This TV movie is based on a fairly late novel by Louis
L'Amour, and it adapts well to the screen. Tom Shaughnessy is an Irish boxer in
New York who runs afoul of a local crime boss by not losing a bout where he was
supposed to take a dive, and he winds up injured and fleeing New York in a
railroad boxcar. He passes out and doesn't come to until the train is stopped
at a siding in Kansas, where Shaughnessy promptly collapses again.
You know how these things work from there. Shaughnessy winds up becoming the
marshal of a wild cowtown, makes assorted friends and enemies, and winds up
facing down the bad guys, although he handles things more with his fists than
with a gun.
Predictable or not, it makes for an entertaining yarn. Matthew Settle, who went
on to a long-running role on GOSSIP GIRL, is a long way from New York's upper
east side in this one but does a good job as Shaughnessy. There are plenty of
good characters in the cast, such as Bo Hopkins, Stuart Whitman, John Hawkes,
and John Carroll Lynch. The scenery's good and the action scenes are well done.
The screenplay is by William Blinn, who was involved with a couple of Seventies
icons: he wrote the screenplay for the original BRIAN'S SONG, and he created
the series STARSKY AND HUTCH. I was a big fan of both, so it's always good to
see Blinn's work. (He's also the author of a Western novel, A COLD DAY IN HELL,
which is on my shelves but which I haven't read yet.)
The problem with SHAUGHNESSY, THE IRON MARSHAL is that it seems to have been
the pilot for a TV series that didn't sell, and as such, some of the major
plotlines are left unresolved. It's a shame they weren't able to at least make
a couple more movies to wrap things up. But as it stands, this is a pretty
enjoyable low-budget Western and certainly worth watching if you come across
It's hard to beat a classic song and the great voice of Nat King Cole, one of the best voices of all time. When I was in college, after listening to a number of different versions of "Stardust", I was inspired to write a private eye novella set in the 1930s called "The Stardust Man". Probably about 30,000 words. And that's really all I remember about it. I'm sure it was terrible. Long gone, of course. But I've always liked the title. Maybe I'll use it again one of these days.
5 DETECTIVE NOVELS was a mostly reprint magazine from the Thrilling Group that ran for 17 issues during the late Forties and early Fifties. This issue has a nice cover and a good line-up of authors. The five novellas, all reprints from POPULAR DETECTIVE and THRILLING MYSTERY, are by T.T. Flynn (one of my favorite authors), Paul Ernst, Joseph J. Millard (Ernst and Millard were top-notch pulpsters), John Hawkins (don't know anything about him), and Frank Johnson, a Standard Publications house-name who was often Norman Daniels but there's really no telling who wrote this one. Backing up the novellas are two apparently original short stories by Arthur J. Burks and Amelia Reynolds Long, best known as one of the first female science fiction writers before she turned to mystery fiction. I probably would have read this one if I'd come across it.
What a great issue this looks like, from the Walter Baumhofer cover to the stories on the inside by Walt Coburn, Harry F. Olmsted, Gunnison Steele, Ray Nafziger, Bart Cassidy, Robert E. Mahaffey, and John C. Colohan. It was issues like this, month after month, that made DIME WESTERN one of the best Western pulps of all time.
Here's something I'll bet a lot of you haven't heard: the vocal version of the theme from GUNSMOKE, sung by the great Tex Ritter. I've been listening to it for years (and I know a few of you buckaroos have, too) because it was on a CD that a good friend sent to me. It was never played on the TV show, as far as I know.
I didn't even know there was a paperback edition of this book until I came across a copy not along ago and snatched it up. I used to have the hardback edition. It's a great Old West reference book and excellent reading in its own right, even if you're not doing research. Instead of just recounting the lives of various outlaws and gunfighters, the author delves into the causes that made them the bad men they were and does a fine job of it, while still providing a lot of biographical information along the way. I'm also fond of this book because the author, George D. Hendricks, was one of my professors at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas). For years his signature class was "Life and Literature of the Southwest", and I was fortunate enough to be in one of those classes. We got along well and I learned quite a bit. The big research paper I did for him was called "The Texas Rangers in Fact and Fiction". I'm not sure what he thought of it, since I did a considerable amount of babbling about the Lone Ranger, Jim Hatfield, and the TV show "Laredo", but looking back on it now the subject matter seems pretty appropriate. I enjoyed the class and was glad I got to take it, and I'm glad I found this copy of Dr. Hendricks' book, too.