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Western Review – Blood Trail

Blood Trail by Gardner Fox

Review by Chris C. (chrisnsally)


Do you know Gardner Fox? He is the man who scripted an estimated 4000 comics during his career at DC comics where he was employed from the mid 1930s until 1968. I hope the recently released Green Lantern movie had a credit Mr. Fox because he created The Flash, Hawkman, the Justice Society of America and co-created Sandman.

As if his contributions to the comic book industry were not occupation enough, Mr. Fox was also a prolific producer of Pulp Fiction novels in genres across the board.

I acquired his Western novel Blood Trail through PaperBackSwap and enjoyed it as much as anything I have read by Mr. Fox.

Blood Trail is the story of a hired gun named Abel Kinniston who attempted to reform his days as an outlaw. Kinniston, along with his plan, was gunned down while he was attempting to implement it, now he is hunting the men who’ve interfered with his lawful intent. Like a true cowboy and frontiersman, Kinniston plays many roles during his tale; he is an outlaw hired gun, a lone wolf outlaw, a ranch hand and lastly a ramrod for community action.

The plot of Blood Trail is rather vague about the location where the actions are played out.   But, at the beginning of the tale Kinnistion has been on the trail of three men for three years. Fox mentions the Wyoming Territories and the Rio Grande in the same sentence as if these locations where a day’s ride down the trail from one another. Three years is certainly plenty of time to ride the expanse of the Western Territories but I admire Fox’s talent of using time to distort space. This places the actions of Blood Trail into a mythological “Old West” inhabited by generic towns named; Dodge, Carbine and Wardance.

Blood Trail has a romantic theme too. Early in the plot Kinniston is briefly diverted from his man hunt to save a damsel in distress. The damsel, Fay Mercer, becomes part of the main plot as the romantic interest for a man who is normally, to barrow a modern term, “a one man wolf pack.” When the outlaws burn down the Mercer family ranch the lone wolf must play nursemaid to a she wolf with a bullet wound. Kinniston was injured by the fire too so he and Fay are forced to hideout in the mountains around Carbine until they can recover from their injuries. The brief hideout provides time for Ms. Mercer and the old wolf to become more acquainted in the innocent manner of traditional Old West novels and programs.

This is as good a Western as I have ever read. Often, while reading this novel, I felt I was reading the screenplay to an old film or television show.  It, like most Westerns, is “G” rated except for the implied violence of the gunfights. The good guys win all the gun fights so, in this case, killin’s okay too.

I recommend Blood Trail for fans of the Western genre or any readers just looking for a relaxing read.

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2 Responses to “Western Review – Blood Trail”

  1. Robin K. (jubead) says:

    Silly me, I thought that all Westerns would be a guy thing with all shooting and no kissing. I love watching the John Wayne westerns on TV (True Grit is my favorite and it was made towards the end of his career), so maybe I will like reading westerns too. I picked up a western at a Book Fair for a friend, but now he has to wait … I am reading it first!

  2. Chris C. (chrisnsally) , says:

    One contemporary Western writer is I. J. Parnham. He adds a fresh look to this old genre. Just search, The Legend of Shamus McGintys Gold here at PBS for an example of his books.

    If you liked True Grit, you should search for Roster Cogburn, it’s John Wayne and Kate Hepburn.

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