Review: “Gunman’s Tally” by L. Ron Hubbard

Title: Gunman’s Tally
Author: L. Ron Hubbard
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Galaxy Press, 2013

I won my copy of Gunman’s Tally through the Goodreads Firstreads program. The only effect this has on my review is that it ensures its existence.

It is my well-documented and firmly-held belief that a work of fiction does not have to hold some deeper meaning to be worth the time spent reading it–the job of every novel I pick up is first and foremost to entertain me, all other purposes come after. (Obviously this doesn’t hold true for informational or nonfiction works, although making the reading experience enjoyable there too would be a good thing.) So while some would dismiss those tales that came out of the “Golden Age of the Pulps” as worthless drivel, I consider them endless entertainment. Some of them are poorly written crap, of course, but even our enlightened age produced Twilight, so I think we have no room to judge. Anyway, Galaxy Press is publishing a series reprinting all of L. Ron Hubbard’s stories from that Golden Age spanning a vast variety of genres.

This volume consists of the main story, Gunman’s Tally, (about 70 pages) as well as the shorter Ruin At Rio Piedras (about 30 pages,) plus two essays on Hubbard and the Golden Age of the Pulps that I suspect grace each volume in the series. In Gunman’s Tally, greedy cattle baron George Barton tries to obtain Easy Bill Gates’ fertile Las Pinas ranch the cheap way–with lead. It’s cheaper to hire a gunslinger to kill Bill’s brother than to just offer a fair price for the land. But when Bill kills the gunhand in a blind rage, he gains a reputation and paints a target on his back. Now every gunhand in the territory–or that Barton can lure into the territory–is going to be trying to make a name for himself by challenging Gates….. Ruin At Rio Piedras I really can’t summarize without giving it away, so let’s just say it pits a loyal but disfavored cowhand against rustlers and his boss’s disloyal favorite.

Gunman’s Tally was an engaging tale, and well constructed. I did see the slight twist at the end coming, but that was more to do with my longtime reading habits than Hubbard giving it away. Ruin At Rio Piedras was not quite as good, but that’s why it’s the backup story. I will certainly look to read more of these collections whenever I can find them.

Content: mild language, a bit of violence, but nothing too disturbing.

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