Smoke Jensen helps some of the smaller ranchers in the valley when a wealthy Frenchman, Colonel The Marquis Lucien Garneau, starts buying up the smaller ranches. His aim is to be the biggest rancher in the area which means he has to outgrow Smoke’s ranch.
His real name is Pierre Mouchette, a French army officer who’d stolen two and a half million Francs, half a million American, and murdered his sergeant, chosen by him for a resemblance to himself, passing him off as himself by burning his face and switching clothes.
Then off to America.
Unfortunately, the smaller ranchers surrounding him aren’t willing to sell. He begins a campaign to get those properties any way he can: intimidation so he can buy them cheap, paying taxes where he gets the property for next to nothing, outright murder and kidnapping, though all where he can’t be blamed.
One ploy involves murdering the man holding them all together, a rancher named Humboldt Puddle. Smoke hears the shots and comes to the rescue, to late to save Puddle, but in time to kill most of the killers and promise the dying man he’d take his will in and get it to the proper authorities. He’s leaving it all to a young nephew back East, Malcolm Theodore Puddle.
When he arrives, after sending a telegram authorizing Smoke to pay due taxes, $200, to keep the Frenchman from gaining control. When the young man arrives, he appears helpless, dressed as a dandy, but there’s starch in the boy. Though having never fired a gun, he had boxed before and could handle himself a bit. Smoke would take care of the gun part, drilling him in the use.
It’s Smoke, young Puddle, and a few small ranchers against an army of killers.
Quite liked this one and one thing brought a smile to my face. There’s a theater in Big Rock where a piano concert happens. It’s called the Reasoner Theater and is owned by a man named James Reasoner.
Nice nod to a fine western writer. Can be ordered HERE.