Here’s yet another outstanding collection from Black Dog Books. The legendary Norvell Page, best known as the scribe of The Spider, also wrote westerns. His output in the pulp western genre was modest compared to others, but the five stories collected here are action packed tales in the grand tradition of the pulps. Page’s westerns offer the requisite imagery: “The crash of the six-guns swelled the walls, let them clap back together again. The invader’s arm flew in a wide circle. His six-shooter slammed into the wall. The impetus of that bullet-driven arm hurled the man to his knees. Cougar Charlie held his gun poised – and saw that the man he had wounded was his enemy, Flash Burden! He laughed harshly.” (p. 42, from Brand of the Cougar, from 1935). The earliest story, Coralled, collected here dates from 1930. Also included are Trail of the Snake (1935), Secret Guns (1936), and Hell’s Backtrail (1935). Page’s westerns come across as derivative of Zane Grey and Max Brand which wasn’t all that unusual for the period. Zane Grey set a high standard for westerns and Max Brand was, at best, an emulator of Grey’s style. Still, Page does well with his westerns although having read his crime stories it’s obvious this was a genre that he wasn’t completely comfortable with. I enjoyed Trail of the Snake and recommend it for fans of classic pulp westerns. The brief bio on Page by Tom Roberts along with the introduction by Bill Crider are well written and informative.
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