My selection this week is another western by the creator of Mike Shayne, TWO-GUN RIO KID, published in hardcover in 1941. In fact, it lists four separate publishers before this 1954 Pocket Books edition. It has an introduction by Erle Stanley Gardner.
In his introduction, Gardner talks, and I quote:
“Indeed, there are too many areas in the world today where justice and the rights of men are constantly sacrificed to political advantage for us to be other than intensely aware of the necessity to guard them jealously.”
Considering the time of the writing, 1954, Gardner had to be speaking of the House Un-American Activities committee’s zealous pursuit of communism during that period. But that quote would certainly be relevant today in light of the last administration’s curbing of a number of our freedoms in the name of hunting down terrorism in every corner of our society.
But enough political talk.
Hugh Aiken was coming home to Arizona after three years. He wanted to clear his name and the letter he sent to his best friend, Charlie Barnes, said he finally would be able to prove he hadn’t shot the Sheriff in the back, if only he was given time before being shot or lynched. The wanted posters said $10,000 Dead or Alive. He wanted Barnes to meet him at the deserted Bar L ranch which he intended to use for a headquarters/hideout in a week.
But things had changed in the three years Aiken had been gone, both for himself and the folks at home. The Bar L had been taken over by a man named Henry Pelham and had prospered while other ranches were slowly going under to rustlers and mother nature, prospered some whispered illegally. He did have half a dozen gunslicks working for him and jealously guarded the borders of his land, not allowing anyone access. He also had designs on Aiken’s sister, Peggy, who owned he bordering ranch. Much to Barnes’ consternation. He’d loved Peggy since they were very young, but like all males, he was essentially clueless about women.
And Aiken wasn’t the same man who’d left so hastily three years ago. A reputation had grown around because of his skill with his guns. He defended himself more than once from would-be gun hands seeking a rep of their own. Which only led to more attempts to outdraw him. He’d also been hung with the name the Rio Kid, because he hung out just below the border in Mexico and his youthful, somewhat reminiscent of Billy The Kid, appearance.
All that was going to change though. He could prove that he hadn’t murdered the Sheriff and return to the life he’d led before.
Only the night of his return, the son of the late sheriff, now Sheriff himself, was found murdered, shot in the same manner as his father. Things just got a lot tougher for the Rio Kid.
This was the fourth novel featuring this Rio Kid. I don’t have the others, but did acquire two of the pulp magazine character written by Tom Curry at the same time.