Book 71 is “Straight Shooting” by W. C. Tuttle.
The novella originally appears in the 10 August 1924 Short Stories magazine and the cover art debuted upon the 25 July 1925 edition, was created by Paul Strayer. The tale jumped to the Hollywood big screen as “The Border Sheriff” (25 April 1926) (though the screen version, naturally, differs from the novel).
NOTE: If you want to read another blog entry on
W. C. Tuttle, try this one:
Foremost, this novel sure fits among Tuttle’s better, earlier Western efforts, with a “fairly” concrete plot. Unlike most others, Tuttle opens this tale in Chinatown, San Francisco, with our hero dining in a Chinese restaurant, for unknown reasons. Remarkably, while present, he learns that two hoodlums, dining across the ways, are about to slay a man (accompanied by a pretty girl).
Our hero (swoon) is Cultus Collins, who makes what appears to be his third pulp appearance, and, for my money, I find him more desirable than Sad Sontag.
Realizing that the hoodlums are part of a plan to assassinate the incoming pair, Cultus leaps into action, gunning down one of the pair of assassins and, steals the innocent pair out the back door. There, they are accosted by a policeman and Cultus knocks him down. Cultus quickly hurls the duo into a passing taxi cab and then vanishes, himself.
The story then switches locale, and we find the girl (Joan) and the man (Uncle Henry Belden) back on the HB Ranch. We learn that the pair had been out West signing “options” on their ranch, but, in fact, as is often the case in westerns, the papers were switched out and they actually sold the ranch for pennies on the dollar to a crook, name of Carter Brace.
The plot thickens and becomes more convoluted when Tuttle introduces literally a dozen-plus other assorted characters, many of whom seem useless to the plot, until Collins wraps up the whole scenario for us in the closing pages.
We are introduced to the fact that Uncle Henry has a neighbor, one “Red” whom is a couple years older than Joan. He’s never been into being sociable, but one day rides onto the ranch with a wounded horse. He is awkward in their presence, and Tuttle leaves the reader with the impression of bad-blood between Red’s deceased father and Uncle Henry, whom at one time were partners….
Furthering that, cows have been vanishing from the HB Ranch and Joan one day stumbles across some of the missing brand being rustled by “Red” and his crew. She is repelled by “Red” and his actions, and to worsen matters, he seems to have developed a romantic disposition towards her and fancies matrimony! His apparent awkwardness around her is hilarious to degrees.
Meanwhile, in town, Carter Brace has hired an unscrupulous lawyer, name of Hewette, whom goes so far as to blackmail Brace into surrendering all the cattle on the HB Ranch to him! Hewette is curious why Brace would do so, since the roaming steaks amount to all the ranch’s invested value. Or does it? He soon discovers that Brace has a mining background….
Coincidentally, fate lands Cultus Collins in town and he tangles with some hardliners, showing he is ably capable with both fists or guns. Making quick friends afterward at the bar, he hires on with a local ranching interest and keeps his head low for a while, then decides to investigate the local claims of rustlers, led by the nefarious Dutch Oven gang.
Before riding out, Collins is spotted and recognized by Brace. He sends a wire to San Francisco, informing authorities that HERE is the man that shot up the patronage at the Chinatown eatery. The authorities wire a telegram to the local sheriff to arrest Collins.
Riding into the range, he and Tater-Bug (one of the hands) are spotted by a look-out. They eventually make their way back to their camp, only to discover their horses are missing. Much later in the novel, Collins goes solo at night and makes it through the pass, to discover nary a gang, but a lone shed with a crazy Indian, and the missing horses. He kills the Indian and begins to understand that the Dutch Oven gang are a blind.
The sheriff departs to hound Collins, but later is found shot dead. Everyone assumes that Collins murdered the sheriff. The deputy now finds himself promoted and shockingly yet, Collins sneaks into the office and declares his innocence. No need. The new sheriff believes him an honest man already, and to his surprise, Collins asks him to be deputized! After which, exit Collins (to investigate the Dutch Oven hideout, as aforementioned).
Everything finally comes to a head when the HB Ranch owner and Joan ride into town, doing final battle at the courthouse. Everyone is present, and the defense shocks the crowd when they call Cultus Collins in as a witness. Hewette declares that he can’t be a witness, as he is wanted for murder, and insists the sheriff arrest him. Cultus seats himself, and keeps a long barrel rifle with him, covering the guilty parties.
He slowly unmasks all the villains present, and naturally, some are moronic enough to do that on their own. He bluffs his way through Brace, stating he has a telegram from California demanding THAT man’s arrest for other crimes. Brace tries to draw but is gunned down. The telegram, incidentally, is blank. We then learn that the 8 Bar 8 ranch are the true rustlers, and lawyer Hewette owns a half stake in that ranch! Exit Hewette!
Joan realizes now that “Red” was not the leader of the gang, and he informs her that he was stealing the cows to sell on the side to save Uncle Henry’s interests. All is forgiven, naturally, and we know that the awkward “Red” will begin to court Joan.
My synopsis of the novel does not do Tuttle justice, not in the least. There are tons of other side plots going on, and humorous tidings, too. Tuttle has a refined knack for inserting humor at opportune moments that do little to distract from the pace of the novel.
My copy of this rare novel is in deplorable condition. The cover is detached, rear cover missing, and, the last dozens of pages are rat chewed, causing slight loss of text to some pages, but, the identity of the missing words is quite evident.