PETER DAWSON – Dead Man Pass. Dodd Mead, hardcover, November 1954. Bantam #1396, paperback, December 1955. Reprinted by Bantam several times. Serialized before book publication in The Saturday Evening Post from June 26 through August 7, 1954.

   As is well known now, but perhaps not when his book was first published, western writer Peter Dawson was the pen name of Jonathan Glidden, who was the brother of Frederick Glidden, who also wrote westerns, but under the pen name of Luke Short. Between them they must have written a good percentage of the western fiction produced in the country in the 30s through the 60s.

   And not all of it was about the usual cowboys and Indians, cattle drives, grasslands and gunfighters. In Dead Man Pass, Dawson changes the setting to mountain country, in the winter no less, in which the struggle to build a train tunnel through a mountain is the focus.

   Stiffed on the price of his horses by the managing head of the company charged with completing the task, a young fellow named Bill Tenn decides to make an offer to owner of the company: to make the work go faster, bring an engine over the mountain through Dead Man Pass by a huge sled pulled by his horses.

   The owner takes him up on it, but before he can begin, Tenn is convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. There are other complications, including a thwarted romance and a lode of silver that’s been found in the tunnel but being kept a secret.

   There are plenty of plot lines to this well-constructed story, in other words, and it’s told in a comfortable and relaxed fashion. For me, though, there weren’t enough real twists to the tale, perhaps only one that I partially did not see coming. Maybe I’ve read too many westerns over the years for there to be many twists left!