Thursday 5 March 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book - Warlock by Oakley Hall

Oakley Hall
(1920 - 2008)
First published - 1958
Oakley Maxwell Hall wrote over twenty books between 1949 and 2007 of which only three were westerns.
The Badlands published in 1978
Apache published in 1986
and the first being Warlock.
The narrative for Warlock is augmented by segments from the Journal of Henry Holmes Goodpasture.
The back blurb to my copy states: 'God made men, but Sam Colt made them equal..... In turn they had scratched their names of the wall of the town jail; the men whose pride had led them to believe in the old frontier saying. Then one by one they died or ran. They were the deputies of Warlock.'
Behind closed doors the citizens of Warlock decide that the time has come to hire a real Town Marshall - and they select a man with a reputation and a dubious past in the shape of Clay Blaisdell. A man who sports a pair of gold handled Colts that were presented to him by a dime novel author of his exploits. Blaisdell promises to draw his guns as and when he needs to but he is a man who meets violence with violence.
Against this is his friendship with the gambler/killer Tom Morgan who owns 'The Glass Slipper' a man who slips off to rob a stagecoach.
The town of Warlock prospers at the hands of local cattlemen and the miners of the nearby silver mining company. But it seems that one bunch led by Abe McQuown is causing all the trouble.
When the incumbant deputy sheriff, Carl Schroder, is killed it is a McQuown man who takes up the badge - but Johnny Gannon is not a man who takes side. It is Gannon who grows in stature with his stance on defining law and order as the book progresses.
Warlock is a book that seems to embrace all the stories of the wild west and compress them into one story.
Whereas most writers will state that none of the characters relates to anyone living or dead etc, Oakley Hall states in his Prefatory Note he says '.....But any relation of the characters to real persons, living or dead, is not always coincidental, for many are composites of figures who live still on a frontier between history and legend.'
Book 1 of this novel is called 'The Fight At The Acme Corral' and anyone with a sense of history about them will twig the similarity with 'Gunfight At The OK Corral'. And there is something about Clay Blaisdell that hints at Wyatt Earp with Tom Morgan filling in for 'Doc' Holliday. Though the character of John Gannon owes more to 'Billy' Breckenridge than John Behan.
McQuown takes the Clanton role and Curly Burne has to be the stand in for Curly Bill Brocius.
Other names click a link beack to those times in Tombstone and when Tom Morgan robs the stage - it recalls that 'Big Nose' Kate had made a similar accusation against 'Doc' Holliday.
Warlock is not a reworking of the Tombstone story - those events are just a part of a story that builds to a tense finale where Gannon and Blaisdell must face each other.
The book is what it is - a time where history became a legend.


David Cranmer said...

They don't write blurbs like that anymore! Sounds like a compelling read.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

You mentioned this book in one of the comments to my blog a few weeks ago.I've got it somewhere but can't find it at the moment amongst the boxes in the loft. I've seen the movie twice but never read the book.

pattinase (abbott) said...

When I saw the title, I thought it might be about male witches. But I should have known better. Thanks, Ray.

Ray said...

And Warlock was in my top ten westerns - it is just a brilliantly conceived book and a great read. And it seems that every time I read it I find something new.