Thursday, 11 September 2008

Herne the Hunter #11

 SILVER THREADS
as by John J. McLaglen
Corgi, 1979

Wild Rose City, Dakota Territory. Eliza and Lily Sowren ran the town with a fist of iron. Eliza tall and bony, Lily short and fat – both as tough as nails. On the surface they were both pictures of elderly virtue but beneath something altogether different… As Jed Herne found out when the sisters called on his special talents to protect their silver mine from an unknown gang of thieves and murderers…

‘Darling, I am growing old,
Silver threads among the gold
Shine upon my brow today;
Life is fading fast away.’

John J. McLaglen is a pseudonym shared by Laurence James and John Harvey. This book was written by Laurence James.

The Sowren sisters make for two very memorable characters, James paints a gentle image of them, then through hints and finally actions brings out their real personalities in a series of shocking revelations, including sadistic torture and other perversions. These two elements often turn up in books written by James, but by having them as the darker side of two sweet old ladies, helps make them two of the most memorable characters James created.

Silver Threads also contains an equally memorable challenge to Herne’s reputation as a fast gun. The shootist trying to avoid the confrontation, even though he knows what the inevitable outcome will be. This scene is beautifully captured by the cover artist right down to the correct colour clothing.

For me, Silver Threads has always been one of the strongest entries in the Herne the Hunter series, and re-reading it now, confirms this is still so.

If you like tough, brutal, westerns then this book is well worth checking out – as is the whole series in my opinion. After Edge, Herne the Hunter is my favourite series to come from the group of authors known as the Piccadilly Cowboys.

9 comments:

ARCHAVIST said...

I read one or two of these as a kid - can't remember which ones. But I enjoyed them - in the Edge tradition. Thanks for jogging my memory.

Steve M said...

There was a rumour of a book that would see EDGE team up with HERNE. Unfortunately the western market in the UK dried up before it became reality.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Sadly, this is the only book in the Herne series that I have. You're right about Eliza and Lily. Very meomorable.

'Hang the witches!!!' he heard. Or was it 'Bitches'? It could have been both.

Also sadly, no one in Britain is publishing such "shocking" westerns today. I try very hard with my books for Hale's Black Horse Western line, but just this past month, I've been having to tone down pages in my next Misfit Lil book at the publisher's request . . . "it would certainly help if you could delete all the matter which you know won’t go down well with us ".

I am not the only writer finding the requirements more restrictive than they have ever been in the past. I quote from a recent email from one of my colleagues:

"It's sad that 21st century sensibilities dictate what can and can't go into a western destined for libraries. Other genres don't have to suffer this kind of censorship. For my third BHW I was warned about violence to women so toned down a cold-blooded shooting; it still is horrific, that is if it survives to the proof stage!"

Ray said...

I haven't reached no 11 - yet. Sort of taking my time as I have just three to go before I have the full set. So far so good.....

As for blood, gore and sex in BHWs - how does Alan C. Porter get away with it.
And the opening to Rory Black's 'The Curse Of Iron Eyes' is not for the faint hearted. Definately a spaghetti/Piccadilly Cowboy feeling about that book.

ARCHAVIST said...

That Edge/Herne idea would have been something. Leaves me wondering - what if?

Steve M said...

I take it you know Edge appeared in Jubal Cade #6? This part of the book reportedly written by Terry Harknett.

N.Brown said...

i live in hope of finding all of these. The later ones can be stupidly expensive if you can find them. It's such a good series, read one called 'Death School' a while back, another LJ one with some deadly kids. I'd love to read 'Texas Massacre' but I'm not about to pay £50 or whatever on ebay...

Steve M said...

That is the problem for those collecting Herne and other PC westerns series these days, the later books often command high prices. Keeping looking as you will find them at sensible prices eventually.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Update to these comments - now most of the series is once again available as eBooks at very good prices.