Ben Haas, as John Benteen, released this second 'Fargo' novel, “Panama Gold”, in 1974. It was featured with several publishers, with different artwork, and most recently reissued as a digital Ebook by the great folks at Piccadilly Publishing. The tag-line is: “Fargo got $20,000 to kill a man and stop an Army. The price was just right”. That conclusively nails down what amounts to be a really entertaining story with all of the familiar conventions we associate with this lionhearted adventurer.
Fargo served under Roosevelt's “Rough Riders”, and has an allegiance to the “Colonel”. The book's premise has Roosevelt sending Fargo into Panama to stop a 300-man force from delaying the Panama Canal's construction progress. The assignment is to knock off the leader, Cleve Buckner, for a cool twenty grand. Buckner, under protection by Columbia, has been hired by the Germans in what amounts to a logical, albeit confusing, attack on the Army Corp of Engineers. The idea is that Germany will attack France. England will then come to France's aid, thus drawing them into the opposition. If the canal is closed, the the British Pacific Fleet will be blocked from quick entry into the Atlantic. The overall objective is so Germany can build a first-class naval force despite the British threats, thus the war is inevitable. Simplistically, Fargo needs to kill Buckner and we want him to. With his shotgun.
The familiar narrative has Fargo infiltrating Buckner's force through trial by fire. There's a side-story on Fargo's feud with a Major Kane, and a fling with Kane's wife. Hotel fights, dirty cards and horse soldiers are all packed into a fast-paced, light read at 140-pages. It's easy on the eyes and provides tremendous bang for your buck.
Fans of the series will appreciate the author's flair for weapons, incorporating Fargo's trademark arsenal of Fox shotgun, .38 revolver and the handy Batangas knife. These propel the action and keeps it all consistent within the character mold. Next installment is a trip up north for “Alaska Steel”.