Friday, July 25, 2014

Forgotten Books: Move Along, Stranger - Frank Castle

Frank Castle is an almost completely forgotten author these days, despite the fact that he wrote quite a few hardboiled Westerns and crime novels for Gold Medal during the Fifties and Sixties. He also ghosted a few of the Lassiter novels under the house-name Jack Slade, as Lynn Munroe has established in an excellent overview of the series on his website.

The only book I'd read by Castle before now was one of those Lassiter novels, but I was in the mood for a vintage Western and Castle's MOVE ALONG, STRANGER was handy. It was a good choice, as this is an entertaining yarn. Scott Corbin is a former outlaw who has spend the past eight years in the Texas penitentiary at Huntsville. When he gets out he travels to a silver mining town in Arizona Territory where he plans to go into partnership with an old friend who owns a general store.

When he gets there, though, he finds plenty of sinister stuff going on. Outlaws have been holding up the silver shipments. A ruthless competitor is trying to run his friend out of business. Strange riders are moving around in the night. The mine superintendent has been murdered recently, shot in the back. The town marshal is an old enemy of Corbin's who would like nothing better than to see him dead. Oh, and Corbin's former lover is there, too, now married to his younger brother who it appears has fallen in with the gang responsible for the silver robberies.

With all that going on, it seems like Corbin would have plenty on his plate without falling in love with the daughter of the local judge and trying to root out the criminal mastermind who's pulling everyone's strings behind the scenes, but Castle doesn't believe in making it easy on his protagonist. Corbin takes quite a beating before everything is in place for the final showdown, which is both lengthy and effective, with some really well-done shootouts.

Castle's prose is nothing fancy. The appeal of this book is the fast pace and the way he juggles the various plot elements and even springs a few welcome surprises. The noir element is strong, as much of the action takes place at night and no one can really be trusted. Based on this one book, I wouldn't place Castle in the top rank of hardboiled Western authors such as T.T. Flynn, Luke Short, Lewis B. Patten, Dean Owen, Gordon Shirreffs, and a number of others, but I enjoyed MOVE ALONG, STRANGER quite a bit and found Castle to be a solidly entertaining storyteller. I have a few more of his books and certainly plan to read them.


Stephen Mertz said...

And wow, what a great cover!

Peter Brandvold said...

I read one of his a couple of years ago and enjoyed it though like you say he was no Lewis B. Patten. If I wasn't getting rid of all my books and not allowing myself anymore, because I'll be rolling off in my motorhome soon, I'd look for these. Maybe they'll come out in ebook.

Richard Prosch said...

I just finished his FORT DESPERATION and found it to be ahead of its time. Not at all what I expected going in. With the added weight of your review, I think I'll try another.

Unknown said...

I've read a few of Frank Castle's westerns, enjoying some rather more than others. I would recommend GUNS TO SONORA (Berkley Medallion, 1962 and 1966).

Susannah said...

He also seems to have written nurse romance novels under the pen name Helen B. Castle as he is listed in the Library of Congress as the author of "Ivy Anders, Night Nurse," and also wrote "Emergency Ward Nurse."

James Reasoner said...

Thanks, Susannah. I had no idea Castle wrote nurse novels. In fact, I'm having a hard time imagining one by him. But Harry Whittington wrote nurse novels, too. Those old pros could write anything and do a good job of it!