Friday, April 18, 2014

Forgotten Books: The Streak - Max Brand (Frederick Faust)

(This post originally appeared in somewhat different form on May 21, 2008.)

By the time Frederick Faust wrote this novel (which was originally serialized in ARGOSY), he had been turning out Westerns for almost twenty years, and it shows because this is a clever twist on just the sort of plot that he’d been using for a long time. The typical Faust hero is a larger-than-life figure, able to outshoot and outfight any enemy, and of course he can tame the magnificent killer horse that no one else can even approach, let alone ride.

To the people of Jasper Valley, that’s a good description of The Streak, who quickly becomes a legend when he first arrives in the valley, interrupting a hold-up and sending seven outlaws fleeing for their lives.

The reader knows, though, even if the citizens of Jasper Valley don’t, that The Streak is really just easy-going cowboy Blondy Torrance, and his outlaw-taming is nothing more than luck and exaggeration by those who witness it. Likewise with his taming of the wild stallion Rocket. The Streak is a typical Faust hero on the surface, but a sham underneath. The fact that Faust sets this novel in contemporary (to him) times, with automobiles, telephones, and phonographs, provides even more contrast between the mythological Old West that Faust mined for so much of his fiction and the reality of a developing West where the real estate speculator was rapidly replacing the rancher. In the end, THE STREAK is as much a hardboiled mystery as it is a Western, as two of Blondy’s cowpoke friends try to solve a murder for which The Streak is blamed.

Despite the satirical overtones, there’s plenty of action in this book. Blondy eventually does find something of a heroic nature inside him. No modern reader will be surprised by that, or by the identity of the murderer, who seems pretty obvious from the first. But this is still one of the best Faust novels I’ve read, with some keen observations on the nature of legends versus reality and some fine dialogue. Faust wrote like no one else ever did, and most of his strengths are on display here.


Walker Martin said...

Thanks for this favorable review of a Faust novel because it reminds me once again that he was capable of writing a good story. I've been struggling with Faust for over 50 years, sometimes I like him and sometimes I'm disappointed. The quality is all over the place, some good and some bad. My opinion now is that he simply wrote too much and too fast.

One thing I really miss are my collector friends that used to collect Faust. In the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's these guys were all over the place, not only collecting Faust but writing about him and binding his stories into home made hardcovers, etc. Now, there are only a few left, and nothing like the numbers that used to exist.

BVLawson said...

I'm hosting Friday's Forgotten Books today for Patti Abbott, but unfortunately Typepad (which hosts my blog) had a denial of service attack and is down. They are working to fix it ASAP, so please so stay tuned. My apologies - I'll put up the links when things are back to normal + they'll be up all weekend (and beyond). If necessary, Todd Mason has offered to stand in. I'll let you know one way or the other.

BVLawson said...

Okay, I think we (as in Typepad) are back in business. Here's the direct FFB link:

If you see any errors or omissions, please let me know in the comments or via

Albie The Good said...

I gotta say... I have never read anything first published in ARGOSY that wasnt good... top-notch even.

Seriously! war stories, westerns, swashbucklers, sports storie, you name it. It's actually amazing... no wonder to me it was king mag of all pulps.

I have even adopted a practice-- when I go through the western anthologies in the library-- of going straight to any ARGOSY story first... and it works! They're always the best... tight, well-rendered, excellently plotted tales.

All these decades later I find I am still commending that editor-- whoever he or she was-- and his staff.

Just sayin' :)

James Reasoner said...

I believe the editor at ARGOSY in the mid-Thirties, the era that I like the best, was Jack Byrne, who had been at Fiction House earlier and was also a pretty good writer himself.