Catching up on a few book reviews
Lewis B. Patten is a multi-time Spur award winner capable of writing some great prose. Little of that skill was in evidence in the first novella (reviewed here earlier) in Tor Double Action Western #3. The second novella, They Called Him a Killer, is much better.
The story is a familiar one, with a familiar twist. But plot is not the point in westerns. Westerns, good westerns, are about style and tone. Patten does western style and tone as well as anyone.
Genre writers of the 1950s were under pressure to write a lot. Prolific writing does not lend itself to tight writing. And in the end, that is what you see in too many westerns in general and Patten’s work in specific.
Patten, as I have said elsewhere, is one of a handful of really good Western Noir writers. Sometimes, in fact, his prose can be borderline great.
They Called Him a Killer is not Patten at his best but it is Patten… and he is always worth reading.