Sunday, December 11, 2016

Book Review: The Fighting Texan

© 1955 by Paul Evan Lehman

“That’s enough of that! I thought you were going to take care of him long ago. You talk big, but you keep plenty of distance between him and you.”

“I’m good at waiting. Shooting’s too good for him. When I fix him, I’ll fix him good.”

“I bet you will!”

Mason took to pacing the room. He made three turns, then faced Spitzer once more. His eyes were bright.

“When Borden gets the cash for his cows, what does he do with it?”

“I don’t know. He’ll probably bank it at Santa Fe, or Las Vegas.”

“Living in Texas? And with banks none too safe? I don’t think so. I think he’ll take it back to Texas with him. And if his men leave ahead of him, he’ll have to cross the Staked Plains alone. Does that mean anything to you?”

Spitzer stared at him, his eyes wide.

“You’ll go along with me?” Mason asked, studying Spitzer carefully.

“For half the swag, yes.”


“Half. And I’ll do the dirty work.”

They haggled over this for a while, then Mason gave in.

“All right; half it is.”

- The Fighting Texan, pages 109-110

A hundred and twenty-five pages of such dialogue. What’s not to like?

These two unsavory characters, Dex Mason and his attack dog Spitzer, lead a group of ex-Union pre-Reconstruction northerners brutalizing the Texas frontier the year following Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. So neither is the Fighting Texan of the book’s title.

No, that Fighting Texan of The Fighting Texan is Jefferson “Jeff” Borden, late Captain of the late Confederate army, tired from long months wandering home through desolate, devastating lands. Home is a small ranch his deceased Pa left him, just north of Mustang, on the southern edge of the Llano Estacado, the Staked Plains, a hundred miles of sun’s anvil and hunting grounds for Comanche war parties. All Jeff wants to do is live in peace and be left alone, repair the run down ranch, raise some cattle and sell ’em at market for a small profit.

But that’s not what Dex and his marauders have in mind for our taciturn strong-jawed and silent-type hero. No, they intend to run Jeff out, burn his ancestral home to the ground, steal his herd and ground the poor Reb’s spirit into the dust of those hot, sweaty plains. And when Jeff makes a fool out of Mason during the New Year’s dance at merchant John Russell’s home, causing Russell’s beautiful daughter Ellen’s eyes to stray from Dex to Jeff, well, then the cow patties really fly into the fire.

A nice quick read, one where I looked forward to reading it, the literary equivalent of a fairly intriguing documentary on the Science channel or perhaps a beloved sitcom from one’s youth on one of those retro TV stations. I enjoyed it, it took my mind off all the business and goings-on in my suddenly complicated life. Though I find little of the author’s background online, I’d read him again. Probably next year, Lord willin’, next time I’m out in the deep woods of northeastern Pennsylvania and see that small used book store at that country crossroads again.

Grade: A.

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