Mickey Spillane writes westerns? Well … yes and no. Max Allan Collins writes westerns based on Mickey Spillane characters. That makes a little more sense.
A stage coach, bound for Denver never arrives. Aboard the coach are two women and a wealthy banker. A dead stagecoach driver, riddled with bullets is the only clue. Sheriff Caleb York has a vested interest in tracking the coach down as both women have been dating York, each trying to get him to commit. The banker also has a connection to York – he is a prime investor in Trinidad, New Mexico … York’s territory.
York gets a tip on what happened to the stagecoach when he hauls a man in to jail after a poker game dispute. Now York will have to go face to face with a den of thieves in order to see if there is anyone left alive to rescue.
As one might expect with a Spillane character, our hero here is a tough as nails and in many ways this book reads more like a hard-boiled mystery rather than a classic western – it just happens to take place in the old west.
The action moves swiftly as one might expect of a hard-boiled western.
The character of Caleb York is a bit stereotypical – tough, no-nonsense, macho without much background to really identify himself. None of the other characters have much to identify themselves, either. They are stock characters used to drive a plot.
Of the books I’ve read through “Western Week” on my blog, representing three different authors, this one is probably the weakest. It relies more on common tropes and stereotypes. The mystery, at least, holds some interest.
Looking for a good book? Last Stage to Hell Junction by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins is a moderately fair mystery in a western setting but if you are looking for a more classic style western, there are better choices.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
* * * * * *
Last Stage to Hell Junction
authors: Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
hardcover, 240 pages
A couple of things frustrate me about your review. First, these characters have considerable backstory (the recurring ones), which is referred to rather generously, and the antagonists have point of view chapters that share their backstories as well. I prefer the think of the players populating a traditional western like this iconic, not stock characters, but you call it as you see it. But puzzling are the references to a mystery, which this book does not include — several of the earlier Yorks did have mystery elements, but this is strictly a crime novel in the mythic west. Thanks for reviewing it.
Thanks for the note. Having not read any of the previous books in this series I can’t really speak to the back story. You mention that the backstory is referred to rather generously. Perhaps. That leaves me with other thoughts which I need to think further about.
In regards to crime fiction/mystery … I will definitely admit that I refer to
mystery’ in a broader sense. As Wikipedia notes under the term ‘crime fiction’ – “Suspense and mystery are key elements that are nearly ubiquitous to the genre.”
I say that the mystery holds some interest and I’m thinking of little moments such as:
But Caleb York couldn’t help but wonder . . .
. . . what was so important about taking the morning stage?
…then a couple of chapters later…
“Well, maybe you want to tell me what the hell the gang you run with wants with a stagecoach?”
Once this little mystery is resolved we go on to another question… why are they taken and how will York get them back? These are questions … a mysteries … that need to be resolved for the story to be concluded. It’s a mystery that holds some interest. It kept me going,
It is not a detective mystery story. But as a crime novel, it definitely has a mystery to it. In my opinion.
I do appreciate the note. Truly. It will have me look a little harder at how I refer to genres and the blending of genres.
It also makes me interested in reading the early books, to get that backstory you mention.