Friday, April 22, 2016

Forgotten Books: Phantom Raiders - Peter Dawson (Jonathan Glidden)

I wrote about Luke Short (Frederick D. Glidden) last week, and this week we’ve got a collection of pulp novelettes by his brother Jonathan Glidden, who wrote under the name Peter Dawson. Although Jon Glidden never achieved quite the same level of fame and popularity as Fred did, he was a successful and well-regarded Western author for many years, his novels selling well enough in paperback that after his death, Bantam hired another author to write several more books that were published under the Peter Dawson name. I’ve enjoyed his work for many years, starting with the novel TRAIL BOSS, which I read all the way back in seventh grade almost five decades ago.

PHANTOM RAIDERS, published in large print by Center Point back in 2008, reprints five excellent novelettes from a variety of sources, starting off with “Retribution River” from the September 1948 issue of WESTERN STORY. As Jon Tuska mentions in his story notes, this was Jonathan Glidden’s last publication in WESTERN STORY, which had serialized his first novel THE CRIMSON HORSESHOE some eight years earlier and published many of his shorter works. This one is a fine, fast-moving story about a rancher framed for rustling who goes on the owlhoot and discovers that’s an even more dangerous line of work.

“Cutbank Welcome”, first published under the somewhat misleading title “Cutbank Welcome for Wet-Cattle Thieves” in the November 1940 issue of BEST WESTERN, also concerns a rancher who’s been framed, but for the more serious crime of murder. This one has a particularly effective opening as the rancher is about to be  lynched.

“Signed on Satan’s Payroll”, which originally appeared in the March 1938 issue of STAR WESTERN, also centers around rustling, but it has an interesting twist on the usual big ranchers vs. small ranchers plot, and it throws in a well-depicted blizzard for good measure.

“The Matched Pair”, which was the last piece of short fiction Jon Glidden wrote, was published under the title “The Devil’s Pardner” in the September 1956 issue of ADVENTURE, well after that magazine had ceased to be a pulp and had become a men’s adventure magazine, although obviously it was still running some fiction. This story is a change of pace for Glidden, as it’s more of a domestic drama that reminded me of some of Ernest Haycox’s stories. It’s very well written and has a poignant ending.

“Phantom Raiders” is another story that first appeared under a long-winded and misleading title, “When Blood and Guns Brand a Man’s Backtrail”, in the February 1941 issue of WESTERN NOVEL AND SHORT STORIES. It’s about a lone outlaw continually frustrating the efforts of a gang of desperadoes and has a really nice hardboiled tone about it. One word of warning: the dust jacket copy gives away the big twist in the story, although it’s not anything an experienced reader of Westerns won’t have figured out anyway.

All in all, this is a really fine collection and well worth reading. The cover scan is from the edition I own and read, but it’s pretty bland. I would have included some of the original pulp covers, too, since you can never go wrong with a Western pulp, but none of them seem to be on-line. The September 1956 issue of ADVENTURE is, however, so here’s that cover, with the Peter Dawson story featured prominently.

No comments: