Monday, March 24, 2014

Showdown in Abilene - Alfred Wallon

I've been wanting to read some of Alfred Wallon's Western novels for a while, but nearly all of them were published only in Germany, and despite two years of German in college I'm far from being fluent enough to read in that language at anything more than a very rudimentary level.

However, thanks to the good folks at Piccadilly Publishing, some of Wallon's novels are now appearing in English translations as e-books, so I was able to start at the beginning with his first novel, SHOWDOWN IN ABILENE, which is also the first book in his most successful series, Rio Concho.

These books revolve around the adventures of the cowboys who work on the Rancho Bravo spread in West Texas. Foreman Jay Durango is the protagonist in SHOWDOWN IN ABILENE. I don't know if he plays that role in succeeding books, but I'll find out since I have the next two in the series. This one finds Jay and the rest of the Rancho Bravo crew arriving in Abilene with a trail herd they've brought to the railhead, a classic situation in Western novels. They're not there long before Jay encounters an old enemy and several of the cowboys get mixed up in a brawl that causes Abilene's marshal, Bear River Tom Smith, to throw them in jail. The situation quickly escalates with an attempt on Jay's life, a fire that threatens to destroy the town, and a bank robbery that leads to the title showdown.

This is a relatively short novel, and Wallon never lets the action slow down for long. Jay Durango is a fine hero, tough but honorable and with a touch of mystery about his background. We don't really learn a lot about the supporting cast, but they're likable enough and this is just the first book in a long-running series, after all. I really enjoyed the mixture of fiction and history, such as the appearance of Bear River Tom Smith, who was the marshal in Abilene immediately before Wild Bill Hickok. Wallon provides an entertaining afterword about the historical aspects of the novel, as well as some background on his Rio Concho series.

SHOWDOWN IN ABILENE is a good solid traditional Western, and I'm glad it's now available in English. If you're a Western fan, it's certainly well worth reading. You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.


Neil Waring said...

I have wanted to read a foreign language version of a western novel for quite some time. Think I will give one of his novels a try.

Kathleen Rice Adams said...

James, FABULOUS review of SHOWDOWN IN ABILENE, a work of classical western fiction from a German author. Wallon's stories evoke not only the Old West, but also a previous era in western fiction -- all in all, a great deal of fun. I, too, applaud Wallon's research and his obvious love of the subject matter. When the author takes so much apparent joy in his tales, readers can't help but strap on their spurs and enjoy the ride. :-)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never knew there was a big market in Germany for westerns!