Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Battles In Today's West

This Dakota novel is a heckuva lot better than the last one I read. That one, #3 in Pinnacle’s series, felt clichéd and tired. But WARPATH (1973, Pinnacle), the first Dakota adventure, is much better. It still reads like a typical 1970s network cop show—picture Robert Forster or Clint Walker as the lead—but it also presents a decent mystery, plenty of action, and quite a body count.

Dakota is a Native American ‘Nam-vet private investigator based in a small Nevada town. An old friend, Sam Lew, asks him to speak to a young woman whose husband was killed in a fire. The authorities claim it was an accident, but the woman, Amy, believes murder was involved. Dakota isn’t sure either way, until an explosion kills both Sam and Amy.

Now convinced to poke around the case, Dakota checks out the mining town where Amy’s husband’s death occurred. It’s one of the those typically sinister small towns where everyone knows everyone else in town, they all distrust strangers, and the whole place is run by the local rich guy, Burton Ashley, who, of course, owns everything, including the bank and the newspaper.

It lacks the hardcore action of a Death Merchant novel or the gimmickry of a Penetrator, but WARPATH is still worthy of the Pinnacle name on its cover. The hardbitten hero is easy to root for; not only does he take no shit, but he’s also frequently the recipient of racist barbs that put us in his corner. The action highlight is a siege that strands Dakota in the desert against five armed men.

Author Gilbert A. Ralston was better known as a screenwriter who, among other credits, wrote the pilot episode of THE WILD WILD WEST. When the bloated movie remake was in production, Ralston sued Warner Brothers for royalties. He died in 1999 before he could collect, but his heirs reportedly pocketed a settlement worth somewhere around a cool million bucks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What would even make it better is if he yelled "Apache Chief!", clapped his hands and took the bad guys out by stepping on them.