EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES – The Proud Sheriff. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1935, with a preamble by Henry Herbert Knibbs. Dell #688, paperback. 1953 (cover by Robert Stanley). University of Oklahoma, hardcover/softcover, 1968/1977.

   If you want an introduction to the works of a major Western writer, this will do very nicely. It opens with a lengthy foreword, detailing the life and character of Eugene Manlove Rhodes, then follows with an excellent novella detailing the activities of the proud Sheriff, Spinal Maginnis.

   Maginnis is proud, a character explains, because there hasn‘t been a killing in his county in ten years. And because the Mexicans get along with the Americans, the miners get along with the ranchers, and the big rancher gets along with the smaller ones.

   He’s proud that there aren’t many rich men in his county, but no one goes to bed supperless. And he’s proud because “I been sheriff here near to eight years and made my few and simple arrests with ne’eer a shot fired.”

   Shortly after the story opens, Maginnis’ first cause for pride gets squelched by a double murder. And as the story ends, so does his final boast. In between times, Rhodes offers up a rich, fast-moving story filled with colorful characters, spiced with humor, and moved along at a steady pace by sound detective work and bursts of action.

   Mostly though, this is the story of Spinal Maginnis, the proud sheriff, and here Rhodes provides a character distinctive, well-rounded, and fascinating enough to keep the reader (this reader anyway) up way past bedtime.