Five Guns to Red Butte

Red Butte

Title: Five Guns to Red Butte
Author: Ben Taggart (Roger Green)
Publisher: Iron Horse Westerns (251) – a Division of Cleveland Publishing Co.
Published: 1976

‘Only Clint Dawson could save the town!’

The cover of this 100 page novella, features a villainous Lee Van Cleef look-a-like, which in some ways is appropriate, as the hero of the story, Clint Dawson, is clearly modelled on Clint Eastwood. However, the story borrows many of its beats from High Plains Drifter (1972), rather than The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). The dialogue in particular, mimics many famous western Eastwood-isms.

Clint Dawson makes his living with his gun; a gun-for-hire in the town of Red Butte. But the times-are-a-changing, and the civic leaders of Red Butte want to turn the town in a model of peace and harmony. They want to drive the undesirables out. As a gunslinger, Dawson is considered an undesirable and he is asked to leave the town. He refuses, as he is courting the preacher’s daughter, Mary Jo Griffin. He hopes to one day, hang up the gun and settle down.

The Mayor, Rufus Cobb, and the sheriff, Jacob Avery, hatch a plan to ensure Dawson leaves town. They frame him for cattle-rustling, and arrange to have him sent to a territorial prison for five years.

At this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking the story seems set to become a revenge western, with Dawson returning to Red Butte to face off against those who did him wrong. But in fact, the story heads in a different direction. After Dawson is released, he starts a new life as a trapper, dealing in furs and pelts

Meanwhile, notorious outlaw, Lennie Trafford, and four members of his gang have their sights set of Red Butte’s bank. They ride into town, shoot the sheriff and then take whatever they want, money, booze, and women. They kill anyone who opposes them.

The civic leaders meet, and reluctantly agree that to rid the town of the outlaw menace, they need to hire a gunfighter. They know only one, Clint Dawson, and he is asked to intercede on the town’s behalf. Despite being wronged by the town, he agrees.

The setup for the second half of this story is awfully contrived, and it’s unlikely that a man who had been betrayed – had his whole life taken from him – would be so forgiving. But that aside, FIVE GUNS TO RED BUTTE is an entertaining oater, with enough gunplay and frontier justice to satisfy most fans of the genre.

According to Graeme Flanagan’s AUSTRALIAN VINTAGE PAPERBACK GUIDE, Ben Taggart was one of the many pseudonyms of Roger Green, who also wrote as Cord Brecker, Cole Shelton, Matt Hollinger, Brad Houston, Sundown McCabe, and Lesley Rogers.

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