Saturday, November 06, 2004

Hamilton's Fever Tepid

Texas Fever by Donald Hamilton (1960, Fawcett Gold Medal Books)

Donald Hamilton – author of the Matt Helm spy series and the super-taut thriller Line of Fire – usually writes better than this. Maybe it isn’t his writing. Maybe it’s just the plot. But something seems a bit off.

Young Chuck McAuliffe is peeved that his father and brother are home from the Civil War and ready to take back the ranch that he kept running while they were away. He is shunted aside and treated like a kid, not like a man who’s tended the family business alone. On a drive north from Texas they run into a Kansas militia that won’t allow Texican beef to cross the territory line. A fight and a rustling attempt ensue and both brother and father are killed. Chuck loses the herd to the law, and has to stand by as plans are made to sell off the beef for a fraction of its worth.

Chuck has a problem. He’s hot and ready to fight, but this being a new breed of western, his anger is tempered by a woman and his own reluctance to have people think ill of him. Instead of using the ready gun talent of his drovers, he eventually seeks the aid of the law in regaining some of what’s due him for the forced sale of his beef.

Along the way, we meet a mercenary woman who really doesn’t have a heart of gold, a vicious and ruthless psychopath, and a whole passel of greedy folk. The girl is pure enough, and her father, the lawdog, is honest if somewhat impotent.

All in all, this was not a satisfying read. It may have been "accurate" enough, but not only do the bad guys have to be punished, the heroes have to win out – and they have to be heroic. Texas Fever lets you down on both counts.

Enjoyment Factor (out of 10) - 3

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