Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Legend of Caleb York -- Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

So you didn't know that Mickey Spillane wrote western novels?  Well, he didn't.   What he did, back in the late '50s, was write a screenplay for his pal John Wayne's Batjac productions.  For reasons we don't need to get into here (having nothing to do with the screenplay itself), it was never produced.  It was among the papers turned over to Max Allan Collins at Spillane's death, and Collins has brought it into print as a novelization of the script.  He was the right person to do this for a number of reasons, the main two being that he's got the Spillane vibe down pat and that he's done hundreds (okay, maybe not that many, but close) of novelizations in the past.  He knows the territory.

The Legend of Caleb York is the Good Old Stuff.  The villains are villainous, the good guy is fast on the draw, the women are beautiful, and what I call "The James Reasoner Rule" is followed (always have a role for Gabby Hayes).  A blind rancher with a beautiful daughter is one of the last holdouts against a greedy sheriff who wants to buy up all the land around the town of Trinidad, New Mexico.  If he can't buy it, then he'll do whatever it takes to get it.  The blind rancher decides it's time to bring in a hired killer to take care of the sheriff, so he sends off a wire to have someone arrange it.

It's about this time that a Mysterious Stranger arrives in town.  He dresses like a dude, but he's mighty handy with a gun, and he beats up two of the sheriff's men before he's been there more than a few minutes.  Within a few more minutes, he has to kill them.  This doesn't endear him to the sheriff.  He refuses to tell anyone his name, and he insists he's only passing through town and knows nothing of the situation there.

How all this plays out would've made a fine starring vehicle for John Wayne or Randolph Scott or any of several western stars of the era when it was written as a screenplay.  It's a bit more graphically violent in its current form that it would've been then, so those scenes would have been toned down.  If you're a fan of the traditional western, or if you're just looking for some good reading, look no further.  The Legend of Caleb York delivers, and then some.  It has it all.

DISCLAIMER:  This book is dedicated to me, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this review.  I've been reviewing books by Collins, by Collins and Spillane, and by Collins and Collins for years now, and I've always enjoyed them.  I enjoyed this one, too, just as much as I would have if it had been dedicated to someone else. Not that I'm not pleased and honored to see my name in it.  I certainly am.

9 comments:

James Reasoner said...

"The James Reasoner Rule"...I like that. I definitely have to read this book.

Bill Crider said...

I try to follow that rule in all my westerns.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

You can never go wrong with a role for Gabby Hayes.

Durn tootin'.


Jeff

wayne d. dundee said...

Been looking forward to this book ever since I first heard about it ... Already bought it and have started reading, by cracky! (That's my Gabby Hayes impersonation - apart from already being old and cranky and gray-bearded, I mean.)

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Sounds very good. Love westerns. Checked my local library and no joy so far.....

George said...

Congratulations! Couldn't happen to a better guy!

Barry Ergang said...

My page-turnin' finger's gittin' a leetle-mite itchy. Haveta look for this one. Thanks for lettin' us know about it, ya young whippersnapper.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I'll have to get this one. My husband will want to read it, too. Oh, and I agree that just about any story is better with Gabby Hayes. :)

Bill Crider said...

Gabby's almost essential to my westerns, even the ones in pen-name series.