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.