A ripping yarn
In an introduction, Scott McCrea tells us that Tom Mix had many adventures, and “this might have been one of them.”
Well, I suppose it might have been.
When Tom became a big movie star, publicity agents told many tales about him and his background – tall tales, mostly, what Tom himself would have called windies. Sometimes the truth was, ahem, embroidered. He was a leading Texas Ranger, for example, born in El Paso (he wasn’t). He was a Wyatt Earp-like marshal, cleaning up the towns of the Wild West. Actually, Tom and his bosom pal Sid Jordan were, for a short time in their youths, night marshals in Dewey, Oklahoma, the deputies of Sid’s dad. But I’m afraid that this doesn’t mean Tom was Earp, bringing law ‘n’ order to Dodge and Tombstone. Mind, Wyatt Earp wasn’t marshal of those places either.
It doesn’t matter. Western fiction is just that, fiction, and if Mr McCrea wants to have his hero do all manner of Western rootin’, tootin’, not to mention shootin’, why shouldn’t he?
Cowboy Justice is the third in the series (we have already reviewed Mountain Killer and Savage Mesa, so click the links for those). It’s a shade different in tone. I think McCrea may have been watching more Peckinpah Western movies than Tom Mix ones. Bob, I mean Scott, warned me that “It is much grimmer and more serious than Savage Mesa.”
It’s actually, IMHO, a better book. While maintaining the dime novel tradition, especially in being blessedly short, it does have some aspects of the ‘proper’ novel. Some of the characters in this one are stronger and more delineated, and, in the case of Dewey Globe editor Hull, sympathetic. The author will correct me, but I reckon he’s seen actor Henry Hull in Fox’s Jesse James and its sequel The Return of Frank James, as well as in Lippert’s B, Rimfire, in which Hull makes the most of his part as a cantankerous newspaperman, for Cornelius Hull, in this book, is a bit like him.
I also liked Tom’s young deputy, Hutch, who is in some ways as green as all get out, yet in other ways speaks wisdom beyond his years.
And lastly, you know how besotted I am with derringers: well, a derringer plays a key part in this yarn, eternally to its credit.
It starts in Dewey, with a bloody hold-up carried out by the Carlino gang, which Tom is unable to prevent if he is to respect the law he is sworn to uphold, and the second half of the book has Tom, Hutch and Hull wandering through Texas towns hunting the villains down – and being bested by a femme fatale.
It’s all very entertaining, again. I do recommend these tales, if you like the ripping-yarn type of story. Apparently some of the characters (Hutch and Hull, I hope, though not the femme fatale because this enterprise was fatale to her too) are to reappear in the next vol, Deuces Wild. Can’t wait.