Friday, January 9, 2015

Forgotten Books: VALLEY OF VANISHING HERDS by W.C. Tuttle (1942)

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.


James Reasoner said...

Sounds like a good one. I'll have to look and see if I have a copy. Appears to be an H.W. Scott cover on that paperback edition.

Sam Sattler said...

I love that cover with the cowboy hero with specs on...don't think I've seen that before.

I'm reading Alan LaMay's "The Unforgiven" right now, and while it's not quite in the "forgotten" class, it goes back to 1957. LaMay was one of those writers of westerns who spent some time on developing his characters, something I always hope for in a western.

George said...

I'm becoming a big fan of W. C. Tuttle's work. I've read a handful of his westerns and enjoyed them all.

Walker Martin said...

I've read much of Tuttle's work including this Hashknife and Sleepy novel. I've noticed that Tuttle's dialog is often witty and hardboiled. One of the best of the western writers.

Rick Robinson said...

These Tuttle books sound swell, and this one in particular. Like the covers, too, and that's a terrific line you quoted.

You'll like mine this week.

Rick said...

Is he wearing glasses? It isn't often you see that in a Western illustration.

Ron Scheer said...

Enjoyed this. Thx.