Hangin’ Tough

Hangin Tough

Title: Hangin’ Tough
Author: Cole Shelton (Roger Green)
Publisher: Cleveland Publishing Co. (Series 1 No 16)
Published: 2016 (Previously published 1968 – As Cut Three Notches)

‘It kinda acts as a warnin’ to others!’

Hangin’ Tough is a strange book to review, or at least this particular edition. Firstly, the painted cover art features a portrait of Clint Eastwood, and a noose. Coupling that with the title ‘Hangin’ Tough’, the immediate thought is this book is somehow connected to the film Hang ‘Em High, which starred Eastwood. Further to that, the main character in the story is Rowdy Bates, and Eastwood played a character called Rowdy Yates in the television series Rawhide. Adding these elements up, and with nary a word read, the story comes off as a pastiche, rather than a serious western tale. Having said that, this story was originally entitled Cut Three Notches, and while I have not been able to find that edition, I can speculate that with different cover art (no Eastwood), and different title, the story’s influences would not be so obvious.

The story itself is pretty simple. It starts with fourteen-year-old Rowdy Bates and his Pa making camp for the night. On an open range, they’ve come across a maverick calf with no brand, and shoot it for supper. No sooner are the steaks sizzling in the frypan, and three men sneak up upon their camp, and at gunpoint claim that the calf belongs to them. Pa explains there was no brand, but if he has made a mistake, he’s willing to make it up, work off the debt he owes. The three men want none of it. They’re just itching to lynch somebody, and they string Pa Bates up, and make Rowdy watch.

Once Pa’s dead, the three owlhoots turn their attention to Rowdy, they figure they can’t leave the boy alive. However, Rowdy breaks free and runs into the darkness, evading capture. The story skips ahead seven years. Rowdy is now a man and has taught himself to shoot pretty good. Singular in his purpose, he sets off to kill the men who murdered his Pa all those years ago.

According to Graeme Flanagan’s Australian Vintage Paperback Guide, Cole Shelton was one of the many pseudonyms of Roger Green, who also wrote as Cord Brecker, Ben Taggart, Matt Hollinger, Brad Houston, Sundown McCabe, Lesley Rogers.

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