Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blazing sixguns and Maternal Instincts

A few weeks back, I talked about a pulp detective story by Norman Daniels--a typically enjoyable and action-packed example of entertaining storytelling that came out of the pulp era.

Another example is "Sixguns to Bowie," by Robert J. Hogan. Hogan is best remembered among pulp afficianados as the writer of all 110 issues of G-8 and His Battle Aces, with recounted the World War I adventures of an allied pilot and spy. I've written about G-8 before as well--they were completely unrealistic but mind-numbingly fun yarns in which the spy foiled German plots involving giant robot bats, men surgically transformed into werewolves, and genetically-engineered giant eagles.

Hogan touched on other genres as well. "Sixguns to Bowie" was published in the September 1949 issue of Exciting Western. Like so many other pulp stories, it was a short, but solidly plotted tale that served its purpose in giving the reader some entertaining escapism.

In the story, a young cowboy is on the run from the law after he had taken a job herding cattle that he didn't know had been rustled. He reaches the town of Bowie, hopefully far enough from his old stomping grounds so that he can get a fresh start. But a wanted poster with his picture on it soon pops up.

But he now has friends. An older cowboy and a middle-aged widow have both taken a liking to him. In the woman's case, her maternal instincts are also taking over. So when the young man's life is endangered, it's these two who come to his rescue. A nice bit of deductive reasoning and a well-placed rifle shot lead to a happy ending for everyone but the villain. The villain ends up as lunch for the vultures--but this is a Western, after all.

The story depends on a couple of unlikely coincidences to set up the characters and their relationships with each other, but this is otherwise a well-written Western with particularly likable protagonists. Hogan, like Norman Daniels, was one of the many skilled storytellers who made the pulp era of fiction worthwhile.

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