Book: Buckskin Man, by Wayne D. Overholser
Cover: A nice cover painting. It fits the story well.
Back Cover: Repeating the cover painting is a nice touch, as is color scheme.
Plot: Rafe Dolan is the last of a breed of mountain man. He wants to settle down in an out of the way part of Oregon, but a rancher has illegally claimed all the land as his own. When an old friend and his beautiful granddaughter show up, Dolan decides it it time to take on the rancher. Mayhem ensues.
Lines from the Opening Paragraphs:
He rode east across south-central Oregon, a hard-muscled long-boned man with a face burned almost to Indian bronze by sun and wind. His Shoshoni friends called him a variety of names, the Bull or the Coyote or the Cougar; a few who were not his friends called him Son-of-a-Bitch-Who-Has-a-Sharp-Knive According to his baptismal record, his name was Rafael Socrates Dolan. The combination of names made no sense, the baptism was long forgotten, and to his white friends he was simply Rafe Dolan. He wore a buckskin suit darkened by dirt and age, a broad-brimmed black hat with two bullet holes in the crown, and a pair of beaded moccasins. He carried a knife in a scabbard on this left side, a .45 Colt in a holster on his right side, and he had a Winchester in the boot. Dolan had one guiding principle: a man had the right to live without restraints on his personal liberty….
Overholser won the first two Spur Awards in 1953 & 1954 for his novels, Lawman and for The Violent Land. Buckskin Man, which was published in 1969, is not as good his two award-winning novels, but it has glimpses: moments when great Western writing shine.
By 1969, the Western had become a niche market, dominated by L’Amour. Maybe I am reading into things, but it is difficult not to believe that Buckskin Man, like many Westerns from that period, may have been unduly influenced by the L’Amour-effect. Great Western writers were led to write merely-competent Westerns because that is what the Western market had become under the L’Amour publishing juggernaut.