By John Benteen writing as Richard Meade
Piccadilly Publishing, September 2014
First published by Doubleday, 1975
Nothing in Sheriff Frank Gaylord’s background had ever prepared him for this. Pushing forty years of age, but still strong and fast with a gun, Gaylord truly believed he’d done a good job in Colter County.
But there was talk behind his back. Talk about how he was secretly on the payroll of the Chain Ranch. Talk about how he favoured the large cattle barons over the small ranchers. And now, as his re-election approached, more than Gaylord’s job was on the line. His honour and the lives of his best friends were in jeopardy as well.
Sheriff Gaylord had always been an honest lawman, but when wealth, power and a beautiful woman are dangled in front of him, it looks like Gaylord’s badge is about to be bought. And suddenly, Frank Gaylord must meet his most dangerous enemy yet – himself.
Sheriff Frank Gaylord makes for a very engaging lead character. Sure he’s flawed but he believes he is doing the right thing. Believes he is upholding the law as it should be. Yet slowly he begins to see how others might believe he has been bought, causing a lot of self-examination and this is the main thrust of this fascinating story.
The election campaigns throw up many questions and it seems Gaylord is bound to win but he, and his backers, have forgotten one thing. Wyoming has given women the right to vote and they seem to be behind the opposition.
John Benteen really builds the tension well and at no time is it obvious who will come out on top. Then the killings begin and everything is thrown into doubt and confusion runs rampant, particularly with who is playing who and to the true motive and identity of one of the characters.
I found this book to be a gripping read. A story that tells a little of Wyoming’s history with the female vote and of the powers behind large cattle empires that blends perfectly into the fictional part of the tale. There’s also some surprise deaths, and plenty of gunplay.
So, once again, John Benteen proves that he is a writer all western fans should read.