CLAY RANDALL – Hardcase for Hire. Gold Medal s1357, paperback original, 1963. Belmont Tower, paperback, 1974.

   Truth in advertising. It was the Belmont Tower paperback I just read, but I do have the earlier Gold Medal edition, so I could just as easily have read that instead, if I could have gotten to where it is. Clay Randall, as many of you know without my telling you, was a pen name of Clifton Adams, 1919-1971, and under this byline he is probably best known for a series of novels, six in all, about a western sheriff named Amos Flagg.

   This, however, is not one of them. It’s a standalone novel about a fellow named Jess Henry, and the title of the book is all you need to know about him. Another word for him might be mercenary — the kind of gunman who will take on most any kind of job for hire — but he does object to being called a bounty hunter, for that is not the kind of work he does.

   In this book he agrees to look for the husband of a famed singer-entertainer who has recently come to an otherwise miserable backwater sort of town called Dogtown, and who since her arrival has charmed everyone in the place, including the town marshal. Problem is, the man does not particularly want to be found, and especially not wanting him to be found are the members of the notorious Butler gang.

   It seems that the missing man is a doctor, and since notorious western outlaw gangs are always in need of medical assistance, they mean to make sure they don’t let their doctor get away. All five factors are in prominent play here: Jess Henry, Belle Steffino, her husband, the town marshal, and the Butler gang.

   Obviously this is an unusual kind of western, but this is also the kind of western I enjoy the most. With all kinds of personal relationships and conflicts between the characters, the author has plenty of room to maneuver, and he makes the most of it. It’s a small scale tale — no historical events going on here — but if ever you should come across a copy. you may have as fun with it as I just have.

Note:   Previously on this blog: A checklist of all of Clay Randall’s westerns. (Follow the link.)