THE BADGE #6
By Bill Reno
Bantam, August 1988
Comanche County’s sheriff Clint Wilson is a legend among lawmen, lightning fast with his guns, feared by every outlaw from Tulsa all the way to Tombstone. When Jed Bratton and his boys brutalize Wilson’s wife and daughter, the sheriff vows to hunt them down like wild animals and make them pay for their sins. In a blind rage of blood-vengeance and blazing gunfire, he sends Jed straight to hell. But he also sacrifices something dearer to him than his own life, and he turns to whiskey to numb the pain. Jed Bratton’s boy Luke, renowned throughout the West for the notches on his gun, is headed for Comanche County to kill the man who killed his father. Clint Wilson must battle the bottle and recover his own lost pride – or face a final showdown in the dust.
This book explores some very dark themes and it’s no wonder Wilson tries to find solace in a bottle. The story is hard-hitting, brutal at times, although the most horrific acts aren’t described in detail as they happen, it’s the struggle to survive afterwards that hammers-home the savagery of the Bratton’s actions.
And when you think Clint Wilson can’t take any more heartache then Bill Reno hits his hero even harder…
Bill Reno is a pseudonym used by Lew A. Lacy, and in The Badge series he certainly came up with some terrific stories, and this entry is as powerful as any I’ve read. The strain on Wilson’s mind and heart is very memorable and will stay with me for a long time. But it’s not all despair, even though Wilson gives up to the bottle and others write him off, there are friends who battle to save him, urge him to stand-up again, particularly when it becomes common-knowledge that Luke Bratton is riding in for a showdown.
I know it’s an often used term, but this book really is a difficult to put down read. The writing captures the imagination and builds in both pace and tension as that final showdown draws ever closer and you do have to wonder if Wilson will survive that due to the tone of the story.
Most of The Badge series are stand-alone titles linked by the fact that each one is about a lawman. The series ran for 24 books and on the strength of this one I’m really looking forward to reading the rest.