"Weeks of hard work had gone into the collecting of those three thousand head of Texas longhorns behind the rails of John Nuttall's Bar N pasture. In the morning, if nothing happened, that herd would be hitting the trail for Sedalia, Missouri, more than a thousand miles distant. But things could happen and Gil Favor, the trail boss, made a final ride around the fence only too well aware that if anything stampeded these long horned, narrow hipped brutes they would go through that fence like sourdough from a broken jug."
So opens 'Rawhide' by Frank C. Robertson, a novel that first appeared in the UK in hardback in 1963.
All the characters that we knew from the TV series are there - Gil Favor, Rowdy Yates and Wishbone.
This time Gil Favor has a problem before he even gets on the trail. John Nuttall has made a bet with an old friend, Tim Worthen, for $5000 that Gil Favor will get the herd to Sedalia ahead of Worthen's. Just to make matters worse Rowdy Yates arrives with the news that Worthen's crew is already on the move.
The rival trail boss is Clay Whipple, Worthen's nephew and it is clear that this is a man who will stop at nothing to win. To make matters worse part of his crew is made up of the outlaw band of Lafe Tipton.
No sooner is Favor on the move with a herd of 3000 cattle covering a mile and a half of road than the crew are hit by a bout of food poisoning. One of Tipton's men is discovered with a bag of saltpetre that he has mixed with the salt supplies.
Frank C. Robertson avoids the usual TV series spin-off type novel with this book. There is action, shoot outs and the odd hanging but mixed into this is a story about the real life on the trail drive. There is tension and tragedy amongst the thirty odd drovers that echoes the real life trail drives.
Most people remember the series but this book does give a lot more and gives both Gil Favor a depth of character that was not present on screen. But, then, this was one of Frank C. Robertson's traits. He is a writer that does not figure in the usual lists of well-known western writers and yet he started writing before many of them and should be better known today.