I'm writing about this TV tie-in novel because the little known series came up in conversation earlier this week with a friend who remembers the series as fondly as I do - he even had several bootleg DVDs, which he offered to share . . .
The Outcasts was a short-lived Western television series, appearing on ABC in the 1968-69 season. The series co-starred Don Murray and Otis Young, and is probably most notable for being the first television Western with a Black co-star and the first bi-racial Western action team.
Jamal David and Earl Corey. One Black, one white. Ex-Union soldier, ex-Confederate officer. Ex-slave, ex-slave owner. Together, they are the Outcasts.
Those words opened a series telling the story of bounty hunter Earl Corey (Murray) who teams up with newly released slave Jemal David (Young) in the 1860s. Although only 26 episodes were made, its short run probably reflected the rapidly-changing U.S. racial climate in the late 1960s more than the quality of the series itself. The show was also criticized for excessive violence.
Several dynamics ran through the show. For one, the two heroes were not friends. They were reluctant partners, both good at bounty hunting, but each needed someone to watch his back. Still, there were times when the white man had to decide whether to side with other white men, or to back up his partner. A rich-poor dichotomy was very subtle. Earl Corey had lived on a plantation, a rich man, but had lost everything. Jemal David, on the other hand, had been a slave who never owned anything, but now was fairly prosperous. Earl tended to be tense in this new environment, but Jemal took things in stride.
Surprisingly, for a show only running one season, there was a connected tie-in novel from journeyman author Steve Frazee. Published by Popular Library in 1968, Frazee took the show’s premise and took it in his own direction. He probably did this without having watched the show as the book was published during the show’s first and only season. Still, while I really enjoyed the show and hope it turns up on DVD sometime soon, Frazee’s novel told a tight story in its own right.