“The Devil’s Payday” by W. C. Tuttle debuted in the 10 October 1922 edition of Short Stories, and the cover art hails from the 25 January 1923 issue. This was rendered by Remington Schulyer.
First and foremost, there are no stage’s held-up in this novel. (Nope. None.) No robberies, neither. No masked men. So, disregard the cover. (Wipe your mind clean. There you go !!! )
The tale takes place in a Western town called Wolf Point. It’s sheriff is “Paint” Harlan, and his deputy is “Whispering” Rombeau. (Why authors think that every fool in the West had nicknames, is beyond my ken. That aside…) The clear-cut painted villain is “Husky” Shane, a mountain of a man (because women never are mountains) and he is opening a new saloon, with gambling as corrupt they come. A rail-line is pushing in and through the town, so there is bound to be big business from them, and, the nearby miners.
Annoyed with facing competition, Shane has the competing saloon burned to the ground, and several perish in the flames, including a singing gal. Shane and his two evil companions remained behind in their saloon and talk about the crime, only to find that a drunken cowboy is still in their saloon. Turns out he ain’t all that drunk, and heard most of the conversation. Coincidentally, he was to be betrothed to the incinerated singing’ girl.
The cowboy calls out Shane, but is beaten badly, tossed out, and then vanishes. The sheriff, Harlan, goes to investigate, but Shane says he jumped horse and rode out of town. On a whim, the sheriff rides out and comes across a lady on a runaway horse, heading for the cliffs.
He saves her, only to find that she is a gal he saw ride in with “Zero” Dean (dumb ass nickname, sorry) whom is a gambler and gunman. Harlan notes several riders far out, and learns that they are after her and Dean, because they stumbled across the body of a dead man. Believing them to have killed the body, they hounded them. Dean appears on the scene and is unhappy that Harlan is present. Worse, he seems to know Harlan from a distant past, one that Harlan wishes to keep secret and buried….
The pair ride away and Harlan remains behind to await the posse of cowboys, and informs them it was impossible for Dean or the girl to have killed the man, since they were still in town. The dead man? Yeah. Fellow that was hooked on the singin’-gal. He blabbed, and Shane had him plugged.
Story dissolves into mayhem in Shane’s saloon, fight between he and Harlan breaks out, and the whole town turns into an insane brawling mess, as Shane orders it to be demolished.
Realizing the melee won’t end until he catches or kills Shane, Harlan pursues him and kills his man. Zero Dean dies of a broken and battered body, confessing that he does know Harlan, as Dean was Harlan’s brother’s partner, and killed the brother, and that Harlan’s name is clear, as they realize that they mistook him for his brother as the killer of Dean’s mother, whom actually was Shane. (I think…? The whole confession was rather convoluted) And to mix things up further, we are tossed that the girl with Zero Dean is actually Husky Shane’s daughter, but, she doesn’t know it, and in the end, she’s not informed.
Of the three Tuttle books I’ve now read, this one was extremely weak, leaving me very disappointed.