This is the second volume in Ben Haas’s outstanding series about soldier of fortune Neal Fargo. It opens in Hollywood in 1914, where Fargo is working temporarily as an actor, of all things, playing a villain in a silent Western movie directed by Thomas Ince. Ince is the only real-life character to make an appearance in this novel; the hero of the picture is fictional, as is a beautiful actress Fargo meets.
Ince wants Fargo to continue making movies and claims that he can be a big star, but Fargo isn’t interested in make-believe. Having lived a life of adventure, he needs the real thing. So when the actress, Jane Deering, asks him to go to Alaska and find out what happened to her husband, who disappeared there several years earlier while prospecting for gold, Fargo agrees without hesitation. He’s less enthusiastic about the idea of Jane coming along with him to look for the missing man, but she convinces him.
Naturally, things don’t go well, and Fargo and Jane wind up in all sorts of danger in the gold fields of the untamed Yukon country. There are vigilantes, a mysterious killer, blizzards, and assorted mushing around on dog sleds and snowshoes. As usual, Haas spins his yarn in tough, hardboiled prose without a wasted word to be found. He’s one of the best pure action writers I’ve ever run across. This one shows a few signs of hurried writing, but the story sweeps along at such a swift pace I didn’t really care. ALASKA STEEL is a prime example of a short, gritty adventure novel, and like all of Ben Haas’s work that I’ve ever encountered, it’s well worth reading.
AFI Awards 2016
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