|Blacker than black|
BROUGHT UP WITH DEATH, HE LEARNED TO KILL
With that epithet used as promo copy on the front of each book, the prolific writer of ultra-violent westerns, Terry Harknett, began a third series – after Edge and Adam Steele – to be written under his famous George G. Gilman pseudonym, The Undertaker.
This wasn’t Harknett’s third series by any stretch, he’d already started and contributed numerous titles to the Jubal Cain western series and the Apache saga, but under another pseudonym. He’d also put out books under his own name in the Crown series set in ‘70s Hong Kong, the hardboiled London based police series featuring Chester Fortune under the name Thomas Strong, and an Executioner-style series, The Revenger, as Joseph Hedges.
It was with The Undertaker, however, Harknett would try to get more of the Gilmore gold to rub off. Featuring humorless mortician Barnaby Gold, the series debuted in 1981 with Black As Death.
In the opening novel, Barnaby Gold goes from doing a mortician’s work to piling up a mortician’s victims when he kills the rancher who murdered his libidinous wife. The problem now arises, and the conceit of the series, as the dead rancher’s relatives pursue Gold and, in subsequent books, constantly frustrate his plans to leave the United States for Europe.
|Gilman's characters were snappy dressers|
While the series only lasted six books, it contained a certain amount of morbid humor that was different than the style of dry humor for which both the Edge and Adam Steele series were known. This made them a refreshing change, as if Harknett was having a wink at the reader and including him in the nasty fun. For that reason alone they are worth seeking out, along with the very cool uniform covers.
Barnaby Gold is rumored to have also made a fleeting appearance in the final, ultra-rare Edge novel, The Rifle (1989), but that one is missing from my collection and out of range of my pocketbook.
THE UNDERTAKER SERIES
BLACK AS DEATH
DESTINED TO DIE
FUNERAL BY THE SEA
THREE GRAVES TO A SHOWDOWN
BACK FROM THE DEAD
DEATH IN THE DESERT