Trouble Shooter is the last of four novels that Louis L'Amour wrote, under the name Tex Burns, about Hopalong Cassidy's adventures in the American Western frontier. Click Hopalong Cassidy Background for more information about these books.
Plot Summary: Hopalong Cassidy (Hoppy), former cowhand for the Bar 20 ranch, received a letter from his friend Pete Melford that has him traveling to the site of the PM ranch, near Kachina, to help out. When Hoppy arrives, there's no ranch in site, but a sniper is taking aim at a man investigating the location.
Melford's niece, Cindy Davis, sold her ranch in Kansas to come up to run her uncle's land. She brought Rig Taylor with her to help in the new endeavor. Rig is the one being shot at by the sniper as he tries to compare the local landmarks with the map in Melford's letter to Cindy. Neither Hoppy nor Rig understand how a ranch could disappear and a full-grown tree appear in place of the ranch house. Colonel Justin Tredway now claims to own the entire area, up to the mysterious Babylon plateau and the secretive Brotherhood who inhabit it.
My Reaction: This was the most complex storyline of the four Hopalong stories. The Brotherhood's involvement and reputed haunted mesa reminded me of the other L'Amour story I've read, The Haunted Mesa, which was as much science fiction as Western.
The territory in this book reminded me the most of our West Texas home, too. The prickly pear and mesquite Hoppy describes sounds just like the open land around here. "Before him were thousands of acres of chaparral, dense thickets of mingled mesquite, towering prickly pear, low-growing catclaw with its dangerous thorns that hook into the hooves of cattle or horses, and colima with its spines. Everything here had a thorn, long and dangerous, some of the poisonous, all of the needle-pointed."
Western Slang: Here's another sample of some of the slang used in this book that caught my attention:
- "pear forest" - area covered by prickly pear cactus and brush.
- "tapaderas" - saddle addition that covers the front of the stirrup.
- "That old devil's rode with the curly wolves. He's bucked the tiger an' heard the owl hoot. You won't get anything from him but a stomach full of lead."
Bottom Line: This is my favorite of the Louis L'Amour Hopalong Cassidy novels. Like the others, it's a sand-alone story with only small references to the others (like the reference to the scar Hoppy picked up during The Riders of High Rock).
Overall, I think these books have changed my opinion of Westerns and the quality of L'Amour's writing. I started reading these books as a challenge to read a genre I hadn't tried before (and because my husband had an extensive collection that I was organizing). I really enjoyed them and, after these, will check out more of L'Amour's work.
Visit Shonda at her blog Texas Red Books