Unlike most of the Lewis B. Patten novels I’ve read, this one is based on a historical incident, the epic battle between thirty or forty buffalo hunters and hundreds of Comanche, Kiowa, and Southern Cheyenne warriors under the command of Quanah Parker at Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle. I think it’s a rule that every Western author has to write an Adobe Walls book sooner or later. I certainly have (STAGECOACH STATION: PANHANDLE, as by Hank Mitchum). It’s such a good, dramatic story, with the buffalo hunters, including Billy Dixon and a young Bat Masterson, standing off what should have been an overwhelming force of Indians.
In this novel, Patten creates a few fictional characters and gives them reasons to be at Adobe Walls when the attack takes place. Would-be buffalo hunter Jess Burdett rescues beautiful Edith Clinger from her abusive husband, who of course follows them to Adobe Walls bent on reclaiming his wife and having his revenge on Burdett. For some reason, a lot of Patten’s heroes wind up in love with other men’s wives, and that’s the case here. He usually has some sort of violent death conveniently befall the husband, freeing the woman to wind up with the hero, but the resolution isn’t quite so neat in this book.
As always with Patten’s work, there’s a good deal of moral ambiguity, plenty of terse prose, and some hard-nosed action scenes in THE HIDE HUNTERS. He gets the history right and does a fine job of portraying the battle itself, so the reader winds up with a very good blend of fact and fiction. I enjoyed this one enough that I’m tempted to read his Custer book, THE RED SABBATH, another historically-based novel.