Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The first western I ever read

By John Robb
The Children’s Press, 1968

This is the first western I ever read. It’s the story that got me hooked on, and began my lifelong passion for, western books. It could also explain why The Trailsman series is one of my favourites today – but more of that later.

I guess I’d have been under ten years old when I was given this book. I enjoyed it that much that I soon found myself the owner of two other John Robb westerns. All three starred the same hero. A scout who was very fast with his twin Colt Dragoons, a man called Catsfoot.

This story sees Catsfoot taking on a Mexican bandit called Janamo and his gang. Janamo is a giant of a man who is also extremely fast with his guns, although he likes to use his fists too. Janamo is the terror of the area but everyone is too scared to take him on. The army can’t spare any soldiers as they have their hands-full with an Apache uprising, so Catsfoot steps in.

Catsfoot is definitely a ‘white hat’ hero. He fights for justice, doesn’t use bad language (he wouldn’t I guess when you consider the age group this book is aimed at), and only kills when there’s no other choice – for instance in this story he takes on a small band of Apaches and rather than kill them he’s good enough to shoot their weapons from their hands! Fanciful stuff, and not very realistic, but for a young child reader exciting and dramatic. The final showdown between Catsfoot and Janamo in a classic one-on-one fast draw in a dusty street also stayed in my mind.

Even today I found this book to be an entertaining and action filled read. I was also surprised at how savage it is in places when you think that the book was written for the children’s market.

I mentioned the Trailsman series earlier and that I thought Catsfoot could be the reason I like those books so much. When I compare Skye Fargo and Catsfoot there are many similarities, both are fast guns, both scout for the army, both wear buckskins, both are expert trackers etc. It’s almost like Fargo is the adult version of Catsfoot.

After having decided to read this again I’m sure I’ll be reading my other two Catsfoot westerns once more, and the other John Robb westerns I’ve managed to find thanks to the Internet.


Anonymous said...

I've just ordered my three "Catsfoot's". The twin gun good guy was my hero at maybe nine or ten years old & now at aged forty seven, I want to read them again. Whenever I tell friends about Catsfoot they look at me slightly askew!
I'm going to enjoy having them & they can be borrowed for young folks to enjoy as I did.

Jim T

Steve M said...

I once read a comment from John Robb that implied there were more than three Catsfoot books, but I've never discovered any others. I believe he appears in at least one of Robb's Captain Shelby westerns but I only have one of those and haven't read it yet. Not seen any other Shelby westerns either.

Anonymous said...

I read "Cry Apaches" in the early 70s when I was about 8. I loved it, but I never got any other Catsfoot westerns. If you like this book, I remember another I got on the same day as "Cry Apaches". "7th Cavalry" by Jeff Jeffries. I liked that even better than "Cry Apaches".

Bert Kerry said...

I also got 7th Cavalry by Jeff Jeffries in 1972 when I was 9 years old. I still have that book today.

A great book I loved because Jeffries tried to give both sides of the story.

Ironically, in 2011 National Geographic did a show on Custer about a man survivor - Frank Finkle who sounded very much like the character 'Jim Peters'.

Horace Walcott said...

I read The Rimfire Riders as an grade 8 student and enjoyed it greatly, though I read it from cover to cover in two days. I was very impressed with the Catsfoot character and the way he was introduced into the story. The drawing in the novel of the final showdown is still crystal clear in my mind. For me as a teen and now, the Catsfoot hero is symbolic of heterodoxy confronting overpowering negativity and defeating the personification of the overpowering negativity.