cover image Ryder of the Hills: A Western Story

Ryder of the Hills: A Western Story

Robert J. Horton, Author Five Star (ME) $25.95 (252p) ISBN 978-1-59414-507-0

Horton, along with contemporaries Max Brand and Zane Grey, was a popular writer of western adventure novels that idealized the Old West's rugged codes. In this 1927 reprint, available in paperback for the first time, Jess Sneed, rancher, gunslinger and leader of a notorious band of robbers, reveals a surprising tender side. When a man whom Sneed merely wanted to scare accidentally falls to his death, his 14 year old son Ted is left orphaned. Sneed takes the boy to his ranch where he is mothered by Lucy Ware, Sneed's housekeeper, and taught the rudiments of cattle ranching by Buck, a trusted newer member of Sneed's gang. These halcyon days end several years later when Ted quarrels with Lute Balmer, the foul-mouthed foreman for the neighboring ranch. Although Sneed prevents a fight, Balmer harbors bitter resentment and plans revenge. The denouement, complete with a gunfight, struggles against the harsh Western climate and a metaphorical ride into the sunset, contains all the classic hallmarks of this genre, but despite these cliches the book has an authentic voice that reveals the clear-cut iconic values of an earlier time.