Paperback Review: Strange Courage

                                                                                                                                               Strange Courage by Evan Evans.  248 pages.  Copyright 1930 by the Estate of Frederick Faust.  Published by Bantam in 1953.  Originally published in Western Story Magazine as Daring Duval in 1930.

The story begins with (David) Duval walking out the woods and into the lives of the residents of Moose Creek.  He immediately buys the first farm he sees and then begins to make a quite a name for himself amongst the simple town folk.  He spreads his money liberally, tells tall tales, buys drinks for folks and impresses all who he meets.  All except for pretty Marion Lane who will be nobody’s fool.  She immediately senses that Duval is not really all he says he is and no amount of Duval’s charm or gracious manners will convince her otherwise.  She has a good sense of people for in a short time Duval’s past catches up to him in the form of “Henry” who was Duval’s former right-hand-man back east.  When a bank is robbed in a nearby town suspicion is immediately cast on Henry or even Duval as a likely suspect.  Veteran man hunter Marshall Dick Kincaid is soon on the trail of the robber and both he and Ms. Lane soon discover how crafty and ultimately dangerous Duval really can be.  It comes down to Duval foreswearing his old ways, clearing his name and finally settling down or heading out of town on the most-wanted trail all over again.

I found this book to be quite unusual as far as boiler plate westerns go.  It didn’t completely fit my ideal of standard western genre even though the author, Evan Evans, was actually the great Max Brand who used this pseudonym for many of his full length novels.  The story is not set in any specific location out west although the name of the main town is Moose Creek which would put it somewhere up along the northern states but it could have been downstate Indiana for what it’s worth since the setting had little bearing on the plot.  It’s more of a psychological drama that unfolds here with virtually no gun play, ranching conflicts, Indians or even descriptive prose about the beauty of the western wilderness that one might expect from looking at the cover.  I was a little slow in finishing this book because at times it was a little meandering and slow to reach it’s climax and some of the characters were frustratingly irritating.  But all in all it was a good story and gave me some more insight into Max Brand’s writing style and character development.

As far as role playing ideas to be had from this book all I can think of is how Player Characters might have to deal with suspicious and meddlesome local townsfolk if they ever want to set up a base of operations (by a ranch, farm or a house) in a tight knit community.  There are also obvious challenges to completely hiding ones outlaw past.  Somebody always seems to be a snoop.

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About westerngames99

Retired Army.
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