The Big Showdown is a direct sequel to Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins' The Legend of Caleb York, which I wrote about here. You might recall that the book was a novelization of a screenplay that Spillane wrote for John Wayne's Batjac productions. Collins tells us in his introduction to the sequel that it's based on "various drafts of the screenplay and notes in Mickey's files." The result is a thoroughly entertaining traditional western.
In the first book, Caleb York has cleaned up the little town of Trinidad, New Mexico, and now he's ready to move on to San Diego, California, where he's looking forward to testing his crime-solving skills in the big city. He's set up his old friend Ben Wade as the sheriff, and the town is in good hands. But wouldn't you know it? Just as Caleb is saying his final goodbye to Willa Cullen, three men rob the local bank and kill Wade. It's bad enough that the town is about to be bankrupt, but when you kill a man's friend, well, it's not the time to leave.
The bank problem seems to be solved almost immediately when Zachary Gauge shows up. He's a slick Easterner, the relative of the previous book's villain, and he's inherited the property belonging to that unworthy soul. Now he's deposited a big sum in the bank, enough to make up for what was stolen. Not only that, but he's going to make things right with everyone that his cousin cheated.
If any of that makes you suspicious of him, well, it should. Before long people are being murdered, Zachary is courting Willa, planning a big merger between his ranch and hers and her father's, and generally acting like he owns the town. York investigates the murders, using some early CSI techniques, and he meets a lovely saloon owner who's obviously going to complicate his life.
Without saying more about the plot, I can assure you that when the big showdown comes, it's a really good one, a cinematic gunfight that would make a terrific scene in a movie.
There's a lot of Caleb York's story yet to be told, of adventures both before and after his stay in Trinidad. Here's hoping we get a chance to read them.