Frank O'Rourke (1916-1989) was a Denver native who received his call for writing during WW2. His first novel, “E Company”, was released in 1945. He went on to write over 60 novels, three of which were adapted for film - “The Bravados”, “A Mule for the Marquesa” (film name “The Professionals”) and “The Great Bank Robbery”. My first sampling of his work is the 1958 Signet paperback “A Texan Came Riding”.
A hired gun named John Kearney arrives in the southwestern border town of Taos with a stack of letters. He presents these letters, some written by attorneys, judges and even a governor, to town sheriff Adolfo Montez. Kearney is searching for a criminal named Charles Malcolm, who's chosen Taos as a place to park all of his wealth. As the owner of the mine and half of the area farms, Malcolm is a significant citizen. While never fully explained to the reader, apparently Malcolm raped a woman in the mid-west and cheated hundreds of God fearing farmers out of land and stock.
We are introduced to Charles Malcolm and quickly realize he's a lunatic. Further, he keeps a witch by his side to cast spells and curses on his enemies. Malcolm has laid over half of the women in town, some carrying his offspring over to Mexico, others...well he doesn't even know about. His most prized possession is Rachel Perez, who's he most recently knocked up and placed at a nearby ranch.
Kearney aligns with a sheep herder named Ed Shaffer, Rachel and sheriff Montez to uncover Malcolm's corruption in the town. Discovering an important upcoming transaction between Malcolm and businessman Don Roberto proves to be the key to uncovering Malcolm's corruption. The book's finale has Malcolm on the run as Kearney and his allies hone in.
Despite its mere 128-pages, “A Texan Came Riding” is an exhaustive effort to digest. The narrative is just implausible. Kearny has authoritative letters from various branches of jurisdiction citing Malcolm is a criminal. Why isn't he apprehended by the law? Why would Kearney, a rancher from Nebraska by trade, even be involved in this whole debacle? There's pages and pages of dialogue – displayed in lengthy paragraphs – between Malcolm, his witch and Don Roberto. Further, Kearney doesn't display any heroic traits whatsoever. Did I mention there is a damn witch in this book?
“A Texan Came Riding” is terrible. I weep for the cover artist that designed this reprint. The contents doesn't match the impressive cover.
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