Friday, November 2, 2018

Forgotten Books: THE VALLEY OF TWISTED TRAILS by W.C. Tuttle (1931)

I've been a Tuttle fan for a long time, but most of my reading has been with his flagship heroes Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens, with side visits to Sheriff Henry Conroy.
Leafing through this one in the bookstore, I knew it did not feature any of those guys, but couldn't tell who the heroes were. And it took a few chapters to find out. That's a good thing. Tuttle had a knack of introducing characters so immediately rich and likable that just about any of them would make suitable protagonists. In some books, the supporting cast carries the story for as much as half the story before the heroes come ambling along.

In this case, they arrive in Chapter 4, and several more chapters - with more important and entertaining interaction among the other characters - pass before it becomes apparent who's here to save the day. And even after we know who the heroes are, they don't monopolize the action - they merely become the most important cogs in an ensemble cast.

So okay already, you're saying, who the heck are these guys? Like Hashknife and Sleepy, Sad Sontag and Swede Harrison are itchy-footed cowpokes who sometimes function as range detectives. In this book, they're cattle buyers who do their best to mind their own business. But when mysteries and murders and injustice start boiling up around them, they just can't resist taking cards in the game. 

The game here is cattle rustling on a grand scale, while the killing and mayhem are by-products of the scheme. The story is complex, with a huge cast of folks good, bad, and inbetween. As usual, Tuttle dishes out plenty of humor, and brings it all to a rousing and satisfying finish. 

On later investigation, I learned that Sad and Swede had a long-running series appearing in Short Stories and West in the '20s and '30s. Like this one, many of those adventures made their way into hardcover. How many, I don't know, but I'll be seeking them out, and you'll likely be hearing about them here.  


George said...

I'm a big W. C. Tuttle fan. Like you, I'm fond of Hashknife and Sleepy as well as Sheriff Conroy. I'm hoping ALTUS PRESS reprints some of Tuttle's wonderful novels.

Evan Lewis said...

Right on, George! Power to the Tuttle!

Ron Smyth said...

I've been a W C Tuttle fan since I first read him. I only hope, like George, that more of his work will be reprinted, especially in ebook form. (Those shipping charges are killer.)