Monday, September 28, 2009
Published in New York (Bantam, 1968).
Leonard Meares was quite a writer of westerns, under a variety of pseudonyms. The Larry and Stretch series, which may run up to 400 novels, is very entertaining – action and humor combined into each novel quite comfortably. I’ve read several of the Larry and Stretch novels and enjoyed each one.
The Nevada Jim – or Big Jim – series, published under Meares’ Marshall McCoy pseudonym, had intrigued me for several years, primarily because the Jim Bama cover paintings for the Bantam reprints of this Australian series had caught my attention. Finally I read an entry in this series, Limbo Pass. As anticipated, it was very enjoyable.
The humor that marks the Larry and Stretch series isn’t so obvious here. Instead, the focus is on action and drama arising from character conflicts. This novel, published as number 3 in the Bantam series, makes clear about Jim Gage’s Army background and his search for the man who murdered a friend. This sets up a good reason for Big Jim to roam from town to town for each novel’s setting. Another big character, Cheyenne Bodie, played by big Clint Walker on TV, roamed from place to place for each episode, but rarely had a good reason for doing so except in the first few episodes, when Cheyenne was helping with a scouting and surveying mission for the U.S. Army.
Picturing Clint Walker as Jim Gage is easy to do, thanks to Meares’ description of the character.
In this particular novel, Jim joins a posse after a gang of bank robbers who cold-bloodedly shoot down a few citizens during the course of the robbery. The antagonism among some of the posse members, plus the deadly ambushes executed by the robbers as they make their escape, set up the conflicts that make this short novel (only 90 published pages) a quick and satisfying read. Reading it is much like watching an episode of one of the Warner Brothers western TV shows from the 1950s: action, drama, all wrapped up quickly and satisfyingly by the final credits.