Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Apache #02 - Knife in the Night

'Apache' was a gritty 1970s western series created by the U.K.'s Piccadilly Cowboy group. Mainly, the series was written by Terry Harknett and Laurence James, with both authors alternating entries. Later, Harknett departed and John Harvey took over his place. Overall, there were 27 novels total and all credited to house name William M. James. “Knife in the Night” was released by Pinnacle in 1974, penned by Laurence James, and appealed to fans of the more modern violent westerns like 'Edge'. It's packed to the gills with brutality, rape and bloodshed, yet none of it is over utilized to be a hindrance to the story. 

“Knife in the Night” picks right up with the closing of the series debut, “The First Death”. Our hero, Cuchillo, has fled from Fort Davidson after his wife and baby are killed by the US Army, led by the despicable Captain Pinner. Those events were prefaced by Cuchillo being accused of stealing an ornamental dagger from Pinner. After torturing Cuchillo and removing some fingers, the violence escalated with more attacks and the fiery finale that found Pinner and the group repelling and killing the Apache raid and leaving Cuchillo on the run at the Arizona and Mexican border.

Cuchillo watches helplessly as a Mexican raiding party wipes out most of Fort Buchanan, leaving the women raped and killed and most of the soldiers dismembered and scalped. The Army will believe it was the Apaches that committed the atrocities, continuing the hunt and massacre of the few remaining braves that Cuchillo considers his tribe. In one atmospheric chapter, Cuchillo hunts and kills all 14 Mexicans on a rainy night in the mountains. This smooth, calculated effort is masterfully penned by Harknett, increasing the tension to the breaking point without committing to an onslaught. It's one of the best scenes I've read in a long time. 

The remainder of the book has the Apaches raiding Fort Davidson (again) while Pinner is off buying steer. They systematically torture and kill (bordering on sadism) while Cuchillo attempts to free his life-long friend, white man John Hedges. The book sets up another confrontation between Cuchillo and Pinner, but in an effort to continue the series mythos, it will need to spill over into the next book (and maybe the next 24?). Overall, another quality U.K. western from those talented Piccadilly Cowboys. Next is “Duel to the Death”.