Friday, March 10, 2017

Forgotten Books: Owl-Hoot Horde - Clint Douglas (Lawrence A. Keating)

Kid Calvert is the only son of outlaw Gunner Calvert and was raised by Gunner and his gang, known as the Calvert Horde. Also in the gang are massive Swede Andersen, also known as The Giant, fancy-dressed gambler Dandy McLain, and assorted other supporting characters. Most of the men in the gang wound up on the wrong side of the law through bad luck or other mitigating circumstances, and Gunner holds them to a strict moral code. They're good guy outlaws, much like Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and they always avoid clashing with honest lawmen, saving their bullets for the crooked star packers.

But then, while the Calvert Horde is trying to save the herd of a small rancher from minions of the local cattle baron, both Gunner Calvert and Sheriff Mart Reynolds are mortally wounded in the resulting gun battle. Gunner and Reynolds have always respected each other and managed to dodge this tragic confrontation until now, but with both of them dead, The Kid has to take over the gang and finds himself facing the new sheriff . . . who happens to be Mart Reynolds' beautiful, gun-toting daughter Terry.

That's the set-up of OWL-HOOT HORDE, the lead novel in the very first issue of the pulp WESTERN ACES. This magazine was intended at first to be a Western character pulp, with Kid Calvert headlining every issue in a novel written by veteran pulpster Lawrence A. Keating under the house-name Clint Douglas. But publisher A.A. Wyn changed his mind and WESTERN ACES became a standard Western pulp, although it did feature a number of series characters, most notably L.L. Foreman's Preacher Devlin, who eventually moved over to WESTERN STORY. There were four more Kid Calvert novels in WESTERN ACES, although they were scattered out over the next year and written by a different author, Phil Richards. Will Murray explains all this in detail in his excellent introduction to a volume from Altus Press that reprints all five Kid Calvert yarns.

I found OWL-HOOT HORDE to be a pretty entertaining debut to the series. I think it's the first thing I've read by Lawrence A. Keating, who wrote one of the Masked Rider novels and a lot of other stories for various Western pulps. His style is a little clunky in places, but his action scenes are good and he provides some nice dramatic moments. The inevitable ill-fated romance between The Kid and Terry Reynolds is well-handled. There's nothing ground-breaking here, just good solid pulp storytelling. I'll be reading the other Kid Calvert novels over the coming months and reporting back on them.


George said...

It's great that many of the older pulp westerns are becoming available as ebooks or being republished by Altus Press and others.

Kelly North said...

I love that cover. Nice action and great colors.