Friday, August 31, 2018

Forgotten Books: The River Bend Feud - William MacLeod Raine

While I wouldn’t say that William MacLeod Raine is one of my favorite Western authors, I’ve read a number of his books and enjoyed all of them. THE RIVER BEND FEUD, published in 1939, is one of the later books in his career, and I liked it, too.

It has a particularly strong opening, with protagonist Jeff Hunter waiting in a Mexican prison to be executed by Pancho Banderas, a brutal bandit who calls himself a revolutionary. The character of Banderas is obviously inspired by Pancho Villa, but he’s even more out for himself and doesn’t really care about rising to power in Mexico. Hunter, the former manager of an American-owned mine in the Mexican mountains, and Banderas are long-time enemies.

With the help of some friends, Hunter manages to escape and make it across the Rio Grande into Texas, where he finds himself on the vast River Bend Ranch, clearly modeled after the King Ranch in that it encompasses a couple of counties and several towns. The ranch is owned by the powerful Raleigh family, one of whom, Joan Raleigh, is a beautiful young woman recently back in Texas from college in the east. Wouldn’t you know it, she’s the first member of the family Hunter encounters. And also wouldn’t you know it, the Raleighs are also under attack by the smaller ranchers on the outskirts of their ranch, as well as an evil black sheep member of the family who wants everything for himself.

Well, of course Hunter throws in with the Raleighs, and he has even more reason to do so when the Mexican government finally succeeds in chasing Pancho Banderas into Texas, where he becomes an ally of the forces that are plotting to bring down the River Bend Ranch.

The plot may be a little familiar to those of us who have read a lot of Westerns and seen plenty of Western movies, but that doesn’t stop Raine from doing a good job of making it interesting and entertaining. THE RIVER BEND FEUD is a contemporary Western, set in the same late Thirties era during which it was written and published. People not only ride horses, but cars, trucks, and airplanes play parts in the plot as well. People talk about similar movies starring Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and claim such settings are fantasylands, but in reality there were such places in the West where the blending of the modern era and the Old West was common. And Raine, born in England but raised in the West, knew that to be true.

I thought THE RIVER BEND FEUD maybe could have used a bit more action. It’s a little slow and talky in places, and Raine’s style can be old-fashioned, if that bothers you. I don’t mind it, as long as I don’t read a steady diet of it. And when he does cut loose, the suspense is high and the action scenes approach blood and thunder level. I really enjoyed this book, and if you enjoy the older Westerns, you probably would, too.

1 comment:

George said...

I've read a few William MacLeod Raine Westerns and enjoyed them. His books don't show up much any more.