Stark House has done it again -- a triple-decker of Harry Whittington westerns that includes Trouble Rides Tall, Cross the Red Creek, and Desert Stake-Out, with an excellent and informed introduction by the Whittington expert, David Laurence Wilson. I've said this again and again, but it's even more true this time: The introduction is worth the price of the book.
I first read Cross the Red Creek in an Avon paperback long ago. It presents a situation that Whittington excelled at, a man in trouble who just keeps on getting deeper and deeper in the hole. Jim Gilmore, looking for a fresh start, is headed for the town of Kiowa City when he's surrounded by a posse and accused of robbing a bank. He escapes, but then in one of the story's first twists, turns himself in. A jury can't prove he's guilty, but only a couple of people in Kiowa City believe he's innocent. He doesn't care. He decides to stay, send for his wife, and settle there. Complications ensue.
Plenty of action, some complex relationships, and some tense scenes that would be great on film, particularly a shootout in a burning barn. Although the story is ostensibly a mystery, you won't ever be in any doubt about who the villain is. That doesn't detract from the enjoyment, however, because what matters is the human relationships in the story and what Jim Gilmore comes to realize about himself and other people. If you're looking for a solid traditional western, you can't go wrong with Cross the Red Creek of the other two in this volume. Highly recommended.