In the comments a couple of posts back, John Hocking mentions the Lassiter novel A HELL OF A WAY TO DIE, which was published in at least a couple of different editions under the Jack Slade house-name. Years ago someone – and at this late date I don’t recall who it was – told me that Ben Haas had written this early entry in the Lassiter series. I read it and thought it was possible, but at that time I hadn’t read as many of Haas’s novels as I have now.
Then there was some discussion on the WesternPulps group about the series, and someone pointed out a website put up by relatives of the late Peter Germano (better known under his pseudonym Barry Cord) that included A HELL OF A WAY TO DIE in a list of Lassiters written by Germano. I had forgotten about that until John’s comment, so I checked my shelves and found that I have a copy of A HELL OF A WAY TO DIE, as well as THE MAN FROM LORDSBURG, another Lassiter written by Germano, according to the website. I skimmed through them, and they certainly appear to be by the same author. The styles are very similar. So I’m thinking that maybe I made a mistake attributing A HELL OF A WAY TO DIE to Ben Haas.
That’s not the end of the story, though. This German website has a list of the Lassiter novels, and it attributes a different book to Haas. Here’s the list of the Lassiter series from that website, along with the best guesses for the actual authors:
LASSITER, W.T. Ballard
BANDIDO, W.T. Ballard
THE MAN FROM YUMA, Peter Germano
THE MAN FROM CHEYENNE, W.T. Ballard
A HELL OF A WAY TO DIE, Peter Germano
HIGH LONESOME, Ben Haas
SIDEWINDER, Peter Germano
THE MAN FROM DEL RIO, Unknown
THE MAN FROM LORDSBURG, Peter Germano
GUNFIGHT AT RINGO JUNCTION, Peter Germano
FUNERAL BEND, Peter Germano
THE MAN FROM TOMBSTONE, Peter Germano
THE BADLANDERS, Tom Curry
HELL AT YUMA, Unknown
RIDE INTO HELL, Unknown
BLOOD RIVER, Unknown
RIMFIRE, W.T. Ballard
APACHE JUNCTION, Unknown
DURANGO KILL, Unknown
THE MAN FROM PAPAGO WELLS, Unknown
LUST FOR GOLD, John M. Flynn
HANGMAN, John M. Flynn
CATTLE BARON, John M. Flynn
WOLVERINE, John M. Flynn
FIVE GRAVES FOR LASSITER, Peter Germano
BIG FOOT’S RANGE, Unknown
BROTHER GUN, Unknown
REDGATE GOLD, Unknown
W.T. Ballard has generally been credited as the creator of the series and the author of the first four novels, but this list attributes the third book to Germano, based on his records, so that’s probably accurate. I wonder if RIMFIRE, coming quite a few years after Ballard’s other books in the series, might be a retitled reprint of one of the early books. As for THE BADLANDERS, I’ve read it and I’m convinced it actually is by Tom Curry. I was reading a lot of Curry’s pulp work at the time, and a lot of his style tags show up in the Lassiter novel as well. Curry wrote two books in the Sundance series at about this same time, also under the Jack Slade house-name, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of the other Lassiters where the author hasn’t been identified were his as well. John M. Flynn, author of four books in the series, was better known as mystery writer Jay Flynn. I believe Bill Pronzini knew Flynn and has written about him in MYSTERY SCENE. Of course, I’m most interested in reading HIGH LONESOME to see if I think it was written by Ben Haas. I don’t believe I have a copy of that one right now, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for it. The Lassiter novels still show up fairly regularly in used bookstores.
By the way, some of these books were reprinted with “Zane Grey’s Lassiter” on the cover, which I think was just a marketing ploy on the part of the publisher. This Lassiter is not the same character as the hero of RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE . . . although there was a series of novels featuring that character ghosted by Dean Owen and perhaps others under the name Loren Zane Grey.
Now, at this point the real question is: who cares about any of this stuff? Well, me, for one, and I hope at least a few of you reading this. But I still have vivid memories of buying my first Lassiter novel, THE MAN FROM DEL RIO, brand-new off the spinner rack at Lester’s Pharmacy and reading it one summer day in 1969. I’d been reading Zane Grey, Max Brand, and Clarence E. Mulford, so that Lassiter novel, with its grittier violence and slightly graphic sex, was a big change for me. The Lassiter books, not the Jake Logan series, are the first true “Adult Westerns”, as the genre came to be known, and as such, they have some historical importance in the Western field. Over and above that, though, some of them are pretty darned good books and worth checking out if you happen to run across any of them. (Fair warning, though: some of them are pretty bad, too.)
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