Ben Hauss is back for this third entry in the long-running 'Fargo' series. Under house name John Benteen, he penned “Alaska Steel” for Tower in 1969. I've had a blast with these books so far. It's a popcorn western series with predictable plots and characters. While there are far more superior books to discover, it's really enjoyable to steer your brain to the off ramp and enjoy a good adventure. “Alaska Steel” allows that.
Fargo is hired by actress Jane Deering to locate her estranged husband Hal Dolan. Deering and Dolan got married at early ages leading to financial distress - Deering worked as a prostitute and Dolan searched for gold. Dolan's parents are sod-busting hillbillies that bought some land in Texas and then passed away. Deering went on to work in Hollywood while Dolan, apparently obsessed with locating gold, stayed on as a recluse in and around Circle City, Alaska. The two, while married, haven't spoken to each other in four years and Deering has no idea if her husband is dead or alive. In reality, she doesn't care either way, but the land her in-laws owned has struck oil and is worth a fortune. She needs to locate Dolan before she can get both hands into the cookie jar.
Fargo and Deering head north to Alaska to inquire about Dolan's whereabouts. After a series of clues, Fargo learns about a vigilante force known as the Circle of Ten. The group is based out of Circle City, a landing pad for wanted men, outlaws and low-class heathens. The town is ran by your garden variety paperback bully – Whetstone. He owns everything, shortchanging the citizens and strong-arming the town. As Fargo digs into the mysterious Dolan, he learns more about the Circe of Ten and the connection between Whetstone and Dolan.
The story-line and plot can be seen from miles away, and I nailed the ending halfway through. Hauss obliges readers with exactly what we want – fists, guns and loud mouths. While the previous two books placed the action in hot and muggy Mexico and Panama, it was a welcome change to see Fargo perform under frosty conditions. There's a bit of a survival element to the story and I would love to see more of that. Overall, “Alaska Steel” delivers the goods. Next stop is Asia with “Massacre River”.