Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Ride the Long Night

By E.A. Alman
Ace Books, 1960
Originally published by The Macmillan Company, 1959

His name was Will Storm and he was getting to be a legend in the West. He wasn’t more than 27 years old, but his hair was completely white and he had a lifetime’s worth of hate stored up in him. He had sworn to would not rest until his gun caught up with three people:

 . . . the sweetheart who betrayed him,

. . . the treacherous saddle-partner who helped her railroad him to prison,

. . . the corrupt prison warden who tortured him for five bitter years.

It was a long rail that he rode – a long and violent trail – but it had an ending none would forget.

E.A. Alman is an author I wasn’t familiar with, and a google search doesn’t bring up anything other than this book. This publication contains a number of quotes from reviews declaring how good this story is, one stating ‘Alman promises to be one of the more stimulating writers of Western fiction, and this book should have wide appeal.’ Another says ‘One of the best westerns to come along in some time.

The story starts well, and portrays Storm as a desperate man drive by his self-imposed mission to kill those who wronged him. Storm is hurt, being pursued by a posse. He’s saved by a young woman who lives alone, who’s a man-hater. A woman many see as crazy. She see’s opportunity in Storm and decides to help him heal and hide him from the posse. In exchange he must marry her, that’s all, he can then go on his way once she has his last name. Why is that so important to her? That is something you’ll have to find out for yourself by reading the book.

During Storm’s recovery we are introduced to two other major players, a man referred to as the Preacher – that is his trade but is there more to him than that? The second person is a lawman determined to see Storm back behind bars. As their lives become entwined the plot becomes more complicated and the suspense mounts.

At times this story is quite brutal, definitely has a hard-boiled appeal to it. Storm does do something that not all readers will approve of, but I can’t say more without spoiling a major element of the book. 

During this tale Storm helps some children find their parents and this part of the story seems to lose the dark edge of the rest of the book and a different side of Storm is revealed. Although this section of the story is important to how the plot develops, I did find the pace eased off a little here and lost its grittiness that I'd been appreciating. Once this story-thread had been resolved then the toughness returned and my enjoyment rose again and I was eager to see how the story ended.

With his vengeance hunt over, and maybe not how you’d expect, Storm has to face a new demon in the woman he married. Would she kill him on sight? She was certainly full of hate for him and had promised to do so, something Storm was resigned to. The prospect of his death at her hands certainly doesn’t stop him returning to her to hand her the gun with which to take his life. Perhaps his death is the only way to conclude his life, something he welcomes?

Overall, this was a very satisfactory read and it does make me wonder why Alman never wrote anymore westerns.

Ride the Long Night is part of an Ace Double book, paired with Gordon D. Shirreffs Apache Butte.

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