Men of Violence
Fifth in the John Henry Cole series, this Western’s protagonist is a frontier detective. A former lawman, he now collects bounty by capturing outlaws. A tip turns into an ambush, and two of Cole’s men are killed and another wounded by the Sam Starr gang. It’s no coincidence that Starr is Cole’s half-brother. Their team decimated, Cole and wounded Charley Hood return to Red Pony, in the Cherokee Strip. Rather than a welcome, the two and Hood’s wife, Franzetta, are run out of town by townspeople threatened by Starr. They take refuge in Cole’s remote cabin. Cole’s long-lost son makes an appearance, and there are a few violent encounters with other bad guys before the inevitable showdown with Starr and his gang.
There are few surprises in this tale, but that’s not a bad thing. Cole is a loner, an alcoholic, but a man of principle. Starr is out-and-out evil. The story moves along at a good pace with plenty of violence, yet it’s not gratuitous, just the way of the West. What make it readable are the pace and the characters; the strong are flawed and the weak are interesting. Starr is the one false note, just one-dimensional without enough backstory to explain his maliciousness. I’m all in favor of another Cole story.