I believe everyone that reads westerns regularly knows that Robert J. Randisi created The Gunsmith series and continues to write the books. I think of the books in this series as “The Old Reliables.” In preparing this post, I rummaged through the many copies I’ve accumulated and realized that I can often recall where I bought the book. Remarkably, I’ve picked these up all across the country – Chicago, Los Angeles, Jackson Hole, Rapid City, Memphis, and Minocqua, Wisconsin. I’ve purchased these books in midnight truck stops, retail chain book stores, independent bookstores and with on-line merchants. I picked up # 280 The Reckoning in Janesville, Wisconsin at a truck stop at the 39/90 Interstate. I remember getting # 161 The Empty Gun up in Minocqua. The latest, # 386 Vengeance Ride, courtesy of Barnes & Noble here in Crystal Lake. The truck stops are my favorite because they still use those spinning wire racks for paperbacks that were once so common.
Legendary lawman Clint Adams, known as The Gunsmith, made his debut in Macklin’s Women in 1982, and this ever-popular series was off to a blazing start. I own the sixth edition reprint from 1985, so I was late to the dance. There is something special about Macklin’s Women and when I re-read it I was struck by how fresh it all seems. Then I realized the book was written as a first person narrative, unlike the new ones which are all third person narratives. I think I’ve become so accustomed to the traditional third person narrative for series westerns that it was fascinating to realize that The Gunsmith began with an entirely different tone.
Macklin’s Women sets up the series with ex-lawman Clint Adams and his wagon of gunsmithing supplies pulled by his horse, Duke. In the town of Baxterville, MO, he learns that a man named Con Macklin has been run out and the townspeople want his three women gone, too. The new sheriff is Dade Whitman and Clint knows him – and despises him. Macklin’s women are Kate, Sara and Billie, and Adams agrees to escort them to Mexico. Along the way he becomes romantically involved with all three (Wink! Wink! Nudge! Nudge!). There are some cameo appearances here – Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp – and Con Macklin himself shows up with an attitude problem. I don’t believe in revealing too many plot details in reviews, which makes me a minority. Suffice it to say, everyone has an agenda, and there are some nifty plot twists. I enjoyed Macklin’s Women just as much the second time around. The book is available on Amazon as a download for Kindle. I don’t own any e-book devices but those of you that do are encouraged to check out this classic first.
These days Clint Adams rides a Darley Arabian horse named Eclipse. He’s still Clint Adams in every other way; he has an eye for a pretty woman and a nose for trouble. His horse Eclipse plays a major role in # 386 Vengeance Ride. Ambushed on the trail by an unknown enemy, Eclipse suffers a wound that requires attention from a local veterinarian. With Eclipse being cared for, Adams enjoys himself in a bathtub with a pretty girl named Maria. While pondering the true nature of his attacker, Adams rides to Orwell, Texas on a rented horse. Later, Eclipse is stolen from the veterinarian and Adams sets out to get his horse back. Adams teams up with a tracker named Cain who enjoys life (and the ladies) as much as the Gunsmith himself. Vengeance Ride is a typical but entertaining entry in the series, and without giving anything away, let me just say I can imagine a sequel or two. As I mentioned before, The Gunsmith books are reliable. You know what you’re getting when you pick up a copy, and Robert J. Randisi always delivers. Coming soon is Mexico Mayhem. And don’t forget the Giants. I’m on the hunt for Gunsmith Giant # 16 The Further Adventures of James Butler Hickok. Saddle up!