NOEL LOOMIS – Have Gun, Will Travel. Dell First Edition B-156, paperback original; 1at printing, 1960. Cover art by Robert Stanley.

   Not a real winner, but it inspired me to make a pipe.

   Noel Loomis was a well-regarded Western historian, and he wrote several scripts for the television show, so he was a natural for this paperback tie-in. And he gives it the dollop of polish one expects from a writer of his caliber, but that’s not always a good thing.

   The plot involves Paladin’s involvement with a notorious lady of the theatre, the search for a missing newspaper editor, Mexican revolutionaries and the near-legendary outlaw Three-Fingered Phil.

   Freed of the time and budget constraints of network television, Loomis lets his hero and himself ramble, from San Francisco to Santa Fe, down into Mexico and up into the mountains, with every leg and limb of the journey described in detail. Oh, it never gets monotonous, it just gets, well… long!

   And perhaps it’s no fault of Loomis’ that he never really evokes the forceful personality Richard Boone brought to his characterization, though he lards the dialogue with allusions to Shakespeare. He just misses the laconic personality and repressed rage essential to the character of Paladin, and it leaves a gaping whole in the book that Robert Stanley’s excellent cover can’t quite fill.

   That said, there are enough fist-fights, knife-fights and gun-fights to keep the reader awake, and Loomis puts the action across reasonably well. Maybe it’s me, I just couldn’t get excited over this.

   But it did prompt me to make a pipe out of a tree branch and trim from an old cap pistol!