Friday, December 09, 2016

Forgotten Books: The Oxbow Deed - D.B. Newton

Jess Kingman returns to his ranch in Montana's Oxbow River country after spending twelve years in prison because he was framed on a rustling charge. His former cellmate Dal Chantry comes with him, both men having been pardoned after they saved the warden's life during a riot. Chantry is a young man who helped rob an express office; he was caught while his two partners deserted him and got away. Kingman knows that his wife passed away while he was behind bars, but he expects to find his daughter on the ranch. Instead the place is deserted, and in fact the neighboring cattle baron is about to move in and take the place over. Nobody wants the two ex-convicts around, and it's clear from the start that they're in for trouble if they're stubborn enough to stay. Which, of course, they are.

Originally published in 1967 by Ace Books under the pseudonym Clement Hardin as half of an Ace Double with KINCAID by John Callahan. I love the cover copy on this edition: "Welcome back, rustler--your noose is ready". Reprinted in a large print edition by G.K. Hall in 2000 under Newton's name (the edition I read). This is a good, fast-moving Western novel. Newton is very much of a traditionalist in his plotting and writing style. Nothing here is going to come as much of a surprise to veteran Western readers, although some of the characters didn't turn out exactly like I expected. I've been reading Newton's books for a long time, and he never disappoints because he consistently comes up with good characters and is able to create a sense of urgency in his writing, even when the reader has a pretty good idea what's going to happen. His work reminds me of Ray Hogan's; they both tell tough-minded, traditional tales. THE OXBOW DEED is one of Newton's better books, well worth picking up if you come across it.


Todd Mason said...

Sounds promising. How long a shadow would you say WVT Clark casts over anyone using an "Oxbow" title?

James Reasoner said...

I certainly wouldn't be able to use that word without thinking of him.

Jerry House said...

Newton was also the author of the first original paperback western novel (RANGE BOSS, Pocket Books, 1949), opening the floodgates for what was to follow. He was also one of the six founders of the Western Writers of America.