“Treasure Trail” by Robert Russell Strang

79-16 Treasure Trail

This is Book 79 (Spine # 16) in the New Western Series, published by Garden City Publishing, issued 1st May 1927.

It, to my knowledge, is also the very last title actually published in the series, despite 8 further titles having been announced. After over 20 years of hunting, I have never seen evidence to support that the series continued beyond this one…. If anyone can debunk my assertion, please do so!

The story, “Treasure Trail” by Robert Russell Strang, and the cover art, both originally appeared with the 10 December 1925 edition of Short Stories magazine.

In spite of the Western-themed cover, it is anything but; in fact, if you are a fan of James B. Hendryx wilderness and frozen north novels, this novella isn’t exactly up to Hendryx level of quality, but sure as hell will hold your interest throughout.

Phil is a loafer. He isn’t exactly a loser, however, he is sustained on the monthly allowance permitted him, as heir to a fortune, when he comes of age. However, approaching that age, he is fast to learn that the lawyer handling his affairs has absconded with all his inheritance, and the will has gone missing from courtroom document files.

Pretty-boy Phil, as I said, is no loafer. He learns of the gold rush up in Alaska, and decides to put his body to work. He hires out aboard a steamer, and quickly learns the first mate has a penance for kicking the shit out of newbies and beating up on them with his boots. Phil is no laggard in the fists department, and holds his own amply well.

Landing in Alaska, Phil hunts up a job and earns a one-night position as bartender in the most ruthless haunt in town. Noted for the death of many bartenders, Phil makes himself aware of the most dire threats, and when two bastards pull guns, he smashes bottles into them and takes them down. He also wins some thousands of dollars playing the wheel, which he turns over to a lady name of Kate, to keep, for saving his life.

Making his way further inland, he stakes out various land-plots and works the land but doesn’t make much good on becoming rich, until…the ill-fated captain of the steamer he took crosses his path. Phil is nonplussed to discover Capt. Brant blind, his eyes ruined by the first mate and one of the evil gunslingers from the days when he worked that first night tending bar. The slinger is out for Phil’s blood and joined forces with the first mate, in search of a lost gulch that hasn’t a claim on it yet.

Rumor mill earlier stated that the Captain’s brother had discovered millions in gold, but, when he came into town, he smartly had written a letter to his sea-voyaging brother, in case things went awry. And boy, did they! He was murdered! (gasp)

Obtaining the aid of Phil in securing the lost gold, he is soon competing down the mushing pathways of the frozen Alaskan wastes against two other vile, rival teams. The first includes the aforementioned first mate and gunslinger. The second includes the lawyer whom originally wronged him back in the United States!

The two groups eventually merge into one gang, with the sole purpose of slaying Phil and securing the land. However, Phil stakes his claims first, but, he is cornered in a cave, buffeted from all directions by a pepper of rifle fire. He eventually gives up when Kate and the love of his life appear on the scene, having been a third party chasing him, after they learned that the wretched varmints were on Phil’s trail. They end up catching the women and Phil throws down his gun.

They are all absurdly rescued by…well, to tell you would be to ruin the plot, wouldn’t it? Suffice to say, he gets the girl, they all become millionaires, and Kate, yeah, she gets her man, too….

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“Treasure Trail” by Robert Russell Strang

“The Valley of Suspicion” by J. U. Giesy

78-15 The Valley Of Suspicion

Book 78 (Spine # 15) is “The Valley of Suspicion”
by J. U. Giesy. The spine and cover have the author’s name misspelled, but correct inside.

The 25 March 1926 edition of Short Stories carried this novelette, while the cover hails from the 10 September 1923 issue, was rendered by James Reynolds.

The plot is simple.

Someone is branding newborn cows with another rancher’s branding iron. Believing that that rancher is dishonest, all ranch owners turn to watching them. However, when the brands all begin to mix, all eyes are now watching one-another.

However, a deeper game is afoot. While all are distracted by this rat race of mixed brands, someone is rustling the bigger game out through the valley. Suspected an ex-Texan are two half-breed “greasers.” Confident of this, he boasts at a dance party of one’s guilty and complicity with the other. To worsen matters, one of the pair are caught kneeling over a recently branded cow.

The owners convene and the young man is kicked out the valley, but given secret instructions by another to prove his innocence and return only when he has evidence. He departs and is not heard from again….

Fast forward, and the daughter of the main rancher is captured by the actual rustlers,  kidnapped out of the valley, and brought to the headquarters of the rustlers. Unbeknownst to them, the “greaser” that was disavowed earlier in the novel had changed his name to an alias, claimed to be a bandit on the run, and had taken refuge there as a hired hand. He learns of the girl’s arrival and forks leather quickly through a secret pass in the valley, and returns with a handful of tough ranch-hands to rescue the girl.

This they succeed in doing. The two “greasers” are proved innocent, and, remarkably, this becomes one of the few westerns I’ve ever read where none of the half-breeds or Mexicans or other stereotyped ethnicities are slapped with a final burden of guilt !!! It was a real pleasure reading this novel that clearly denounced that those of ethnic or mixed origins must always be at fault.

“The Valley of Suspicion” by J. U. Giesy