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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

VINTAGE WESTERN NOVELS—FARGO


VINTAGE WESTERN NOVELS
FARGO
Neal Fargo—adventurer, lover and fighter. He lives with a gun in one fist and a stick of lighted dynamite in the other. Want to start a revolution? Want to stop one? Send for Fargo. Want to blow a bridge, stage a prison break, rob a bank? Get Fargo. Tall and weather beaten, he still wears much the same outfit he wore in the service—cavalry boots, campaign hat, jodhpurs, or khaki pants, comfortable shirt.

His weapons of war include a .38 in either a hip or shoulder holster and loaded with hollow points for greater stopping power. He also carries a razor sharp Batangas knife made by Philippine artisans, its ten inch blade flashing open with the flick of a wrist.

His favorite weapon, however, is the Fox Sterlingworth ten-gauge shotgun, sawed-off, and engraved along the inlay with the words, To Neal Fargo, gratefully, from T. Roosevelt. It's a deadly piece, loaded with shells of nine buckshot each. Roosevelt remains the only man for whom Fargo will drop everything and come running when needed.

The Army taught Fargo how to kill with pistols, rifles, and machine guns. He became an expert with knives, shotguns, and women on his own time. If Fargo had a credo it was this: Be on the winning side… 

During the course of his career, author Ben Haas wrote 130 novels under his own name, a dozen pseudonyms (including John Benteen), and a handful of publisher’s house names. The uniting factor of this vast output was the highly readable, sheer storytelling force he brought to every page.

Beginning his career writing paperback original westerns, Haas quickly developed the spare, fast-paced, muscular prose for which he became known. When Tower Books publisher Harry Shorten asked Haas to create an original western series, Haas responded by letting loose the taciturn, granite-hard, Neal Fargo in a series of neo-westerns now considered classics of the genre.

One of the most enjoyable aspects about Fargo and the other books in the series is they go beyond the scope of time-honored Westerns. Each one retains the structure of more traditional westerns, but  take place in not only the west, but also in such diverse locations such as the Philippines, Argentina, Nicaragua, Alaska, and Peru. This distinction is part of the fun and makes Fargo stand out among his contemporaries.

Under the pseudonym John Benteen—named after one of Custer’s cavalry officers—Haas wrote (or co-wrote with his son, Joel) twenty of the twenty three Fargo adventures. The other three books in the series (Sierra Silver, Dynamite Fever, and Gringo Guns) are attributed to John W. Hardin—a pseudonym taken from a real life outlaw. The man behind the mask of John W. Hardin was most likely Norman Rubington, a prolific hack writer who also wrote an entry in Benteen’s popular Sundance series.

Common consensus is Haas based Fargo on the character portrayed by Lee Marvin in the 1966 movie The Professionals, written by Richard Brooks and based on the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by another popular western wordslinger, Frank O’Rourke. However, O’Rourke would later co-opt some of Fargo’s characteristics and time period for his hero Andres Shotgun Arau in his 1976 novel The Shotgun Man.




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