Friday, October 02, 2009

Forgotten Books: Trail of the Hunter -- Dudley Dean (Dudley Dean McGaughey)

This book opens right in the middle of the action, a technique I always like, with brothers Justin and Ford Emery clashing over Justin’s wife Samantha, whom he suspects of having an affair with Ford. This rift, following a really brutal fistfight between the brothers, causes them to split up, Ford remaining on the ranch they own in Texas while Justin takes part of the herd and starts north for Dakota Territory.

As it turns out, that’s not a very smart move, because first the trail drive runs into a killer blizzard, and then a deadly menace from Samantha’s past unexpectedly shows up to threaten not only Justin and Samantha’s marriage but also their lives. And from there, things get even worse as the author, Dudley Dean McGaughey (who also wrote under the name Dean Owen and several other pseudonyms), really heaps on the trials and tribulations for the troubled couple.

This is a fine hardboiled Western novel with plenty of gritty action scenes and nice lines like describing a man as being “mean enough to braid his own hangrope”. For a Western published in 1963, there’s a lot of talk about sex, although all the actual bedding down happens off-screen, so to speak. Justin Emery is a really tough hero, absorbing an unusual amount of punishment but still coming back to take on his enemies. McGaughey was a consistently fine Western author, and I thoroughly enjoyed this particular example of his work.

17 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I like it that kind of opening too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, James. New author to me. Our library has one of DD's westerns, Diamond Deuce, reprinted (?) by Leisure in '04. I'll try it out next time I go there.

Ed Lynskey

James Reasoner said...

Ed,

I think the Leisure edition of DIAMOND DEUCE was the first edition, leading me to believe it was a trunk book. But I don't know that for sure. And of course a lot of trunk books should have sold the first time around but didn't for a variety of reasons, few of them having anything to do with quality.

Chris said...

Sounds like a good one, James. That "mean enough to braid his own hang rope" line is a keeper.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Dean write the 'Hawk' series of Edge-style violent westerns back in the 70's?
Anybody know if those were any good?

John Hocking

Chap O'Keefe said...

Dudley Dean is one of my favorites, too, and I wish I had more of his books. If anyone wants to follow up on this writer I'd suggest starting here:
http://www.mysteryfile.com/DOwen/Bibliography.html
James is too modest to mention his own input to this comprehensive survey, which will also give John some more info on the Hawk books.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Not than I'm complaining, because I love your blog and read it faithfully, but I got to wondering about your writing progress. It used to be a staple of your blog but I don't recall reading about it for a spell. Have you abandoned it in favor of reviews? Not, as I said, am I complaining. Just curious.

Anonymous said...

I googled "trunk book" and didn't find anything. Without a lot of explaining for slowpokes like me, do you mean the series didn't get picked up until Leisure published it? I'll check out the bibliography at Steve's Mystery*File.

Ed Lynskey

James Reasoner said...

Cap'n,

My writing is rolling along, it's just hard to discuss it very much when I can't reveal what I'm working on, which is most of the time. I can say, though, that I'm trying to wrap up a book manuscript this weekend, and if I do, I'll take Monday off, go to the library and run some other errands, then start the next book Tuesday. In spare moments, I've also been working on a couple of short stories. Those I can talk about when the proper time comes.

Ed,

A trunk book is one that an author wrote but was unable to sell, leading them to put the manuscript away in a trunk (figuratively speaking). Sometimes they eventually see the light of day, and sometimes they don't. I had an editor call me one time and say, "I had an unexpected hole come up in the schedule and I need a book now. Do you have a trunk book I can use?" Unfortunately, I didn't, since I have only a couple of trunk books, and neither of them was the right genre.

Richard Prosch said...

Thanks for the post, James. I do believe I've learned about more new (old) Western paperbacks from you than any where else. Great stuff!

Richard Prosch said...

Thanks too to Chap for the URL. Interesting (to me at least) too to see that as Dean Owen, Dean wrote novelizations of KONGA and REPTILICUS, rights to which Charlton Comics got in it's own half-hearted monster comics attempt --comics that are now somewhat collectible as they contain art by Steve Ditko.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation, James, on trunk books. Makes sense.

Ed

Juri said...

Opinion seconded. Everything I've read from Dudley Dean has been good, or even excellent. I can recommend THE OUTLAWS (1973, this was very good), GUNS TO THE SUNSET (1948) and AMBUSH AT RINCON/THE RINCON TRAP (1953/1966).

Dean has at least one trunk crime novel. If you check out the Mystery*File link that Chap mentions, there's some discussion over a book that was published in Finnish as KUUMA LINJA/HOT LINE. It wasn't published in English. Someone who's good at these kinds of things might want to dig up the manuscript and publish it. As I recall, it was pretty good. But digging up a long-lost manuscript of a forgotten author might turn up nothing. Then again, you have the case of those recently unearthed Harry Whittington sex novels and what not.

Anonymous said...

hi james,
i am now in a "western" mood.over the past several weeks, iread 3 elore leonard's western -valdez is coming, law at randado & escape from 5 shadows. add to that anotherwestern that i can't remember right now.

what would you recommend for weekend reading in the western genre?
thanks

jun

James Reasoner said...

Jun,

In addition to Westerns by Dudley Dean/Dean Owen, you might try Ed Gorman, Luke Short, Lewis B. Patten, and H.A. De Rosso. That's just scratching the surface, though. There are a lot of good hardboiled Western writers.

Anonymous said...

James,
I noticed you did not recommend any Grey or Lamour?
I have not read any of them but just curious whynot those 2/
Thanks.

Jun

James Reasoner said...

Jun,

I've read a lot of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour novels and enjoyed most of them, but I wouldn't rank either of them in my favorites. Some of L'Amour's best books, in my opinion, are TO TAME A LAND, FLINT, and HIGH LONESOME. A good Zane Grey novel is NEVADA. Grey, like Max Brand, is very old-fashioned in his prose most of the time, so you have to be in the right mood to read his work.