Thorne Douglas is one of the several pseudonyms Ben Haas used on his novels. He’s been John Benteen, where he authored two of my favorite series, Sundance and Fargo, Richard Meade where he wrote some fantasies as well as a western or two, and at least one western under the house name Jack Slade. Not to mention his own name.
Calhoon was published in September, 1972 and was the first book in the Rancho Bravo five book series.
Lucius Calhoon was a South Carolina boy who fought three years in the Civil War and spent a year in a Yankee prison. Now it’s 1866 and his plantation is gone, the cotton he had stored confiscated, auctioned, and sold, the money pocketed by crooked Federal agents.
All he has left is his consuming hatred for the Yankee officer, a Texas sympathizer named Gordon Weymouth, who tortured him in that prison, leaving him with a stump at the wrist of his right arm. He follows the man back to his Texas town and immediately gets caught up in a war with a crooked judge named Josh Weymouth, the father of the hated Yankee officer, and a landowner named Henry Gannon.
He does that by stopping a lymching about to take place by a group of Regulators led by a man named Tod Isaacs. Too late, he realizes the victim is a black man, Elias Whitton. And he doesn’t even like black men, not because he used to own 200 of them, but because the war killed so many good men on both sides.
Whitton and Gannon are partners with a dream. Gannon is about to lose his land for back taxes in ninety days, taxes that he has no money to pay. They intend to gather as many wild Longhorns from the brush as they can, hopefully 2000, and drive them west to the prairie lands up near Colorado, there to establish Rancho Bravo, to feed the hungry miners in the gold and silver fields. Whitton lived with the Commanches and married one. He knows the way and can get them safely through.
It seems a hopeless task, but Calhoon comes up with a plan to get the men needed to make it happen. So reluctantly, Calhoon, having no knowledge of herding cattle, gets drawn in as a third partner, a fighting man to watch their backs while they work.
Those Regulators constantly harrass and use all sorts of dirty tricks in their attempts to slow or break up the gathering. The only person keeping it from exploding into a full out war is Captain Philip Killraine, commander of the troops overseeing the area, an honest officer who keeps getting in the Judge’s way. And he also has a beautiful sister who sparks Calhoon’s interest.
This is my favorite of Haas’ novels(I haven’t read nearly all of them though). From that first page to the last big confrontation, the book was packed with good stuff.
I think anyone who likes a good western will enjoy this one. From what I gather, perusing through the other titles, each one of the four principals takes a turn as the main character in one of the books. A nice idea.
Now on to book two, The Big Drive. Rancho Bravo is hitting the trail with 4000 head.
I’ll get back to you.