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THE FRIENDLESS ONE is the other half of an Ace Double. The other is WEAR A FAST GUN by John Jakes which I covered last week. The pair came out in 1957.

Jim Ryan is the man of the title, a new fellow in the area, buying a small ranch only six months before, intent on raising/selling cattle and living down a violent past. He had made a few friends, but it only took one incident to make him realize how tenuous a relationship that turned out. Attending a dinner invitation by Tom Strickland of the S-Bar and his daughter, he once more broached the subject of buying the S-Bar. Strickland had once been the big dog in the Cuchillo Plains, but age and an accident that left him stove up had loosened his hold. Ryan’s ranch bordered one side of him, another rancher, Hugh Baldwin, the other. Baldwin wanted the S-Bar also.

Ryan watched the old man lose his temper at the offer, used to such tantrums, but it escalated and old Strickland ordered him off the property. He went and was riding away when a shot rang out.

Ryan spun, pulling his gun to see the old man twisting down on the porch, his daughter and the ranch foreman coming out, and hearing hoof beats racing away. He pursued, a long chase happening, shots exchanged, the trail ending up in town. Ryan stalked through looking for the shooter and a hot horse.

Nothing.

Then the Sheriff comes in and, just as Ryan was about to tell what he knew, tells him he’s under arrest for murder. Baldwin is with him and his foreman, who says he was riding near the ranch when he saw Ryan shoot Strickland, then pursue him to shut him up.

Ryan shoots out a lantern and beats a retreat amidst a hail of gun shots, one catching him in the leg. He escapes, but now is being hunted for murder. It had to be Baldwin and no one believes him innocent except his foreman, old Frank Sears.

The two of them knew of a cave along a hidden trail on the rim wall of the canyon and Ryan waits for him there. Sears tells him, as he patches the wound, that the countryside is being scoured for him, and the things being said. Even Strickland’s daughter, Ann, believes he did it.

Ryan is planning to just leave. He’d come here to escape violence and didn’t intend to get pulled into it. At his ranch, sneaking around the gun men waiting for him, he tells Sears all this and admits he wants to try to convince Ann of his innocence before he goes. He visits the S-Bar, finds Ann, and halfway convinces her of the truth. He says he will ask Sears to check on her on the way out.

When he returns to his ranch, he finds the old man face down in the mud, two bullets in his back.

That’s when things changed.

The showdown has a driving thunderstorm as a backdrop, a posse still believing Ryan guilty, and a man hellbent on burning everything down if he couldn’t take it. Ryan seems to be the only one standing in his way.

Nothing new here, the plot was probably old in 1957, but I like the way Hogan put it all together. he tells a nice story and I enjoyed the journey.

For more forgotten books, go to PATTINASE.

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