Gun Luck by Lee Floren. 128 pages. Copyright 1954. Published by Macfadden-Bartel Books.
This is a quick, exciting story by Lee Floren. When I started it I was a bit surprised by the author’s writing style. He writes very sparsely, almost like Hemingway. His sentences and paragraphs contain only what he needs to tell the story. For example: “Martin Trundell locked his bank and went home for supper. He let the night gather, then got his horse and rode out of Elkhorn. The wind was sighing through scrub pine on the ridges.” This prose is not a problem for an action packed western but I think it came up a bit short when scene settings and descriptions are kept too overly simple. I guess it depends on what what you are expecting from a 1950’s era popular western paparback.
The story is familiar. Parker, an itinerant gambler, is passing through Elkhorn on his way to a Canadian border town where he thinks there will be good pickings at the card table. Instead he comes across a murdered homesteader just out of town. When he rides into Elkhorn he discovers that everyone seems to be on edge over imminent violence between the large Heart Bar Six ranch owned by Ike Savage and homesteaders. His is warned several times to move on but of course he decides to stay and see how things develop and eventually gets drawn into the situation. It seems like a straightforward range war brewing but as Parker probes deeper he discovers a complex criminal enterprise working behind the scenes. There’s lots of late night rides between the town, the ranch, and surrounding hills and valleys. There are also three women that Parker winds up having to deal with; Millie, the wholesome pretty waitress, and Ike Savage’s two daughters; Jetta an ambitious hot blooded firecracker and Connie, her hard drinking sister who is trying hard to keep events from spinning out of control.
This is the first book I read by Lee Floren (Leland H. Floren, 1910-1995). He was quite prolific and wrote in several different pen names (and other genres) throughout his career. Floren wrote hundreds of stories for the Western pulps during the 1940’s and 50’s and then like many western authors at the time his work transitioned into the paperback market. There is a good bibliography of his larger works at Fantastic Fiction. Also the FictionMags Index has a listing of his pulp works.