Friday, February 03, 2012

Forgotten Books: Border Roundup - Allan R. Bosworth

According to TWENTIETH CENTURY WESTERN WRITERS, this novel was originally a pulp serial, but TCWW doesn't say when and where it was first published. Doubleday did a hardback version in 1941 under the title WHEREVER THE GRASS GROWS, and then Bantam reprinted it in paperback in 1947. That's the edition I just read. (And as a side note, while the plastic coating on the paperback covers is starting to show a little wear, the paper is just barely tan and in beautiful shape, better than most two or three year old paperbacks these days. But then, that's common for paperbacks from that era, at least in my experience.)

In 1875, Ruck (short for Rucker, which was Bosworth's middle name) Hanna returns to Texas after spending five years in Wyoming. Ruck had to leave the family ranch because he shot and killed a crooked carpetbagger who was trying to kill him. Knowing he wouldn't get a fair trial from the Reconstruction government, he went on the run instead. But by the beginning of the novel, Reconstruction is over, Ruck's father is dead, and Ruck has to return to save the ranch. All of the Nueces brush country in South Texas is under assault from Mexican raiders and rustlers led by Cheno Sandoval, whose sister Olivia is an old friend (and potential romantic interest) of Ruck's.

There are other problems besides the rustlers. The open range era is ending, and there are clashes among the local ranchers over how to handle this evolution in cattle-raising. The spectre of barbed wire is looming.  Ruck has a lot of trouble to handle, including a romantic triangle with Olivia and Hattie Blake, the daughter of a carpetbagger who has remained in Texas to become a business tycoon. Texas Rangers led by Captain Leander McNelly show up to put a stop to the rustling and wind up crossing the Rio Grande to invade Mexico, and Ruck goes along with them.

This is a very well written novel with good characters, a historically accurate background, and a fine sense of time and place. I've been to many of the places Bosworth describes, and he gets it right. The only flaws, in my opinion, are a shortage of action and the lack of a sense of urgency, especially in the first half of the book. The second half is considerably stronger. Overall, I'd highly recommend this one, and I intend to look for more novels by Bosworth.

(Bosworth was one of the regular stable of authors on the various house-name series in WILD WEST WEEKLY. I don't know which particular stories he wrote, but I'll bet they were good.)


Walker Martin said...

I still have my run of THE SATURDAY EVENING POST in the 1940's and I'd noticed before that Allan Bosworth(1901-1986) was one of the pulp authors who broke into the well paying slick magazine market. This novel appeared as a six part serial under the title, WHEREVER THE GRASS GROWS during December 28, 1940 through February 1, 1941.

James Reasoner said...

Thanks for the info, Walker. I can definitely see this one as a SEP serial.

Evan Lewis said...

The paper in today's pbs (and especially in hardcovers) is maddeningly cheap. Guess books are no longer meant to last.