Edge 7: California Killing by George G. Gilman (NEL 1973)
It seemed nice. A quiet little town, just outside Los Angeles. The central building is a theater run by Rodney Holly. Right next door is the photographer, Justin Wood. A small, pleasant place to live, the kind of place people dream about.
But people die there. Some silently and alone, others shot down in the uneasy streets. It’s amazing how blood can run cold in the hot California sun. Before long, there are no dreams left ... just the edge of a nightmare.
A stage coach in which Edge is a passenger is held up and robbed by a gang who are very active in the area. A rancher has $50,000 taken by the gang and Edge agrees to recover it for a fee of $10,000.
A lot of the plot takes place in a town without a name. From the blurb it is quite obvious exactly where and what it will become, and typical of Terry Harknett, there are a whole host of references to people and places. The main man in town is called Mayer, a fellow named Disney, henchmen called Duke Scott and Randy Wayne, a Chinese theatre, Holly and Wood, and so many more. There are killings galore as was usual in the earlier books in the Edge series. Apart from the stage coach robbery, the highlight is Edge dressing up as a priest and 4 midgets dressed as children taking the place of the real ones as the gang of robbers plan to attack a Mission. Edge is still cold as ice at this point in the series, and as it is an odd-numbered entry, there's no flashbacks to the Civil War. Harknett writes some very memorable characters in his books, and California Killing is no exception, perhaps the outstanding one here being Hood, leader of the outlaw gang.
I thought this was a decent entry in the Edge series. It is certainly nowhere near my favourite, which up to now is Apache Death, but it is short, fast-paced, violent enough to warrant being an early 'Edge', and has some nice puns and one-liners.