Friday, September 07, 2012

Forgotten Books: Clayburn - Al Conroy (Marvin H. Albert)

This is the first book in a four-book series about a gambler, gunman, and former detective named Clayburn (no first name given in this book, though he's occasionally referred to as Clay). We don't find out many details about Clayburn's background except that he used to work as a private detective for an agency headed by a Colonel Remsburg. The colonel and his agency seem modeled on Allan Pinkerton and the Pinkerton Agency, but Albert doesn't go overboard with it.

The plot is a combination of the standard revenge/save the ranch scenarios. One of Clayburn's old friends is murdered by outlaw Ross Slater. Clayburn digs up the fact that Slater's brother is cattleman John Thompson, who is trying to take over the ranch owned by Ruby McClintock and her two no-account brothers. Clayburn throws in with Ruby and plans to make life so difficult for Thompson that Thompson will summon Slater to help him, thus giving Clayburn his chance for revenge.

Though the plot is traditional, Albert makes this book fresh and entertaining with his lean, fast-paced style and his characterization of Clayburn, who veers back and forth between hero and anti-hero. Clayburn is not the fastest gun or the best brawler, but he is determined and thinks well on his feet. He's not above using people to get what he wants, either. He emerges as more sympathetic than unsympathetic, but there are enough rough edges about him to make him at least a little non-traditional. Overall, a very enjoyable book, and I plan to read the other three novels in the series, which are THREE RODE NORTH, LAST TRAIN TO BANNOCK, and THE MAN IN BLACK.

9 comments:

Jerry House said...

I think Albert's westerns areamong his best work. Considering how good the rest of his work is, that's very good.

Bill Crider said...

Albert's one of my favorites. I read THREE ROAD NORTH this week and will be doing a Forgotten Books post on it in a couple of weeks.

KR said...

I've read all 4 books, spread out over many years as I found them in various used bookstores. Good stuff.

Ed Gorman said...

I really liked this series. In fact when thy were reissued several years later I reread them and liked them even more than I had first time through. Well done review, too, James.

Steve M said...

James, you've made me want to track down the 3 I don't have (I only have the last one and want to read them in order). Enjoyed reading your review.

George said...

I agree with Jerry: Albert's westerns are among his best work. Your fine review is motivating me to reread this quartet of novels.

Chap O'Keefe said...

I have only one of Albert's westerns, an enjoyable Gold Medal, and have never seen a Clayburn title. Clearly that's something I'll need to put right.

D.A. Trappert said...

Albert is pretty great no matter what he is writing. His Stone Angel series, under his own name, is fantastic--at least the first 4 that I have read. It is set on the French Riviera where he lived late in life with his French wife. His Tony Rome series was a forerunner to John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee. (Rome also lived on a houseboat.) And the 4 books he wrote as Ian MacAlister are pretty much unsurpassed for unrelenting suspense and danger in exotic settings. And that is leaving out so much else that he wrote!

Anonymous said...

THanks for the review. I've seen Clayburn, but it was in rough shape and missing pages, and will have to track all four of these down.