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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Herne the Hunter book 1 - John J. McLaglen

Original Corgi Paperback (1976)
Back in the day I  read several of the titles in the Herne series but I don't think I'd read this, the series opener before. Back then I read a lot of westerns, though most of the series I followed were published by NEL ((New English Library) and I tended to pick up westerns from this publisher, namely because they published the excellent Edge series by George G. Gilman and I figured, as a young western reader, that I would get more of the same if I stuck to the same publishing house. It was very rare that I picked up anything by a different publisher since in those bygone days NEL were publishing enough westerns to keep me occupied - hey, when this came out I was only eleven years old and at eleven there is a limited amount of time you can spare for reading, not when there are so many other activities that require your time - marbles, conkers and imagining what Lynda Carter would look like in the nude.

Herne was only one of a number of violent adult western series on the market and many of these books are coming back in eBook thanks to publishing houses like Piccadilly Publishing. I've long championed eBooks here on this blog, and have long said that there is a new market for this type of fiction, and I'm pleased that publishers like Piccadilly are proving this - find them HERE.

New eBook edition
Herne The Hunter: White Death is quite simply a revenge western that sets out the origin of the character that will take us through a series of books. At the start of this book he is happily settled down, having long given up the wild times when he was known as Herne the Hunter. However his contented life is not to last when one night his wife is brutally raped and beaten by a bunch of drunken men. The men have also raped the wife of his neighbour Bill Yates and left her dead.

Herne counts his blessings, at least his wife wasn't killed but she is unable to live with the fact that she was raped by several men, and one morning after putting on the new green dress Herne bought for her she hangs herself. This results in Herne and Yates going off on the vengeance trail.

The scene in which Herne's wife hangs herself is an important one and much is made of the green dress she wears - the scene is depicted on both the original cover and the stunning new eBook artwork, though for some strange reason the dress is the wrong colour on the eBook cover. Nitpicking I know but it's an oddity given that it is such a key scene.

The story though is excellent and moves at a fast pace - it's very violent but that's to be expected since the books are in the style of the Italian Westerns which were so popular back in the day. There are some great western in-jokes - Nathan Brittles (John Wayne's character from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) is referenced as is Terry Harknett (the author of the Edge westerns). And at one point Herne books himself on the next train to Yuma - it is leaving at 2:10 in the afternoon, but the train is delayed for an hour so Herne ends up on the 3:10 to Yuma.

Overall then an excellent read - yeah there are some scenes that stretch credibility to breaking point, but then this is a part of the genre. Highly recommended.

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