‘The Gunsmith’ series of adult Westerns by Robert Randisi (writing as J.R. Roberts) is the most enduring - and the last man standing - of the mega-successful adult western titles. It’s also the most consistently good, thanks to having one author and visionary at the helm rather than a rotating cast of hired guns writing under a house name. The series started in 1982 and new installments are still released on a regular schedule, so I decided to check in with a 2019 episode, “Gunsmith #446: Deadville.”
Clint Adams is The Gunsmith, a drifter hero and gunfighter who rides from town to town finding adventures and getting laid in the Old West. Over the years, Randisi has played with the idea that Adams has achieved a kind of folk hero celebrity status in the untamed American West. This has made for a fun premise in several different novels, and provides the motivation for the villains of “Deadville.”
Mayor Tom Simon of Wentworth, Nebraska has cooked up a scheme to make his crappy, dying village into an 1800s boomtown. He’s studied the success of towns like Deadwood and Tombstone and believes he’s cracked the code of their success. These towns have benefited from the violent deaths of famous gunfighters - such as Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood. His plan is to entice the famous Clint Adams into town, have The Gunsmith killed in a dramatic fashion, change Wentworth’s name to Deadville, and a tourist Mecca is born!
A few months later, The Gunsmith is lured to Wentworth under false pretenses - stopping to get laid along the way. Now, Mayor Simon’s toadies can’t just shoot Adams in the back and expect Deadville to be the next OK Corral. The killing of Clint Adams requires some drama and theatricality to make the story go viral, so he enlists the help of a gunfighting local outlaw named Bad Tony Bacon to lay the groundwork for a staged killing within city limits.
There’s a cool vibe in “Deadville” that reminds me a bit of the movie “The Truman Show.” Many of the citizens and leaders of Wentworth understand that they are creating theater to set up the sequence of events leading to The Gunsmith’s murder. The only one without any knowledge of the gag seems to be Clint Adams himself. Randisi’s writing is forward-moving and breezy with lots of dialogue and short chapters making the pages fly by. The sex scenes are graphic and very explicit, but they can be skipped or skimmed if you’re the type to blush easily.
What we really have here is a mystery where The Gunsmith attempts to understand what Mayor Simon is planning before Adams starts catching bullets with his body. Randisi is a seasoned writer of both mysteries and Westerns, so he’s on familiar ground here - particularly after authoring over 500 adult western novels. The story was very compelling but there wasn’t a lot of action outside of the bedroom until deep into the paperback. Overall, “Deadville” is formulaic as hell and probably not a great selection for your wife’s book club, but the story is a lot of fun with tons of sex and a likable stalwart hero. What’s not to like?
This book was discussed on the fifth episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast: Link
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