Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Coffin Fillers

 as by Barry Cord
Gunsmoke, 2004

Two old-timers ride into Apache Wells looking to visit an old friend who’s prospecting in the area only to be told he’s gone missing, possibly dead as his ghost is haunting the Mesa. Sheriff Caulkins is nervous as the bank is holding a substantial amount of money and he suspects all new arrivals as possible bank-robbers. It’s also rumoured that outlaw Bighead Nevens is aiming to steal the money. Then the sheriff’s deputy goes missing too. Another new arrival in town is Professor Eccleston, he’s selling an elixer called Tigro and has brought a real live tiger to help promote it. Looks like Zachary Stack, the town undertaker could have a lot of business coming his way...

This is a reprint of a short novel originally published in 1973 and is the third story by Barry Cord (real name Peter Germano) featuring his heroes Long Jim and Windy. I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve previously read by Germano and had high expectations of this one.

There are quite a few more characters involved in this story than those mentioned above, most of who could be something more than meets the eye, and you soon start asking yourself just what is going on?

The fast pace of this intriguing tale drew me in and all too soon I’d reached the last page. As I neared the end I began to wonder how Germano could tie everything up in so few pages (the book is only 111 pages long), but I needn’t have worried as he did so magnificently, once again proving to me that he’s a writer worth looking out for.

7 comments:

Ray said...

Love Barry Cord - a pity he's not better known.

Steve M said...

Couldn't agree more Ray.

James Reasoner said...

That's a great title. I've never read a book by Germano that disappointed me, and some are outstanding.

Chap O'Keefe said...

I've read and enjoyed westerns by Barry Cord, too -- usually UK editions from large-print publishers, but Hale did reprint a few as Black Horse Westerns before his agent turned elsewhere. Cord did seem to favour the shorter novel, and I believe myself this is the best length for westerns and hardboiled crime thrillers.

And isn't that a pleasing cover Gunsmoke gave this book? It looks like it really fits the story, right down to the tiger. All too often, other publishers put any old generic offering on a western, making no attempt to match the mood let alone any detail of a story. I've heard the financial arguments, but it can't help win serious consideration or acceptance of the genre other than among its older, committed fans.

We once ran a whole issue themed on covers at blackhorsewesterns.com/bhe7 . Of course, its observations from several quarters were not able to change a thing! It's a kind of chicken-or-egg situation. Until the books are a commercial success, clearly the time and money can't be spent on what we might like to see.

The business needs more livewires, like Gary Dobbs, to show that what they've always said can't be done, can. In Gary's case, it has been proving there's a 1,000-plus market for hardcover westerns outside of UK public libraries.

While I'm soapboxing, a couple of other assumptions that need challenging:

There's no British paperback market for westerns.

Foreign publishers (e.g. in Germany) are not interested in buying the translation rights to original westerns.

Steve M said...

I agree James, it is a great title - and I have you to thank for pointing me to Barry Cord's (Germano) work in the first place a number of years ago.

Steve M said...

Great comment(s) Keith, I just wish more publishers would commission covers that actually show a scene from the book. I think that only happens on the Trailsman covers these days.

Craig Clarke said...

Every once in a while, I really want to read a book based solely on the title. Death Rides a Chestnut Mare is one, and this is another.