I bought this Ace Double Western for the Lee Hoffman novel on the other side, but since I read a book by her recently, I decided to go ahead and read the other half first, which is THE WOLF PACK by Frank Wynne, who was really Brian Garfield. Which was no secret even in 1966, by the way. The blurb on the inside of the book freely admits the author’s real identity.
Garfield started writing and selling Western novels at a young age and produced
them at a steady clip during the Sixties. The protagonist of this one is Dave
Cord, formerly a town-taming lawman until an accidental tragedy drove him to
hang up his gun and retire. However, he’s dragged back into gun work when an
old flame writes to him and asks for his help with some unspecified trouble. He
can’t refuse, so he heads for the Arizona settlement near her ranch. Before he gets there, he runs into an old acquaintance who’s gunned
down right in front of Cord. Clearly, he’s headed into trouble, but he doesn’t
let that stop him.
Not surprisingly, Cord’s old flame, now a beautiful widow, has rustler problems and a foreman who can’t be trusted. Throw in some ambushes, fistfights, a crooked lawman, a dandified hired gunfighter, some outlaws who may or may not be as bad as they’re made out to be, and an adulterous affair (one thing that sets this novel off from the mostly very traditional Western it is). The plot isn’t overly complicated and culminates in a long chase and battle scene that takes up most of the second half of the book. Garfield’s writing is excellent, though, very vivid in its descriptions and with deeper characterization than some in the genre.
That said, I’ve never been enough of a fan of Garfield’s work to read a bunch of books. The ones I’ve read have been bleak and thoroughly humorless. All the characters are emotionally tortured and go around acting like they have a bad taste in their mouth. This is okay now and then but not something I want a steady diet of. Don’t get me wrong, I raced right through THE WOLF PACK and enjoyed it, and I’m sure I’ll read more Brian Garfield Westerns in the future. Just not anytime soon.