Friday, April 15, 2016

Forgotten Books: Trumpets West! - Luke Short (Frederick D. Glidden)

I’ve mentioned that some years ago I went on a Luke Short binge and read a bunch of his books. One I never got around to until now is TRUMPETS WEST!, a short novel that was published as part of the Dell 10 Cent series.

This is a cavalry yarn about hard-bitten frontier soldier Lt. Burke Hanna, who’s assigned to a fort in Arizona Territory near an Apache reservation. There’s an uneasy peace between the Apaches and the cavalry at the moment, but there’s also a constant threat of the Apaches leaving the reservation and going on a rampage. As if that’s not enough, Burke also has to deal with a commanding officer who doesn’t like him and who may or may not be corrupt, an Indian agent who’s definitely crooked, and a brutal sergeant with a grudge against him. Plus he’s about to get married to the beautiful sister of the post’s adjutant.

That romance is pretty much an afterthought because there’s so much else going on in this book. Short, whose real name was Frederick D. Glidden, could really pack in the plot when he wanted to. TRUMPETS WEST! is an almost perfect blend of hardboiled action and plot development, and while there aren’t any big twists, Glidden is such a good storyteller the predictability doesn’t really matter.

In addition, he paints what seems to be to be a pretty accurate picture of army life in Arizona Territory during that era. He gets the physical details of the fort right, instead of having it surrounded by a tall wooden stockade fence like we see so often in the movies. (I don’t mind that particular inaccuracy, but it’s nice when somebody gets it right, too.) Burke Hanna doesn’t regard the Apaches as mindless savages, either. In fact, he has quite a bit of sympathy for them, although it never comes close to “Lo, the poor Indian!” mawkishness.

TRUMPETS WEST! is a good example of why I’m a Luke Short fan. His books are just good solid traditional Westerns. I believe this one was reprinted in the collection LUKE SHORT’S BEST OF THE WEST, but I don’t have a copy of that volume to check. There’s an e-book version available, though, if you don’t have the Dell 10-Center on your shelves. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I suspect I’ll be reading something else by Luke Short before too much longer.


Sean McLachlan said...

The forts out west were just an open collection of buildings. The Apache generally avoided attacking settlements because the settlers or soldiers could just barricade themselves inside. Being hunter-gatherers roving in small bands, they couldn't afford to lose people, and so attacking a fortified position was out of the question unless they absolutely had to.

Bill Crider said...

I still remember exactly where I bought a copy of the Dell ten-center edition of this story. I've had it for well over 40 years, but I've never read it.

Walker Martin said...

I used to have this Dell ten center but I foolishly sold all my copies. But I do have the ARGOSY July 1945 issue where this story appeared. I love cavalry and indian stories and will soon be reading this.

Cap'n Bob said...

Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutored mind.
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul proud Science never taught to stray.