Friday, September 23, 2022

Marauders' Moon - Luke Short (Frederick D. Glidden)

A number of years ago I went on a Luke Short binge and decided to collect and read all his novels. I collected all of them without much trouble. This was the Eighties, when used bookstores were still fairly common. But I only read about half of them before that effort ran out of steam. I still consider Luke Short an excellent Western author, however, and still read one of his books from time to time. A lot of his novels are available as e-books, and that’s how I recently read MARAUDERS’ MOON. (The cover above is the Dell edition I owned but never got around to reading.)

This novel centers around a long-standing feud between two powerful cattlemen who dominate neighboring counties. The protagonist, Webb Cousins, is a drifting cowpoke who’s accused of being the inside man in a train holdup, a charge that’s false. But Webb finds himself arrested anyway and brought in by a deputy to one of the feuding towns. They arrive just as five gunmen are robbing the bank. After a shootout, Webbs gets accused of being involved in that crime, as well, even though his presence on the scene is a pure accident.

From there, revelations begin to unfold as Webb escapes, is taken prisoner, escapes again, and becomes a pawn in the war between the two cattlemen. His curiosity leads him to realize there are mysteries to explore and more going on here than is readily apparent. There’s also the beautiful daughter of one of the ranchers to catch his interest and draw him deeper into the feud, until he comes up with a way to blow everything open and put an end to the hostilities.

Short, whose real name was Frederick D. Glidden, was heavily influenced by Ernest Haycox and brings quite a bit of Haycox-like depth and complexity to his plotting and characterization, while at the same time handling the action scenes better than Haycox usually did. MARAUDERS’ MOON is a solid Western with a lot to like about it, most notably its fine protagonist Webb Cousins.

However, the plot is pretty slow to develop and the first half of the novel often feels like it’s spinning its wheels. The second half takes off and moves along much better. Also, late in the novel Glidden appears to be setting up a plot twist that would have worked quite nicely and resolved some things, but nothing ever comes of it. I don’t know if he forgot or just never intended to do what it looked like he was doing, but either way I found that kind of frustrating. Because of those things, I wouldn’t put MARAUDERS’ MOON in the top rank of Luke Short novels, but it’s solidly in the upper reaches of the second rank and well worth reading if you’re a fan of traditional Westerns.

This novel appeared originally as a seven-part serial in WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE in March and April of 1937, under the title “Silver Horn Breaks”. MARAUDERS’ MOON is a much better title and actually fits the story. Nice cover by Norman Saunders on the issue where the first installment appears, though.


Robert Deis (aka "SubtropicBob") said...

The cover art for the Dell edition with the guy holding a torch was done by Stanley Borack. The next to last one in the post, with the moon behind the rider, was done by Robert McGinnis.

Vineeth Abraham said...

Read this a couple of months ago. Agree it's not one of his best but even an average Short western is better than most. Have the Dell editions with covers by Borack and McGinnis and the covers are worth the price of admission.

Walker Martin said...

Luke Short is one of my favorites and I consider him to be in the top rank of western authors.

I have the serial in Western Story and also the paperback but I'll try reading the pulp version of course!

Anonymous said...

I want to purchase these books