Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear for another two doses of thrills from monumentally prolific Western chronicler Brand (1892-1944) never reprinted since their first appearances in Western Story Magazine in 1923 and 1926.
In the longer and weaker tale, “The Valley of Jewels,” Cherryville muleskinner Buck Logan thinks that range rider Doc Willis, who’s temporarily out of work, is just the man to stand armed guard over the crew Logan has toiling on a mysterious building project in Daggett Creek. The new gig promises Doc plenty of action since Red Grenville and his brother Lawrence are determined to stop Logan in his tracks before he can work a cunning, improbable deception on ancient William Daggett, whose long-ago discovery of gold gave Daggett’s Creek its name. Brand (Seven Faces, 1998, etc.) seems to be making it all up as he goes along. In the shorter, simpler, more clearly focused “Rodeo Ranch,” Duds Kobbe wins a sharpshooting contest wealthy rancher Ramon Alvarez has sponsored in order to flush out the man best qualified to protect him from the gang determined to avenge his shooting of John Turner. The complications here are that Kobbe is Turner’s son and that no sooner does he sign on for the job of protecting Alvarez, who tells him, “Never think that I am a foolish neurasthenic,” than he falls in love with Miriam Mantiez, Alvarez’s fiancee.
Brand’s stock in trade is superlatives: every gunslinger is the fastest, every woman the most beautiful, every villain the blackest, every horse the finest mount imaginable. A quaint version of the king’s English is respected throughout.