Friday, March 23, 2018

Spaghetti Westerns


The entire title is actually Spaghetti Westerns: The Good, the Bad and the Violent a Comprehensive Illustrated Filmography of 558 Films.

This mammoth work by Thomas Weisser receives not much love from Italian Western aficionados. Those in the know say it is rife with mistakes, and those in the know may know best, but to this reader, a minor fan of the genre, I have not encountered any discrepancies in the titles I’ve viewed. Keep in mind, Spaghettis aren’t my main viewing choice, but I do watch a few a month and thus far haven’t been steered wrong by this volume.

Make of the reservations what you will, I have found the Top Ten Lists in the back of the book interesting viewing.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Vanquished


“But remember one thing—the greatest failure of all is failure for the want of trying.”

“What?”

“Keep hold on the truth. You’re the master of your world, Charley, as long as you live by and for your own life. There’s a lot of time in the day. Cover it at a steady pace, boy, and use it like a tool. Don’t lose it—don’t squeeze yourself flat. When you see a chance, take it.”

Another fine lean novel from the reliable Brian Garfield. Here the author uses an actual filibustering expedition South of the Border as the backdrop of placing men under pressure to see who and what shakes out in the end.

A long grim desert trek is the centerpiece of the tale and one can feel the harsh parched climate leeching the moisture from the skin with each miserable step taken.

Fans of Leonard and Sheriffs will find much to admire here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Quote of the Week

He regretted the occasional necessity of giving one man authority over another because some people enjoyed that authority too much to be entrusted with it. They tended to be easily misled into an over-appraisal of their importance. It seemed to him that when a man was too thick-headed and too low-down trifling to hold an honest job, he was usually able to find some other damn fool willing to hand him a measure of jurisdiction over the lives of his betters.”—T. C. Lewellen

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Whispering Smith


“Meantime, McCloud stuck to the mine, and insensibly replaced his Eastern tissue with Western. In New England he had been carefully moulded by several generations of gentlemen, but never baked hard. The mountains put the crust on him. For one thing, the sun and wind, best of all hemlocks, tanned his white skin into a tough all American leather, seasoned his muscles into rawhide sinews, and, without burdening him with an extra ounce of flesh, sprinkled the red through his blood till, though thin, he looked apoplectic.”

This novel from 1906 is a landmark of the genre known as the Railroad tale, novels and stories that told of adventure, romance, and mystery in, on, and around railroads.

Here, novelist Frank Spearman offers us what is perhaps THE textbook example of the genre and the often-filmed tale of the railroad detective Whispering Smith. It is a novel of its time and requires patience here and there as melodrama abounds, but I found more than enough pith within the pages to get a good deal of enjoyment from it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Bendigo Shafter


“Going on would have been simple, for travel is an escape, and as long as our wagons moved our decisions could be postponed. When one moves, one is locked in the treadmill of travel, and all decisions must await a destination. By choosing to stop we had brought our refuge tumbling about us, and our problems could no longer be avoided.

“The promised land is always a distant land, aglow with golden fire. It is a land one never attains, for once attained one faces fulfillment and the knowledge that whatever a land may promise, it may also demand a payment of courage and strength.

“To destroy is easy, to build is hard. To scoff is also very easy, but to go on in the face of scoffing and to do what is right is the way of a man.”

A later period novel from Louis L ’Amour. I’ll be honest some of his novels can strike me as sloppy or not much better than formulary, but he will occasionally have a novel that feels so from the heart, it has a rib-sticking quality to it. This volume is one of those rib-sticking works.

This novel comes from a deeply informed place and on one-hand is straight-forward simplicity in story-telling with no-frills while on the other there are moral or practical asides that give one pause for contemplation. His knowledge of the terrain rings true, he drops little bits about survival in the mountains that gibes with reality, but, again, his moral asides resonate. They tread a balance between erudite and folksy pragmatic—most importantly these asides strike me as heartfelt.

A superlative L ‘Amour novel.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Man Named Yuma


He heard the moan plain enough but took another step. He wasn’t sure. An adobe shed had cut off his view above and from the front yard. Keeping well out from the shed, cutting around past its mud corner, he suddenly saw the man. He was staked out, naked and spread-eagled.”

This is the opening from A Man Named Yuma, written by the always reliable T. V. Olsen. This gritty tale of the southwest matches Elmore Leonard in its leanness of prose and its laconic testosterone infused-spirit.

While being a formulary Western, it is mighty well done and well-worth an afternoon on the front porch for fans of Leonard, Garfield, Shirreffs, and, hell, Olsen himself.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Cold Dish


Billy, you say you saw this body?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“What’d it look like?”

Silence, for a moment. “Looked like a body.”

I thought about resting my head on my desk. “anybody we know?”

The first of the popular Longmire series by Craig Johnson. The characters are wonderful, and the man has a way with observation but, to this reader, at least…the “mystery” or crime elements are so familiar, and you’ve got to spend so much time on that genre-element it drops this a grade. But that drop is only a wee bit.

I think if the novel were about Sheriff Longmire and Henry Standing Bear going fishing and shooting the breeze I’d read the whole series, but alas, there are episodic cop tropes to make it through.

Please don’t read this impression as not enjoying the novel—I did, a good deal. It reminds me of noted Western author A. B. Guthrie’s Chick Charleston mysteries, which strike me the same. Wonderful characterization, maybe a little too familiar on the mystery element.

Gentle Annie by MacKinlay Kantor

When we reached the place where Cotton had left his horse and buggy, we had a few moments’ conversation. The Goss brothers spoke with rar...