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The name of the little town was Bitter and it sat in the big valley. Winter had been long, but unseasonably warm weather was causing a rapid melt of the snow, soon to turn the ground into a soupy quagmire of sucking mud. In that backdrop, three groups were converging on the town that were going to heat things up in the small town, a town too small to have any law.

Blaise Cattrell and his foreman and friend, Dan Murdock, were one group. The second was Hal Crane and a few of his hands. Neither man was fond of each other. Starrett wanted Crane’s land and he wanted it for half it’s worth. If he couldn’t steal it that way, he would just take it. Murdock didn’t like that last idea. He didn’t want gun wages which was what it would be. Besides, Blaise and he were in sort of a friendly/adversarial competition for the hand of Paula Preston, daughter of one of the town merchants.

The third group was the most dangerous. Jack Bruhn and his eight member gang. They were on the run after a bank robbery, fifty thousand, and a posse on their trial. One man wounded, they needed a place to hold up and get aid for the wounded man. Bruhn was the leader, but his hold was tenuous. He knew one, Tex, wanted to take over leadership, which would mean Bruhn’s death. He’d bear watching. Pace had a hair trigger temper and an insane love of killing and blood and would probably back Tex. Juarez Smith was a jackal and an ally of Tex. The rest were more or less reliable, but would follow whoever was on top.

A volatile bunch that quickly disarmed the town, grinding personal weapons into the mud and rounding up all weapons for sale in the general store, plus searching the houses.

The three groups were about to be marooned in Bitter, surrounded by a sea of mud so viscous that a man would sink up to his ankles walking in it, never mind how a heavier horse would manage. They couldn’t get out, the posse after them couldn’t get in, move for that matter.

As long as the drinking was it and their wounded taken care of, the town was ready to go along with it. Even with one dead and one wounded. But Dan Murdock could see that wouldn’t last. He saw a couple eying some of the women and knew trouble was coming. He had to get something organized before it all broke loose. he had to find a weapon, get one somehow.

I liked this one. Violence, betrayal, a love triangle, actually two overlapping triangles

It was made into a movie with Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise, and Nehemiah Persoff. The review will be along sometime.

For more Friday’s Forgotten Books, check out Patti Abbott over at Pattinase.

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