Friday, June 14, 2019

Forgotten Books: A BADGE FOR A BADMAN by Brian Wynne (Brian Garfield) (1967)

In jawing about the first four Marshal Jeremy Six novels, I discussed Garfield's most commonly used theme. There is always, it seems, some outlaw gunman turning up in Six's jurisdiction of Spanish Flats who is ripe for redemption.

This fifth book gives us a variation on that theme. There's one guy who fits the mold, another who has already been redeemed, a third who is Jeremy's current project. What there is NOT is "a badge for a badman." Nope. Nary a one of them gets to don a star, or hankers to, or is even considered for such a role. Must be one of those title slapped on the publisher. (It should also be noted that, contrary to the cover art, Six does NOT have a little man growing out of this stomach, or little houses and riders attached to his arms.)

Nevertheless, the books begins in fine style. The first two chapters read like accounts of the build-up to the famous fracas nextdoor to the OK Corral. At such-and-such a time, so-and-so was seen to be walking up this-or-that street, where he was observed to do thus-and-so, It works well, laying the groundwork for a gun battle that leaves a hardbitten coot named Buel Marriner dead in the street. 

I'll let Garfield describe the showdown:

     Old Buel let out a long sigh of breath. "I didn't come here to talk, Six."
     "Then stop talking." Six's hatbrim rose a few inches. He was standing with his feet slightly apart, arms hanging relaxed.
     Old Buel nodded slowly. Some saw his shoulders stir just as his hand whipped to his holster. Earsplitting gunshots cracked the night wide open, and in the uncertain light it was hard to make out what was occurring on the street; but when the echoes died Six stood on the same spot, right arm extended with his gun lying fisted, pointing into space where Buel Marriner had stood.  
     Old Buel had crumpled to an awkward crouch; he seemed ready to pitch forward, but he did not. His revolver lay on the street below his hand, a small wisp of smoke rising from the bore.

Buel's son Cleve, who witnesses the fight, is one of the seemingly endless rannies Jeremy Six used to ride the river with. In the old days, Six had almost managed to turn Cleve away from the Dark Side, and now that the evil old man is dead, he has another chance. Standing in his way, though, is one of the most bloodthirsty villains Garfield ever created: Buel's widow - and Cleve's mother - an old battleaxe called Ma Marriner. 

Ma is a sort of quasi-female version of the Incredible Hulk. She has a voice like a foghorn, looks like she's been "clouted by the Ugly Tree," and has a disposition to match. Despite being told her man died in a fair fight of his own making, she's wants Jeremy dead, and insists her son Cleve do the deed. 

Meanwhile, purely by coincidence, a long lost cousin of the Marriner clan - Wes Marriner by name - comes trotting into town. Now on the dodge from the law, he's still another of Jeremy's old riding partners, and to retire from outlawry. 

That's the setup, and as you'd expect, there's many a shot fired before the whole mess is resolved. And that's all I'm telling, except that Jeremy will return in three books written by Garfield, and one penned by someone else. 


Fred Blosser said...

Excellent review. The Wes Marriner character was a crossover from an earlier Western by Brian Garfield, ARIZONA RIDER, published by Avalon Books in hc and by Ace in paperback. Garfield used his "Frank Wynne" alias for that one. When Wes muses, in BADGE FOR A BADMAN, that "a hired gun can't quit" (or something to that effect -- I don't have either book on hand), he's repeating the cover tag-line from the Ace edition of ARIZONA RIDER.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks Fred! I have that Arizona Rider book around here somewhere. And I suspect Tracy Chavis may have been redeemed in an earlier Six book, but didn't get around to checking.