Friday, October 31, 2014

Forgotten Books: WYATT EARP Big Little Book (1958)

Whoooo-eeeeee. This one has everything.

It starts in Dodge City, with trouble between cattlemen and nesters. and escalates into a cowman throwing a knife into his boss's back. Wyatt hits the trail in pursuit, and his troubles multiply.

The bad guy shoots a trooper, stealing his horse - and the trooper just happens to be on his way to warn Fort Dodge the Kiowas are on the warpath. Wyatt stampedes a herd of buffalo to stop a train, so the train can deliver the message while he chases the villain. But he's sidetracked when a town kid comes to help, getting himself thrown from his horse and hurt. After rescuing the kid's horse from quicksand, Wyatt has a run-in with a rattlesnake. Tsk, tsk.

And the action never stops. The Kiowas, led by the war chief Tall Bear, ride rings around the bad guy, forcing Wyatt to try and save him. Like all TV cowboys, Wyatt is such a good shot (with his Buntline Special, natch) that he can shoot to wound rather than kill. When a young warrior charges him, hoping to count coup, Wyatt even manages to crease the guy's pony, unseating him in a friendly way. Luckily, Wyatt (like all TV cowboys) has one of those special relationships with the Indians (they call him "Brother-of-the-Eagle"), and Tall Bear is none too bright, falling for the old I-hear-a-bugle-so-the-cavalry-must-be-coming trick.

The bad guy, of course, repays Wyatt for saving his skin by attacking the kid and stealing his horse, and when Wyatt finally catches him, he rides back into Dodge just in time to save the guy from a lynch mob. For old Wyatt, it's all in a day's work. Lest we forget this is a kid's book, Wyatt takes pains to keep reminding us of the moral (surprise - it's the Golden Rule) and at the end he even recites it, so the adults of Dodge City get a little education too. Yep, the whole adventure could have been avoided if the bad guy had treated the nester right. The nester, you'll be pleased to learn, had some medical training and helped Doc Holiday save the life of the cattle boss, so it was a happy ending for dang near everybody.

The prose in this one, by Davis Lott, is undistinquished, but not at all bad. It's up to average pulp western standards, and perfectly acceptable for a children's book. The cover painting, signed Bill Edwards, is pretty dang good. And the interior illos, by John Ushler, are generally OK. This being a Big Little Book, there's one every other page, totaling about 135. Some look a bit like Hugh O'Brian and some don't. A few of the more interesting pics are presented here, including two good views of the Buntline Special.

My main complaint is that Bat Masterson (at the bottom, where he and Wyatt are standing off the lynch mob) looks nothing like the Bat of the Earp TV show. On the show, he looked like Wyatt's little brother. Here he look's like Wyatt's uncle. I'm guessing Whitman didn't have the rights to the kid's face.

More Forgotten Books (with fewer pictures) at Sweet Freedom.


Oscar Case said...

From 1958. I was thinking it came out in the 50's. A lot of ilos for non-graphic one book, but good entertainment.

Stephen Mertz said...

Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave, courageous and bold. Man, at nine years of age I was gone on this TV show. Had me a Wyatt Earp lunch pail and even a black plastic Buntline Special. If you'd have told that 9-year-old that he'd grow up to spend his best days living just down the road from Tombstone (and working the occasional winter job as a gunslinger for the tourist trade)...well, I'm just sayin' life sure does provide an interesting journey. Also loved the "unauthorized" Charelton Wyatt Earp comics written by Mr. Lee and drawn by the likes of Dick Ayers. Hard to believe there really was such a man. The power of myth. And long may his story be told.

Shay said...

Good Lord...we had this book when I was a kid. I wonder what ever happened to it?

Shay said...

Good Lord...we had this book when I was a kid. I wonder what ever happened to it?

Evan Lewis said...

It found its way into my collection, Shay, and I'm keeping it. Thanks for keeping it in such great shape.

Shay said...