To create the right ambiance for this review, please give a listen to my favorite Gene Autry recording, followed by a tribute to old Gene by a feller named Marty Robbins:
"I've Got Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle" by Gene Autry
"Gene Autry, My Hero" by Marty Robbins
Most Whitman westerns were written by guys who specialized in children's books. But a select few were penned by real western authors, guys like Walter A. Tompkins, Steve Frazee, and the author of this one, Lewis B. Patten.
Gene Autry and the Ghost Riders was published in 1955, near the beginning of Patten's long career - a career in which he turned out over a hundred novels. As a western novel, it's pretty standard fare. Gene is summoned by an old friend, a rancher who's receiving threats on his life. Once on the scene, Gene finds the countryside up in arms against his friend, convinced he's behind a gang of "Ghost Riders" who are rustling everyone's cattle. Gene is asked to come incognito, and because he wears his six-gun low on his hip, the good folks assume he's a gunslick and the bad folks assume he's a threat. So naturally both sides want him out of the picture.
Despite the kids-book status, this is a full-length novel, and the writing is only slightly dumbed-down for young readers. Definite plusses are the pulp paper used for this line of books and the illustrations appearing every twenty or so pages. While some books feature art by familiar names such as Alex Toth, those in this book are credited to guys named Bob Bartram & James Eggers.
There are only a few direct references to the Gene we know. He does not pack a guitar on his saddle, and never breaks into song. He does not serenade a senorita. What he does do is pack a collection of credentials for such part-time lawdog jobs as ex-officio Texas Ranger and deputy U.S. Marshal. And of course he rides Champion, the "World's Wonder Horse," who is almost as famous as Gene himself.
A few of the book's many interior illos:
Links to more cool Forgotten Books, as usual, at Patti Abbott's pattinase.