This is a recent find from England, which is where it was published. I don’t think it was ever released over here. James Moffat was a Canadian author who used a number of pseudonyms and wrote what one source described as “hack fiction(westerns, children’s stories, mysteries).” The only other novel I have by him is also under his name, a movie novelization for a low budget(shall we say cheap) movie titled Queen Kong. I really need to post that cover just to display the cheesiest looking ape suit I’ve ever seen.
It was obvious reading the book that Moffat likely wasn’t at all familiar with Gunsmoke, probably working with character sketches of the main participants. Everyone was just slightly off from those friends long time watchers of the show know and Festus was nowhere in evidence, not even mentioned. Matt seemed to work Dodge alone.
The plot was serviceable, though depending a little too much on coincidence.
Rick Weedon, the man from Alberta, had roamed America for six years looking for a man. Had no idea what he looked like or anything about him, a man he wanted to kill. A man who had raped and murdered his wife. All he got was a name from her in a dying declaration.
And that name was Matt Dillon!
He got lucky in a small town when he revealed a couple of card sharps getting ready to fleece a local rancher. They were driven out of town and a chance remark that Dillon would take care of them when they got to Dodge put him on the trail.
He has trouble reconciling the hateful image he’d built up of our favorite Marshall as he observes him waiting his chance to strike. Dillon is kind to Miss Kitty. When a local cowboy is found murdered and robbed of big poker winnings, an eye witness, a drunken old prospector places him standing over the body, Dillon stands off a lynch mob led by a vicious rancher. Later, the old prospector is found shot in the back of the head while Weedon is still in jail.
As I mentioned earlier, coincidence happens a lot. In a subplot, a mother, father, and son, all three separated by a lot of years wind up in Dodge at the same time. Weedon steps in when the man is abusing the woman. The real rapist/murderer shows up in Dodge as well and drinks with Weedon, happening to mention a rape in Canada six years earlier and laughing about using Dillon’s name.
It wasn’t a bad novel, just not as good as I’d hoped. Wouldn’t recommend it unless, like me, you’re a collector.