I finished reading HOLD 'EM BACK!, a Larry and Stretch Western by Marshall Grover (Leonard F. Meares). I read a bunch of Meares' books in the Sixties when they were published by Bantam under the pseudonym Marshall McCoy and really enjoyed them. They were short, fast-paced Westerns with likable characters, surprisingly complex plots, and plenty of action. It wasn't until many years later that I discovered Meares' real name, the fact that he was Australian, and that he had written over 700 Westerns for Cleveland and Horwitz, a couple of Australian paperback publishers. I even got in touch with him through an Australian friend of mine, Graeme Flanagan, and corresponded with him for four or five years before he died unexpectedly in '92 or '93. Len was the pro's pro, as far as I'm concerned. He flat-out loved writing and never lost his enthusiasm for it. For forty years he wrote at a killer pace, never made much money, and yet never stopped caring about the books and never stopped trying to produce the best work he could. HOLD 'EM BACK! is a good example of that. Published in 1990, late in Len's career, it finds his two drifting troubleshooters, Larry Valentine and Stretch Emerson, helping a small handful of soldiers and civilians defend a besieged fort from hundreds of Comancheros. Good stuff all the way through, with some great battle scenes and an epic feel to the story that must have been difficult to achieve in a novel that's probably not more than 45,000 words, if that much. I said above that Len never lost his enthusiasm, but that's not strictly true. At the end of his career, his publisher cancelled the Australian editons of his books but insisted that he continue writing new ones for the Scandanavian market, where they had sold subsidiary rights. Many of Len's last books were never published in English, and I think that bothered him. At the same time, though, he was writing a couple of new series for Robert Hale in England, and that kept him energized to a certain extent. While some of the books from a forty-year career are better than others, of course, I've never read a Len Meares book that failed to entertain me.
I was able to get back to work today and had a fairly productive day. The current book is a little past the halfway point, so I hope it rolls right along to the finish from here.
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