Tom Mix rides again
We reviewed the entertaining Western novel Mountain Killer not so long ago (click the link for that), which was the first in Scott McCrea’s series Tales of Tom Mix. Savage Mesa is the second.
The series so far tells of Tom’s non-Hollywood career as a lawman. That was part of the whole Mix myth. In this new one, which I thought was a little tougher and a bit more violent than the first, Tom once more brings his six-guns to bear in the service of law ‘n’ order.
We first meet five Mexicans in a cabin. Four of them are alive. The tale proper begins with an attack by fierce Comanches on a peaceable settlement, Kenton, OK. It is true that the story is set in the time of Model Ts (manufactured from 1908) and the last severe Comanche raids ended with the Red River War in the mid-1870s. By 1908 Quanah Parker was appearing in silent-movie Westerns. But in this yarn we imagine that some die-hard recalcitrants, led by a certain Red Wolf, are out to relive the glory days of the Comancheria by slaughtering as many whites as they can.
We then meet some other characters, such as Civil War veteran Colonel Arbuckle Pommerance and his wife Martha, an elderly couple in Wichita, KS. The colonel reads that the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West show is coming to town, and his pal Tom Mix will be starring in it.
We also meet some circus folk led by the picaresque prestidigitator Dr Mirakle, and his daughter Ima. The good doctor has a giant hot air balloon, and he sells rides in it at 50 cents a go. This montgolfière will figure large in the story.
Of course, though Tom is appearing in the Wild West show, he is really undercover, and has been tasked with solving a crime. You see, some precious engraved plates for a new five-dollar bill are coveted by those Mexicans we met on page 1 (the alive ones, anyway). And they decide that once they have nabbed them, they’re going to make their getaway in that balloon.
The rest of the tale tells how the balloon with its motley crew of passengers (including Tom up on top of it) finally descends on Black Mesa, back in Oklahoma, to the north of the same Kenton which the renegade Comanches attacked, in Cimarron County (or Cimmaron as Mr McCrea unfortunately calls it) and how Tom takes charge of the company to get it safely off that mesa – for, yes, it is the hideout of Red Wolf and his braves.
There is much derring-do and there are adventurous goings-on. Some characters will perish and others will survive. You may well imagine that Tom and the fair Ima will be among the latter group.
These stories are enjoyably short (how I despair these days at 600-page novels, or even two-hour + films) and they race along. They are rather in the dime-novel tradition (and indeed, if you read them on Kindle, they cost hardly more than a dime). They are a lot of fun. I thought that this one was even better than the first one, and I look forward to the third.