SHADOWS ON THE PLAINS: SLADE AND MANHUNTER BY ARNOLD HANO
Arnold Hano is best known as the editor of books by the likes of Jim Thompson or Richard Matheson during the height of their talents or to baseball fans as the writer of A Day At The Bleachers. He also wrote fiction in the heyday of paperback original, especially westerns that were atypical of the form at the time. He used a black protagonist in The Last Night and turned a Thompson crime novel, Savage Night, into a western called Flint. Stark House Books Press brought back those books and two years ago,they reprinted two of author's for the first time under his actual name.
Hano wrote Slade under in the name of Ad Gordon in 1956. The title character is a drifter who drifts back to his hometown to see his old rancher friend and lick his wounds after a bad card game. His friend is nowhere to be found, but he reunites with his old love, Mae Hogue. Unfortunately she's married to a drunkard. Several bad men put pressure on this triangle, a rancher who wants all the land for cattle, a banker playing off the ranchers to obtain it for the incoming railroad, and a crooked sheriff who wants Mae for himself. All circle one another, trading alliances and lead.
Hano used his usual pseudonym, Matthew Gant, on Manhunter, a unique spin on the revenge western. Ben Ross goes gunning for the man who killed his father. In his search, he rides into a range war with the possible killer on one side. In his way are the man's brother and a lawman struggling to keep the peace with the warring factions. All want to use Ben for their own means and theres are few he can trust. He even begins to question his own instincts.
Both books demonstrate Hano's approach to the western. He took elements from the incredible crime novelists he edited and applied them to this genre. There is a dark psychology and mood to these books. His protagonists are far from square jawed white hats. They are less driven by their missions than tormented by them. Instead of wide open spaces, Hano is more likely to employ shadowy saloons for his showdowns. Fans of director Anthony Mann's westerns will groove on Hano's.
Stark House has put both of these books together in one nice trade paperback edition. It includes an essay by writer and western historian book and movie historian Paul Bishop that educates you on Arnold Hano and his writing. There is also a bibliography you will want to use to track down the authors other work after reading these two.