Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Adventures of Cash Laramie & Gideon Miles, by Edward A. Grainger
We seem to be in the beginning stages of a real resurgence of interest regarding Westerns. I couldn’t begin to tell you why, but I’m thankful for it. My own interest in the genre is fairly recent as well, coinciding nicely with the new spike. Something in the water, I reckon. Or in the rotgut whiskey.
Riding the first wave of the Western resurgence is a fella we’ll call Edward A. Grainger, coming full-throttle out of the stable with the insanely fun short story collection The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles.
Cash and Gideon are Marshalls in the town of Cheyenne in the late 1800’s, a time when lawlessness ran rampant and only a few dedicated men stood tall and ready to defend law and justice—or, in the case of our heroes, at least justice. They’re great characters, these two. Throwbacks, in a way, to the sort of steady and silent heroes you might remember from your youth: Shane, The Virginian, L’Amour’s Sackett family… you get the idea. The kind of gun-totting hombres you’d want on your side with the chips are down.
So yeah, there’s something charmingly old-fashioned about these stories, but Grainger is a smart enough writer to know that the modern reader needs something more than just a nostalgia trip, or a mythologizing of an era that’s already been mythologized to hell and back. These stories do more than that; they also give us a real picture of the ugly violence and rampant racism of the time. With Gideon Miles, a black man wielding authority in a time when that was almost unheard of, we have a hero who is confident, realistic in his world view, and—often—the moral center of his world.
But the bulk of the stories in Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles focus on Cash—a decent and resourceful man with an incredibly strong sense of right and wrong. In the introduction, Grainger says the stories were inspired by Leone’s terrific “spaghetti westerns”, but the truth is he gives us characters much more fully developed than that, and in Cash we have a hero who is more obviously on the side of the angels than anyone in those morally murky films.
And I guess there’s no point in being coy about it, as it’s an open secret anyway—Grainger is the pen name of David Cranmer, editor of Beat to a Pulp. I say this just in case you had any doubts about picking this collection up. Cranmer is a guy with impeccable taste in stories, and he doesn’t go any easier on his own work.
My personal favorites in Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles: “Kid Eddie”, in which Cash must escort a charming but psychotic criminal back to Cheyenne to face justice (Cranmer predicted I’d like this one a lot, and he was right), “Melanie”, which finds Cash at odds with a loutish wife-and-child abuser who can’t be touched by the law, but—maybe—can still face justice at the hands of Cash Laramie, and “The Outlaw Marshall”, where we see at last the lengths Cash is willing to go to in order to mete out justice—as the last story in the book, it’s probably the most brutal, and shows us a side of Cash that Grainger had only hinted at before.
All in all, some great stuff. The episodic nature of the stories would lend themselves well to being a television show, a la The Rifleman, Stagecoach, Gunsmoke, etc…
Man, wouldn’t that be great?
Anyway, buy this book. It’s only .99 cents, for a good 100 bucks worth of Western high adventure.