Monday, February 25, 2019

Shaft by Ernest Tidyman


Shaft began to pick up its vibrations as he waited for the WALK sign to flash green permission for the crossing. All that up Broadway a few blocks had become a part of him and was waiting for him. He stepped off the curb and moved easily around the grill of a battered Dodge truck, rolling with the contained grace of a solid, muscular man who stays in balance, who can land running or at a halt, poised to run again.
This might seem an odd choice to feature on a western blog, but I was struck by the tone that is reminiscent of both Spaghetti Westerns and Elmore Leonard’s early work.
Private Detective John Shaft is caught in the middle of three warring factions: the police, the mob, and militant black revolutionaries. It feels vey much as if Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” stepped into a modern incarnation of the faction-divided town in A Fistful of Dollars. [Tidyman would go on to become an Award-Winning screenwriter and contribute High Plains Drifter for Eastwood himself.]
Those who only know the character of John Shaft from the films [which do not do much for me] may be surprised at the level of writing in the novel. I am struck that the successful film may have overshadowed how entertaining and well-done the novel is.
Fans of Leonard, Brian Garfield, and perhaps even George Gilman should find much to enjoy in this urban-Western.

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