Crime writer William Ard experienced 1960s success with his private eye characters Barney Glines, Timothy Dane, Lou Largo and Johnny Stevens. His impressive 10-year peak run of writing included pseudonyms Ben Kerr and Mike Moran. But, the then Florida resident turned his attention to the western genre by adding a W to his last name and becoming Jonas Ward. He combined that with his ad exec experience at the Buchanan Ad Agency and created the loner cowboy Tom Buchanan for an astounding 23-book series simply called 'Buchanan'. The debut, “Names's Buchanan”, was published in 1956 and it's 1957 sequel is the subject at hand, “Buchanan Says No”.
The book begins after a tiring and exhaustive 40 day cattle drive that promises to pay Buchanan, his kid protegee Mike Sandoe and the whole crew a nice $400 payday. But, after a day of waiting at the end of the drive, the payroll guy hasn't shown up. Buchanan learns that the payer, Boyd Weston, is in the nearby town of Bela so he and Sandoe head for the town. From here we gain some insight on Bela, and its splitting between power hungry Frank Power and his partner Bernie Troy. The cattle drive was arranged as a backwoods deal – cattle to the US Army for guns that will later be traded to Mexico to in turn fight the US Army. It's a vicious circle but Troy and Power trust Weston to arrange the whole thing. Unfortunately, Weston blew the whole payroll pot on a poor night of gambling. Instead of ponying up the shortfall, Power and Troy agree to give the crew of laborers 10% of their promised payout as a final and only payment.
While the plot could be construed as elementary from the surface – the “good guys” want the rich to pay – it has some deeper layers that keep it from being average. First, Sandoe is contracted by Power to provide the 10% news to the crew. Partly because he is the fastest hand in town but also because he needs to be divided from the deceptive and dangerous Buchanan. This turns the narrative into the teacher facing his student. But, there's the political portion of the town to contend with as well as two beauties that Buchanan must handle. In Ard's humorous “wink wink” fashion, Buchanan fondles one woman while another waits at the door for her turn. It's brilliant storytelling that left me laughing (and Buchanan was too at his incredible fortune). The story builds with intrigue, but laced with a number of fighting scenes that propels the inevitable showdown between Buchanan and Sandoe.
“Buchanan Says No” is my first sampling of this much beloved western series. In fact, it's my first taste of Ard's work as a whole. He's a fantastic storyteller here, creating a rich tapestry of action and intrigue that should please fans of the action-adventure genre. I have a lot of Buchanan books to devour, and like everything else, it's just simply a timing issue that I haven't read more. Look for more Buchanan and Ard reviews here soon.
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