Friday, 10 October 2008

"Whadda We Do Now, Butch?"

Another in my series of occasional reviews of books that are not quite westerns but should appeal to western readers.

by Shel Talmy
Pan, 1978

‘Some damned Yankee detective held me up with a story about some other damn Yanks,’ said the chief superintendent, ‘desperadoes he called them…small-time crooks with the improbably names of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid!’

London in the good old 1900’s, Hansom cabs on Sloane Street and every gentleman with his club in St. James. Jonathan De Ford staying at the Cadogan Hotel in his interminable pursuit of Butch and Sundance who are living in Mayfair, as the guest of Lord Reggie Ratlett.

If you thought the Old West’s very latest legends were filled with lead in darkest Bolivia, R.I.P. … then you will be fascinated to learn how they managed to stay alive and afloat all the way to London town and into the – very secret – service of H.M. Government…

As soon as you start reading this it becomes obvious Talmy has used the portrayal of Butch and Sundance as by Paul Newman and Robert Redford on which to base his characterizations of these two famous outlaws. Not only that there’s the inclusion of Jonathan De Ford and many memories of scenes from that excellent film. There are many moments of humour too and a great supporting cast of characters, both fictional and real. Sundance gets to teach poker to a group of men who include Conan Doyle and Winston Churchill. Meanwhile Butch is being interviewed for a newspaper by an author called H.G. Wells.

Talmy writes well and soon had me caught up his fast moving story as Butch and Sundance find themselves, reluctantly, working for the British Government against the Germans and the threat of an inevitable war. Everything builds up to an exciting train robbery, which reveals that not everyone is who they say they are. And all the time Butch and Sundance are trying to keep one step ahead of De Ford as his obsession with catching them, and having them deported, which could lead to the failure of the mission and worse, our heroes deaths.

If you’re a fan of the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, then I reckon, like me, you’ll enjoy this book too.


Chap O'Keefe said...

Sounds fun. Does anyone know anything about "Shel Talmy"?


Steve M said...

All I've managed to find out is he was born in America. Ended up in the UK were he became an international record producer, ultimately responsible for a sale of 85 million records. Amoung the groups he produced were The Kinks, The Who and Manfred Mann.

He then decided to become a writer but as far as I've discovered he only wrote two or three books.


Chap O'Keefe said...

Thanks, Steve. I just KNEW I'd seen that name somewhere before. The brain just didn't go down the music track and make the connection, despite my large collection of '60s vinyl.



I've got to get this book - I love these kind of WHAT IF stories. Course there is some evidence that Butch in particular may have survived the Bolivia thing.

Steve M said...

Keith: tis quite an unusual name, the kinda name that's stick in the memory somewhere.
BTW one of your books will be appearing on here soon...

Gary: Good luck in finding a copy, I think there's a couple available via Amazon sellers. The book opens with how they escaped from Bolivia and made everyone think they were dead.