Chapter 9: Buchanan, Part 3

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Apparently feeling more confident with the success of the three Buchanan books, Ard decided to have fun with the fourth installment, Buchanan Gets Mad. A limping horse sets him in the California town of Salvation in which the preacher and sheriff are the same man, Sidney Hallett. Word play abounds in this novel where the streets of Salvation are Genesis and Sinai.

The town is empty and Buchanan stands in the middle of Salvation, wondering: “Where the hell is everybody?”

He hears a voice yelling at a woman: “You are hereby banished from Salvation!” While the puns become a bit overwhelming, it turns out that Hallett does fancy himself god of this town which he created. He now directs “people’s very existence.” In fact by the end of the book we see that Ard has created a demented precursor of Jimmy Jones and David Koresh.

While Hallett is probably a pun on “Hell,” the sheriff’s deputy is Hynman, which is an inverted “Hymn-man”

Buchanan winds up on the wrong side of the establishment and takes a bullet in the ribs. In the course of trying to save heroine Ellen Booth and Juanita, a Mexican girl, he gets beat up and finally thrown in jail to await hanging on a trumped up charge. He maintains his easy going persona throughout.

By now, Ard has begun to add dimension to the affable hero. We get a look at the dark side of Buchanan when Hynman comes into the jail to rape Ellen who is in the next cell. Buchanan grabs the deputy by the throat and begins choking him to death with the matter-of-fact philosophy, “He knows he’s got this coming.” He has no more feeling for killing a man than shooting a rattlesnake. It’s only a woman’s pleas that stop him.

Unlike Dane and Largo, Buchanan is fairly pure. At the ranch of the main female character, he finds a woods and spring and bathes. He later falls asleep and is awakened by two women bathing nude. Ever the gentleman, Buchanan stays hidden so they won’t be embarrassed. What could have been an implied sex scene instead is one of innocence in a little Eden outside the corrupt Salvation.

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While Buchanan does kill a couple bad guys, it’s the villains in the end who wipe out each other, self-cleaning Salvation.

Buchanan’s Revenge, is, as the title implies, a revenge novel. Buchanan searches out a friend who has just been released from jail, rehabilitates him and they begin a shipping business to Mexico. An errant trio from a marauding band shoots the man in the back, killing him and robs the shipment.

This is one of the more uneven books. Buchanan kills two of the men and faces down the entire gang for the third. After he kills the man, he joins the gang as they run contraband into and out of Mexico, holding off the Mexican army.

The book has its charm, though. Buchanan’s duality: the friendly, easy-going cowboy and the deadly, persistent, fearless killer is explored further. And Big Red, a hastily drawn but colorful character, virtually roars off the page and steals the show, especially during the fist fight between the two giants.

Garfield and Silverberg added excellent touches as they filled out Buchanan. In subsequent adventures, he acquires his horse, Nightshade. No horse is as smart or as loyal as Nightshade. He often mentions Luke Short, a gambler and gunfighter who taught him how to play poker. (Silverberg was fascinated with Short and in 1961 had done a study of Short: Luke Short And His Era, published by Doubleday).

At one point he picks up a black friend. Buchanan, throughout all the novels, appreciates those of other cultures as real people and not stereotypes.

Ard and the subsequent authors, stayed with the simple plot premise, as Buchanan says in Buchanan Gets Mad: “I keep starting out for ‘Frisco but somethin’ keeps happening,” The series ended in 1986 with Buchanan’s Stage Line.

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