Monday, 28 December 2009

Ryder of the Hills

by Robert J. Horton
Leisure, December 2009

Jess Sneed leads a notorious gang of thieves and isn’t the sort to shy away from putting a bullet in a man when it suits his purpose. But he honestly never meant to kill Albert Ryder. The miner’s death was strictly an accident, and the only way Sneed can think of to atone is by taking in Ryder’s orphaned son and going completely legit. But ugly secrets have a way of rearing up when least expected. Eventually the boy he’s raised will become a man and learn the truth….

This story first appeared as a seven part serial in Western Story Magazine in May 1927 and is, probably, the oldest western I’ve ever read. I must admit that it didn’t come across as dated as I expected; of course there were a few terms used that an author writing today wouldn’t use, and this was the same with a few words – such as the word queer being used in preference of strange. Also saloons were referred to as resorts and the bartender being the resort keeper.

Right from the beginning it became very obvious that this book was character driven, and even though Ted Ryder is the hero the first third is told from everyone but his point of view; he seemingly a secondary character. Once the outlaw, Killer Sneed, who takes Ryder under his wing, is killed, Ryder becomes more of the lead character. To me, though, the main character of the story is the beautifully drawn Lucy Ware.

The story takes place over a number of years and involves robbery, ranch life, ranch take-over attempts through treachery, forbidden love, outlaws returning to claim their part of Sneed’s hidden money, blizzards that nearly wipe out the whole area, and a copper strike. So there’s plenty to hold the readers attention. A lot of the gun action takes place out of scene – the reader being told about it by various characters – although the book does have a prolonged, and exciting, showdown near the end.

Initially I had doubts as to whether I’d enjoy this book, mainly due to its age, but once I got into the story I was hooked and just had to keep reading to find out what happened to all the main characters, and although some of it turned out as expected there were some surprises too. Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I’ll certainly be looking out for more of Robert J. Horton’s work.

Ryder of the Hills was published earlier this month so you shouldn’t have any difficulty finding a copy.

Below are five of the seven issues of Western Story Magazine in which Ryder of the Hills was first published; these ran from 05/07/27 to 06/18/27.


TJ said...

Sounds good. I quite like the old lingo style stories although sometimes they can go over my head not be an American.

Evan Lewis said...

Amazes me that they'll print something this old (by someone who ain't Zane Grey) just to save a few hundred bucks. Love those old Western Story covers.

Laurie said...

This sounds really good, Steve. And thanks for the great Western Story covers. I'm picking your blog as Western blog of the week. :)

Craig Clarke said...

If it weren't for these reprints, I wouldn't get to read some of these great old stories. The earliest Westerns I've read are all by Max Brand, starting with 1919's Trailin'!.