26 July 2015

The Hell Bent Kid


Synopsis from Goodreads: Hailed by the Western Writers of America as one of the top twenty-five Westerns ever written: The harrowing story of an innocent young man pursued across west Texas by a relentless posse.

A crack shot more skilled with a rifle than are men twice his age, eighteen-year-old Tot Lohman has no intention of using his genius for evil. But when a fight erupts at a schoolhouse dance, Lohman is forced to defend himself, and a young rancher named Shorty Boyd winds up dead. The Boyds are numerous, powerful, and vicious, and they want revenge. With no one else to turn to, Lohman sets out across canyon country to reunite with his ailing father in New Mexico Territory. The journey will be long, hot, and perilous, and to survive it, this mild-mannered boy must become the cold-blooded killer he never wanted to be.

Based on real events, The Hell Bent Kid is a tale of pursuit as stark and mesmerizing as the Southwestern landscape in which it is set. Unrelenting from first page to last, it ranks alongside The Ox-Bow Incident, True Grit, and The Searchers as one of the most unique and artful stories of the West ever told. In 1958 it was adapted into the film From Hell to Texas, directed by the famed Henry Hathaway and starring Don Murray, Diane Varsi, Chill Wills, and Dennis Hopper.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Open Road Media, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley.

First line: After the first Indian fighting quieted down, and the hard-pan camps and towns moved west, killings were less common in northwest Texas than people were led to think.

My thoughts: Tot Lohman killed a Boyd in self-defense, and now the Boyd family is out for revenge, chasing Tot across Texas. This is Tot's painstaking accounting of his long ride, the people he meets along the way, the constant stream of Boyds or men hired by the Boyds to hunt him down. At times it was quite mesmerizing, but those times were outnumbered by the times it wasn't. Since the majority of the story is from Tot's POV, we don't get to know any of the characters. And since Tot is relating the events more like a log of this happened and then this happened, and not like an actual journal of his thoughts and feelings, we don't really get to know him either. It made for a slow read that slogged along at times, but did lead up to an exciting and climatic ending. 

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