Friday, August 02, 2019

Forgotten Books: Long Day in Latigo - Wesley Ray (Ray Gaulden)

LONG DAY IN LATIGO is one of those books that take place in a compressed amount of time, in this case from sunup until sundown one day in and around the town of Latigo, Colorado. It’s a day in which Sheriff Owen Dallas has his hands full. A wagon train full of homesteaders is on its way to the area, and those settlers are intent on buying land from a wealthy local businessman who’s the father of the young woman Dallas is in love with—a young woman who happens to be engaged to somebody else. A group of ranchers shows up in town intent on stopping the homesteaders, by force if necessary. While investigating the theft of some horses, Dallas runs afoul of a crooked clan and winds up on the receiving end of a beating that leaves him with two broken ribs that could kill him at any time by puncturing a lung. And then, as if the lawman didn’t already have enough trouble to handle with only a green deputy, somebody robs the bank in Latigo and the gang holes up in the hotel with a hostage, just waiting for nightfall so they’ll have a better chance of shooting their way out of town.

It is definitely a long day in Latigo for Owen Dallas and the other characters quickly but deftly sketched in this very good novel by Wesley Ray, who was actually prolific Western pulpster Ray Gaulden. As you’d expect from someone who learned his craft in the pulps, Gaulden paces the action very well, piling more and more troubles on his protagonist Owen Dallas until it seems impossible for him to get out of this fix, and all that leads to a satisfying, action-packed climax with a poignant final line.

An anonymous commenter on a Saturday Morning Western pulp post that mentioned Gaulden recommended this book, so I found a copy and read it and am glad that I did. Like the work of L.P. Holmes, T.T. Flynn, and others, the traditional Western elements are handled so skillfully that LONG DAY IN LATIGO is a real pleasure to read. I’ll be on the lookout for more of Ray Gaulden’s novels and I’m sure will continue to run across his stories in various Western pulps, too.


George said...

I was a big fan of 24 (the TV series where each of the 24 episodes depicted one hour of an action-packed day) so a book like LONG DAY IN LATIGO would appeal to me. I'll track down a copy.

Ed McBride said...

SADDLE THE STORM by Harry Whittington is one of my favorite compressed time books. It takes place during a hot Fourth of July celebration in a small Texas town.