cover image The Fatal Frontier

The Fatal Frontier

. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0350-0

Readers might be surprised to see stories by Loren Estleman, Marcia Muller and Joe Gores set in the old West. They shouldn't be. Bill Pronzini's introduction notes that the heroic figures of crime fiction can be traced to rugged American frontiersmen, an idea put forward by Dashiell Hammett (also the premise of Robert B. Parker's doctoral dissertation). Gorman and Greenberg have collected western crime stories by some of the best contemporary mystery and crime writers. Elmore Leonard's ""The Boy Who Smiled"" tells a classic tale of long-delayed frontier revenge. Gores scores with ""Gunman in Town,"" a story of a smitten young man framed for a rape that never happened. Far from his usual upscale Boston precincts, Jeremiah Healy stages a western showdown with a twist in ""To Tally the Dead."" Livia Washburn literally combines old westerns with 20th-century detective stories in ""Hollywood Guns,"" which features Lucas Hallam, a part-time PI who also works as a movie stuntman. Getting his gun repaired for a William S. Hart epic, Hallam is led by his knowledge of western lore into a real shoot-out. John Jakes, Brian Garfield and Jon L. Breen are among the 23 excellent writers heading down these mean trails. (Jan.)