WILDCAT OF THE WEST
In 1989, I discovered the first book in a cool series of tennis thrillers featuring international tennis star and sometimes-CIA assistant, Brad Smith. The books were published by Tor, who was also published my first three novels. I never knew the author of the series, Jack Bickham, but I enjoyed each adventure in the six book series as it hit the bookshelves.
Only recently, however, I discovered Jack Bickham’s earliest novels were western paperback originals published under various pseudonyms. Without a doubt the most original of these efforts were the fifteen novels Bickham wrote under the pseudonym Jeff Clinton featuring Wildcat O’Shea—the flightiness, drunkest, hardest-headed, most colorful, largest galoot to ever hit the trail. Wildcat is certainly not your standard western hero, but you’d definitely want him as a friend, especially in the middle of a bar fight.
There have been other humorous western characters, most notably Hashknife Hartley and his partner Sleepy Stevens created by W. C. Tuttle during the ‘30s for the then uber-popular western pulps (http://tinyurl.com/ht5ffnj). Tuttle also created the pulp character Henry Harrison Conroy, a down-at-the-heels vaudeville comedian reluctantly turned Arizona sheriff (http://tinyurl.com/jkce5ky). In both of these series, Tuttle deftly merged the western and detective genres holding them together with humor as the glue.
Like these predecessors, Wildcat appears to be a little slow on the uptake, but nothing much actually misses his notice. His penchant for drinking and fighting is often at odds with his common sense, but when trouble breaks out he hits harder than anyone around. Wildcat also has heart, he is an amiable companion, and you just can’t help liking him or laughing at the predicaments he gets himself into. Make no mistake, though, there is enough gunsmoke and action to keep traditional western fans onboard.
On his fact filled website (http://www.benbridges.co.uk), prolific bestselling western writer, Ben Bridges states Wildcat was first introduced in an earlier western by Bickham, Hangman's Territory, under the name Boom-Boom O'Malley. However, while this name didn’t stick, Bickham liked the character so much he began a new series in which the character’s new handle was Wildcat O'Shea. Bickham stated, Until Boom-Boom came along, I didn't know I could write humour. I enjoyed writing about the guy...The moment I wrote that first half-drunken scene with him, my imagination lit up from the exaggeration and I thought I had someone special.
In The Fighting Buckaroo, Wildcat also shows off his sense of sartorial splendor—Wildcat felt a flush of pride. He had worn his best, by jingo, and he was making an impression! Oh, they’d sit up and take notice, all right, when a man with some real fine clothes and gear rode in. Wildcat had painted his saddle flaming orange, and his boots green and yellow. He wore a new blue hat, wide brimmed, a red shirt and deep blue Levis, a black vest and fancy Mexican spurs with purple rowles. He hadn’t messed with his Colt revolver, or finely oiled holster, or with the Winchester in his saddle boot. With these the action and not the looks was what counted…Yes, Wildcat makes quit an entrance.
The Wildcat adventure are a hoot and filled with action. They have become some of my favorite western tales...
WILDCAT O’SHEA SERIES
The Fighting Buckaroo (1961)
Wildcat's Rampage (1962)
Wildcat Against the House (1963)
Wildcat's Revenge (1964)*
Wanted: Wildcat O'Shea (1966)
Wildcat Takes His Medicine (1966)
Wildcat On The Loose (1967)
Wildcat's Witch Hunt (1967)
Watchout For Wildcat (1968)
Wildcat Meets Miss Melody (1968)
Build a Box for Wildcat (1969)
A Stranger Named O'Shea (1970)*
Bounty On Wildcat (1971)*
Wildcat's Claim To Fame (1971)*
Hang High O'Shea (1972)
*Four of the fifteen Wildcat novels sported cover illustrations by James Bama (best known for his Doc Savage covers and much more) making them highly collectible.
*Wildcat’s first appearance was as Boom-Boom O'Malley in Hangman's Territory, which Bickham wrote under his own name.