International prize-winning author Charles T. Whipple writing as CHUCK TYRELL (a Sundown Press author like me) can’t pick a clear favourite of his novels either!
One contender is PITCHFORK JUSTICE.
Here Ness Havelock finds himself at odds with a cattle outfit planning to take over a Utah town. He’s also pursued by a man seeking to avenge his brothers, who died by Havelock’s gun.
This reminded me of elements in the Randolph Scott western ‘Buchanan Rides Alone’
or Richard Widmark’s plight in ‘Backlash.’
The cattlemen are led by a tyrannical judge, a fictional echo, perhaps, of JUDGE ROY BEAN.
Bean was born PHANTLY ROY BEAN JNR. in Kentucky c. 1825.
Despite his reputation as a ‘hanging judge’, he appears to have hung only one man, but survived being hung himself. In 1854 in San Gabriel, California, he killed a man in a duel. Six of the dead man's friends put Bean on a horse and tied a noose around his neck, then left him to hang. The horse didn't bolt, and after the men left, someone – reputedly a lady friend – set Bean free. Bean was left with a life-long stiff neck and a permanent rope burn from the noose.
He only became a judge in 1882, whilst operating as a saloon keeper in a tent city catering for railroad workers in the Trans-Pecos. Bean named the place Vinegaroon and was appointed justice of the peace for the area, proclaiming himself ‘the law west of the Pecos.’
Later Bean moved to Eagle's Nest, Texas, soon renamed Langtry. Bean named his new saloon The Jersey Lilly in honour of English actress Lillie Langtry but – by a bizarre coincidence - the town was actually named after somebody else!
He served 14 years as a judge and died peacefully in his bed in 1903, after a bout of heavy drinking in San Antonio.
On screen Bean has been portrayed often, including Walter Brennan (a classic Oscar-winning performance) in ‘The Westerner’
and Paul Newman in ‘The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.’
The total authenticity of the world Charles creates in PITCHFORK JUSTICE is emphasised by the early appearance of black outlaw ISOM DART (the famed ‘Black Fox’ and ‘Calico Cowboy.’)
Dart was born NED HUDDLESTON, a slave in Arkansas in 1849. Moving west, he drifted in and out of criminal (mostly rustling) activity before joining the Tip Gault gang of outlaws and rustlers operating in southern Wyoming in the 1870s. Dart later left the criminal life and in the 1890s, under the name Isom Dart, was ostensibly a legitimate rancher in the Browns Hole area on the Colorado/Wyoming border. Some held he was still involved in rustling, however. In 1900 he was shot from ambush, allegedly by notorious ‘range detective’ TOM HORN.
REVIEWS of PITCHFORK JUSTICE:
‘Chuck Tyrell has expertly combined the traditional western shoot-`em-up with an interesting, and different, narrative form.’
‘Tyrell's characters… feel like flesh and blood; there are no cardboard cut-outs here.’
‘Mr. Tyrell’s… paragraphs are "fighting lean.”’
‘This is a fantastic read with dynamic characters.’