with the episodes as broadcast, it’s clear Gruber takes liberties with his own work that he doesn’t take with others. The teleplays for Sam Bass, John Wesley Hardin, and The Auction were written by Steve Fisher, while Doc Bell is from an original story and teleplay by William Leicester. They’re solid entries, but Gruber is keen to keep tight rein on the original script.

Grounded with more history than most Westerns of the era, and helmed by an accomplished writer, Tales From Wells Fargo is worth a few bucks if you find it lingering on a paperback shelf, just as the show is worth a viewing if you’re flipping through the channels.