Friday, November 13, 2015

Forgotten Book Friday: Web of Gunsmoke

Web of Gunsmoke, by Will Hickok

Will Hickock was a pseudonym of Chester William Harrison (1913-1994), although Harrison apparently only wrote three westerns under that name. Two of these were tie-ins with the TV show “The Restless Gun,” which I’ve never seen an episode of. The third was Web of Gunsmoke and I liked it very much. I will certainly be seeking out more Harrison works. He was apparently quite a prolific author who wrote under several different names, include Coe Williams and C. William Harrison. I’ve seen various statements that he wrote up to 1200 works, counting books and stories, but I’ve not found a breakdown of that and I haven’t been able to locate many of his works online other than his westerns. I haven’t had time to do any extensive looking, though.

In Web of Gunsmoke (copyright 1955), Curt Selby rides back into the town of Signal after several years absence. When he’d left, he’d been a reckless, heavy drinking young man. He returns sober and mature, but he finds that much has changed. His father, Hamp Selby, was the biggest rancher in the area but had always gotten along well with his neighbors. However, an aging Hamp has turned over the ranch to Curt’s half brother, Phil, and Phil has used guile and pressure to run those neighbors off and gain control of their lands. He’s hired a crew of gun toughs to back his play. Now, Hamp wants Curt to put Phil back in his place, but most of the townsfolk are backing Phil. There is, of course, a woman caught in the middle. She was once Curt’s girl, but now she’s pledged to marry Phil.

The plotting in this book is not its primary strength. There was a fair amount of what I call “backtracking” in the plot, where the character moves one direction, then has to reverse his/her direction to get back where they started. This often looks like the author is just shoving things around at random to get conflict and add length to the story. That may have been the case in Web of Gunsmoke, but it didn’t bother me tremendously and I felt the plot was certainly adequate.

The strength of the story lies in interesting characters, strong action, and very good writing. Hickok was very good in this book at sketching the backgrounds in quickly but effectively. He also was able to sum up emotional scenes dramatically and succinctly.

Here are a few examples: (Just assume the quote marks please)
1. The coin, the silver dollar, struck Selby in the corner of the mouth, bringing blood. It hurt.
2. “You forgot your drink,” Bannon said. “No,” said Selby. “I didn’t forget it.” He kept on walking.
 3. He liked fine things. Fine whiskey, fine horses like this high-stepping black.

So, overall, this was an enjoyable book that has stayed with me for the week since I read it, and I think it’ll stay with me a while longer. The cover shown here, by the way, is from a different version than I have. My cover is the fourth printing from Signet Books. It’s mostly a kind of orange with a cowboy on the front. I like it better than the one shown here. It looks like it was done by the same artist who did a lot of Louis L’Amour covers from around that time. Couldn’t find the artist’s name listed, though.


James Reasoner said...

Harrison was pretty good, all right. He wrote one of the Jim Hatfield novels in the pulp TEXAS RANGERS and several of the Rio Kid novels in the pulp of that name. Some of the Rio Kids were reprinted in paperback by Curtis Books. I have one of his RESTLESS GUN tie-ins but haven't read it yet. THE RESTLESS GUN was the TV version of the well-regarded radio show THE SIX SHOOTER, which starred James Stewart as a good-guy gunman named Britt Ponset. When the show came to TV the character's name was changed to Vint Bonner and he was played by John Payne. It's one of the earliest TV series I remember watching.

Charles Gramlich said...

James, I've got to get a few more of his books. I don't even remember hearing about the Restless Gun, although I'm sure I would have liked it.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, Will Hickok is a new western author for me. I'll keep an eye out for his novels. I like the plot of this particular book. It's my kind of western.

Mathew Paust said...

Some people claim that there's a woe-man to blame, but I's my own damned fault.

I fondly remember The Restless Gun on TV, but have yet to read any of Harrison's work.

Rick Robinson said...

Nice to see a Friday Forgotten post here, Charles! The book looks interesting, though I don't read many westerns (make that just about none). The plot sounds a little trite, but if it's well written, that's okay.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, very enjoyable.

Mathew, I'm going to have to see if I can get that show through the library

Richard R., yes, nothing particularly new about the plot but it worked well.

Cloudia said...

Thank You

ALOHA, Friend


BernardL said...

I remember 'The Restless Gun' and John Payne as Vint. It was a favorite of mine.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, thumbs up.

Bernard, now I wish I would have seen it.

Oscar Case said...

Haven't ran across any of the Harrison westerns, yet. I liked John Payne, too.

Riot Kitty said...

The plotting in this book is not its primary strength.

This made me laugh out loud!

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, this is the first Harrison for me.

Riot Kitty, the truth can do that to someone. :)

jodi said...

Charles-that book would work as a giant sleeping pill for me!