Terry Harknett is a British author that specialized in writing violent, sometimes humorous western novels. By using a variety of pseudonyms, Harknett is one of the most dominant authors of the western genre. His most prolific work is the 61-book 'Edge' series, the 27-book 'Apache' series and the subject at hand, the 49-book run of 'Adam Steele' novels. In fact, after Harknett's phenomenal success with Edge, the Pinnacle publisher was clamoring for another series in the same style. In 1974, the debut Adam Steele novel arrived with the title “Rebels and Assassins Die Hard”. Harknett's pseudonym was the same one used on the Edge series, George G. Gilman.
The story begins with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at the Ford Theater in Washington, DC. With the town stirred up, three guys in a bar start targeting anyone with a southern accent. After brutally beating an older patron, the trio, with the help of the bartender, accuse a defenseless old-timer with providing Lincoln's assassin with the proverbial smoking gun. Despite the victim's pleas of innocence, the foursome cruelly hang him in the bar.
Adam Steele arrives in town and quickly learns about Lincoln's murder. He chances on the same bar and finds the old-timer still hanging in the saloon. After Adam gets a closer look at the victim, he gains some information from the bartender regarding the identities of the hangmen. Then shockingly, he tells the bartender that the man they hung was his father! After shooting the bartender pointblank in the belly, Adam rides back to the old family farm to bury his father.
Things get really interesting at this point in the narrative. First, Steele has a confrontation with his childhood best friend Bishop, now a deputy. Adam is a wanted man, which is like blood in the water for a cold-blooded bounty hunter named Lovell. While that narrative comes to fruition, another thread has the Army searching for the assassins involved in Lincoln's assassination. This leads them into a enthralling head-on collision with both Bishop and Lovell, the hangmen and Adam Steele.
This debut entry is just a remarkable western tale. There are so many narratives weaved together, yet it's presented seamlessly under Harknett's experienced hand. Just when I thought the frantic pace would slow, a new adventure would quickly begin. By story's end, Adam Steele resembled an enjoyable Fargo installment. There's even a small “The Most Dangerous Game” thread as Adam is hunted through the mountains by Native Americans led by a deranged British Captain. To say this is an unorthodox western is an understatement.
Terry Harknett's debut Adam Steele novel is a mandatory read for genre fans. Buy your copy HERE.