Friday, October 12, 2018

Forgotten Books: Pin a Star on a Girl?--Johnny Nelson

PIN A STAR ON A GIRL? is a retitled reprint of a Western novel originally published in 1965 under the title SIX-GUN LAW. The by-line in both cases is Johnny Nelson, but the actual author was Leonard F. Meares, an Australian Western author best known as “Marshall Grover”, the creator of the long-running Larry and Stretch series, as well as the series Big Jim. Some of the books in both series were published by Bantam in the U.S., under the pseudonym Marshall McCoy, with the characters changed to Larry and Streak and Nevada Jim. Those were my introduction to Meares’ work.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve written about Len Meares and his work many times. He’s been a favorite author ever since I read those Bantam editions in the Sixties. Years later I got to know him through correspondence and considered him a good friend. It was a sad day when I heard that he had passed away.

His work remains, though, and I’ll never run out of his books to read. His stand-alone novels, including this one, are just as good as his series entries. For the most part, Meares made use of very traditional Western elements. That’s true in this book. You’ve got the brutal cattle baron with a shady past who controls the town and the surrounding area; the bought-and-paid-for local lawman who grows a spine and decides to stand up for what’s right; the fast-on-the-draw stranger who rides in with a mysterious agenda of his own; and the beautiful blonde of the title who winds up wearing a deputy’s badge.

While the plot and characters may be traditional, Meares utilizes them with such skill and enthusiasm that I couldn’t help but be drawn into the story. There’s plenty of action leading up an excellent and satisfying final showdown. Sometimes I just want to read an old-fashioned Western adventure yarn, and PIN A STAR ON A GIRL? really hit that spot for me. Recommended.

UPDATE: Reliable information has surfaced indicating that Len Meares did NOT write this book, after all. However, everything else I said above remains true. It's a very entertaining Western yarn, whoever the author was.

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