Thursday, October 22, 2009
Duggan by Jack Giles
Duggan, I believe, was the fifth Black Horse Western from the pen of Jack Giles (aka Ray Foster), and first published 22 years ago. But this was the first Jack Giles book I could get my hands on, and I just finished reading it, so to me it’s fresh and new.
Duggan has a dramatic character arc. He begins the story as a drunk, a wretch sunk so low he doesn’t even merit a name. He drinks himself to oblivion each day and sleeps it off under a boardwalk. But by the end of the book he’s wearing a captain’s uniform, commanding cavalrymen and saving the bacon of a whole town. If not for Duggan, it’s likely the entire Apache nation would have banded together under one leader and scoured the West of interlopers.
Duggan, you see, is one tough character, making Duggan a tough book to put down. Jack/Ray has orchestrated things so that each time we see Duggan he grows a little more - until finally becoming the man he once was - plus a little extra. This makes for a compelling and satisfying tale.
Other strong characters include Duggan’s old friend John Savage - a sergeant nursing a secret grudge, and his old nemesis General MacGregor - a ruthless martinet who gets his just deserts. And then there are the Apaches. These guys are not merely fearless and committed foes - they’re fearless and committed foes who blast away at forts and towns with captured artillery. Yikes.
I caught one in-joke: a bartender named Tom Bendigo, in the town of Shafter. (Someone was reading Louie L’Amour) I suspect there were others that went over my head.
In all, reading Duggan was a bit like watching a good old cavalry movie. One starring Glenn Ford, maybe, or Randolph Scott. Too bad they don’t make movies like that anymore. Luckily, Jack Giles is still making books. His latest, Lawmen, was published by Black Horse just last year. He blogs at Broken Trails and Open Range.
For more on Jack/Ray, see our earlier post here.