“You can’t ask most men to take a chance on dying with you, even to protect their own. Most men run away from death. They run unless absolutely trapped somehow, and then they fight like weasels and people call it courage.”
That quote, one of many I could pull almost at random from this slim novel, captures the cynical edge of this Clair Huffaker work.
On one hand, “Posse From Hell” is familiar formula: Town experiences bad doin’s, one of their own [a young woman] is abducted and a young marshal has to form a posse.
Genre-wise, been there, done that.
And yet, Huffaker takes these familiar tropes and invests all with world-weary, lived-in personas. Along the long trail to rescue the young woman we see the mission from behind the eyes of each man. We see single-minded determination from some, wrongly estimated self-ability from others, and a few characters with uncertainty about their own courage and valor.
It is these uncertain characters and how they rise or fall to the occasion that provide much of the rich-meat of the novel. This sinew is full of the real push-pull of human interaction, and here it is magnified by the pressures of facing dangers, both physical and the potential danger of not standing up to what other’s may expect of them, or what they think others expect of them.
Again, on one hand this is formula as it comes, on the other some real human dynamics are ably displayed.
This one is well worth a second look.