Book Review: “Vengeance is the Spur” by Harry Whittington

Vegeance is the Spur

Book: Vengeance is the Spur, by Harry Whittington

Cover:  A good, not great, cover. It fits the story well.

Back Cover: Boring with yet another slightly mis-leading plot description

Style: Western-Noir

Plot: A “cowboy & Indian” story. Captain Sam Marshall does not want war with the Apaches. He is trying to find a peaceful solution. But Washington D.C. relieves him of his command and sends a by-the-book Major (and, of course, his beautiful daughter) to take charge of the situation. Mayhem ensues.

Lines from the Opening Paragraphs:

     The first sign of attack was a glint of dust, almost lost in noon glare. Marshall saw these gray bolls through a haze of exhaustion and thirst. He noted them without interest, too tired and too sweated to care about death that was no nearer than the horizon.

He kept his back to his sloppy-riding six-man detail. Not an enlisted man behind him had moored one of the twenty buttons of his shell-jacket. He did not care to watch them scratching their bellies. Calvary regulations and those dark blue woolen jackets lined with darker blue flannel were never created for this Arizona desert country.

     His own jacket was buttoned to the throat. Tall, he sat straight in the saddle–the last faint echo of a lesson learned at the Point, although he carefully misremembered all the rest of it…. He was thirty-six, but today he felt nine months older than God.


Harry Whittington is one of the acknowledged ‘Kings of the Pulps.” All told, he wrote over 200 novels (as many as 7 a year sometimes) mostly in the genres of hardboiled, crime and suspense.

To do this, he published under a variety of names. Here is a list of the many pseudonyms he used:

  1. Ashley Carter
  2. Curt Colman
  3. John Dexter
  4. Tabor Evans
  5. Whit Harrison
  6. Robert Hart-Davis
  7. Kel Holland
  8. Harriet Kathryn Myers
  9. Suzanne Stephens
  10. Blaine Stevens
  11. Clay Stuart
  12. Hondo Wells
  13. Harry White
  14. Hallam Whitney
  15. Henri Whittier
  16. J. X. Williams

You will notice that two are female names and a couple are “gender-ambiguous” ones. My favorite name has to be, Hondo Wells. I want to use that name in a story someday.

What is most amazing about Whittington as a writer is the quality of his writing. Vengeance is the Spur is a well-written Western by any standard. When you factor in the sheer volume of writing Whittington did, it is amazing. Given a different set of circumstances, Whittington could probably have created a number of literary masterpieces.

While I have read a number of Whittington’s suspense and hardboiled fiction works, this is, I think, the first Whittington-Western I have read.  I will be reading many, many more. And hopefully reviewing them here.