In the fertile oasis of the Delnorte Valley seethed a full-scale range war. Lynch fever spread. Bombs exploded along the wire fences – reflecting the hate that filled the valley. The Coral River ran red with blood and open war was expected at any moment. Ranger Jim Hatfield had to find the man responsible for the violence before Delnorte became a valley of death.
The man Hatfield had to stop was protected by a terror organization called “The Black Cappers.” Their specialties were killing and destruction and they had forced the nesters and the ranchers into two armed camps. Hatfield found himself caught in the crossfire – an easy target for anyone with an easy six-gun. He was running on sheer power and had to get his man in a hurry . . . before the powder-keg of Delnorte Valley exploded!
This story was originally published under the same title in the November 1937 issue of Texas Rangers (see below). I’d guess the 1965 version has been expanded to create the length needed for a book. Jim Hatfield was created in 1936 by A. Leslie Scott and all the stories were published under the pseudonym of Jackson Cole. Scott was the main writer for the long running series alongside Tom Curry. A few other authors wrote for the series too. Guns Across the Pecos was written by Curry.
This is a tough, fast-paced story that contains a number of surprises and plenty of action – more or less every chapter containing gunplay or fist fights. Although the tale does include women, they don’t have very big roles – even the girl who provides the love interest.
Hatfield is extremely fast with his guns, talks to his horse Goldy, and has a quick mind that helps him solve all the problems he faces almost effortlessly. Hatfield occasionally comes across as superhuman when it comes to second-guessing his enemies and when he gets shot – the latter occurring more than once in this tale but Hatfield seems able to shrug his wounds off and carry on as if nothing had happened.
Being such an old story there is some of the kind of lingo we don’t see much of nowadays, such as ‘dawggone it’, ‘keerful-like,’ and ‘shoot yuh daid.’ This, to me, is part of the fun of reading these old tales but at times can be a challenge when there’s a lot of it in one sentence.
Tom Curry keeps the main plot twist a secret until near the end, and it was one I didn’t see coming, although I did work out who was behind whatever it was that was going on. The story ends with a classic hero chasing bad guy across country scene, making for a final dramatic showdown that ends the tale in suitable style.
I’ve read a few Jim Hatfield tales in pulp magazines and found them to be very entertaining and this extended book length story proved to be as equally enjoyable.