2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of mystery writer (he hated the term “author”) Mickey Spillane (1918-2006), and some of his works, including several unfinished ones completed by Max Allan Collins, are due to be published this year. First out the gate is the latest Caleb York mystery western The Bloody Spur. Written by Collins based on a never-filmed screenplay by Spillane, The Bloody Spur is a fun read from start to finish.
Picking up where the previous novel in the series left off, York, the sheriff of the small but lively western town of Trinidad in the late 1800s, finds himself in the middle of a public dispute. Seems the town fathers want to allow the Santa Fe Railroad to pass through their town & pump up local business, but Bar-O rancher & majority landowner George Cullen (whose daughter Willa is York’s sort-of girlfriend) won’t allow the trains onto his land. Adding to that tense situation is a notorious gunman, the Bible-quoting Preacherman, coming into town, possibly hired to kill someone, the unexpected return of Cullen’s ex-partner who’s free after serving 20 years for manslaughter, an upcoming poker tournament at the Victory dance hall & saloon, and the mysterious death of one of Trinidad’s leading citizens. York must find out if any or all of these events are connected before somebody else gets killed.
Collins does a fine job sketching the characters of York and his supporting cast and manages to give a suitably bloody violent climax at the end. Note that two characters from the previous novels are dispatched (one fatally) and that things in Trinidad are going to be a lot different in forthcoming installments. Meanwhile, check out The Bloody Spur!
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