Friday, July 07, 2017

Forgotten Books: Hell's Recruit - Phil Richards

Phil Richards' second novel (or novella, to be more accurate) featuring Kid Calvert and the Calvert Horde is "Hell's Recruit", which appeared in the March 1935 issue of WESTERN ACES with the usual great cover by Rafael DeSoto. In this very fast-paced yarn, everybody is after the notorious bank robber Eagle Hawn: our band of noble owlhoots, the forces of the law led by Sheriff Terry Reynolds, and a gang of Mexican bandits ramrodded by the evil and mostly insane Blade Morales. The reason all these factions want to get hold of Eagle Hawn is because he's pulled off a series of robberies and has cached a fortune in stolen gold, but no one knows where it is except him. And while everybody is chasing after Hawn and his loot, Kid Calvert and Terry Reynolds once more have to deal with their doomed love affair—doomed because they're on opposite sides of the law and always will be.

If anything, this story is even more melodramatic and over-the-top than Richards' previous effort, "Horde of Hated Men". The breathless, breakneck action seldom slows down, and when it does, there's enough angst to fill up two or three normal Western pulps. This oddball blend of shoot-em-up and soap opera works better than it has any right to and really kept me flipping the pages (well, digital pages, since I'm reading the ebook edition of THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF KID CALVERT). However, modern readers should be aware that "Hell's Recruit" is about as politically incorrect as it can get. This doesn't bother me, since I know when it was written and published, but it might some people. It also has a fairly large hole in the plot involving the hidden gold, and I would have sworn that Terry Reynolds was a brunette in the first two stories, not a blonde as she is here.

But despite all that, I had a heck of a good time reading "Hell's Recruit". I really like the Kid and his band of heroic outlaws. There are two more novellas in their saga, and I'm eager to read them.


Peter Brandvold said...

You had me at "about as politically incorrect as it could get."
I'm sooo tired of PC.

S. D. Parker said...

For me, I had to re-read the review because by default, I took "Sheriff Terry Reynolds" to be a dude...and then there was talk of a love affair...then your talk of being politically incorrect. Finally, it was the talk of hair color that finally tipped the balance and made me realize Terry was a lady.

George said...

I'm with Peter. PC is dull and predictable. I prefer the Unconventional.