I looked for this book for years. Literally.
Let me explain. Several years ago, a friend of mine who has written a lot of these Jake Logan books told me about this one, which was written by a mutual friend of ours. It sounded interesting, so I thought I’d look for it. It had been out of print for a number of years, even then, but the local Half Price Books has a bunch of Slocum novels, so I figured I’d pick up a copy the next time I was there. But when I looked, Half Price didn’t have it. Neither did the next Half Price I checked, or the one after that, or the one after that . . .
Back in the pre-Internet days, I used to carry around lists of books I was looking for, so I could check for them every time I was in a used bookstore. I’ll bet a lot of you did, too. It was fun. So even though I could have ordered a copy of SLOCUM AND THE INVADERS any time I wanted to (there are numerous copies listed on ABE, most of them very inexpensive), I decided that I was going to find this book by remembering to look for it in used bookstores, just like I used to. So for years now, every time I saw some Jake Logan novels in a store, I checked to see if SLOCUM AND THE INVADERS was there. Surprisingly, it never was. Until this week. I looked, and there it was, and I got the same kind of kick I used to whenever I’d chance across a long-sought-after book.
So now I’ve read it at last, and luckily, it’s good. John Slocum, for those of you unfamiliar with the character, is a drifting gunfighter and occasional outlaw in the Old West who’s been having almost monthly adventures since 1975, when the series debuted from the long-defunct Playboy Paperbacks. (It moved to Berkley Books after 49 novels from Playboy Paperbacks.) Many, many different authors have written Slocum novels under the Jake Logan house-name, including some you might not expect, such as famous mystery novelist Martin Cruz Smith. I’ve even written one of the books myself, SLOCUM AND THE TEXAS ROSE.
SLOCUM AND THE INVADERS find Slocum in Arizona Territory, where he encounters an eccentric astronomer (mistaking the man’s tripod-mounted telescope for a rifle at first) and the astronomer’s requisite beautiful female assistant (these are Adult Westerns, after all). Unfortunately, Slocum is on the run from a gang of vicious killers at the moment, and as he spends more time with his new friends, he discovers an unexpected connection between them and the bad guys who are already after him. There are also some renegade Indians in the vicinity to further complicate things.
This is a pretty standard Adult Western set-up, but then SLOCUM AND THE INVADERS takes an unexpected, jaw-dropping turn that places it firmly in the realm of “like no Adult Western you’ve ever read before”. I’ve read hundreds of these books from various series (and written about 75 of them myself), and the plot twist in this one is certainly one I’ve never encountered anywhere else. And it works, beautifully, in fact. Unfortunately, I can’t say anything more about it without ruining things for those of you who might read the book someday.
So my long search was rewarded at last, and there are some other old books I’ve decided I’m going to look for in the same way. I have a couple of lists, scribbled on a piece of paper that’s now folded up and stuck in my wallet for the next time I visit a used bookstore. And it feels good.