Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens, the self-styled "Cowpunchers of Disaster," are at it again in this novel from 1942. In most of the other adventures I've read, the stage is well set, often consuming a quarter or third of the book, before our heroes arrive on the scene. Not so here. This time we meet them right on page one.
Still, much is the same. The Cattleman's Association knows evil doings are afoot in Antelope Flats, and they know once Hashknife gets a sniff of them he won't rest until things are set right. So when their first range detective goes missing, they sort of snooker Hashknife into looking for him. And next thing you know our boys are up to their ears in trouble.
As is often the case, there's a clueless dude on hand, providing a little extra comic relief and a romantic interest for the good-lookin' daughter of a rancher. In this case, the clueless dude is the son of a rich Easterner, soaking up Western atmosphere in hopes or writing a play. (That's him on the dust jacket above, wearing the specs.) Since no gal is ever going to stop Hashknife from seeing what's over the next hill, Tuttle gives them these dudes as consolation prizes.
As usual, Hashknife's reputation has preceded him.
"I've heard about Hashknife Hartley," said Bill Nichols. "I was with the SK spread, over in New Mexico, and one of the boys mentioned that Hashknife Hartley was in town. Next mornin' we was two men short."
"Mucho malo hombre, eh?" queried Pete.
"They tell me," replied Nichols, "that he don't just use his head to wear a hat on."
"He don't look bad," smiled Higby.
"Neither does dynamite, Nick."
And later, an evildoer remarks,
"That Harley could trail a snake across a lake."
I never get tired of lines like that.