HAL G. EVARTS – The Long Rope. Dell First Edition A172, paperback original, 1958. Pocket, paperback, 1973.

   Long Rope starts with the brutal massacre of a squatter family and the near-fatal wounding of luckless drifter Will Landry by persons unknown — but not for long. The scene quickly shifts to the modest cow town of Antelope, run by acting sheriff Roy Kell, who is holding Landry, with the narrative that he got shot while murdering the squatters and will be tried and quickly hanged as soon as he recovers.

   Enter Dan Croft, an old trail buddy of Landry’s, keeping his cards close to his vest, playing it cool and cagey while he surveys the situation, figures out who he can trust, who really killed the squatters and why Kell is so anxious for Landry not to stand trial—even to the point of hiring Croft to kill him!

   This first part of the book is confined to the town of Antelope, and I use the word “confined” advisedly because it reads more like a film noir than a western, as Croft walks mean streets knee-deep in double-crosses, trying to out-bluff adversaries who hold all the cards, and spring his buddy from Jail.

   At which point (and I’m not giving away anything that ain’t on the back cover) the tale moves out into open country, and The Long Rope becomes a tale of pursuit and survival in the wilderness as the fugitives cross forests, snow-capped mountains, and dusty plains to escape a lawman bent on murder.

   Evarts writes this just as vividly as he did the first part, with a keen appreciation of the rigors of the terrain and the vagaries of the chase, with Kell closing in, falling behind, and finally…

   Well I’ll just say that The Long Rope comes to a terse and satisfying conclusion, and I’ll be looking for more by Evarts!