Fury at Painted Rock (1955)
Author: Will Cook
Genre: Western (Traditional)
Owen Frank rides out of the desert and into the town of Painted Rock...and things are never the same. The town is split into two factions: the cowboys in the employ of local rancher Burk Alvertone and newly arrived homesteaders/farmers camped outside of the town under the "leadership" of Fred Meechum. Altertone's crew doesn't want the farmers around, and they are gearing up for the upcoming sheriff's election when they hope to get their candidate elected and then commence running the farmers off for good. Frank stumbles into this tense moment and is reminded of his old life as a cattlerancher and the regrets he has about running off farmers. Older and wiser, he realizes that the West is changing and being tamed, that the time of the 30,000+ acre cattlerancher is at an end. Slowly, he loses the will to move on and stay out of the town's politics, first by falling for the innkeeper's daughter, then by gradually making the farmer's fight his own, and finally, by taking over as sheriff when the previous sheriff is gunned down after straddling one too many fences. At first, Frank resorted to his folk wisdom, but when Alvertone ignores his overtures and Alvertone's crew chief ends up killing two farmers, Frank makes the battle his own and helps the farmers organize against the cowboys. SPOILER: In the end, Alvertone is driven off. The farmers show him no mercy and burn his home and dance upon the ashes. Frank his a final standoff with the crew chief and blasts him with his trusy .44. Frank then defies convention, and, instead of riding off into the sunset, stays on to start a new life in Painted Rock with the now-deceased innkeeper's daughter, Joanne Avery.
Geographical Setting: Idaho panhandle
Time Period: Indeterminate, pre-Civil War 1800s?
Moderately-paced traditional Western. The main characters are rather stereotypical, but the story is enriched by a cast of well-developed secondary characters. The story focuses heavily on the idea that the West is changing and the rancher/farmer dichotomy. Cook's protagonist is full of folk wisdom. The reader never doubts he'll say the wrong thing (in fact, at one point, Frank's love interest rhetorically asks him if he ever says the wrong thing). Cook's stories are known for their headstrong female characters, and this may make the story more appealing to female readers. While there are numerous fistfights and some gunplay, the descriptions of violence are not excessive and serve to set up Frank as the moral hero of the story.
Similar Authors: Jack Curtis
Red Flags: some violence, but no sexual situations or foul language