Friday, September 28, 2018

Forgotten Books: Gene Autry and the Thief River Outlaws - Bob Hamilton

There’s a chance I read this book when I was a kid, although I don’t remember it at all, because I read a lot of the juvenile novels published by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. This one was published in 1944, but that doesn’t matter because they stayed on the kids’ section shelves of public libraries for years. Whitman published hundreds of them, I’d say, some featuring original characters created for the line, but many of them starred popular characters from movies, radio, TV, and comic strips.

GENE AUTRY AND THE THIEF RIVER OUTLAWS is very much like one of the B-Westerns Autry made for Republic Pictures, although toned down somewhat for kids. Gene, a roving troubleshooter, is asked by a friend of a friend to investigate some sabotage plaguing the construction of a railroad bridge over Thief River Canyon. It’s the usual bit where the old-timer who owns the construction company has to complete the bridge by a certain date or else lose the lucrative contract. Gene’s investigation quickly turns up a suspect, but he has a hunch something else is going on, so he continues to dig around and winds up in danger a couple of times before everything is straightened out satisfactorily.

Overall, this is a fairly mild book, as I mentioned above. There’s one murder, but it takes place off-screen. Not much gunplay and only a couple of fistfights. But the pace moves along fairly quickly and the author at least makes an attempt to throw a few twists into the plot. He also does a good job with the colorful sidekick character, a Gabby-like old codger called Tennessee.

Dust Jacket Back
GENE AUTRY AND THE THIEF RIVER OUTLAWS was written by Bob Hamilton, whoever that was. He wrote a couple of other Gene Autry novels for Whitman, or at least they were published under that name, but that’s all I know about him. It could well be a pseudonym or house-name. But this one is competently written and entertaining in a nostalgic way. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anybody who didn’t read these books as a kid, but if you’re an old codger like me, there’s a good chance you’d enjoy it, too.


Rick Robinson said...

That pink shirt...ugh.

James Reasoner said...

Yes, it was an unfortunate choice. I wanted to say, "Gene, what were you thinking?"

Mathew Paust said...

Never read any books about Gene, but he was my favorite cowboy back in the day. Welllll, right up there with Hoppy, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Tom Mix and Lash LaRue. I was never too big on Roy and Dale, tho. Not sure why. Maybe because I didn't see any place for Dale out there on the lone prairie. My dad's twin brother met Autry in Milwaukee once, in a diner. He was in town for some program and was in the diner in his full regalia--guns and all. Uncle Clyde said he seemed rather embarrassed at all the attention. Maybe a good thing I wasn't there to see that.

Mathew Paust said...

Another memory: My dad used to say Autry reminded him of Harry Truman. I think had he seen the pink shirt, however, he'd have had another association in mind. That definitely predated the "manly pink power" craze of the 70s.

James Reasoner said...

Thanks for those memories, Mathew. My dad met Autry once, in a business setting (they both owned radio stations), but it was just a handshake and hello. And I saw Roy and Dale perform live at the rodeo in Fort Worth, but that's the extent of my personal connections with my B-Western heroes.