Saturday, 14 March 2009

Crow #1

as by James W. Marvin

Corgi – 1979

“Know what Crow used to say about livin’ by your guns? Said it made him like a kind of alchemist. Said he was the first man in history to turn lead into gold. Yeah. Meanest son of a bitch ever. Crow.”

No other name. Just Crow. Dressed in black from head to toe. The meanest man in the bullet-scarred annals of the West. Nobody ever turned their back on him. A cold voice in the shadows, a vengeful angel of death…

Time was when Crow was a Lieutenant in the Cavalry. A time when he rode against Crazy Horse and the Sioux. Commanded by Captain Silas Menges, a bloated, drunken obscenity of an individual. Even Menges’ beautiful, sensual wife, Angelina, couldn’t make up for the insults Crow took from him. No one crossed Crow and lived. No one…

The Crow series was written by the late Laurence James, one of the authors in the small group known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, who produced some of the most violent and brutally graphic westerns of their time. James perhaps writing the most twisted and sadistic books of them all.

With Crow, James created the coldest anti-hero than any of the others came up with. A man that is very hard to like, yet because of this becomes a fascinating character. How can anyone really like a man, who when we first meet him, kills a child’s pet dog in front of her simply because it took his scarf and the girl couldn’t get it back fast enough for him?

Even if Crow comes across as a heartless and vicious character then what of Silas Menges? The Captain is portrayed superbly and almost makes Crow seem like a warm and caring man. Menges’ foul mouth and demented beliefs soon having the reader hoping Crow kills him sooner rather than later.

Like many of the anti-heroes created by the Piccadilly Cowboys, Crow carries unusual weapons, a sawn down Purdey shotgun carried in a hip holster and a cut down sabre. Both are used to devastating effect.

The book starts, like all the Crow books, with a reporter asking an old man to relate tales about Crow. Both reporter and the old man are unnamed. The next chapter goes back in time and brings forth the shocking killing of the dog and from then the pace doesn’t let up. We don’t learn much about Crow’s past as he prefers not to discuss it, although at one time he does reveal some events from his past, but you’re never quite sure if what he says is true or just said to shock. The fight scenes are filled with blood and descriptive deaths and the body count is high, leading to a savage final torturous confrontation.

The Crow books aren’t going to appeal to all western readers, but for those who like anti-heroes and stories filled with brutal killing then this series is definitely worth hunting for.

Now republished as an ebook.


Craig Clarke said...

"anti-heroes and stories filled with brutal killing"

Sounds like my cup of mayhem. Thanks for the tip. :)

madshadows said...

CROW, one of my favourite series from the Piccadilly Cowboys, great ending in the book :)


Steve M said...

If you like the more violent type of westerns then the Crow series is definately worth looking for Craig.

Completely agree with you John.