LUKE SHORT – The Whip. Bantam #1668, paperback original, 1957. Reprinted by Bantam several times. Also: Dell, paperback, 1992.  Previously published as a magazine serial; see below.

   A short note after the copyright page tells us the first two-thirds of this was serialized in Colliers until that magazine went out of business, then the remainder was picked up by The Saturday Evening Post  as a tribute to a fallen competitor. And to finish off a crackling fine yarn. (**)

   Said yarn is of Will Gannon, the kind of tough westerner best suited to books like this, who, as the story opens, commandeers a stagecoach from a drunken driver, gets it safely to town, and ends up appointed District Manager of a stretch of road rife with robbery, murder, slack discipline and bad food.

   The charm of this book is Luke Short’s ability to sketch out a tale of sudden violence against a background of the day-to-day work of running a business. He fills it in with a well-drawn cast of characters — mostly standard Western types, but well-drawn as such — and a convincing landscape for horses and men to travel and battle in.

   But as I say, what makes The Whip work is the balance Luke Short strikes between Gannon’s workaday chores and the escalating violence engineered by the ne’er-do-wells he’s replaced. Short builds carefully, effectively, to a prolonged chase and a grim conclusion that rings true.

   Definitely one for Western fans to check out!


(**) Steve and I have identified the first two parts of the three part serial:

     “Doom Cliff,” (serial) Collier’s Dec 21 1956, Jan 4 1957 [last issue]

   But the third and final installment supposedly published in The Saturday Evening Post has eluded us. Is the statement in the paperback edition incorrect? Have we missed something?

UPDATE: Mystery solved, thanks to the very kind assistance of pulp master Sai Shankar. See Comment #3.