Saturday, November 06, 2004

Not So Steady in the Saddle

The Mexican Saddle by Bennett Foster
(1941, Western Story Magazine, reprinted 2003, Leisure Books)

I was looking forward to this book for a few months since I first heard about it coming out. There are so many of the old pulpsters that are not reprinted while folks like Max Brand have their laundry lists published. I like Max Brand, but I ’m looking for variety.

And the back cover blurb promises an interesting story. Unfortunately, Foster does not follow through well. Perhaps it’s just his writing style I don’t like, but I felt that there was so much filler that the story got a little lost.

The premise is that a man dies trying to protect a family secret just after he delivers the saddle of the title to a friend. Others immediately take an interest in the saddle and trouble ensues. But the saddle is really an old Hitchcock "macguffin" ploy – and one done badly. While Foster mentions the saddle frequently it seems that he does it simply to justify the title. Yes, people are after it but pretty half-heartedly.

There’s a map to a gold mine and some whites are running guns to a faction of Mexicans in revolt, there’s a deputy who’s pretty crooked, and a girl who’s shoe-horned in just to take a rough stab at a love interest. It all becomes fairly muddled.

Foster’s writing style doesn’t help matters either. The writing is pretty loose and colloquial. He has some wild plotting, too, and he too often backtracks on the story to tell another angle. This last is not a bad technique – I use it occasionally myself – but it seems very jarring in this story.
Overall, I was disappointed – and my disappointment was doubled because I had had high hopes for the book.

Enjoyment Factor (out of 10) – 3

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