Deadshot Riders! by Rex Hays was published by World Distributors Incorporated, as part of their All Star Western series, likely around 1950. The artwork is unsigned. The novel runs from page 3 to 111, with 112 noting the name and address of the printer. The interior front and rear covers are blank, wasted space. The rear cover features an advertisement for another western in the series.
Rex Hays is the alias of Canadian ex-boxer Thomas P. Kelley, best remembered in the pulp fiction community for his contributions to the American magazine Weird Tales. He also authored fantasy novels such as:
The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships
(Adam Publishing Company, 1941)
I Found Cleopatra
Richard Stanley, aka “Dick”, returns home aboard his horse, Six-Bits, after having been away for a length of time. He finds his sister’s homestead a smoking ruin and the occupants (her husband and cowhands) very much dead. The only thing keeping him together mentally is his romantic-love on a neighboring farmstead, young Polly Marshall.
The mystery of who murdered them remains unsolved and about a year passes, when Dick proposes his marital interests for Polly to her father, only to be rebuffed. A heated argument ensues and ugly words are exchanged. Dick rides away infuriated, while the father rides into town for business reasons. Unaccountably delayed, Polly fears for her father’s rather late return while her mother figures the husband is delayed due to his assignment in town.
Polly inexplicably suffers through a “vision” featuring her father stumbling, bloody and dying, a piece of paper in his hand, then falling dead. Not long after, news arrives that her father is found dead, stabbed to death. Who is the murderer?
The sheriff and posse arrest Dick on suspicion upon learning of the argument, and, Polly’s mother rides up, wielding Dick’s bloodied knife! He claims it was lost, prior. To top it off, he refuses to confess to his actual whereabouts the night Polly’s father was murdered. So, into the jail cell he goes…for nearly a good chunk of the novel. The novel shifts focus to Polly, instead.
Polly arouses the interest of the Judge and he goes too far into investigating the murder, and, the mysterious “vision” Polly had regarding some form of paper. Knowing that her father had extended loans to various parties, he is surprised to discover the sheriff owed Polly’s dad a couple thousand dollars. Could the sheriff be guilty? The sheriff doesn’t take kindly to the investigation and locks him up, too.
A lot transpires. Dick is broke out of jail by a masked bandit, whose ears give him away to the jailers (they pick him up later) and Dick recognizes his identity immediately, as being a close friend. Dick gets into a scrape with a posse, meets up with Polly, who arrives after hearing gunshots; they break away into the badlands, loads of insane padding ensues, and Dick eventually returns to town with an injured Polly. Dick is arrested while at the doctor’s and thrown back in jail to await his trial.
He is found guilty…then an unknown man rushes in with unusual features. It’s revealed that this man is a wanted man that Dick, while Polly’s dad was dying, rescued, and nursed back to health. Not knowing he was a wanted man, Dick had helped and returned him to health, etc. Feeling a debt to Dick, he brazenly exposes his life to the court-room, going so far as to walk in sans any handguns! He calls the deputy out to confess where the knife came from, as they apparently know one another, and the cowardly deputy confesses the sheriff committed the murder. A shootout occurs, and, well, you can guess the rest…
Polly and Dick prepare to marry, Polly’s bitter Dick-hating mother must admit she was wrong about thinking Dick was the killer, and the Judge proposes to marry Polly’s widowed mother! Dick has a proposal of his own: how about a double-wedding!
Deadshot Riders! is not a brilliant piece of work, but, Kelley hammered out (at least) four westerns quickly for the UK market, circa 1947-48. It’s unclear WHY the title was chosen as it has nothing to do with the novel. Perhaps it was merely catchy. Whatever the case, the western was not horrible enough to warrant my writing off of Mr. Kelley. I intend to tackle further Kelley western novels in the future.
If you are interested in Thomas P. Kelley, then perhaps you should visit his agent’s official website. Kelley is actively represented by Darling Terrace Publishing. His agent has authorized 3 weird and fantastic works via the Pulp Fiction Bookstore and an additional 3 works via Amazon include: