Book: Hunt the Man Down, by Lewis B. Patten
Cover: For a 1970s publication, it is a good cover. It fits the story well.
Back Cover: Boring with yet another slightly mis-leading plot description
Plot: Mike Logan rides out in a winter storm to check on a widow and her young children. He finds her being attacked. He chases the attempted rapist and ends up killing him. The dead man’s father promises revenge. Mayhem ensues.
Lines from the Opening Paragraphs:
The storm struck half and hour before dusk, with a sudden howling intensity that almost instantly filled the air with stinging particles of sleet, driven horizontally on a gale-strength wind, cutting visibility with minutes to fifty yards. The sleet pelted hard for ten minutes before it changed to small, stinging flakes of snow that thickened rapidly….
Mike Logan, who owned the livery stable, closed the big double doors at front and rear and dropped the bars into place….
The best of the Patten books I have recently reviewed.
As the opening paragraph makes clear, brutal October weather is an essential “character” in the story. Weather/landscape always are in true Westerns. The protagonist needs to battle and overcome not just humans seeking to kill him but also weather and landscape as well.
As I have written elsewhere here at ClimbingSky, “romance” in Westerns serves no real purpose. These romances seldom seem to advance the plot, the female characters are at best interchangeable mannequins.
Now after having read Jane Tompkins’s West of Everything, I understand better why I find most female characters in Westerns to be so non-essential to the books they are in. It is because they are meant to be that way.
According to Tompkins, the Western arose in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries as a reaction to the growing power of women in American culture and society. The West of the Western was intended to be a place where men competed with Nature and other men. Where “sissified” civilization and manners were put into their proper place. Where whiskey and toughness could reign supreme.
In Hunt the Man Down the widow and her children are necessary to the plot only to give Mike Logan someone to protect and to avenge. The fact that he wants to marry her is of no real importance to the story. The story in the end could be just a good without either the widow or her children.
Now that I have noticed it, this non-role of women in Westerns is something I will be keeping an eye on as I read and review Westerns in the future. And I will continue to read them because in the end, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a good Western. And Hunt the Man Down is a good Western.