Since November, I’ve been engaged in reading Ben Haas’ Fargo series, reding three or four a month. I have twenty-two novels, nineteen written under the name John Benteen, and three by another author, a John W. Hardin.
Neal Fargo is a fighting man, having been a member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and later serving a hitch in the Philippines conflict. Tall and weather beaten, his prematurely white hair kept close-cropped, he still wears much the same outfit he wore in the service: cavalry boots, campaign hat, jodhpurs, or khaki pants, comfortable shirt.
His weapons of war include a .38 with either a hip or shoulder holster, depending on his need at the time. Loading with hollow points for greater stopping power, he prefers it to the .45 automatic, which tends to jam, the army uses. His knife, a Batangas, made by Philippine artisans, has a ten inch blade that folds back into the handle except for a few inches, popping out with a flick of the wrist. it’s razor sharp and said to be able to pierce a silver dollar without breaking or dulling. Fargo is quite expert with it and is ambidextrous, a little known fact, to his enemies, that has saved his life more than once in fights.
His favorite weapon, though, is the Fox Sterlingworth ten-gauge shotgun, sawed-off, and engraved along the inlay with the words, To Neal Fargo, gratefully, from T. Roosevelt. The former President and he are the only ones who who know what he did to get the weapon. It’s a deadly piece, loaded with shells of nine buckshot each. He’s the only man Fargo will drop everything and come running when called.
When he’s ready for trouble, Fargo wears two bandoliers of shells, crisscrossed on his chest, one for the shotgun and one for his Winchester ’93.
The man has been everywhere and done most anything to survive. His family was wiped out by Geronimo’s band when he was a child, he being missed. A neighbor took him in, not out of love, but knowing he would grow into a free hand, a slave. At twelve, he ran off and had been on his own ever since.
Oil rigs, gold in Alaska, logging in the great Northwest, cattle drover, professional boxing, even a stint as a bouncer in a New Orleans whore house, whatever he needed to do to survive. During his military service, he came into his own, learning the trade that would sustain him form that point.
He takes the biggest jobs and commands the highest prices. Then he goes on an orgy of drinking, gambling, women, until he needs to take another job. No desire to grow old and doddering(he’s met Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson), he saves no money, knowing that sooner or later he will stop a bullet. That doesn’t bother him.
Fargo has fought wars in South and Central America, been all up and down the North American continent. He fought to save the Panama Canal construction as well. In one book, he fought side-by-side with a Billy The Kid that hadn’t really been killed by Pat Garrett and was tempted to test his speed on the draw against the legendary gunman.
He’s run guns across the border to Pancho Villa, having to dodge Texas Rangers doing it after Wilson turns against the Mexican Revolutionary.
He has one fear: heights. That’s never stopped from doing what needs to be done, though.
The series began in 1969 and went on into 1977 with new additions. The handling of the books has been documented by others as slipshod, to say the least. Sometimes marketed as traditional westerns, other times as adventure novels, they weren’t really classical westerns. The time period was the early 1900s up until 1918, going back and forth during those years. Fargo is in his late twenties to around forty.
Belmont started, then Belmont Tower was the publisher. My set also has a few with the publisher shown as Unibook. Not familiar with them.
I’m breaking the title down into three groups.
Valley of Skulls
The Black Bulls
These fourteen were all written by John Benteen(Haas).
The next three were by someone using the peudonym John W. Hardin(a lengendary gunman himself). The first had Hardin’s name on both cover and title page, the second Benteen on the cover, Hardin on the title page. The third one doesn’t mention Hardin anywhere.
The style is all wrong for Haas, though, and is the same as the first two titles. Also, the Hardins are less personal when talking about Fargo’s weapons than the Benteens. In the two Hardins, the Fox Sterlingworth is simply “the sawed-off” and he loads the twin barrels with a buckshot shell and a “pumpkin ball” shell. It has no sling as in the Benteens. The third has the same descriptions.
That’s why I believe it was a Hardin novel.
The last group are by Haas.
The Border Jumpers
Death Valley Gold
Fargo and The Texas Rangers
The last four of these titles were no longer copyrighted by the publisher, but were either Benteen or Haas.
When I was trying to fill out my set with the missing volumes, I could find no single listing of titles. From several sources, I came up with twenty-two novels. I think that’s the right number, although the last book I have that’s numbered is Gringo Guns and that has #18 on it. There were five titles published after that.
The explanation that explains it, I believe, are the two copies I have of Wolf’s Head. By copyright date, it should be number nine in the series. the oldest copy has no number and the other has #15 on it. As I remarked earlier, the publishers were a little inconsistent in their handling of these books.
If anyone who reads this knows of any other entries, please let me know. I’d like to add them.