Saturday, 17 November 2012

Cover Galley: Pinkerton

By Desmond Reid and W. Howard Baker

The dust-covered stranger rode into Blackwater with his eyes sharp, and his Colts loosened in their holsters. To see him was to know he was ruthless, dangerous – a hunter who sought human prey. But the men he hunted were also ruthless – and when they met a number chapter would be added to the violent annals of the Old West.

Gregory Cord, Pinkerton operative, was sent to Tucson, Arizona, on two assignments – to find out who was rustling the Gila Valley cattle and to keep a watchful eye on Henry Acheson, one-time big city magnate, who had ridden into Tucson with a hundred thousand dollars, and who planned to re-open a disused silver mine. When Acheson was murdered suspicion pointed at several people, amongst them was his brother, Ned, and his beautiful, wilful niece, Nancy, both of whom stood to lose if Acheson went ahead with his plan to put the silver mine back into production.

But suspicion turned also upon Gregory Cord and he found himself caught up in a maelstrom of violence, fast action, and ambush, he found also that much more than his life was at stake if he was to prove his innocence and bring the killer to justice.

Texas…and the storm clouds were gathering. The troubled State was being pulled many ways at once. There were still secessionists who wanted to separate from the Union, and others who worked for a take-over by Mexico. Meanwhile, Geronimo and his Apaches were preparing a rising that could spread rapine and massacre across the land. Gunrunners had 10,000 Henry Repeater rifles for sale to the highest bidder. Into whose hands would they fall?

Into this maelstrom of conflicting passions and impending violence rode Pinkerton agent Jesse Ricardo. His task seemed well-nigh impossible…

It was a long and dangerous trail that led to the final, bloody showdown with the notorious Mick McQuade.

Innocent men – and women too – died violent and painful deaths before a stranger from Chicago brought law and order to a rip-roaring and lawless territory. 

This series ran to four books, all appearing in 1966. You’ll also note that the last title has an author name switch to W. Howard Baker from Desmond Reid. It is believed that Baker is the actual author of all the books.

I’ve also seen mentioned that this is the first western series to be numbered.


Chap O'Keefe said...

I've not read any of the Pinkerton series, but I'd have my doubts whether any of the books were actually written by Bill Baker. Desmond Reid was a house name from Baker's Sexton Blake Library days at Fleetway Publications that was carried over to his Press Editorial Services set-up after Fleetway discontinued the SBL.

At Fleetway, the Reid books were "revisions" of books that Baker, as editor, alleged were not publishable until they had undergone polishing supervised by himself. Usually the retyped, clean manuscripts were supplied for the printers by his long-time friend George Paul Mann.

During the time I was at Fleetway as Baker's junior assistant, this same process also produced the books that were published under the names Peter Saxon, W. A. Ballinger and Richard Williams. Baker fostered the supposition among the SBL fans that these bylines were his personal pen-names. In fact they and Reid concealed the identities of many competent writers including Stephen D. Frances (the original "Hank Janson"), Vic J. Hanson, Wilfred McNeilly and Sidney J. Bounds. McNeilly also ghost-wrote at least one book that was published under Baker's own name!

In his 1986 anthology of classic Sexton Blake stories published by Everyman Paperbacks, editor Jack Adrian (Chris Lowder) writes: "...a confession. I wrote a Sexton Blake. I was paid half the going rate because the story had to be 'cleaned up and cut down by half', although when it finally appeared in the bookshops, under a house-name, not a word had been changed, not a comma snipped."

Although I'm not in a position to supply incontrovertible evidence,I would guess a similar story lies behind all four Pinkerton westerns. For example, of the authors I've mentioned above as working previously for Baker, we know that Hanson, Bounds and Frances were all writers of westerns published under their own or other pen-names.

Steve M said...

Keith, thanks for taking the time to write and post your thoughts on these books, it makes for very interesting reading.

At the moment I've only read the first one, and that was sometime ago. Maybe I need to read the others close together and see if I can pick up on any differences in style.

I do have and have read westerns by Hanson and Bounds.

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Thanks for posting these, Steve. I've never heard of the series, but I'm intrigued and will try to track them down. And I love the covers!

And thanks, Keith, for posting. Your behind-the-scenes comments are fascinating.

Steve M said...

I'm not sure if they came out with these covers in America Matt, or even under the Pinkerton series tag. Could be wise to search by author and/or title.

Oscar said...

I like the cover paintings, especially the bottom one.