Friday, November 1, 2013

Forgotten Books: HASHKNIFE OF THE DOUBLE BAR 8 by W.C. Tuttle

Jimmy Legg,  a San Francisco bookkeeper, suddenly gets fed up with his job and gets the itch to become a cowpuncher. He pulls out an atlas, and some instinct draws him to the town of Blue Wells, Arizona as a place where he could make his start. At that same moment, a stray yellow dog comes pawing at his door - running from an enraged policeman - and Jimmy sees that as a sign he should take the dog along.

When this skinny, inept dude arrives in Blue Wells, the local punchers see him as a great source of fun, but they soon discover he has grit and determination (albeit no natural ability) and take him under their wings, determined to make a real cowpuncher out of him. The hands have typical Tuttle names like Plenty Goode and Oyster Shell.

There’s plenty of slapstick humor involving Jimmy Legg. When trying to fire a pistol he almost shoots the sheriff, and when he tries to tame a wild bronc, the accidentally runs over the sheriff. These incidents brand Legg as a man to reckoned with.

As you might expect, the dog complicates matters. A train is robbed, and through a series of misunderstandings, the law believes the owner of the dog must be the guilty party. So when the dog appears at the Double Bar 8 - owned by a good rancher - that rancher, his son and his hands are all arrested by a sheriff with ulterior motives. This leaves the beautiful gal of the story, the good rancher’s daughter, with a ranch and no one to help run it.

Luckily, a third of the way into the book, Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens (whom you may remember from my review of Hidden Gold, HERE) happen along and volunteer to man the ranch. Actually, they’ve been sent by the state Cattlemen’s Association to investigate why a particular ranch is not paying enough dividends. By the Association’s way of figuring, “there’s too many cows out here, and not enough revenue.”

Meanwhile, a gang of crooks operating from south of the border is drawn into the mess, and - happily - these are the very crooks responsible for the misdeeds that H&S have been sent to stop.

From the book’s structure, it’s clear that this originally appeared as three novelettes in Adventure magazine, and our two heroes are not even mentioned in that first novelette. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tuttle began the story as a stand-alone about Jimmy Legg, and later saw the opportunity to bring Hashknife and Sleepy in, building the story into a novel.

Whether that’s so or no, Hashknife of the Double Bar 8 is mighty good readin’. And we're treated to a little of our heroes' history:

The copy I read bore no date, but according to the list in Robert Sampson's Yesterday's Faces: Dangerous Horizons, it appeared in book form England in 1927, and in the U.S. in 1936.

The Forgotten Books Round-up is at In Reference to Murder.


David Cranmer said...

New to me, Evan. Thanks for the excerpts.

Ron Scheer said...

This combination of stories is told so many times in the cowboy western. It must answer to a deep need in readers - on of them to "belong," another to achieve competence at some form of honest labor, another to overcome loneliness, and another finally to find a true friend. Thanks.

George said...

I read some W. C. Tuttle westerns after James Reasoner gave them positive reviews. I want to read more after reading your fine review!

Rick Robinson said...

The Hashknife and Sleepy investigation continues. A comprehensive collection is needed!

Evan Lewis said...

With over two dozen novels and a mess of short stories, that book would need its own shelf.

Rick Robinson said...

I just meant the short stories, but a complete, tooled leather set would be great, sort of like The Complete Dickens, but with less page total.