An entertaining yarn
Mountain Killer is the first in a projected series of Western novels, Tales of Tom Mix, featuring everyone’s favorite silent Western star, which Scott McCrea has written. It’s a lot of fun and is available at the, I’d say, pretty reasonable price of free on Kindle (click here).
Scott McCrea is an excellent name for an author, as many Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea fans would agree, and I know a certain Bob Madison is numbered among them.
It’s a nice short book (you can easily read it in an afternoon) and it races along. It’s set in Oklahoma sometime after 1908 (a Model T features) and it’s really a Western whodunit. Like all good whodunits, it leads you off on the occasional false trail before revealing who really dunit.
Tom was born in 1880 so would have been 28+ when the story unfolds. Once he became a big star of the silver screen, all sorts of stories about him and his Western background were told, mainly by studio publicity departments, and one of them was that he was an Old West marshal, one of those derring-do lawmen who stuck fast in the Western-lover’s imagination and were even faster on the draw. Tom was indeed billed as “a former deputy United States marshal” in the 1910 Selig silent movie Ranch Life in the Great Southwest although sadly an examination of archives by many since has found no trace of that.
The marshal story was, ahem, a slight exaggeration. Tom was, for a short while, a deputy night marshal with his lifelong pal Sid Jordan, in Dewey, Oklahoma. Sid’s dad, John Jordan, the Cherokee lawman, was marshal there, and John’s son and his friend Tom were recruited to patrol the town at night.
But since when have Western-lovers let mere factual detail get in the way of a good yarn? Mr McCrea’s Tom is a full-blown marshal, of the kind Randy and Joel often played, and it is he, in his capacity as an officer of the law, who investigates a gruesome murder in early 1900s Oklahoma.
I fear the text of Mountain Killer is rather peppered with solecisms and typos. It doesn’t really matter (unless you are a pedant like Jeff, who, as you know, never makes misstakes). You just kinda gloss over them. But the marshal one is rather glaring because the author commits the common crime of confusing the office of marshal with the name Marshall, and as this appears on pretty well every page, it is rather sore-thumb-like. This happened in some B-Westerns, I have noticed. You might see a sign indicating MARSHALL’S OFFICE. And really, casual mentions of sheriffs and marshals should have a small s- or a small m-, the capital being reserved for a name or title. A marshal might receive the greeting “Good morning, Marshal.” Hey ho, just me being picky.
Anyway, Marshal Tom learns of a woman killed by a grizzly bear but although the local sheriff (or Sheriff) is convinced of the ursine nature of the assassin, Tom immediately has his suspicions. He reckons the killer bear is suspiciously human.
He gets beat up a lot tracking down the culprit, and we are introduced to various local characters, some of whom are suspects, of course. One such resident, though, is definitely not a suspect, for she is the fair and winsome Miss Cavanaugh, and Marshal Tom will make up to her, though rather chastely, in the manner of those movies he made.
Well, I enjoyed it. I mean, we’re not talking Tolstoy here but if you like a light Western read now and then, and I sure do, you’ll enjoy this one. Recommended.
Bob tells me, “I hope you like this book. The second book, Tales of Tom Mix: Savage Mesa, should be available sometime next month, with a new adventure coming near-monthly for the next six months.” Sounds like he’s going to be busy.