A Noose for the Desperado by Clifton Adams, Gold Medal (No. 1375), 156 pages.
This books picks up the trail of young Talbert “Tall” Cameron as he moseys into the small town of Ocotillo. This cluster of adobes, nestled near the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains, is mostly inhabited by poor Mexican farmers and gringo outlaws. Cameron has little idea what this town has in store for him. He should have picked up a hint when he met the crazy, obsessive and ravishing Marta. He should have heeded the warning of Kryler, a Deputy U.S. Marshall, to leave town the first chance he got. Nope, Tall has to have one more shot to work up enough money to finally settle down. So he throws in with the local gang led by the “greasy-looking” overweight Mr. Basset. It’s a nice arrangement–Kryler provides overhead cover for the gang in his official capacity as a Marshall and Basset uses his government connections to avoid scrutiny and his money to field a small army of hired gunmen. Basset’s prey are the Mexican smuggling caravans that crisscross the border near the Huachucas. These are heavily guarded, gold laden wagons and mules that have no where to run to when they get ambushed.
Cameron figures that he will only need to go on one mission with his new friends and then he can head out of town a much richer man. He hooks up with another member of the gang known as “Bama”, a former Confederate gentleman who stays drunk most of the time to forget his past. Sobering up only for the missions, Bama becomes Cameron’s only real friend. After the bloody ambush of a smugglers mule train Cameron goes to collect his pay. What he gets is a load of tokens to be used at Bassets saloon. This sets him off because you can’t use these outside of town. Cameron confronts Basset and shoots him dead when he mistakenly thinks he is reaching for a gun. A couple of power plays later he makes himself the leader of the gang and enemies of most of the gunmen. Scouts identify another smuggler’s train and Cameron decides to go after it even though Kryler and the others say it is too soon after the last attack and too heavily guarded by deadly Yaqui Indians. Cameron also takes in a new man called “the Kid” who reminds him of his youthful self. The attack eventually succeeds but most of the treacherous outlaws were ready to leave Bama and Cameron to die at the hands of the Yaqui. Only the kid comes to the rescue. Back at town Cameron decides to double cross the gang and take all the gold for himself, marta, Bama and the Kid. He almost gets away with it. In the end he finally throws away his guns and heads on no richer than he was that day he walked into Ocotillo.
A nice quick read and it hits all the right notes for a gunfighter western but I thought some of the characters were a bit under developed–the Kid, Basset and Kryler especially. Marta was just odd but believable later when you understand that her motivation was pure greed. It was the first older (1950ish) western story I’ve read in many, many years. Some plot hooks for scenarios/adventures.
- Ambushing a smugglers caravan along a hidden mountain trail
- A dusty impoverished town inhabited by poor Mexican farmers and outlaw gringos.
- A corrupt Deputy Marshall covering up for a criminal enterprise
- A large gang enriched by conducting large scale raids or attacks
This book was reviewed (with a more literary approach than I can muster) at Pulp Serenade:
I read A Noose for the Desperado on my Kindle. You can download it in various eBook formats at Munsey’s where you can also get the first Clifton Adams book that features “Tall” Cameron called “The Desperado