Friday, September 05, 2014

Forgotten Books: Boomer - Clay Randall (Clifton Adams)

Clifton Adams wrote quite a bit of Western fiction about the oil boom in Oklahoma Territory in the early Twentieth Century, and his novel BOOMER, published by Perma Books in 1957 under the pseudonym Clay Randall, is a prime example of that. Joe Grant (an alias) is on the run from the law after robbing a bank in Missouri. He's not a hardened owlhoot but rather a farmer who was cheated out of his land by the banker he held up. Fate leads Grant to lend a helping hand to a beautiful blonde who's on her way to an oilfield boom town in Oklahoma. Grant goes with her, figuring he can hide out there.

It won't come as any surprise to experienced Western readers that Grant soon finds himself in even more trouble. The blonde's father is a wildcatter who's engaged in a war with another oilman. Throw in murder, a romantic triangle, a deadly hired gun, a doggedly determined U.S. marshal on the trail of the bank robber, and a blue norther, and you've got yourself the makings of a fine traditional Western.

Adams' work is always notable for its bleak, hardboiled prose that verges on poetry in places, and there's plenty of that in BOOMER as the ugly landscape and the perilous weather are portrayed in stark, vivid terms. Adams also knew the oil business well and provides just enough detail about it without going overboard on the subject. His characters are realistic, with plenty of flaws, and he has the knack of making the reader care about them. He's one of the best of the hardboiled Western writers and deserves more of a reputation than he has these days. If you've never read his work, BOOMER would be a fine place to start.


Richard said...

James, this sounds good, though I admit these days the adjective "bleak" gives me pause. Not that I want to confine my reading to Little Amy and the Magic Radishes or such stuff, but to much negative can be a bummer.

Ed Gorman said...

I put him in my top ten all time favorite western writers. He was a realist with his characters and a realist about the west. While he didn't show us the
reach of eastern money and politics to the extent that Deadwood did it was there in his books. He was a real writer.

Richard Moore said...

Clifton Adams is in my top five western writers. Adams was born in Comanche, OK which had oil fields but also was only a couple of miles away from the Chisholm Trail, the main route fro Texas cattle to reach Kansas. He was the most successful student of the pulp writer Foster-Harris at University of Oklahoma.

Yes most of his work that I've read could be described as bleak, which is fine by me. But now and then he managed humor quite well. One example is BISCUIT-SHOOTER (1971) where a cowboy manages to break the leg of a killer in a saloon fight, who vows revenge. The cowboy then hides out as a chuckwagon cook on a trail drive, learning to cook on the fly.

Shay said...

Munsey's has a few of his books available as free downloads, including this one.