APACHE #7: BLOOD LINE by William M. James (Laurence James) First published by Pinnacle, September 1976; NEL edition August 1979 cover art by Colin Andrew
So anyway, I was reading Mod Rule and it's OK, you know. Chapter Four could have been brilliant; Spawn of Joe Hawkins and his step-dad (a one-time scooter boy who still has an eye for a sharp safari suit) are having a bit of bother with some Hell's Angels in a circle of standing stones. You can't really go wrong with a set up like that surely - it's like Psychomania '79. And what happens? Little Joe and the old man get the shit kicked out of them and his mum ends up getting gang-banged by half a dozen sweaty bikers on the sacrificial stone. It shouldn't have to end this way... but, this being Mod Rule, it inevitably does. I should perhaps explain that the extremely unfortunate Lottie Watson (nee Newman) has already been raped - not once but an entirely unnecessary three times - by Joe Hawkins in a flashback in chapter Two and well... I can only imagine how she must have been feeling by now but I'd definitely had enough of it.
So I thought I'd try a western.
Now, on the face of it this may seem like an odd choice. After all, the Savage West is hardly known for being a rape-free zone, but a quick read of the blurb for Apache #7: Blood Line offered at least some hope;
"Cuchillo Oro saved Linda Daughton from a fate worse than death at the hands of a band of renegade Apaches. When he was in danger himself, she returned the favour by shooting his attacker in the groin. Now Frankie Ettinger was out for revenge. But it would take more than a white man, even the rich and ruthless Ettinger, to spill the blood of Cuchillo Oro."
There you go, the perfect antidote to Moffatt's misogynistic rape fantasies - our heroine is saved from "a fate worse than death" and even gets to blow some bloke's bollocks off. Result. Well, not quite. Chapter One and Linda Daughton's getting gang-raped by half a dozen renegade Chiricahua Apaches while Cuchillo Oro basically sits and watches. It's only when they're about to roast her alive that he finally decides to step in (apparently "a fate worse than death" refers not to violent sexual assault but to being roasted. Now you know). And things don't look any brighter when Linda and Cuchillo arrive at a nearby town in Chapter Two to be met by local landowner's son, Frank Ettinger, and his boys, who decide that - just for a change - they're going to rape her. Thankfully, Linda and the Man with the Golden Knife manage to get the drop on 'em and, as mentioned previously, Frankie ends up singing soprano. At least he won't be raping anyone else again in a hurry.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The epic Western saga of bloody revenge, Apache, first appeared in America in 1974, published by Pinnacle, who were also responsible for the US editions of the mould-breaking Edge and Adam Steele series by George G. Gilman. Although Sphere published the first four books in the UK c.1975, there seems to have been a feeling among some publishers here that the market for these 'Adult Westerns' was becoming just a little too crowded and New English Library, the original publishers of the George G. Gilman books, didn't take Apache on until 1978, even then dropping the series after #12. In the States, Pinnacle carried on up to #27, making it the longest-running of the 'Piccadilly Cowboy' series after Edge and Steele. Apache was very much a British Western series though. It was created by Terry Harknett (George G. Gilman himself) and Edge co-creator Laurence James, with John Harvey taking over (you'll notice I didn't say 'the reins') from Terry for the second half of the run - "My feeling was that eight Westerns a year were ample for one writer". The story concerns Cuchillo Oro, a Mimbrenos Apache named after his trademark golden knife, and his "brutal, unrelenting... and deadly" quest for vengeance against US cavalry Captain Cyrus Pinner, who killed his wife and child and mutilated his right hand - "The hand with which I fight and shoot".
Blood Line was one of Laurence James' Apache titles and it's everything you'd expect from a 'Piccadilly Cowboy'; so well-paced that the pages practically turn themselves, writing which manages to be intelligent and joyously pulpy at the same time, some great dialogue complete with regulation awful puns (heroine Linda Daughton seems to be so named purely to accomodate the line "You will not put Miss Daughton on the stage, Mrs Worthington"), and regular dollops of graphic violence described in minute, painstaking detail. And, because this is a Laurence James book, you also get the constant stream of in-jokes and obscure references to other authors and publishers (see the three ranch-hands, Harvey Court, Brace and Janovich). Even James Bond turns up, albeit in the guise of a one-armed gunslinger (cue the "Never gamble with a one-armed bandit" and "he was obvioulsy shaken and he did not stir" gags). Many of the other Piccadilly Cowboys are also very much in evidence here. Harknett gets the dedication ("This is for Terry – he rides shotgun like nobody else I know") and the whole story takes place in and around the small township of Angus Wells. Interviewed shortly after the book came out, Angus Wells (writer of the Western series, Breed, and several others in collaboration with James, Harknett and John Harvey) admitted to being flattered that James had used his name so prominently but expressed reservations, "I can't imagine Clint Eastwood riding into Angus Wells...". He has a point, Angus Wells doesn't quite work as a location but it's nice to imagine Laurence James chuckling away as he bashed out yet another Western, keeping himself amused by writing about how "a flash flood nearly wiped Angus Wells clean off the Territory map".
There really isn't much of a story to Blood Line - you try constantly coming up with fresh and exciting new plot ideas when you've got the sort of deadlines these blokes had to work to. It's basically various stock Western themes and situations plucked out of a hat (you'll notice I didn't say 'dusty stetson') more or less at random and thrown together into something resembling a plot. And it's done brilliantly. This time out we've got the pretty blonde schoolma'am rescued from a bunch of renegade Apaches; the local landowner and law unto himself and his no-account wayward son; a bit of false accusation; a posse, a chase, and a shoot-out in the surrounding hills (complete with mud-slide); and all leading up to an explosive Rio Bravo-style finale, in which Cuchillo and Linda are holed up in the town jail fighting off the bad guys with only the washed-up sheriff and a mild-mannered, pacifist schoolteacher to back them up - the rest of the townsfolk being too scared to stand up and fight for themselves, but that goes without saying. All of this is liberally peppered with more in-jokes. Ettinger, the rancher, has the first names J. McLaglen (the name used by James and John Harvey to write the Herne The Hunter series); The mild-mannered schoolteacher is one J. Hedges (here playing very much against type); and easily taking the prize for best performance by a Western writer in the role of a fictional character we have the sheriff, Frederick Nolan (author of the Angel and Sudden books and, like Laurence James, featured in the latest Paperback Fanatic);
"Nolan had lived in Arizona for eight years, but still retained something of his Liverpool twang... "I'm no devil, ma'am. Then again, you can't say that Frederick Nolan is an angel either.""
This "immensely stout" sheriff belches his way through a tense showdown, cracking bad jokes and at one point disappearing to the nearest outhouse for a crap in the midst of the action. It's a marvellously affectionate and wicked portrayal.
One thing really sets Blood Line apart from Mod Rule: it's a whole lot of fun. LJ clearly had a good time while he was writing it, while Moffatt seems to have hated and begrudged every single minute he spent on his curmudgeonly potboiler. Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Takes a little while to really find its feet but James soon hits his stride and it's a cracking read from there on in. Blood Line is simply a great example of what paperbacks - Western or otherwise - used to be all about.
Fantastic stuff, Steve. I must read Mod Rule and Apache 9. I asked Terry on the PC website about Andrew Ettinger, as he had one Western dedicated to him, and appeared as a character in another - apparently he was a representative of Pinnacle who would pop over to the UK every now and then. I've only read a couple of Apaches and wasn't over keen on them, but, as with the best Vault reviews, you make this sound unmissable.
yep, andy ettinger was an editor at pinnacle who was repsonsible for much of the series output, and was chums with LJ, buying the Simon Rack series off him for US publication - so he was in at the beginning, as it were.
yep, andy ettinger was an editor at pinnacle who was repsonsible for much of the series output, and was chums with LJ, buying the Simon Rack series off him for US publication
Andrew Ettinger was pretty important in LJ's career and, as Pulphack mentions, the two were friends. In one of the old Steele Edge or Westerner fanzines, James describes a trip to the States where he and his family stayed with Ettinger at his home. After Ettinger left Pinnacle c.1980, he was instrumental in Harlequin (previously a publisher of Romance novels) setting up their Men's Action/Adventure line under the Gold Eagle imprint. It was Gold Eagle who published the Deathlands books for which James is now probably best remembered, certainly in America, along with the likes of Earth Blood and Survival 2000.
Gold Eagle Books have also been important for another Piccadilly Cowboy. At Pinnacle, Ettinger had handled the legendary Mack Bolan/Executioner series by Don Pendleton. When he went to Harlequin he made a deal with Pendleton to licence the Mack Bolan character. One of the writers hired to continue the series and its subsequent spin-offs was Mike Linaker.
And it was Andrew Ettinger who bought The Manitou off Graham Masterton, launching his horror career after the market for 'instructional' sex books of the How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed variety dried up.
Checking the old thread at the PC website Apache 4 was dedicated to Andrew Ettinger and he appeared as a character in Apache 2. Further to my query Terry H supplied some info about him, including a great story about Andrew Ettinger and another Pinnacle bod taking him and LJ out to lunch at fancy restuarants. Fine when LJ was suited and booted as a member of the Editorial staff, but a bit different when he was a writer and bedenimed.
At Pinnacle, Ettinger had handled the legendary Mack Bolan/Executioner series by Don Pendleton. When he went to Harlequin he made a deal with Pendleton to licence the Mack Bolan character. One of the writers hired to continue the series and its subsequent spin-offs was Mike Linaker.
I see Peter Leslie was one of the Executioner authors. And Mel Odom who wrote a couple of Deathlands entries. There's another chap, an Englishman, who wrote entries in both series. How did he get the gig?
Checking the old thread at the PC website Apache 4 was dedicated to Andrew Ettinger...
"This is for Andy Ettinger, who’s the great white father over the sea."
He's also the 'A. E.' referred to by Terry H. in his dedication for Apache #1;
"For D. Z. and A. E. because of their enthusiasm."
'D. Z.' is Pinnacle boss, David Zentner.
Noticed too that Apache #21 appears to be dedicated to Guy N. Smith and his family. Alternating between westerns and GNS horrors recently, has got me really keen to find a copy of Smith's western, The Pony Riders.