Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Death Waits at Sundown

This L. Ron Hubbard Western collection features three novelettes that originally appeared in the pulp WESTERN STORY: "Death Waits at Sundown" from October 1938; "Ride 'em Cowboy" from July 30, 1938; and "Boss of the Lazy B", from September 10, 1938.

"Death Waits at Sundown" finds Texas gunfighter Lynn Taylor trying to save his kid brother from the gallows. Falsely accused of murder, Frank Taylor has been framed by the head of the local vigilance committee. The vigilantes, who are actually outlaws, are using trumped-up charges to get rid of small ranchers so they can seize their spreads. There's a very nice sense of tension and suspense in this one as the reader waits to find out if Lynn can clear his brother's name in time to save his life.

"Boss of the Lazy B" has a bit of a legal thriller element to it, as a famous defense attorney who has retired to the West for his health takes up the case of a notorious outlaw at the urging of his daughter, who thinks the man isn't getting a fair shake. The question is whether or not this will backfire on the outlaw's advocates and put them in danger.

"Ride 'Em, Cowboy!" is my favorite story of the three, even though it's actually the simplest. It's a rodeo yarn that finds a world's champion bronc rider competing against the girl he loves, who hates him for some reason that he can't fathom. Lots of colorful rodeo action in this one, and the romance element works well and feels believable, something that doesn't always happen in Western romances.

Hubbard's writing is colorful and fast-moving in all three of these stories, and his handling of the action scenes is excellent. DEATH WAITS AT SUNDOWN is a fine collection, well worth reading for Western pulp fans. 

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