HARRY WHITTINGTON – Trouble Rides Tall. Abelard-Schuman, hardcover, 1958. Crest #357, paperback, 1960. Reprinted by Stark House Press, softcover, 2016, in a 3-in-1 edition also containing Cross the Red Creek (Avon, 1964) and Desert Stake-Out (Gold Medal, 1961).

   One day in the life of a trouble marshal, whose hold on his job is suddenly starting to slip through his fingers. Through no fault of his own. He’s done exactly what he was hired to do — clean up the town of Pony Wells just enough so the honest, clean living residents can go to sleep without a lot of ruckus and noise going on outside their windows, while the cowboys and drifters can have their fun, and the saloon keepers, the grifters and prostitutes can successfully ply their trades — as long as they keep it quiet and (hopefully) behind closed doors.

   That’s what he was hired to do, and now he’s though of as someone to be looked down upon by one half of the town and with side glances only from the other.

   The day begins with the discovery of a dead saloon girl in a shallow grave — making this a crime novel as well as a western — and ends with Bry Shafter having made a decision about himself, or perhaps having it made for him. No one but he seems to care about the dead girl. His deputy is young and very obviously wants Bry’s job, and a committee of citizens from another town is in town to offer Bry the same job he has in Pony Wells, but at twice the salary.

   Bry is good with both his guns and his fists, but what make this novel work as well as it does is what goes on in his mind. Shunned by snooty townsladies and a target for young gunslingers wanting to make names for themselves, Bry finds that the fine line he has been walking along has gotten finer and finer.

   A character study, then, and a damned good one. I dare say that because author Harry Whittington plays his cards close to his vest, and you (the reader) never quite know how it’s gong to turn out. Is this one of he better examples of western noir I’ve read recently? I think it is.