Wednesday, May 12, 2010

HELL'S HOOFPRINTS by Lester Dent


This is not so much a review as a progress report. So far, I’ve only read four of the 13 stories in this volume, but I’m already busting to talk about them. 

As any hardcore Doc Savage fan can tell you, nobody writes quite like Lester Dent. I’ve found that especially true in these tales from Western Trails magazine. Every sentence is an adventure, and every passage is packed with echoes of Doc, his pals and his enemies.

These stories were published in 1932 and 1933. Some were written before he started work on Doc Savage, others shortly after. The tales themselves are tight and well-constructed, with the usual Dent blend of mystery, suspense and headlong action. He followed his own famous short story recipe here, and always delivered the goods.

Hell’s Hoofprints is Vol. 3 in Black Dogs Books’ Lester Dent Library, following Dead Men’s Bones (Air-Adventure stories) and The Skull Squadron (Air-War stories).  At least two more volumes are planned. For more info on this one, you can click right HERE.

Enough from me. Here are a few samples of Dent‘s western prose:

Lightning glare splattered whitely upon the man as he crouched, waiting - a great nemesis of a figure, nearly seven feet tall, bowed legs making him appear wider at the knees than at the shoulders, bones sheathed with flesh that looked as hard as petrified wood.

#

Guns belched, filling the room with a crackling, flickering roar, as of a dozen thunderstorms unleashed.

#

His voice was an ugly rumble deep as the thunder above, but lower; it carried little farther than his arms could reach.

#

The peewee-sized gent was not much to look at.  But it was evident he was a lot to look out for.  His knobby hands had tendons like Colt barrels and hairs as big as shingle nails.  Somebody had stood on his nose in the past. The rest of his face looked like it had been walked on many times. Catawampus across the top of his head, his hair had a permanent part. His neck resembled a bundle of wire hawsers on which the skin had been painted.

#

The room crashed scarlet with gun lightning. The hard-jawed ranny jumped sidewise. While he was in the air, a bullet picked flesh off his left ribs, high up. He landed gently, feet wide-apart - and battered against the girl. She caught his arm and they traveled across the floor, wrapped in a suddenly ugly calm.

#

All the lower part of Long Shorty Sims’ face seemed to turn to teeth as he made a fierce grin.

#

Lightning stretched a snake of sizzling flame from the sky to the range, filling the air with the odor of zone and scorched sage. The heavens were full of bumping thunder now. After a bit, the clouds opened and rain came in hissing sheets.

#

Long ropes of muscle slowly ridged out under the bibless overall pants that clung wetly to the brass-faced puncher’s thighs. His stomach stopped moving as breathed and became still and hard. At the end of arms down rigid at his sides, close to his guns, his big hands dangled loosely.

#

The brass-faced puncher pitched sidewise, his guns roaring. Adobe jumped off  the walls behind him. Puffs of dust spring from the floor beside Henry. The apish man squawled hoarsely and flopped sidewise. He collided with the table; it upset and he fell over it. Hot squirts of acrid powder fumes filled the room. The place bawled with sound. 

9 comments:

Richard R. said...

I'm convinced. More money goes to Black Dog.

Cullen Gallagher said...

Terrific quotes! This seems like a fun book.

Have you read the other Black Dog Lester Dent collections?

Deka Black said...

er.. i must confess. I never have readed a Dent book. Please, don't kill me

Evan Lewis said...

I don't have those other "Lester Dent Library" volumes yet, but I'm sure I won't be able to resist.

You've never read a Doc Savage book, Deka? I think I have one in PDF format. If I can find it, I'll send it to you.

James Reasoner said...

I have all of the Dent collections but haven't gotten around to reading any of them yet. I need a thirty-hour day!

Joseph A. West said...

Well, thanks a whole bunch, Evan. I read the Lester Dent prose examples and they made me sick to my stomach. I flopped back in my luxurious office chair (at least the part that hasn't been torn up by the cat) and said to Emily: "Damn it, if I live to be a hundred I'll never be able to write words like that."
Emily read the prose and said: "You're right, you won't."
Me, after a sulk: "Makes a man think he should never write a fricken' novel ever again."
Emily: "You're a paranoid lunatic."
Me: Gawd I feel queasy."
Emily: Too much beer."
Me: "Nah, too much Lester Dent."
Emily: "Nah, too much beer."
Joe West

Evan Lewis said...

Wow! An original Joseph A. West short short short story, right here on the Almanack. Thanks Joe!

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

He writes well about the weather :}

Richard Robinson said...

Okay, Evan, I just spent over a hundred bucks, and it's all your fault. Tom at Black Dog just got my order for all three of the Lester Dent volumes, plus a couple others.

I don't have any shelf space for them, or time to read them, can't even really afford them, but I had to have them. It's your reviews. Yours and James Reasoners. You guys are killing me.

"Help!", he cried feebly, looking out the window to see if perhaps the Mail truck was coming down the street, then replacing the damp washcloth onto his forehead in hopes it would reduce the fever.