ERB Book Reviews

ERB Book Reviews

Edgar Rice Burroughs book reviews from fans like you.


Reviewed by: T Richard Newcomb 2011-11-16

Edgar Rice Burroughs was not known for his Western adventures and while he does not meet the standard of say, Zane Grey at his best, his four Western novels are definitely worthwhile reads. Of these, 'The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County' is the most interesting as it mixes the genres of detective fiction and Westerns. It also spends more than half the book with the hero using a false name and the reader is left in the dark almost as long as the other characters in the book.

The story opens with a young man named Buck Mason riding over to his neighbor Gunderson's to have a discussion about a fence that his father and Gunderson had disputed for years. There is also some discussion of Gunderson's daughter, for whom it appears that Mason has romantic feelings. Mason leaves with the subject still unresolved but that night, five men kill Gunderson. The reader then learns that Mason is a deputy sheriff for the New Mexico county where he lives and the next day, he is notified about the killing. Riding over, he views the scene and takes a few notes. He leaves when the sheriff arrives.

The scene then shifts to a ranch in Arizona where a group of urban Easterners are spending time with real Western cowboys. They are awaiting a new arrival - a man named Bruce Marvel. Marvel arrives and turns out to be a young man who seems to be a rich Easterner though he is strangely reticent about himself. He also appears to be a complete tenderfoot, inexpertly riding using an English saddle and apparently completely ignorant of the West. His antics disgust the cowboys and puzzle the other guests until one day when they are riding he shows some unexpected skill in saving one of the other guests whose horse has bolted - an attractive girl named Kay White. The ranch's owner Cory Blaine is not pleased by Kay's awakening interest and Marvel's tenderfoot antics do not endear him to the cowboys either. After increasing conflict between Marvel and the ranch owner, Blaine asks Marvel to leave. The next day, as Marvel is heading to town, Kay is kidnapped. Kay's father arrives and on another guest's recommendation telephones the sheriff. Marvel answers and, having overhead some conversations that were not exactly innocent, instantly suspects Blaine and sets out on a horse he has purchased from Blaine - the one he was riding when he saved Kay.

After a harrowing search, Marvel finds Kay's trail. He kills two of the gang and is able to rescue Kay and take a third gang member - a man named Eddie - prisoner. Not wanting to be surprised on the trail with Kay and Eddie, he heads back to the ranch by a trail only he knows. However, Blaine (who is revealed as being the real perpetrator of the abduction) has managed to frame Marvel for the kidnapping and convince Kay's father that he is the real criminal. In the meantime, Gunderson's daughter arrives and recognizes Marvel as being Buck Mason. She accuses him of killing her father. She also tells Blaine. Kay, overhearing, warns Mason and a gunfight takes place where Blaine and the remaining gang member are killed. The sheriff of the Arizona county and Mason's boss now arrive, capturing the escaping Eddie and Mason proves that Blaine and his gang killed Gunderson. The book ends with Kay and Mason kissing.

'The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County' is a little uneven in places, but the characters, as one might expect, are well-drawn and the action is constant. The Western language is surprisingly less authentic than one would expect, but it never intrudes nor does it have any effect on the events. The detective aspects are basic but the plot device of hiding the main character under an alias works well, though experienced Burroughs readers will probably guess Marvel's real identity fairly quickly. There are a few weaknesses in the plot - specifically the attempted framing - but the story holds together. Altogether, it is an entertaining read and although it is still under copyright in the United States, it is well worth tracking down.