Monday, December 7, 2020


The Barricade Classic Western Series, edited by Martin Greenberg and Bill Pronzini is a robust series of hefty trade paperbacks with rousing pulp-magazine inspired covers of bright yellow and red. Each of the four offers a collection of pulp stories by a specific author—Ed Gorman, Les Savage, Jr., Ryerson Johnson, and Frank Bonham.
Bonham’s entry is called One Ride Too Many and includes the title story along with twelve others that originally graced the pages of Argosy, Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, Dime Westerns, and Blue Book. Every tale’s a winner, but I’ll give top props to one of my favorite western stories of all time, the highly anthologized, Burn Him Out, which I first read in The Mammoth Book of Westerns, edited by Jon Lewis.
In this story, rancher Will Starret and his neighbors are under attack by a horde of hungry grasshoppers. Big man Cowper’s foreman, Bill Hamp is for torching the land, starting of course with what belongs to other men. Bonham stands consistently by his theme of the sanctity of the individual above the mob. More than once, he has his character Will Starret ruminate out loud or to himself about what it means to own and work a piece of land. Bonham contrasts those ideas with folks who simply don’t comprehend the enormity of the proposition. There’s a lot more going on here than a simple action yarn, but there’s also action aplenty.
Equally as important as the stories in One Ride Too Many is a partial bibliography of Frank Bonham's Western novels, mystery novels, and young adult novels. A great place to start for readers new to his work.
Included in that list of published work is Logan’s Choice. Here’s the story of Tom Logan, an Arizona rancher on the Mexican border whose father was a friend of the vicious, free-roaming Yaqui Indians. Tom shares the region with rancher Clyde Barksdale and a young homesteader from the East—Laura Sutton. Laura blames Tom for the suicide of her wimpy brother, so Clyde figures he’s got an open shot at Laura and her ranch, especially since his lunk-headed buddy, Joe Been, is Laura’s ranch hand.
All of this is background potboiler to the real trouble that fires up when Barksdale and Breen kill a couple Yaqui Indians and steal their gold. They try to frame Tom for the killing, but unbeknownst to them, local saloon keeper and resident sleaze ball Nacho Ruiz has witnessed the event and wants his cut.
So, the Yaquis want to knock off Tom in any one of a dozen gruesome ways; Breen wants all the gold for himself; Nacho wants all the gold for himself; Barksdale wants all the gold for himself—plus Laura Sutton and her ranch. Laura isn’t sure what she wants, and good ol’ Tom just wants to live in peace and quiet. There’s a bunch of killing to be done first, naturally and Tom’s not above doing some—as long as he’s killing the right folks.
Bonham puts together a tough-as-mesquite story that held my attention for two sittings. While reading it, I was very glad I wasn’t buried up to my neck in sand watching as crazed stallions pounded toward me. That’s one of the earliest scenes in the book, and while the excitement lets up here and there, the mystery and suspense only doubles down. Logan’s Choice is as good a Gold Medal western as you’ll find. Mucho recommendo.

No comments:

Post a Comment