Balazar the Butcher

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Title: Balazar the Butcher
Author: Emerson Dodge (Paul Wheelahan)
Publisher: The Cleveland Publishing Co. (No. 1411)
First Published: 2004

‘This killer from Sonora was an odd one!’

Despite the cover image, which looks like Red Sun era Charles Bronson, I can’t recall a moustache or a knife in the story. But I guess this type of image appeals to readers of a certain age – it drew me in – so I guess it’s effective marketing.

This novella-length tale concerns Joel Masterman, the owner of the sprawling Jefferson Ranch. Joel is an old school rancher, who runs Long-horns rather than Herefords, and he doesn’t believe in fences. He despises change – rejects progress. However, he is on his last legs, and his sons, and his Grand-daughter, arrive to see him through his last days – and naturally enough, to ensure they receive their inheritance when he passes. But, two of his sons, James and Martin, who are greedy, have been hard at work behind the scenes, making plans for the ranch, even before Joel has died. They plan to sell the property to the railroad, who have been wanting to run a track through the middle of the ranch for years.

When Joel finds out about his son’s betrayal, he threatens to write them all out of the Will. But, before he can do so, the sons plot to have their father murdered.

You’re probably wondering where the titular Balazar the Butcher fits into all this? Balazar is a Mexican bandit, who had a run in with Joel Masterman, and his number one ramrod, Dave Simpson, several years earlier. The incident cost Balazar an arm, and he has been dreaming of revenge ever since. Naturally, Balazar is the perfect candidate for the killing, so the sons arrange for him to do the deed. However, they never counted on the determination of Dave Simpson.

Balazar the Butcher, for 94 of its 96 pages, is a rattling yarn. However the resolution is crammed into two short pages – the promised climax never truly arrives. Whether this is the result of the writer hitting his word count, and winding things up quickly, or a razor-wielding editor ensuring the book – including the cover – does not exceed 100 pages, I can never know.

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