Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Unmasked


Edited by Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books, 2011

Everyone recognizes the names of Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, Zorro and the Cisco Kid. But how many actually know the characters from their fictional roots? Years before appearing in film, on radio and television, their creators painted a rather different picture of each than Hollywood presented on the silver screen.

Unmasked collects the first appearances of Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid and Zorro plus a forgotten novel of the Lone Ranger.

Once again Black Dog Books presents the reader with a quality book that proves to be both entertaining and fascinating. The book begins with a brief look at the history of each of the four characters, concentrating mostly on their film and TV appearances, written by Francis M. Nevins. This informative introduction includes a number of black and white reproductions of film stills, posters and pulp covers.

Tom Roberts writes a short editorial essay to explain the origins of each story, or set of stories in the case of Hopalong Cassidy, that provides some great background to the tales, their writers and their heroes.

It’s here that I must admit to never having read anything from any of the authors in this collection before, nor have I ever seen a Hopalong Cassidy film or show, likewise with the Cisco Kid. Zorro I’ve seen a couple of times, with the Lone Ranger being the most familiar to me from TV. This all means that I didn’t have any real knowledge to compare what is on offer here with, so this is where Tom Roberts essays came into their own.

The six Hopalong Cassidy tales where all originally published in 1906, except the first one that is from 1905, and it’s these that use the most ‘cowboy dialogue’ that I found I had to read carefully to understand at times. Due to this these stories do come across as somewhat dated, so I was surprised by the Cisco Kid story that was published in 1907 as I expected more of the same, and didn’t get it – sure there is some but it is not used anywhere near as heavily as in those Hopalong adventures.

The Cisco Kid story proved to be my favourite. This tale presents the Kid as a cruel outlaw who enjoys killing just for fun. The story has a neat twist, although it is easy to see it coming, but nevertheless makes for a memorable ending. I was also surprised by the dark tone to this story.

The Zorro tale (from1919) is in fact an excerpt from a much longer story, but you don’t need to know what has gone before to enjoy it and get the flavour of Zorro’s character.

Finally there is the Lone Ranger novel, written by an unknown author. A story published in 1937, which didn’t come across as being dated, and offers the reader an intriguing mix of action and mystery as the Lone Ranger attempts to prove a wrongly accused young mans innocence. Again the ending was somewhat predictable but it was great fun getting there.

Unmasked is a book that should most definitely be added to all western fans collections.

Contents:

Hopalong Cassidy by Clarence E. Mulford
The Fight at Buckskin
The Vagrant Sioux
Trials of a Peaceful Puncher
Hopalong Keeps His Word
The Advent of McAllister
Holding the Claim

The Cisco Kid by O. Henry
The Caballero’s Way

Zorro by Johnston McCulley
The Curse of Capistrano (excerpt)

The Lone Ranger by Anonymous
The Masked Rider’s Justice

5 comments:

Tom McNulty said...

This was one of my favorites from last year! Another great collection from Tom Roberts at Black Dog Books - great review!

Tony said...

Just checked again on Amazon UK but still no new Black Dog Books listed since the Sax Rohmer volume some seven or eight months ago.
Can we hope for any more ?

Tom Roberts said...

Thanks for the review, Steve. This title has met with very favorable reviews through many channels and was one of my personal favorites from 2011.

There are some issues holding up the addition of new Black Dog Books titles into the Amazon UK and Amazon DE databases which are being addressed. I would expect them to be resolved in the next month or two.

Thanks for the interest.

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books

Tony said...

Great news - thanks for the update, Tom.

Oscar said...

Thanks for the post. Will add to my list.