Monday, 31 August 2009

Arizona Pay-Off

as by Duke Patterson
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2009

When Tex Scarron, six feet of whipcord steel, rode home to the Bar X in Arizona, he found Parson Dean and his gang working a lucrative ‘protection’ racket. Any rancher who failed to pay up had his cattle rustled, his homestead burnt about his ears and his cowhands shot in the back.

Tex’s earlier experience fighting hoodlums came in handy, and the gunplay was fast and furious before he rid the territory of the Parson, solved the mystery that lay behind the racket, and incidentally found happiness with the mysterious outlaw girl whose trail had so often crossed with his own.

Like one of the other books released by Hale this month, Arizona Pay-Off has previously been published way back in 1954, whether under this title and as by Duke Patterson I don’t know. Like the other book this one is also a much longer read than many Black Horse Westerns. Again it comes in a the usual page length but the print is much smaller, there are more lines per page and chapters don’t start on a new page, they begin a couple of lines down from the end of the previous chapter.

The writing style is, I’d imagine, a product of its time – I haven’t read that many westerns from the 1950’s – and many terms used I’d have thought would have been more at home in a crime novel than a western; guns being referred to as rods, women being called dames and skirt, and trouble-makers as hoodlums, for instance. Perhaps those of you who have read more westerns from this time period could let me know if these terms were used regularly in westerns?

Tex Scarron sure has his work cut out for him as he finds himself trading bullets and wits constantly as he attempts to work out just what is going on in this part of Arizona and why. It soon becomes apparent that there is more than one person behind the troubles and the identity of this person is kept a secret by the author until he’s ready to reveal all, and this discovery came as a surprise to me. But the writer has more in store for both his characters and the reader by adding a neat twist nearer the end.

Arizona Pay-Off would fit under the traditional western umbrella in my mind, a tough hardboiled writing style full of entertaining characters that’ll have you wondering to their motives. Plenty of action and a touch of mystery lead to a final showdown that ties-up all the loose ends.

Arizona Pay-Off has its official release today, so if this book sounds like the type of story you enjoy then I’d suggest getting your order in soon as Black Horse Westerns tend to sell out fast.


Joanne Walpole said...

Sounds like I made the right decision. :-)

Chris said...

Well, I can only really speak from the L'Amour I've read, but he wrote a lot of short stories during that time period and the only places you see that vocabulary is in the crime stories, all of which are set in the 1940s or 50s. Never in Westerns.

Chap O'Keefe said...

The inappropriate terms you refer to were frequently used by British writers contributing westerns to the lower end of the UK paperback market of the times, e.g. Badger Books.

In their defence, it has to be said these writers were chiefly concerned with getting the required number of words typewritten as quickly as possible for payment that was invariably miserable. They didn't have tools like the Internet. Good, available reference books were few, even if they'd had the time or money for them.

For an indication of the working methods of one of these old-time paperback writers go here:

Westerns were produced under the same circumstances. It's not for me to become involved in any discussion of the policy of reissuing them in 2009 in exactly the same format as material that is obviously -- and often vastly -- different.

To learn more, try starting at the Wikipedia entry for "Badger Books". John Glasby's work has definitely been reprinted by Hale under the BHW imprint.

I've said this before: BHW readers need to choose their books carefully if they are buying rather than borrowing from the library. And with the paucity of "printing history" in the books themselves, and changes of titles and pen-names, that isn't always easy.

All this said, some might like the old reprints for nostalgia reading, though I do believe the books should be flagged as such and not bundled in with fresher offerings.