Friday, September 30, 2022

Gun-Witch From Wyoming - Les Savage Jr.

Texan Bob Hogarth arrives in Wyoming with a herd of cattle in the spring of 1887, following the Big Die-Up, the devastating winter that wiped out the herds of most cattlemen in the Great Plains. Hogarth intends to make a fresh start in Wyoming, along with his sidekick Waco Williams, and his herd gives him the leverage he needs to force his way into the local cattleman’s co-op, one of the members of which is a beautiful, redheaded young woman.

There’s a lot of hostility and intrigue among this organization, however, and Hogarth’s ruthless cunning soon makes him some deadly enemies. A mysterious rustler is also preying on the ranches in the area, adding a new threat that Hogarth has to deal with, all while trying to outsmart the other ranchers, court the beautiful redhead, and survive numerous ambushes, fistfights, and shootouts.

GUN-WITCH FROM WYOMING is a short novel by Les Savage Jr. that appeared originally in the November 1947 issue of LARIAT STORY MAGAZINE. There’s an ebook version available from Wildside Press, and that’s the one I read. Although Les Savage Jr. sold to a variety of Western pulps, including WESTERN STORY, DIME WESTERN, and STAR WESTERN, during a career that lasted only a dozen years before diabetes claimed his life at the early age of 35, he was really a star at Fiction House. His stories appeared regularly, usually featured on the covers, in LARIAT STORY MAGAZINE, ACTION STORIES, FRONTIER STORIES, and NORTH-WEST ROMANCES. He was just about the perfect Fiction House author, since his stories featured plenty of fast-moving, hardboiled action and usually more than one sexy female character. There are two beautiful women in GUN-WITCH FROM WYOMING, and I won’t give away which one winds up being the title character.

Savage packs a lot of plot into this one, which I estimate runs about 25,000 words. Almost too much plot, as there are numerous characters, all with their own shadowy motivations. Also, for much of the story, Bob Hogarth isn’t a very likable protagonist. Despite all that, Savage makes it work and had me flipping the digital pages to find out what was going to happen. I wound up enjoying this book quite a bit. If you’re a traditional Western fan, it’s well worth reading, and if you haven’t read Les Savage Jr. before, it’s pretty representative of his work. Give it a try, and if you like it, there are plenty more of his books still in print.


Trevor Trillion said...

Mr. R... Am I too late to comment that this entire magazine is available as a free pdf download on The Luminist website. . Scroll down the alphabetical PULP FICTION MAG list to LARIOT.
My sister lives in Wyoming, so I will read this 52-page story (interrupted by ads) and send her the .pdf too.
I've started reading your Shayne stories now... bought "Yesterday's Angel," Sept 1980.

James Reasoner said...

Trevor, it's never too late to point out something like that. Thanks for the heads-up! I sometimes look to see if the pulps I'm writing about are available on-line so I can include a link, but often I forget.