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Yet another variation on the strong, silent Shane-ish (now Clint Eastwood-ish) scenario: a novella, narrated in rough-folksy style (""I have wrote down what hapened back in Virginia City the way I seen it"") by teenager Thomas ""Grubber"" Graves. The Gallagher of the title is the noble, taciturn wagonmaster/lawman who sort-of adopts 13-year-old Grubber when the kid is orphaned. (Gallagher once loved the kid's ma.) So the two of them ride West circa 1863; along the way they rescue a family that's lost in the snowy, icy Pioneer Mountains. And once in gold-mad Virginia City--""It seemed like the whole territory had come to that one town and all got crazy drunk""--Gallagher and Grubber witness some of the killings perpetrated by corrupt Sheriff Hummer and his vile road agents. Will Gallagher agree when local good-folk ask him to lead vigilante action against these villains? Well, at first he's only willing to hunt down two of the killer road-agents and bring them to trial. But when the killers, though convicted, are permitted to escape, the vigilante committee is formed (""either vigilante law or no law atall. . . you don't reason with a clutch of rattlesnakes""), the bad guys are shot down. . . and Gallagher himself falls victim to the infectious violence. Some crisp action (the opening snow-rescue is best), and Grubber's artfully illiterate narration is effective about half the time--but essentially just the old, old silent-stranger story again, with no depths and no surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster