NEMESIS OF CIRCLE A
Giles Lutz (March 1910–June 1982) started out writing short stories for the pulps and transitioned to Western novels in the mid-1950s. He won a Spur Award from the WWA in 1962 for his novel, The Honyocker, and wrote right up until his death in 1982. Lutz used numerous pen names including James B. Chaffin, Wade Everett, Alex Hawk, Hunter, Hunter Ingram, Gene Thompson, and Reese Sullivan. As Sullivan, he turned in several ACE Double entries, including Nemesis of Circle A, which starts out with a familiar Western trope.
When he was a kid, Lee Martin watched helplessly as Cletis Ashbaugh and his men from the Circle A ranch burned out his family’s Texas homestead. During the following years, Lee is equally helpless to prevent his parents’ decline—a downfall he directly attributes to the Ashbaugh raid, and especially the savagery of ramrod Orrie Pratt.
As this traditional actioner opens, eight years have passed and Lee rides into the town nearest the Circle A. He immediately encounters Pratt—who doesn’t recognize him—scuffles, watches old Cletis drop over from a heart attack, and winds up in the jail of sympathetic sheriff, Homer Iman—who likewise doesn’t know him. Upon his release, Lee travels to the Circle A and secures a job with Ashbaugh’s daughter, Kate. Kate is the one Ashbaugh who Lee doesn’t hate. In fact, he always admired her. Kate pretends not to recognize him, but she does. Pratt still doesn’t know Lee, but assumes he’s a stock detective and panics. See, Orrie isn’t just a bad guy toward other ranchers, he’s been ripping off his employer as well and now fears that Kate is on to him. Everything plays out as you would expect with a slow burn at the beginning and a suspense filled ending that had me quickly turning the pages.