Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Last Stand Mesa - L.L. Foreman

LAST STAND MESA was first published in the February 1951 issue of ZANE GREY’S WESTERN MAGAZINE and then reprinted by Ace Books in 1969 as half of an Ace Double Western, on the other side of Philip Ketchum’s MAD MORGAN’S HOARD, which I read and reviewed last week. Steve Holland lends his iconic visage to the paperback cover by Sol Korby. This is the edition I read, not the magazine version, but as short as the Ace edition is (110 pages), I doubt if Foreman had to expand it much, if any.

The protagonist of this novel is Mike McLean, an outlaw on the dodge after a failed bank robbery. Mike may be an owlhoot, but he’s a decent hombre at heart and he often finds himself in danger because he can’t resist helping folks who are in trouble. In this case, as he’s fleeing a posse in New Mexico Territory, he pauses to rescue an eccentric old tinhorn gambler from a shootout. Throwing in together, they run from trouble . . . but wind up riding right into the middle of a three-cornered range war.

The Triangle T, run by Amery Roone and his gunhawk minions, Roose’s Regulators, wants to force out all the smaller ranchers in the area. Those spreads are targeted by the outlaw gang led by Bloodywire Brokus, as well. Mike McLean sticks up for the underdog, as usual, and tries to help the small ranchers, but the situation is complicated by the fact that the boss outlaw, Brokus, has a beautiful daughter known as the Cheyenne Flame, and Mike falls for her right away.

This is one of those novels where things don’t turn out exactly as you expect them to. Just when it seems like Foreman is setting things up a certain way, the situation reverses. These twists allow Foreman to pack a lot of plot into this book, as well as some good action and excellent characterization. Foreman’s work is usually a tad more eloquent than most pulp Westerns, and LAST STAND MESA is no exception. It’s a very well-written traditional Western that I really enjoyed.

If you want to know more about Foreman, here's an excellent article about him on the Pulp Flakes website. By the way, I wasn’t familiar with cover artist Sol Korby, but looking into his background led me to this interview with him conducted by Michael Stradford. I give both of these high recommendations, as well.

Art by Nicholas S. Firfires

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