It was a roaring boomtown filled with men who lived, talked and dreamed only of finding gold; a gaudy town where killings were frequent; a hell town where desperate men were prepared to go to any lengths to achieve their ends: wealth and power.
Paul Lesurge was one such man; and he had many men and women under his thumb. But he had a major obstacle to his plans too. A quiet-spoken Texan named Green, otherwise known as Sudden!
When Oliver Strange wrote the first Sudden book, The Range Robbers (1930), it was intended to be a standalone novel and the only western Strange planned to write. The books’ massive success taking author and publisher by surprise so a sequel was soon being written. The series continued for ten books; all being reissued numerous times. The final book carrying the author’s name of Oliver Strange, Sudden Plays a Hand (1950), is a pale shadow of those that went before and there is some doubt as to whether Strange wrote it.
In the 1960’s the books were published as paperbacks and a new audience was found. Sudden became a must-read westerns series once again and in 1966 a brand-new story appeared, Sudden Strikes Back, from a new author; Frederick H. Christian (real name Fred Nolan). Four more stories followed by this author, the last being published in 1970. The Christian books were also republished a number of times, the last being as hardbacks under the Black Horse Western line with different titles.
There have been many debates as to the correct order to read the Sudden books as Strange wrote prequels and sequels to The Range Robbers, and the majority of readers would place Goldseeker into forth place, although it was the sixth book Strange wrote.
Strange mixes cowboy slang and formal English, which takes a little time to get a grip with, but once you do, it is this that adds a certain charm to the tales. The plots aren’t anything special, and are usually foreseeable, but Goldseeker does contain a couple of neat surprises (even though one is easily predictable from early on in the story). Also, Goldseeker sees the appearance of a real Western character, Wild Bill Hickok, and there’s a great scene when Hickok and Sudden decide to find out which of the two is the fastest draw.
Strange includes a lot of humour in Goldseeker, mainly in the form of observations in conversation. Two women have strong roles to play, one who is trying to seduce Sudden so she can get him to do as she wants in an attempt to take control of Deadwood. She’s not the only person setting people up for a double-cross and it seems not many of the characters can be trusted. Everything builds neatly to an exciting and dramatic ending that ties up all the plot threads.
The Sudden books are definitely a product of their time, and if you can accept the terms that would be seen as politically incorrect today then I would think most western fans would find this series worth exploring as the books are extremely readable.