Friday, September 13, 2013

Forgotten Books: Rustler's Moon - L.P. Holmes

Since reading some pulp stories by L.P. Holmes that I enjoyed, I've been meaning to read some of his novels. I've finally gotten started with RUSTLER'S MOON, a book from fairly late in his career, being a paperback original from 1971. It's proof that Holmes hadn't lost a step from his pulp days, though, as it's an excellent traditional Western novel.

When cattle baron Buck Abbott dies, there's an immediate power struggle to fill the vacuum left in the ranching country around the town of Piegan Junction. The players are Hugh Yeager, Abbott's foreman who inherits half the ranch; Fletch Irby, Abbott's black sheep nephew who figures on taking over the whole spread; and beautiful Lorie Anselm, Abbott's ward who is engaged to marry neighboring rancher Ben Hardisty. Much violent jockeying for power ensues.

As you can no doubt tell from that brief description, there's really nothing new in the plot of this novel. It really is as standard and stereotypical as it sounds. So why did I enjoy the book so much?

Well, for one thing, a good "save the ranch" Western is a comfort read for me. At its heart it's a powerful, effective plot, which is probably why it was used so much, and still is at times. For another, I really like Holmes' writing. There's nothing fancy about it. It's the same sort of straightforward, no-nonsense prose you'll find in the work of Luke Short, Peter Dawson, and T.T. Flynn, to name three favorites of mine. Holmes also provides some very nice characterization, not so much in the two leads, Hugh Yeager and Fletch Irby, but in the supporting characters, including several of the villains. You don't expect evil gunfighters to stop and wax poetic, but one of them in this book does, and Holmes makes it work, by golly.

RUSTLER'S MOON might seem hopelessly old-fashioned to a lot of readers, but sometimes that's exactly what I want, and this novel delivers the goods. Now I'll definitely read more of Holmes' work, and I think there's a good chance I'll be adding him to my list of favorites.

1 comment:

Richard Heft said...

NIGHT MARSHAL is excellent!