Most western novels have that pivitol moment where the hero comes into his own. Sometimes it is right there at the beginning of the book and on others later on when he has to make that final decision.
In 'Duggan' (1987) the hero is the town drunk who is give the chance to redeem himself. What I like about this book is the character of Zack Duggan who experiences several pivotal moments that reflect real life in the decisions that he makes.
1987 also saw the publication of 'Coalmine'. In this book the main character is unnamed - just known as 'the hunter'. In his previous life he had been a mining engineer who is injured in a mining disaster and has lost the use of one arm. His girlfriend takes pity on him and gives him a job as a hunter of game for the restaurant attached to her father's hotel.
A telegram arrives out of the blue from an old friend asking him to meet him in the town of Standfast so the hunter goes to meet him.
He arrives too late for his friend, Charles Adams, has been attacked but the hunter manages to shoot down two of the gang. He has just found the dead body of Charles Adams.
"You fool," the hunter cursed. "You've been away too long."
He stood up, the rifle back in his hand as he turned to check the other two corpses before attending to that of Rosemary Adams. Leaning the rifle against the wheel, he bent down to straighten her dress, the skirt of which had rucked up about her knees. Having done this he straightened up to open up the tool-chest built into the side of the wagon and extracted a spade.
Then walked over to a soft patch of ground beneath the spreading branches of an old oak tree. He tested the ground with the blade, then began to dig awkwardly.
The dark earth yielded easily, taking him off balance as the blade sank in. He cursed his useless arm that prevented him from making a more thorough job of his grave-digging. This raised questions of doubt in his mind about any attempt to return to his former trade. The whole thing looked like a waste of time for prospecting and surveying took two hands to acheive.
Damn hell, his mind roared, as he slammed the spade back into the ground. Once he had been good at his job, and to hell with it, he was going to prove it again - one handed as he was. Never before had he felt such a surge of self-confidence well through his body. He had only himself to blame for the self-pitying fool that he had become. Instantly he resented himself for the way he had treated Helga and all the others who had tried to help over that hump, by giving good advice and encouragement. All of that he had taken to being given out of pity, when all the time they had been prodding him in the right direction.
Only now it had taken a double killing and a spate of grave-digging for him to understand the truth of the matter. The mental block had been of his own making. Now that he had driven it away, the rest was up to him.
Copyright Jack Giles 1987 and reproduced by permission of Robert Hale Ltd.
Check out the rest of the wild bunch:
I.J.Parnham at The Culbin Trail - http://ijparnham.blogspot.com
Terry James at Joanne Walpole - http://joannewalpole.blogspot.com
Lance Howard at Dark Bits - http://howardhopkins.blogspot.com
Jack Martin at The Tainted Archive - http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com