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The Legend Of Caleb York Mass Market Paperback – 15 May 2016
About the Author
- Publisher : KENSINGTON; Reprint edition (15 May 2016)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0786036141
- ISBN-13 : 978-0786036141
- Dimensions : 10.67 x 2.03 x 17.27 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 832,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The impression I am now getting is that Collins is trading on the Mickey Spillane name, and I feel that it is time he left well alone and wrote novels in his own name.
Unfortunately, the whole was somehow far below the sum of the parts of these thoroughly talented writers. Mr. Collins explains in his forward that the novel was based on an outline left to him from Spillane via his widow to see through. There were no outline excerpts but Mr. Collins made it clear that it was originally intended to be for the silver screen during Hollywood's love affair with the genre. As such it has all the standard archetypes popular at the time, albeit in slightly different roles.
The evil villain is actually the Sheriff who has bullied himself into every business and even acquired a number of local ranches to become the Boss Hog of the town. Then there's the strong willed rancher's daughter who, along with her strong willed though physically blind father, are one of the few holdouts against the Sheriff's tyranny. When pushed too far the man offers $10K to hire legendary gunman Caleb York to rid them of the outlaw and his gang. When a mysterious dandy rides into town and instantly proves himself to be a kind but dangerous man, the big mystery becomes is or isn't he the titular York.
There are others caricatures as well: the prostitute/salon owner; the town drunk; the two dimensional occupants of the town from shop keeper to telegrapher; the many numbered but ultimately indistinguishable members of the gang, etc.
And really that one abbreviation "etc." best sums up the issues I have with the book. It is one long Western version of Seinfield's yadda, yadda, yadda. Mysterious man arrives...yadda, yadda, yadda...show down at the stage stop.
There is no real depth, no real suspense, even the prose is straight forward and rote. The only place where the genius of either Spillane or Collins shows through is in the dialogue. Here the snappy one liners and bemused insults have the hard-boiled impact one would expect from these authors. Otherwise it is a plain tale very plainly wrought and one that I sad to say ultimately does not inspire me to continue on with the series.
The origin of the novel has been covered in other reviews ,but more importantly in Collins own introduction. So here is the short version. Mickey Spilliane was friends with John Wayne . Wayne asked Spilliane to write a screenplay for him. For various reasons It was never produced. Max Allen Collins took the screenplay and converted it to novel form.
I am a very late convert to the virtues of the western . Like Collins himself I have read very few Westerns. Also like Collins I enjoy the movie cowboys such as the movies of Anthony Mann and Sergio Leone.
I mention those two directors for a reason. This novel reminds me of both. The story structure reminds me of one of those good old fifties Westerns (Which is when this was first crafted ). But then we get some of modern ultraviolence like in a spaghetti western. I think the violence is more of the tough , hard boiled style of Spilliane and Collins brought over from their crime books rather then any spaghetti western influence which didn't even exist when the screenplay was written.
The story hits a lot of classic Western troupes. A town held hostage by the evil sheriff, the misguided harlot , the beautiful but spunky ranchers daughter and the town drunk who proves himself in the end.
And of course the stranger . The loner with the mysterious past who rides into town just as things have escalated to a breaking point.
This book will not change your life but it is good old fashioned fun.
Max Allen Collins has a contract to write at least two more novels. He has recently completed his second Caleb York novel, The Big Showdown. It is more to form , a murder mystery story.
Sales of this introductory novel have been rather slow , so I encourage any fence sitters to purchase this book now so we can continue to enjoy the adventures of Caleb York.
Cullen wires his former partner and asks him to send a shootist to Trinidad to take out Harry Gauge. When a duded-up stranger rides into town and starts killing Gauge’s henchmen, Cullen assumes that this is the shootist he has hired (for a whopping $10,000). Some hope that the mysterious stranger might be the legendary Caleb York, but York is reported to have been killed by another shootist, Wes Banion, so who is the stranger? Banion? Or could it possibly be the legend himself, Caleb York?
This simple mystery drives the plot, that and the question—how will the slimey Gauge receive the just and bloody end he so richly deserves? There are also two ringers in the plot—a dance hall queen with a heart of gold named Lola and the town drunk who nevertheless hears things and ultimately chooses the right sides when the .44’s are drawn and the lead is flying, Jonathan Tulley.
You can cast the film in your head, from the Duke to Gabby Hayes (or Paul Brinegar). This is a pure, delicious western. You know the types; you can feel the plot and its inevitability; you see the crystal-clear line between good and evil, see the cottonwoods move with the evening breeze and watch the lights change above the Sangre de Cristos.
The only difference between this and most of the Western films is the degree of violence. The pistol whippings and cowpox blisters are very real here, as is the incidence of rape and torture.
When I began to read the novel I was luxuriating in the Western ethos, feeling the vibe from two genre masters, MS and MAC. About halfway in I was completely hooked, surrendering to the story even though I was aware of its inevitability. And even though I could hear the classroom words in the back of my head (“the Western ethos is more than a reworking of the chivalric romance; because of its American setting it oozes cultural resonance, evoking a time when men were men, women were women, courage was real, life and death everyday immediacies, etc. etc. etc.”) the story kept winning out and I was suspending my reader’s habits and inclinations and surrendering to a wonderful story and a lovely bit of writing. Thanks, Max and Mickey. You made my day and a half.