By Frank O’Rourke
Originally published 1953 by Random House
“Turn around,” said Travis. “Check in those guns and get back across the line. I’ll give you one minute to start.”
Big talk…for a lone marshal facing fifty wild men from Texas. But Bob Travis had known for a long tome that this moment was coming. He had known the killers would be back. And he was waiting. He had to wait. He had to take his chance of getting killed – if he wanted to live.
I don’t remember the last time I read a Frank O’Rourke novel, if ever, so I came to this with an open mind. This book was published before I was born so I wondered how dated it would be in both outlook and writing style, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it stood up well with the westerns being written today. The only problem I had was with the pacing…it just seemed to take forever for anything to happen.
Frank O’Rourke spends a lot of time fleshing out his characters and describing life in the town of Olalla and explaining how the lawman, Bob Travis, is looking forward to his retirement and settling down on his own farm. The relationship between Travis and the man who will lead the fifty men into town with the sole purpose of wiping Olalla off the map, takes up a fair part of the tale too.
The killing that leads to the threat to the town takes sometime to happen, after which witnesses change their statements, one of whom goes on the run. With a hired gun tracking the frightened witness, Travis sets out to find one or both of them and stop a further killing. This chase takes up most of the book and leads to a tense and exciting showdown. After this there is another lengthy portion of the story that just tells of town life before the fifty cowboys return.
The anticipated final gunfight of lawman against massive odds looked set to provide an action-packed ending to a story that seemed to exist just to build to this one event. Imagine my disappointment when this just fizzled out to nothing with not a single shot fired.
Hopefully this book isn’t representative of Frank O’Rourke’s work as I’ve read lots of positive comments about his storytelling, so I will try another sometime down the line as Violence at Sundown was very readable, just so slow compared to the books I usually read.