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‘The Death Hug’s A-comin’’
Hell’s Belle’s: The Trailsman #277 by Jon Sharpe
© 2014 James LaFond
AUG/24/14
2004, Signet, NY, 168 pages
Nothing makes a purer adventure story than the western, a fading genre in print and film. However, someone is still reading this stuff if Mister Sharpe is able to publish 277-plus novels! I also value reading anything by a prolific writer, as I believe the practice of any art in a stressful context is where it is perfected.
Jon Sharpe can write, and more importantly he remains in tuned with the quickly vanishing mindset of the American Man of Action, the kind of man that continues to keep this polyglot society together; a passionate, physical white guy; something of a knucklehead; soldier or cop, and in this case a mountain man named Skye Fargo.
Skye is clearly based on the infamous Liver-Eating Johnson. However, Sharpe has bleached that fearful figure as close to a mythic John Wayne figure of improbable fairness as can be done and still retain the lethality of the character. Even Johnson’s longtime mentor ‘Old Hatcher’ is represented by the strong-smelling ‘Snowshoe Hendee’.
Yes, I am not addressing the necessarily shallow plot, which is about saving some mail order brides from a gang of bandits.
The important thing to see in the Skye Fargo character is his inauthentic longevity, which is at the seat of his mythic nature. Fargo has excellent survival skills as did his inspiration Johnson. Fargo, however, has none of the instinctive ferocity of Johnson, without which he would have been a short-lived wanderer of the Rocky Mountain littoral. People might laugh at the notion that Skye could survive 277 adventures, though these adventures are based in fact, and far less bloody, than the career of the actual hero.
The action hero formula is this: build a likeable talkative character with 1950s middle-America ethics on the exploits of the surly, un-talkative, psychopathic cannibal mountain man. This permits the young American male reader to feel what that environmental and situational dominance would be like without experiencing the remote ‘yuck factor’ of identifying with a dude that would have had Vlad Tepish thinking he had to up his game if they ever met in a time-bending game show pitting serial killers against each other.
So yes, Skye mounts heads on stakes, but he does not eat their livers. Yes, Skye survives an ambush but is only ambushed because he was being an honorable man and taking a hostage where Liver-eater would have kicked his head off. Where Liver-eater only killed those on the other side of the ethnic divide, Skye kills mostly Anglo bad guys. This is not PC, so much as addressing the modern Whiteman’s distaste with where his own culture has gone, and how unworthy most of his white brothers are to inherit a land once taken by force from fierce warriors.
There is plenty of overused serendipity and good guy luck. But Sharpe really nails the nuances of trail life. The villain who loads his double-barrel 10 gauge with coins is particularly nasty. Besides, I have to admire any writer in this day and age who can make a hipster Manhattan feminist editor choke on a horn dog character who lives by the following courtship code, “Fargo didn’t take on this wet-nursing job just to get his wick dipped. But if a woman was above the age of consent and below the age of indifference, he was always happy to fill the aching void in her life.”
The poor hipster babe who proofed that in 2003 probably went to the ladies room and cried after reading it.
The Trailsman is not a classic. But then again that is the whole idea behind genre action literature; that the author cares enough about the reader to spit in the eye of the literary gods.
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the man cave
A Win for Tribalism
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fate
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winter of a fighting life
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let the world fend for itself
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by the wine dark sea
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menthol rampage
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the combat space
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the lesser angels of our nature
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within leviathan’s craw
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the sunset saga complete
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logic of force
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wife—
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america the brutal
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the year the world took the z-pill
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when you're food
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ranger?
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fanatic
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blue eyed daughter of zeus
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taboo you
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honor among men
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sons of aryas
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on combat
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logic of steel
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fiction anthology one
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son of a lesser god
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under the god of things
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solo boxing
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z-pill forever
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book of nightmares
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uncle satan
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predation
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cracker-boy
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the first boxers
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hate
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the greatest lie ever sold
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your trojan whorse
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night city
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barbarism versus civilization
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on the overton railroad
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broken dance
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the greatest boxer
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the gods of boxing
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song of the secret gardener
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dark, distant futures
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the fighting edge
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songs of aryas
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triumph
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thriving in bad places
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orphan nation
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beasts of aryas
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time & cosmos
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masculine axis
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all-power-fighting
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advent america
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into leviathan’s maw
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