Monday 8 June 2020

Apache Butte

By Gordon D. Shirreffs
Ace Books, 1960

The towering butte stood like the symbol of death, and Ken Driscoll rode right into the rocky bastion in the pursuit of his prey.

Loco and his Apaches were on a bloody warpath. The killing and ravaging would continue until Ken could find the men who were supplying the contraband whiskey that was driving the Indians to their deadly orgies.

Outnumbered by both savage red men and renegade white men, further burdened by the necessity of having to find legal proof, Ken knew that his chances of succeeding were about a thousand to one and his chances of surviving about a million to one. But high as the odds were, Ken was just that one man in a million who might dam the tidal wave of slaughter and live to tell.

Tough, gritty and at times brutal this fast paced story gripped from the very beginning, which sees Driscoll trying to avoid the Apaches and discovering a wandering little girl whilst doing so. Sadly, he has to kill her puppy to stop it yapping and giving their position away and this unfortunate act will have a part to play later in the tale.

It isn’t long before Driscoll is the unwanted guest of a group of hardcases and then their prisoner when a man from his past shows up. There are women too, as sensuous as the men are dangerous. Mistrust and double-cross become themes of the plot as Loco and his Apaches seem to keep Driscoll and his companions trapped in a ranch. There are questions about why Driscoll is here and his past, what is it he is really after?

Before the end Driscoll and a handful of men and women must take the fight to a much larger band of Apaches that are camped out on the top of the mesa, a monument of rock with only one trail up that is easy to defend. How they scale the heights provides some extremely suspenseful reading and as the death toll rises, I began to wonder if Driscoll, or any other person, would be alive by the end.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a story by Gordon D. Shirreffs, his sparce, hard-hitting writing style makes for a fast read and I found it to be an enjoyable book. I wasn’t quite convinced by the sudden attraction between Driscoll and one of the women – they hadn’t really had any interaction with each other and then they were kissing – but the rest of the tale more than made up for that.

Apache Butte is a short story, it comes in at 113 pages in this Ace Double Novel. It’s paired with the slightly longer Ride the Long Night by E.A. Alman, an author I’m unfamiliar with, so I’m looking forward to reading that very soon. 

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