Spectros #1: Silverado, by Logan Winters. Tower Books, 1981. 159 pages.Logan Winters was one of several pseudonyms used by writer Paul Joseph Lederer (July 2, 1944 – January 30, 2016). Some others were Owen G. Irons, C. J. Sommers, Warren T. Longtree, and Paul Ledd. He also wrote books under his own name, particularly a series called the “Indian Heritage” series. I haven’t read anything other than Spectros #1 so far but I will likely pick up some of his other works.
So, to the review. The book was billed as a kind of weird western. I agree it fits that mold, although the primary influence here would be the pulps such as Doc Savage. Doctor Spectros, a master magician of unknown age, has a crew that work with him in the same vein as Doc Savage. These include gunslinger Ray Featherskill, brute/mute Montak, and an inscrutable foreign fighter named Inkada.
The gist of the story is that another sorcerer, Blackschuster, has kidnapped Spectros’ love, Kirstina, and has been keeping her alive through magical means. Alive but unconscious. Spectros is after him with his crew.
What I liked: The prose here is very good. Crisp, vivid, clean. There’s quite a lot of poetry in it, which always sets my little heart a flutter. This is the main reason why I’d read more by this writer. In addition, the characters are broadly drawn but interesting, and I liked the crew much better than Doc Savage’s crew. They weren’t played for laughs—for the most part—and given serious roles to fulfill.
What I didn’t like: Though this is the “first” in a series of four books, it seems clear the reader is expected to know a lot of backstory already. The characters aren’t really introduced. They are sprinkled in like a cook adding ingredients to a stew. Now, I’m a fan of action up front, but I also expect that characters with a long and complicated history get introduced fairly early in a book so the reader has some orientation to their story and why it is meaningful. There was almost none here. I got more orientation from the back cover blurb than the book itself.
In addition, the story jumps around between the characters somewhat willy-nilly, without much of a common thread to connect them. As I was reading about Lederer’s work, he made a comment in an interview that made me think this was his general approach to writing. I’m a pantser mostly myself but I work very hard to make the multiple characters and plotlines connect.
Another issue, which may not be Lederer’s fault, is that characters and scenes sometimes changed in the middle of a page without any break or asterisks, or anything to indicate said break. That makes for some difficult reading. And add to that quite a few typos and you’ve got some confusion.
Overall, I can only give this book two stars. The prose deserves four or five but all the other things dragged the work down to the point that I was glad to finish so I could move on to a better story. The story is the thing.
As for Lederer, he was born in California and died in his early seventies from a brain aneurysm. He served a term in the Air Force, in the Intelligence Arm, and was widely travelled in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He wrote over 100 novels, most of them westerns or with western connections. Sounds like he would have been an interesting fellow to meet.