Saturday, February 5, 2011

GUNSMOKE: Blood, Bullets and Buckskin by Joseph A. West

Once Gunsmoke jumped from the half-hour black and white format to the hour-long color episodes, I didn’t watch it much. When I did catch a show, I was left with the feeling Matt Dillon had gone soft, and eventually long in the tooth.

But this book, the first in a series of six by Joe West, turned me into a Gunsmoke fan again. The Dillon portrayed here is the tough-as-nails Marshal I remember from the black and white days. The only difference is he’s now running Dodge with the help of Festus instead of Chester.

And make no mistake, these characters really are Matt and Festus, and this really is Dodge. Some TV novelizations I’ve read feature generic cowboys just carrying the names of show characters. Not so here. The personalities, dialogue and rapport between Matt, Festus and Kitty are spot on, and Joe has done his research on Dodge, giving us a backdrop right out of the history books.

Here’s one of the first exchanges between our heroes:

     “When did you get in, Matthew?” the deputy asked.
     “Early this morning,” Matt replied.
     Festus’ right eye screwed up tight, as it always did did when he was thinking hard. “And them Plunkett boys?”
     Matt inclined his head along Front Street. “They’re laid out over to Percy Crump’s funeral parlor.” Matt hesitated, then said, “There was another with them, went by the name of Clem Beecham.”
     Festus nodded. “I’ve heard of that ranny. They say he’s plumb loco and a killer to boot.”
     “Not anymore he isn’t,” Matt said, a grim smile touching the corners of his mouth. “He’s over to Percy Crump’s as well.”

Matt, of course, is about to be hit with a fistful of trouble - in this case a pair of gambler/gunslingers who have an old score to settle with a father-son team of cattlemen. And he’s caught in the middle until the violence escalates to the point the must choose sides, putting his own life on the line in the cause of justice.

As a bonus, the book even has a Foreward by James Arness.

Blood, Bullets and Buckskin is a joy from start to finish, and I look forward to getting my mitts on the next book in the series, The Last Dog Soldier.

 Joseph A. West


Ron Scheer said...

You're right. The half-hour episodes were tight and economical. Color prettified the West, and the hour-long format made the storytelling too relaxed. I'm watching the first season, one by one, and enjoying them big time. The radio episodes were also crackerjack.

Randy Johnson said...

I predict you will enjoy the rest of the series as well. I thought they were the best Gunsmoke novels I've been through and, as far as I know, I've hit on them all.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oooh, I've got to get these post haste. Thanks for the heads up man. I did like me some gunsmoke

pattinase (abbott) said...

Some of those earlier ones are amazingly sophisticated in terms of plot and character, weren't they?

David Cranmer said...

Is that true it is selling for a penny?!

I grew up on the color episodes and prefer them until about 1972 then it lost me the last couple of years. Bottom line: I love Gunsmoke and will look for this book today. Thanks, Evan.

Todd Mason said...

Yes...the radio episodes were indeed even better, more "adult," than the fine early run of the series as the first adult western drama on US tv...

Cap'n Bob said...

I've read two of the West Gunsmokes and echo your sentiments. I plan to read all of Joe's entries as I accumulate them.

David Cranmer said...

I bought it. It cost me more for shipping and handling then it did for the book. Ha. Maybe a first.

Evan Lewis said...

It's a good 'un, David. I've picked up a couple of those 1 cent books through Amazon dealers. They make a profit because book rate for a paperback is a lot less than $3.99, so it's a good deal for both parties.