Louis Trimble was an interesting guy. In the academic world he made a name for himself in the field on linguistics. In the literary world, he was a prolific paperback writer, although he started out in hardback with books under his own name and as "Stuart Brock." He wrote paperback crime novels, westerns, and science fiction for Ace and Daw books, and here comes the confession: Although I have a whole pile of these books, I'd never read a one of them until now. Not having done so was a mistake, as I enjoyed The Ragbag Army, and now I'll have to read more by Trimble.
Not that there's anything very new or different about the plot of the book. It's the old "rich guy takes control of town and wants control of all the surrounding ranches" story. Naturally a lone stranger rides into the situation in the Montana Territory and picks a side. You can guess which one. But you might not guess what the stranger's doing there.
The writing is sharp, and there are some interesting characters, including a very strong woman character. The town marshal isn't corrupt, either. He's a by-the-book guy, and his arrangement is that he will enforce the law as written, although he does report to the Bad Guy. And as it happens, he and the Lone Stranger are long-time friends.
The cover copy is interesting. "Who will lead the desperados of the Beartooth range?" Does whoever wrote it not even know what desperados are? The "army" is the group of men being pushed off their land by the Bad Guy. They might be desperate, but they're not desperados.
The book's very short and might have been even better if it had been longer, something I don't often find myself saying. I'm glad I decided to pick up. Trimble is worth another look or two.