HARRY WHITTINGTON – Desert Stake-Out. Gold Medal s1123, paperback original; 1st printing, June 1961. Reprinted at least once by Gold Medal; plus: Avon, paperback, 1989.


   Speaking of wasting a few hours enjoyably, Harry Whittington was a cut above the average paperback hack, and Desert Stake-Out is a cut above the average Whittington.

   The story of a lone rider bent on vengeance thrown into uneasy alliance with three outlaws and a callow married couple reads like one of those marvelous Boetticher/Scott westerns of the period, and in fact, Stake-Out is dedicated to Harry Joe Brown, the producer of that series.

   Whittington doesn’t break any new ground, but he plows the old fields affectionately enough to yield a crop. Hero Blade Merrick (I guess some folks don’t care what they name their kids) is appropriately terse and hard-bitten, the outlaws are well-realized characters who engage our sympathy even while terrorizing the good folks, and if the sexy heroine and her weakling husband seem a bit pat, they at least serve their function.

   Whittington (at his best) had a way with tight writing and fast action, and he serves this up entertainingly.