THE GENTLE DESPERADO by Max Brand

THE GENTLE DESPERADO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A jolly satirical romance by the prolific Shakespeare of the Western range, Frederick Faust, a.k.a. Max Brand and other aliases. Faust/Brand died as a war correspondent for Collier's during the Allied invasion of Italy, so the bulk of his fantastic output was written during the Thirties and early Forties. Faust long had a crush on the bust of Aeschylus, spent much fruitless time writing poems only he could love. So it is no surprise that his present pulp novel--which is some kind of weird masterpiece--is based on the adventures of Don Quixote of La Mancha and his servant Sancho Panza. The hero, physically modeled on Harold Lloyd, glasses and all, is an idiotically virtuous, mild-mannered nincompoop and orphan, Robert Fernald, 22. Back home from college without the wherewithal to go on to law school, Robert feels like a failure at everything: his diploma (""It doesn't mean much really""), his smashups at football (""It seems that I smash rather easily""), undefeated boxing record (""But what good is a lightweight? What good I ask you?""), the medal for his supernaturally fast draw and marksmanship on the pistol team (he still ""can't hit a dime with a quick shot at 25 paces! Not more than once in four times, or hardly that""). Wearing a heavy, clip-fed Colt automatic in a shoulder holster, Robert sets out to see his father's grave, stumbles onto a one-armed, fast-talking fat Mexican beggar, Mr. Pedrillo Onate, whose monumental lies and conceits well qualify him to sub for Sancho Panza and lead Robert--maddened with admiration for Wild Bill Hickok and the truly great lawmen--into his greatest romantic adventure: the protection of the beauteous young cattle-woman Beatrice Larkin, whose stock is being rustled away through mountain passes. Wily Pedrillo is perfectly aware that Robert's sanity is somewhere off where the smoke goes. And so is Beatrice aware as she pityingly takes him in--is he not determined to rid her of the terrible (and literally immortal!) Tom Gill and his pack of thieves? At his first shootout, shrinking, panicky Robert nails Tom Gill through the forehead. . .and Gill rises again from the earth where he's fallen, only to tell Robert the true story of the death of Fernald senior. . . The climax finds Brand quite equal to his source, with Beatrice and Pedrillo successfully awakening Robert from his insane fixation on Wild Bill and the need to gun down desperadoes. Successful awakening? Well, Robert Fernald ""has passed into a mildly happy dream. But still his eyes were fixed on the wild heights of life, and he despised the quiet ways in which he found himself.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1985
Publisher: Dodd, Mead