Monday, March 02, 2020

Hot Lead, Cold Justice - Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

The Caleb York series of Western novels, based on characters created by Mickey Spillane and written by Max Allan Collins, is a series that started off very good and has gotten better with each book. The fifth book, HOT LEAD, COLD JUSTICE, will be out later this year, and I’m fortunate enough to have read an early copy of it.

I hate snow and ice in real life, but for some reason I’ve always enjoyed books that use winter weather as part of the setting, especially Westerns. That’s the case in this book, which finds a blizzard bearing down on Trinidad, the small town in New Mexico Territory where Caleb York, gunfighter and former Wells Fargo detective, is now the town marshal. The weather isn’t the only trouble in store for York and Trinidad: a group of bank robbers—including one who had a deadly personal grudge against York—plans to hit the bank in a nearby town and then hide out in Trinidad while the hunt for them dies down. They manage to do this, but York figures out what’s happening and a dangerous game of cat and mouse develops in the blizzard-battered settlement.

Collins’ prose is as smooth and effective as ever in this story that races along in a very satisfying manner. York is a likable, stalwart hero, and his uneasy romantic triangle with ranch owner Willa and saloon owner Rita continues to be interesting. His deputy Tulley is a great sidekick, and the rest of the supporting cast works well. The villains are properly despicable, especially their leader, the ruthless outlaw “Burn ‘em” Burnham.

One thing I especially like about this series is that the books range from 60,000 to 65,000 words, just about the perfect length for a Western. There’s no fat on the bones. Collins provides the reader with plenty of characterization to make the players in his tale interesting, while at the same time keeping the pace moving along briskly. This series reminds me of the Amos Flagg series by Clifton Adams writing as Clay Randall. Readers who enjoy good, solid traditional Westerns definitely should make the acquaintance of Caleb York, and if you already have, you’ll want to grab HOT LEAD, COLD JUSTICE. It’s great stuff.

1 comment:

Ed McBride said...

I have a fondness for Western series that take place in towns full of interesting and vivid characters and this is a great example. Thanks much for referring Max to me for the ARC. I loved it.