TOM WEST – Ghost Gold. E. P. Dutton “Diamond D Western,” hardcover, 1950. Reprint paperback: Pocket #733, October 1950.

TOM WEST Ghost Gold

   I almost pitched Ghost Gold after the first few pages: the local bank is found robbed, a teller murdered, and a handsome stranger on the floor, unconscious, with the murder weapon in his hand.

   Well, it’s perfectly obvious he can’t be the killer, and equally obvious that someone’s going to walk his horse out from under him if he can’t prove his innocence. Looked like pretty standard stuff, and I didn’t feel like spending a whole book plodding toward the obvious.

   Fortunately, neither did the author, Tom West.. In short order our hero is cleared of the crime and on the track of the guilty owlhoots what done it. Which is also fairly standard stuff for a western, except that this one is peppered with a saucy supporting cast that livens up even a plot as stale as this one.

   West throws in a corrupt lawman with a stubborn streak, colorful heroine, drunken lawyer, doughty squatters, and best of all, a colorful detective, Scripture Sam, who goes about methodically collecting clues and sifting evidence in the best tradition, while mis-quoting the Bible and ventilating side-winders.

   Ghost Gold is worth reading just for this, but it also offers a few well-paced chases, gun-battles and a dandy wrap-up for the hombres. In all, a lively time and I’m glad I stuck with it.

TOM WEST Pistoleer

Editorial Comments:   Tom West is not an author who’s remembered very much today, even, I suspect, by most collectors and connoisseurs of western fiction. But between 1944 and 1980 he wrote some 60 plus western novels, most of them as paperback originals, many by Ace in their “Double Novel” format.

   Of special note, I think, is the fact that he favored alliterative titles, ones such as Meddling Maverick (his first), Bushwhack Basin, Battling Buckaroos, Lobo Lawman, The Toughest Town in the Territory, and Bad Blood at Bonita Basin. Plus Ghost Gold as well, of course.

   I have a complete checklist of his westerns to post online, and I will, as soon as I can get to it, perhaps as early as next week.