ED GORMAN. Relentless (2003).

06 Sep

Relentless.jpgMarshal Lane Morgan, keeper of the peace in the Colorado community of Skylar during the final decade of the 19th century, embodies the taming of the West. Not only is he an agent of the law, charged with pacifying that onetime wide-open mining town, but his demeanor and his voice—he narrates this western-mystery hybrid—reflect the softer, more civilization-friendly impulses within the American spirit. That’s not to say that he lacks the capacity for rip-roaring action. In one scene, he leaps from the window of a saloon-hotel and onto a buckboard. In another, he heads off to rescue his kidnapped wife, Callie, only to find himself bound and gagged, and staring into the barrel of a gun. Yet the story that he tells, pivoting as it does around a formal murder investigation, belongs to the world of settled society. It starts when Callie’s former husband, one David Stanton of Chicago, comes to Skylar and pursues a scheme to blackmail Morgan and Callie. Stanton soon turns up dead, and Morgan sets out to interview people who might have had reason to kill the interloper. Suspects include a farmer woman who had slept with the victim; the husband of that woman; the town potentate, who believes that he’s above the law; and, of course, Callie. To conduct his sleuthing rounds, Morgan uses a horse rather than a beaten-down roadster, but otherwise he operates essentially in the same mode as Philip Marlowe. The frontier way of life, and the fabled passions that it arouses, have all but vanished. Even Morgan’s effort to clear his wife of suspicion comes across as controlled and stately; by the standards of modern pulp entertainment, it’s hardly “relentless.” Similarly, Gorman’s prose is stolid and whip-smart, but largely devoid of raw emotion. The emphasis here is on the rule of law, not the law of revenge, and the marshal’s tin star, battered though it may be, stays firmly in place on his chest.


Posted by on September 6, 2012 in American, Hard-Boiled, Historical, Novel


3 responses to “ED GORMAN. Relentless (2003).

  1. Cavershamragu

    September 7, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    Have yet to try anything by Ed Gorman though I’ve long enjoyed his criticism though his blog. Sounds fascinating – thanks for the review.

    • Mike

      September 7, 2012 at 5:33 PM

      I appreciate your comment, Sergio. Gorman is quite prolific. I’ve read only a few of his books, and I’ve liked them all. The Robert Payne books are solid middle-American noir. Then there are one-off books like “Shadow Games”—an excellent psychological thriller that reminded me of Barbara Vine (i.e., Ruth Rendell) at her best.

      • Cavershamragu

        September 8, 2012 at 12:34 AM

        Thanks Mike – Gorman and Bill Crider are two authors keep encountering through comments via their blogs and whose work I really want to sample – thanks very much for the info.


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