Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Chuka -- Richard Jessup

Richard Jessup wrote westerns under his own name and as Richard Telfair. While I've read a lot of his other books, this is the first of his westerns that I've tried. It's a good one, and it was made into a film with Rod Taylor in the lead role.

The title character is a gunfighter. No one knows his real name. He's just Chuka. He and two friends arrive at Fort Clendennon on their way to Montana. At about the same time a stage arrives with several passengers. You can guess what's going to happen: Indian attack. The fort is filled with misfits overseen by a Major Valois, a 25-year-old West Point grad and a tough sergeant who backs him up.

There's an assorted cast of characters: the grizzled scout, the disgruntled soldier, the beautiful woman, the former prostitute. All familiar, but Jessup does some interesting things with all of them. In fact, the book could have been a hundred pages longer and still not have told all their stories. Some things clearly needed more development, but it doesn't matter in the end.

The people in the fort are clearly over-matched. They don't stand a chance against the united force of several tribes. I won't say how all this turns out, but what happens is told matter-of-factly and it's all the more effective for that. I should read another western by Jessup soon.

11 comments:

August West said...

I liked this one also. Gold Medal must of printed quite a few copies of this paperback because I come across them regularly.

Richard Heft said...

Jessup's TEXAS OUTLAW must have been VERY popular, as Gold Medal printed it four different times!

Frank Loose said...

Bill ... You captured my interest with your review, so i looked up Jessup in Amazon and discovered he also wrote a lot of GM crime. Several carried reader reviews which gave high ratings. Have you read any of his crime? --- Threat, Deadly Duo, Wolf Cop, Low Down. Another western, Savadilla, carried strong reviews, too. Looks like a writer to check out, for sure. (I see that he wrote The Cincinnati Kid)

August West said...

Frank: "Wolf Cop" is a dynamite read!

Frank Loose said...

August ... Thanks. Amazon lists several for sale. I'll order one now.

Craig Zablo said...

I love the movie CHUKA. I never realized it was based on a book. Thanks for the heads-up!

Bill Crider said...

Frank, WOLF COP is probably the best bet.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I liked the movie a lot. John Mills as the commander, Ernie Borgnine as the sergeant, Victoria Crystal as the beautiful woman, and Rod Taylor as Chucka. Good action and tight story.

Tom K Mason said...

I'll throw my hat in with fans of the movie, too. I think it's terrific; a great performance by Taylor and James Whitmore. Jessup is credited with the screenplay, too. Looks like I'll have to read the book now.

@Cap'n Bob: I think Thunderball's Luciana Paluzzi is the beautiful woman you're thinking of.

George said...

Richard Jessup is another of those underrated, forgotten writers we're so fond of. I'm impressed that Jessup could write so effectively in several genres.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Tom: You're right.