Violent Maverick by Walt Coburn. 128 pages. Copyright 1956 by Walt Coburn. Published by Lancer Boos in 1963.
The original title for this book was “Wet Cattle” which is a more apt name for this story since the hero is not that violent nor is he a “mavericker”. The plot actually revolves around small time rancher named Pat Roper who has just suffered some major cattle pilferage on his small ranch. The rustlers who plague this area drive their stolen cattle south of the border in order to sell what they can to the Mexicans and then turn them around back north to sell the remainder to Wig Murphy–the biggest and most ornery rancher in Arizona who runs the “Flying W”. The stolen cattle sold back to Wig for a fraction of the market price are known as “wet cattle” and in the words of the old man himself he has been “known to buy a few wet cattle”. Working for Murphy, and doing most of the dirty rustling, is the brutal Jim Boudry. He is the notorious foreman of the “Two Block Ranch” (situated near Roper’s). Also facilitating this somewhat shady enterprise is the long time Mexican bandit leader known as Pablo Guerrero who helps himself to Boudry’s stolen cattle to feed his rebel forces and also dabbles in buying up ranch land along the border. Guerrero has the goods on Murphy big time and periodically shakes him down for money to buy weapons and supplies. After losing most of his own herd to rustlers Roper personally runs off 500 head of Wig Murphy’s cattle into Mexico in retaliation. He is pursued and cornered by Murphy’s men but then rescued by Guerrero who proposes to Roper that he can have the Two Block ranch that Guerrero secretly owns. The idea is that Roper, who once saved Guerrero’s life is an honest man who will bring some justice and honor to the border and stop Murphy’s henchmen led by Boudry from getting out of hand. Roper takes him up on the offer and soon finds himself the new owner of the Two Block. He also becomes sworn enemies with Boudry and several other Two Block ranch hands who resent having a new boss. Roper eventually has to fire most of them but keeps young Sid on the payroll. Sid is a wealth of knowledge and a hard working cowpoke. Roper begins to pulls together his team, gathering some cowboys from his own ranch, but is almost immediately harried by Boudry’s gang. During this time he also meets “Tommy” Murphy–Wig’s daughter who has just come back from school out east. The story then moves quickly into the final confrontation south of the border involving old Wig Murphy, Guerrero and his Yaqui bandits, Roper & Tommy and Sid, Boudry’s gang, Two Block cowboys, Flying W cowboys, a hapless posse of townsfolk, and a legendary Border Ranger.
This was a very enjoyable read. It methodically builds up the background to Guererro and Murphy, sets in motion a sequence of events involving Roper’s taking over the Two Block and then finishes up sweetly with a fast paced climax featuring a cast of many, many outlaws, banditos, cowboys and lawmen. The dialog is pitch perfect–just enough cowboy slang and ranching terms to let it be known that Walt Coburn knows his stuff.
This book illustrates the mechanics of cattle ranching and can be a blueprint to a Role Playing campaign involving competing ranches, rustlers, the border zone, and Mexican banditos.