Top positive review
"Never judge a man 'til he's showed himself. Unless I miss my guess, that man has smelled gunsmoke."
Reviewed in the United States on May 4, 2019
Just you don't get in that man's way; Michael "Utah" Blaine be like this unstoppable force. But when he saves an old man from a slow hanging, he sets into motion a bloody, all-out ranch war. It's like this: that old man, Joe Neal, owns 46 Connected, the most coveted range in the territory, and, when word spreads of his death, the other ranchers start circlin' like vultures, rarin' to snag themselves chunks of 46 Connected. The local newspaper editor's two cents: "All of them liked Joe, but they liked his range better." Heck of an epitaph.
What no one anticipated was for a stranger to ride into the nearby town of Red Creek, with the proper paperwork, and declare himself the new manager of 46 Connected, working for ol' Joe Neal. This understandably doesn't sit too well with them other ranchers, but word gets out, too, of who this manager hombre really is. Utah Blaine has got a reputation as a lightin'-fast pistolero who's reportedly killed twenty men, maybe thirty. One possible ally tells Utah: "Up there are about thirty land-hungry little ranchers. They are tougher'n boot leather, an' most of them have rustled a few head in their time." But even the most avaricious landgrabber has got to tread lightly when goin' up against "that hell-on-wheels gunman from the Nueces, the man who tamed Alta.".
But there's bound to be those braver than most. Or, if not braver, then bossing around enough gunmen of his own that he figures it's worth the risk. Else, this'd be a dull-a-- western yarn, and that's not how Louis L'Amour does things. UTAH BLAINE first published in 1954, and it's another riproarin' narrative as brought to you by a storyteller who don't know nuthin' else but deal in propulsive storytelling. In this instance, I also love how L'Amour sets things up mighty suspenseful, so that it's one man bucking crazy odds. I dig that there's often tossed in an extended sequence of brutal, primal hand-to-hand combat. This time, it's Utah wrasslin' with a 6'8" behemoth. I tell you, you'll wince at every punishing haymaker thrown and landed by both parties.
Also present is the colorful jargon and the very quoteable quotes. There's Utah's challenge to that 6'8" scrapper: "Come on, you big lug, stack your duds and grease your skids. I'm goin' to tear down your meat house!" And there's the newspaper editor's warning to Utah: "When you ride onto 46 range, you ride alone." Oh, that gets my juices flowing.
When all's said and done, Utah Blaine will have littered the landscape with the corpses of those who'd went up against him. And maybe he will have romanced one of the lovely ladies to grace these pages. Is it Angela Kinyon, a girl homesteadin' on ol' Joe's ranch? Or Mary Blake who's taken over her father's ranch when her father was murdered. Fair warning, one of these gals is true-blue, but the other is sure lookin' to be a femme fatale type. Ah, but which is which, do you reckon?
Most days, L'Amour and character development aren't much on speaking terms. L'Amour, instead, specializes in writing archetypal figures. I do have a favorite side character, and it's Rip Coker, that contrary ranch hand who likes bucking the odds and, so, sides with Utah. Right now, maybe he's regretting that.