Friday, September 18, 2020

Forgotten Books: Saturday Night at San Ramon - Marshall Grover (Leonard F. Meares)

I’ve mentioned Leonard F. Meares many times on this blog, writing about how I went from being a big fan of his Western novels published by Bantam in the Sixties under the name Marshall McCoy, to learning more about him (Australian, wrote more than 800 novels, mostly under the name Marshall Grover, created the Larry and Stretch series and Big Jim Rand series, a couple dozen of each published by Bantam as Larry and Streak and Nevada Jim Gage), and finally becoming a good friend-by-correspondence with him in the Eighties and Nineties.

It had been a while since I read any of his books, though, so when I got a big box of Cleveland Westerns (Len’s first publisher in Australia) from a friend of mine, the first one I grabbed to read was SATURDAY NIGHT AT SAN RAMON, one of Len’s non-series yarns. Not surprisingly, it’s a good one.

The protagonist, young bronco buster Gil Draper, comes to San Ramon on a vengeance quest, seeking the man responsible for a tragedy in Gil’s past. After running afoul of the town’s lawmen, though, Gil realizes he needs to find a job if he’s going to stay in the area searching for his quarry. So he takes a job breaking wild horses on the Triangle Ranch, only to find that not only does the owner of the spread also have a beautiful daughter, but danger also threatens the ranch in the form of a gang of rustlers.

From that description, it’s obvious that SATURDAY NIGHT AT SAN RAMON is a very traditional Western, which is true of most of Len’s books. However, what makes them well worth reading, in my opinion, is the skill and enthusiasm with which he manipulates those plot elements and the vivid characters with which he populates them. SATURDAY NIGHT AT SAN RAMON races along and is great fun to read. I’d tell you not to pass it up if you come across a copy, but that’s pretty unlikely since I doubt if it was ever reprinted since the edition I read (that’s it in the scan), published in Australia as a Tumbleweed Western by Cleveland more than fifty years ago. However, if you’re a fan of traditional Westerns and find anything by Marshall Grover or Marshall McCoy, chances are you’ll like it.


Spike said...

My father loved both Big Jim series and Larry and Stretch. I have a bunch of both series and find Big Jim more enjoyable though both good, swift perfect length reads. Agree nothing new here and attempts at humor (especially in Larry and Stretch series) a bit strained but they are fun and I guess that is the best one can say about anything.

Cullen Gallagher said...

That cover is great! Sounds like a fun read, I hadn't heard of his work before.