PURSUIT, originally published by Perma Books in 1957 and reprinted several times since by Signet and Thorndike, is solidly in that mold. As many of Patten’s books are, it’s at least in part a hardboiled crime novel. Four men show up in the small eastern Colorado settlement of Buffalo Wallow, take over the stage station, which is run by a man named Casey Day, and proceed from there to take the whole town hostage. Their plan is to rob a stage scheduled to arrive carrying a lot of cash bound for a bank in Denver.
The first third of the book is a tense, almost minute-by-minute recounting of the lead-up to the robbery, much like something Harry Whittington, Lionel White, or one of the other Gold Medal authors might have done. It’s probably not too much of a spoiler to say that the outlaws get away with the money after killing several people, and Casey Day, who already has a black mark against his name because of a previous robbery that happened on his watch, sets out after them to kill them and recover the money.
The rest of the novel becomes an epic “long chase” yarn that reminded me of some of the Louis L’Amour books I’ve read. Casey Day isn’t a L’Amour type of hero, though. He’s driven more by desperation and hate as he pursues (there’s your title) those outlaws over the next year or so.
PURSUIT is a very readable novel. Patten handles gritty action well, and there’s plenty of it in this book. It’s not without its flaws. There are a couple of continuity glitches early on. Several character descriptions change with no explanation within a matter of a few pages. Somebody should have caught that. This is the sort of continuity problem that plagued Patten all through his career. Characters are blonde and then dark-haired three pages later, fat and then skinny in the next chapter, start riding west and then suddenly they’re riding east with no explanation. Usually the earlier in Patten’s career, the less of a problem it is (I’ve given up on some of his late novels because he couldn’t keep anything straight), but this is from 1957, fairly early on.
Luckily, once you get past that, the book flows very nicely from then on and I wound up liking it quite a bit. Sure, none of the characters are very sympathetic and an air of doom and gloom lingers over the whole book, but I knew to expect that going in. Only a real masochist would want a steady diet of Patten’s work, but now and then they’re like a bucket of cold water in the face and will shake you out of any reading doldrums you might be in.