Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cartridge Creek

 Cartridge Creek is a Western novel by Ben Haas, working under yet another pen-name, Richard Meade. This one is a stand-alone, not part of one of Haas' series, and as a result, it doesn't hew quite as close to formula as his books about Fargo or Sundance. In fact the book is almost leisurely by Haas standards, and no real violence occurs before page 40. Fargo would have already shot a couple of people and had a fistfight by then.
   The hero is a fellow named Will Leatherman and he comes to the small New Mexico town of Cartridge Creek to see about purchasing the town and the land around it. Leatherman and his business partner have run into some financial problems and buying Cartridge Creek and the surrounding prime ranch land cheap, then developing it, could be a way to get them out of the red. But there's a problem. The town is overrun by gunmen in the employ of two ruthless Saloon owners, each of who has his own plans for Cartridge Creek.
   Leatherman's first impulse is to get out of Dodge, as he can't risk his failing business on a lost cause. But his instincts as a cattleman and his growing affection for Bettina Grady, the widow who owns the boarding house where Leatherman is staying, make him ignore his misgivings. Both saloon owners try to hire Leatherman after they see his skill with his fists and guns, but he makes it clear he's not interested. His very presence though is the final spark needed to ignite the long simmering conflict between the two bad guys and Leatherman finds himself just trying to survive the fall out from the battle.
   With the town in lawless chaos, it will take help from some unexpected allies and some hard personal decisions by Leatherman to save Cartridge Creek.
   I had a lot of fun with this one, basically reading it in a sitting. Given a little more breathing room, Haas adds more characterization to his usual fast moving plot. Since Leatherman isn't a series character, Haas is able to write a real romantic subplot. There's a woman or two in most Fargo books, but Haas has to get rid of them by the last page. He seemed to enjoy writing something a bit more stable between Leatherman and Bettina.
   But don't worry. There's plenty of action and violence. The last third of the book is pretty much non-stop action. I picked this one up cheap on Ebay and you can too. If you enjoy Haas' work on Fargo and Sundance, you'll feel right at home, and if you just like a good traditional Western, jump right in.


Mike Stotter said...

In case you can't get a hard copy of this, Piccadilly Publishing have released this and others by John Benteen (and his pen-names) in eBook format at a very good price of $1.99. Check out their website

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Thanks for the info, Mike!