Friday, August 21, 2020

Forgotten Books: The Dawn Riders - Dan Roberts (W.E.D. Ross)

When I was a kid, I watched DARK SHADOWS during the summers when school was out. It aired too early for me to get home and watch it during the school year, but I was still a fan. So it’s not surprising that when paperback original tie-in novels loosely based on the series began to be published, I read quite a few of them, too. The author was some lady named Marilyn Ross. I’d never heard of her, didn’t know anything about her.

Around the same time, I was a faithful reader of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. digest magazine published by Leo Margulies. Several stories featuring a detective named Mei Wong appeared in that magazine. (There were a bunch more Mei Wong stories in MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, I discovered many years later, but in those days MSMM got little or no distribution in my area.) The author of the Mei Wong stories was some guy named Dan Ross. I’d never heard of him, didn’t know anything about him.

Some of you already know where this is going. “Marilyn Ross” and “Dan Ross” were the same person, a Canadian author named W.E.D. Ross who wrote several hundred gothics and romance novels under the names Marilyn Ross, Clarissa Ross, and other pseudonyms. What I didn’t know until recently was that he also wrote a dozen or so Westerns for the American library publishers market under the name Dan Roberts. Out of curiosity, and because I read those DARK SHADOWS books and Mei Wong stories all those decades ago, I picked up a few of Ross’s Westerns to give them a try. I recently finished the first one I’ve read, THE DAWN RIDERS, published by Arcadia House in 1968 and reprinted in a large print trade paperback by Curley years later (the edition I read).

The protagonist, young lawyer Chet Lane, returns to the town where, as a boy, his father was lynched for a crime he didn’t commit. Chet’s looking for revenge on the local cattle baron he blames for his father’s death. The brutal deputy sheriff from years earlier is now the sheriff and hates Chet. The sleazy lawyer who works for the cattle baron wants him run out of town. Chet’s only friends are the town drunk, a beautiful saloon singer with a heart of gold, and the cattle baron’s beautiful daughter. Oh, and there’s a gang of raiders known as the Dawn Riders who are trying to terrorize all the smaller ranchers into leaving so the cattle baron can gobble up their spreads, too.

In other words, there’s nothing in this book you haven’t read or seen hundreds of times already, but Ross does a decent job of handling the traditional material and adds a couple of nice flourishes, including the talisman the Dawn Riders carry to identify themselves, a tiny, carved wooden skull. There’s a late twist in the plot that I saw coming, but not right away. All in all, THE DAWN RIDERS is about as generic a Western novel as you’re going to find but written well enough that it kept me reading. I’ll probably read the others by Ross that I picked up, too, but I doubt if I’ll search out any more. I get the feeling that despite doing a competent job, Westerns just weren’t Ross’s strong suit. I seem to recall that his steamy historical romances under the name Clarissa Ross had good covers and sounded intriguing. Maybe I’ll try to find one of them.

1 comment:

larry said...

I too was and am still a D.S. fan.Listening to the audio cd's of the books,fun stuff and i also still watch it today.I thought it was very interesting that he also wrote some westerns.I shared you review on the D.S. Appreciation Society on FB as i assume they will find it intersting.