GEORGE C. APPELL – Posse. Macmillan, hardcover. 1961. Avon T-549, paperback, date?

   A superior Western novel by an under-appreciated author.

   Three owlhoots hurrah the flyspeck town of Broadman’s Bend Arizona, killing a dog, mauling a local belle, and pistol-conking the Chinese Laundryman. The townsfolk set about assessing the damage and debating what to do and whether to pursue them, then things take a more serious turn when they discover the bank has been robbed.

   Which puts the townsfolk in a bit of a quandary. Most of the able-bodied citizens in the area are away on round-ups and cattle drives, which leaves only the softer sort of townsfolk to go in pursuit of the desperadoes. And Appell throws in another wrinkle with a flashback disclosing that Bank Clerk Arthur Milam planned the robbery and enlisted three dangerous hard-cases to carry it out. Now he thinks they’re going to share the loot with him.

   All unawares, a posse slowly forms: a hard-scrabble miner, an aspiring artist anxious to prove his manhood; a well-to-do idler, pressured to join by his father, the leading citizen of Broadman’s Bend; the sheriff, a once-able lawman dissipated by drink; and the Chinese Laundryman named William The Kid.

   The five of them are hardly a match for three hardened outlaws, or so it would seem, but Appell develops his story skillfully, bringing out the strengths in his characters but not forgetting the weaknesses, with thoughtful, fast-reading prose that adds depth and dimension to a tale of sudden violence and stubborn persistence.

   This was my first experience of reading George C. Appell, but it won’t be the last!