Since I had this book out for the post I wrote the other day about the Lassiter series, I decided to go ahead and read it as this week’s Forgotten Book. In his comment on the previous post, John Hocking mentions that in some of the books, Lassiter shows certain similarities to Parker, the late Donald E. Westlake’s professional thief character. That’s certainly true in THE MAN FROM LORDSBURG. (By the way, Lassiter is in Lordsburg when he gets the telegram that opens the book. Other than that, the entire novel takes place in and around Abilene, Kansas.)
Lassiter is summoned to Abilene by an old girlfriend who has a plan to steal a small fortune being brought in by a cattle buyer to pay for the largest herd to ever come up the trail from Texas. In order to carry out this robbery, Lassiter brings in a handful of other hardcases and outlaws, and the first half of the book is concerned with the planning and preparations for the robbery, which involves stampeding six thousand longhorns right into the middle of Abilene. The robbery takes place in the middle of the book, then the rest of THE MAN FROM LORDSBURG is about the aftermath and the inevitable violent complications.
Lassiter certainly isn’t a heroic character in this one (check out that front cover copy), although he’s slightly more honorable than most of the other characters. He has a code, too, which consists mostly of going after anybody who’s dumb enough to doublecross him. He really does remind me a lot of Parker, although the writing isn’t as good as you’ll find in a Westlake book.
Speaking of the writing, THE MAN FROM LORDSBURG is supposed to be one of the novels written by Peter Germano under the Jack Slade house-name. I’ve read quite a few of Germano’s books, both his traditional Westerns as Barry Cord and his Jim Hatfield novels published in the TEXAS RANGERS pulp as by Jackson Cole. His style was always rather hardboiled, and it’s even more so in this Lassiter novel. The pace is fast, the action scenes are well-written, and there’s a toughness about both the character and the writing that works very well. I think most readers of hardboiled crime fiction would enjoy THE MAN FROM LORDSBURG.