Tuesday, September 28, 2010
VENGEANCE RIDER by Joseph A. West
I’ve never read a Ralph Compton novel, and that record remains intact after finishing this one. The fine print, you’ll notice, says this was actually written by Joseph A. West.
I have to assume Mr. Compton (who departed this earthly plane in 1998) was a decent writer, based on the continuing selling-power of his name. But I can't imagine him being better - or even as good as - Mr. Joe West.
Vengeance Rider is an epic quest - a journey involving not only vengeance, but the sole chance of saving the life of a little girl. Thankfully, we never meet this pitiful waif, but her plight weighs heavily on our hero, an outlaw-turned-rancher named Buck Fletcher. Buck, who once rode with the likes of John Wesley Hardin, had hoped he’d hung up his guns for good. But he's forced into action when his ranch hand is killed and his racehorse stolen by a ruthless gang of next-generation bad guys.
Buck needs that horse, you see, to compete in a race sponsored by the renowned Texas John Slaughter, for a prize of $10,000. That prize would be his only means of sending his wife and daughter to Switzerland, where doctors could tackle the kid’s tuberculosis.
Lucky for Buck, he meets an old acquaintance, a dying dentist known as Doc Holliday, who joins him in his quest. Buck doesn’t always approve of Doc’s methods, but they make an engaging duo, and shoot their way out of many tight scrapes en route to Slaughter’s ranch.
West’s prose is fine throughout. Blazing action, sharp dialogue, lush scenery. The guy has no weak spots. I’m looking forward to some of many books where his name appears in BIG TYPE on the cover. Next on my Joe West reading list: First in his GUNSMOKE series - Blood, Bullets and Buckskin.