By William Terry
NEL, September 1971
Fleeing the scene of a botched bank robbery, the Clemens brothers come across an isolated homestead. Attempting to steal fresh horses, the trigger-happy youngest brother murders Caulder, the landowner. His wife Hannie is unable to fend off the three Clemens alone. They rape her, steal her horses and burn her home to the ground. Determined to seek revenge Hannie teams up with Thomas Price a ruthless bounty hunter. She implores him to teach her how to kill. Reluctantly he agrees and together they set off in pursuit of the outlaws.
This is the book of the film rather than a book that became a film. The author, William Terry, based the book on the screenplay which in turn was adapted from an original story by Peter Cooper.
William Terry is a pseudonym used by Terry Harknett, who would become much better known the following year as George G. Gilman when the first in the best-selling Edge western series was released, a series that would run for seventeen years.
Terry tells me he wrote the book from the final draft of the script the director would be using to make the film. He knew who was to star in the film and was sent some black and white stills of key scenes which is why his descriptions of characters is spot on. Dialogue was taken from the script and it’s intriguing to discover this contains a lot of gallows humour which would become a trademark of Terry’s own books, something he freely admits he was influenced by along with many other TV and film westerns he watched and was ‘enthusiastically encouraged by the editorial team at New English Library!’ to continue using this in his own westerns.
The story is a straight-forward revenge tale and mixes the dark theme of Caulder’s rape and subsequent quest for vengeance with lighter comic moments mainly through the antics of the Clemens brothers. Terry’s writing perfectly captures the spirit of the film and its changing tones.
The book was published around the time the movie was released and is a must read for fans of both the film and Terry Harknett’s work as well as those who enjoy fast-moving westerns that mix violence and humour.
The film is a British production directed by Burt Kennedy and starred Raquel Welch as Hannie Caulder. It also stars Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, Jack Elam, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, and Stephen Boyd.