Sun 10 Feb 2013
J. ALLAN DUNN – The Girl of Ghost Mountain. Small Maynard Co., hardcover, 1921. Serialized in Western Story Magazine in four parts, beginning with the 16 September 1920 issue; reprinted (I believe) as “The Ghost Mountain Girl” in Far West Stories, beginning with the July 1929 issue. Also currently available in various POD and ebook/online versions.
Although I’ve billed this as a western novel in the heading for this review, The Girl of Ghost Mountain is much more a romance novel that takes place in the West. The date is never quite specified, but at the time it was written, it had to be the contemporaneous West.
Prohibition is mentioned, for example, and the occasional automobile shows up or is made reference to. But there are plenty of cattle and horses too, so don’t be at all concerned in that regard. It’s still the West, although perhaps not the Frontier West.
Pete Sheridan is the new owner of the Circle S ranch, fresh from the east but acclimating to the west in fine fashion, while “Red” Jackson is his right hand man. They make a good team together, facing down bad guys with precision and aplomb, but they’re no match at all to the charms of the two ladies (one slimsy, the other near Amazonian) who settle in a hidden valley behind a waterfall up in the foothills of Ghost Mountain.
The first two thirds of the book is the more interesting, as Red and Sherdian settle the hash of the main villain, a fellow named Hollister, an evil one through and through. Once he’s been vanquished and for good, with another 90 pages still to go, a stoic and enigmatic Chinese gentleman who’s been serving as their cook leads the pair to a cache of hidden gold.
The path is not without its perils, but they are all easily overcome, as we (the reader) know at once will happen, including the prospects in the end (without giving anything at all away, I’m sure) of a double wedding soon in the offing.
All things considered, while I enjoyed reading this one, something that kept niggling my mind is that a story entitled “The Ghost of Girl Mountain” might have had even greater possibilities, even though it’s obviously not the one Dunn intended. Sit back and think about it.