Near as I can tell, W.C. Tuttle wrote at least two dozen novels starring Hashknife Hartley and Speedy Stevens, and shorter adventures (many later worked into the novels) appeared in more than twenty years worth of pulp magazines.
What made the series so popular? Tuttle's easy going prose, for one thing, and his wacky supporting characters. But the prime attractions are Hashknife and Speedy themselves, and the more I read about them, the better I like them. I can't actually say that The Medicine-Man (published in 1939 but using pulp material from 1924) is better than the other adventures I've read, but the cumulative effect is setting in, making me enjoy each book more than the last. And best of all, there are many, many more waiting to be read. (As you see, the title on the book and jacket is not hyphenated, but the title page and page headers do employ the hyphen, so I have to assure that was Tuttle's intent.)
The "Medicine-Man" of this one is Hashknife himself, so called because his troubleshooting abilities are so well developed as to appear magical - and because he's such bad medicine for bad guys.
"You never can tell about us," smiled Hashknife. "We ain't gentlemen of leisure, but it kinda seems that we don't stay put in one place very long."
"You don't look like a pair of drifters," observed Ma Miller.
"No, ma'am," Hashknife shook his head. "We travel under our own power."
"Bud used to say that they were the best cow-punchers in the world, but they never punch cows," said Mrs. Daley. "He said they were always to busy to work."
"What did he mean by that?" asked Sody.
Hashknife laughed and began rolling a cigarette.
"Yuh see, we're kinda unlucky--me and Sleepy. Everywhere we go we find somebody in a jam. We just can't mind our own business--somehow. Personally, I'd like to settle down and grow old with the country, but Sleepy can't get over his childish ways; so I reckon we'll keep--movin' along."
"You won't have much left for your old age, will yuh?" asked Uncle Jimmy.
"Yeah, we'll have quite a lot," smiled Hashknife. "It won't be anything that yuh can cash in at a bank. And when we die, we won't leave nothin' spendable. There won't be nobody dependin' on either one of us, except the other."
As they dig deeper into the mystery, we get this exchange:
"This," admitted Hashknife, "sure as hell has got me fightin' my head, Sleepy. What did that red-haired puncher want out there? Who shot him? Was all them shots fired at this jasper who shot Red Blair? Who were they? Sleepy, I'll be darned if this ain't some mix-up."
"Do yuh reckon Bud Daley was mixed up in it?" queried Sleepy.
"That's hard to tell, Sleepy. There's a lot of things to work out. F'r instance, who stole Bud's cows? Who robbed the bank? Why did they take Bud away from the sheriff? What in hell was Red Blair doin' out there to-night, and who shot him? My gosh, no wonder Sherlock Holmes was a hop-head."
"Well," laughed Sleepy, "yo're happy, ain't yuh?, cowboy?"
"Gittin' thataway," laughed Hashknife.
Adding to the fun is the fact that one of the minor bad guys has encountered Hashknife before, and is deathly afraid of him. He even suspects Hashknife is able to read minds. "I know some of the deals he pulled off," the guy tells his cohorts, "and I'd rather have the small-pox around me."
Were I an evildoer in the Old West, I'd feel the same way.
More Forgotten Books at pattinase.