“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….

“Treasure Trail” by Robert Russell Strang

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