Friday, March 23, 2018

Forgotten Books: "Whip" Ryder's Way - Grant Taylor (Ray Nafziger)

I recently learned that Grant Taylor was a pseudonym used by the prolific author Ray Nafziger, who wrote scores of stories for the Western pulps under his own name and as Robert Dale Denver. It was thought that Nafziger wrote only two novels, both published under the name Robert Denver, but there are a handful of Grant Taylor novels, and one of them, “WHIP” RYDER’S WAY, is available as part of an inexpensive e-book collection. So I picked up a copy right away and read it recently. The only other Nafziger novel I’ve read, HELL-ROARIN’ TEXAS TRAIL, was pretty good, and as it turns out, so is this one.

Jim “Whip” Ryder is a young, hell-raising, fast gun cowboy in the Arizona border country—or maybe New Mexico, Nafziger is never clear about that, but it’s not Texas and it’s not far from the Mexican border. The time period is a little ambiguous, too, but since there are primitive telephone and electrical power systems, it’s probably the first decade of the 20th Century. People still use horses and wagons for transportation, though; there’s no mention of automobiles.

But to get back to the story, Whip’s older brother Dan (who looks almost identical to Whip, even though they’re not twins) is a lawyer in the settlement of Reyes. Then the bank is robbed and Whip is framed for the crime. He has to flee into Mexico, where he teams up with a couple of other young firebrands, Yancy Yates and Jemez McCarthy, and goes to work fighting bandits on behalf of the American mining interests in the area. Along the way, Whip develops a talent for disguise.

And all this is back-story, mind you.

As the novel opens, after four years as a fugitive in Mexico, Whip has figured out a way to clear his name and returns to Reyes, with Yancy and Jemez accompanying him, of course. In the meantime, Dan Ryder has become the district attorney and is prosecuting one of the trio of villains who have taken over the area on a charge of murder. The defendant supposedly knows the truth about the bank robbery Whip was blamed for and Whip wants to get his hands on him and make him talk. But the rest of the bad guys plan to murder his district attorney brother before that can happen.

Whip’s old sweetheart, who owns a worthless ranch, is still around, too, and so is a Mexican revolutionary/bandit modeled after Pancho Villa who has fled across the border into the U.S. after the Federales crushed his rebellion. He’s rumored to have brought several hundred thousand dollars worth of looted gold with him. Got all that? There’s plenty in the pot for Nafziger to stir around, and I’ve probably even forgotten a few things.

But man, does this book move! There are disguises and hidden identities galore, shoot-outs, desperate chases, a Mexican carnival, hair’s-breadth escapes, and a whole bunch of last-minute plot twists and revelations that probably won’t take many modern readers by surprise but are still fun. More than anything else, the whole thing reminds me of a late Republic Western serial, with Clayton Moore, maybe, playing both Whip and his brother Dan. And lots of action directed by William Witney, of course.

I’ve already rustled up another of Nafziger’s Grant Taylor novels. If they continue to be this enjoyable, I have a hunch I may wind up reading all of them.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Reasoner, this is my first comment, although I have been a visitor for some years. You have a wonderful blog and you are so informative and the photos are great.

I'v always been intrigued by the time period of 1900-1919, especially in the history of the American West. It is because these are the years of the Old West slipping into the so-called New West. Needless to say, I'm intrigued by this Grant Taylor(Ray Nafziger) novel, because you really make it sound good. Thank you.

James Reasoner said...

Many thanks for your comment! I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I've had a great time writing it all these years.

Rick Robinson said...

Sounds great, I just bought the ebook (Megapack). Thanks!

Peter Brandvold said...

Bought my copy, James.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Reasoner,
do you know that the late Jon Tuska in his "Star Western" collection, published by Random House in 1995, says that Robert Dale Denver was the real name and Ray Nafziger his nom-de-plume?
"Ray Nafziger was the nom de plume used by Robert Dale Denver everywhere except in Ranch Romances."
When I wrote him about this matter he answered as follow: " Obviously you are relying on The Fiction Magazines website for information on Robert Dale Denver. The source of my information is the U.S. Copyright Office."
In anycase I'm of your advice: Ray Nafziger the real name, R.D. Denver a pseudonym.
Best from,
Tiziano Agnelli

PS Your blog is one of the best, always well informed and full of wonderful illustrations!

James Reasoner said...

I have that STAR WESTERN anthology, which is very good, by the way, and Tuska is mistaken. Contemporary newspaper articles about Nafziger list Robert Dale Denver as one of his pseudonyms, and his name on his tombstone is given as Raymond E. Nafziger:

Thanks for the kind words about the blog!