My selection this week on Patti Abbott’s Forgotten Books is a pair of westerns featuring a character known only as Clayburn. Al Conroy is one of a number of pseudonyms used by Marvin Albert. He wrote mystery, crime, adventure, and westerns among others.
Clayburn has done many things to make a living: scouting for the army, gambling, and working for Colonel Remsberg’s Detective Agency among others. He favors black in his dress, usually in town when gambling and such, but wears buckskins and Levi’s when out on the trail.
He’s good with his guns, fast, though he’s not as fast as some of the most seasoned gunmen. He’s just a lot smarter. He can also fight with his fists, dirty, if he has the need.
Clayburn is gambling when he gets word that his best friend, Mike Owens, while moving a herd of ponies with his hands, is attacked and all but one is wiped put, Owens killed with by a large knife wound to the chest.
The lone survivor identifies the attackers as outlaw Ross Slater and his band. Clayburn knows instantly that Slater is the one who actually murdered his friend as, while scouting for the army, he’d nearly gotten into a knife fight with a sergeant, Ross Slater of course, before an officer had separated them. Slater later deserted and turned to the life of an outlaw.
Clayburn leaves immediately to hunt him down. You see, he knows something no one else does. Slater has a brother living as a rancher under a new name: John Thompson. That’s his “in” to getting his revenge.
He heads to Flathead, a town near Thompson’s ranch and hangs around playing poker, waiting. He gets caught up in a mess when he witnesses a woman being harassed by three men, stepping in when no one else does. They turn out to be Thompson’s men and the woman is a young widow many suspect of killing her much older husband for his ranch, which Thompson wants to buy at a reduced rate to accommodate his over extended herds on his own land.
Clayburn, after touring the young widow’s ranch, immediately spots a way to accomplish his aims and help the widow as well. He’s a methodical man that plans his every move, learned from his days as a detective. Never one to take chances, he tries to figure every contingency.
THE MAN IN BLACK(1965)
Clayburn has loaned a sum of money to an old comrade, Greco, from his detective days who wanted to invest in a stage line in a growing town. He goes along in the new coach purchased to look after his money.
On the way in, the pair are attacked, the new coach shot up, Greco wounded.
He learns the story when they reach town. Velma Lang is the partner and she’s being squeezed by a man named Cole Wheelock and his men, a dozen or so. They had been hired to clean up the town and now were extracting “protection” from local businesses. Mrs. Lang had refused. She also tells him their attacker would have to be a man named Alex Flood, who specialized in ambush with a rifle.
Clayburn sees that to insure the return of his money, plus interest, that he will need to take down Wheelock. After Greco recovers somewhat from the wound, they start planning their attack. Clayburn goes out scouting the lands around for anything he can use.
I liked these two books. There were two more Clayburn novels, but I don’t have those yet. Worth checking out.
THE MAN IN BLACK was later made into a film, Rough Night In Jericho, with George Peppard, John McIntire, and Jean Simmons as the good guys and Dean Martin as the villain.
I don’t know why, since it was based on an existing novel, but the script was novelized by Ben Haas under his Richard Meade pseudonym.