Paul previously reviewed one of the four Clayburn novels, The Man in Black, for our Six-Gun Justice blog, and ever since, I’ve wanted to pick up one of the entries in the four book series by Marvin Albert—writing under his Al Conroy pseudonym. I got the chance with one of our recent round robin boxes produced by members of our Men’s Adventure Paperbacks group on Facebook.
A wandering gambler, Clayburn—no first name—dresses impeccably for the casino, but otherwise wears a buckskin shirt, Levis, and a pearl-handled revolver.
The story opens with Clayburn walking into a stage coach station near Parrish City. Inside, a pair of hired killers are waiting on the stage driven by Harry Farnell. The men aim to kill Farnell, who Clayburn later learns is in the freighting business with a tough gal named Cora Sorel. The shooters work for Cora Sorel’s rival, a wagon train teamster called George Adler.
When Farnell is killed at the station, Clayburn naturally steps in and the fierce competition is on. It’s a wagon train race into the mountains with plenty of fighting and shooting. I got a kick out of Albert's writing, which was reminiscent of Ben Haas—aka: John Benteen of Fargo fame (but not Wells Fargo). It's good, tough prose, but it never takes itself too seriously. Just as Clayburn has no first name, Cora Sorel always goes by both names, a fun gimmick a lot of writers use—me included—which I first noticed in Robert B. Parker's Looking for Rachel Wallace.
Author Marvin Albert wrote a slew of books, most in the western and crime genres, under various pen names. He originally used the name Al Conroy for his Clayburn novels, though they were later reprinted by Fawcett in 1989 under his real name. One of the Clayburns was made into a movie—as you may know—The Man in Black became from 1967, with Dean Martin, George Peppard, and Jean Simmons.
His most famous work however, was his first western, The Law and Jake Wade, filmed in 1958, starring Robert Taylor.
Last Train to Bannock is a solid action-adventure with a tough-guy loner whose as good with his fists and a gun as he is ferreting out a card-sharp and sweeping the book’s heroine off her feet.