Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: The Quest for Bowie's Blade--J.T. Edson (The Old West Maltese Falcon)

This was the first J.T. Edson book I've had the pleasure to read. It had a nice, well flowing plot that I could easily see filmed as an hour long 1960s TV western.

The main thrust of the novel is the maneuverings of different (usually villainous) parties to recover Jim Bowie's knife. The knife supposedly holds the map to a crashed meteor.

One thing I enjoyed was the influence Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon played on the plot. Charles X. Guilemont blunders around like a French Casper Gutman; his sidekick, a female crook, plays in Cario role (I can't help but think that making the assistant a woman was a reference to the sexuality of Cario). In addition, the Ysabel Kid's parner is shot in the opening pages of the novel! All of these similarities could be chance(there could be more since it's been a long time since I've read Falcon), except that in the final pages of the novel, Guilemont announces that he is going to "locat[e]...a statuette of a falcon, is made of solid gold and encrusted with the finest jewels to be looted from the crusades. It's value, sir, in the right circles, is immense." For any too dense to pick up on the connection, there is a helpful footnote pointing the reader to The Maltese Falcon for more information.

Despite this somewhat glowing review I have to point out an oddity that docks the book quite a few points. In the second to last chapter, the Ysabel Kid and Guilemont head off to see if they can locate the Bowie Knife again. So, while waiting the two girls go down to the beach and have a ultra-violent bloody brawl. Since there are several mentions of ripped clothes and bared bosoms I guess this is supposed to be sexy--rather it just leaves the read confused as to What The Heck that was all about.

Wold Newton: Nothing much, there's a reference to the Maltese Falcon, as noted, and Guilemont works for James Moriarty--aside from these, the novel is a complete stand alone.

Final rating: B-
(B+ without the cat fight.)