Tuesday, May 08, 2007



Old West Meets New West In A Brawl For It All!

One of the things I love about Max Allan Collins's period-piece mysteries and suspense novels is the authenticity. If you read something in a Collins book, outside of the fictional spin he adds to and puts on things, you can bet it really existed at that time. He also delves deeply into the backgrounds of his historical "characters" and provides a good biography of them.

When I read that BLACK HATS was going to offer a confrontation between an elderly Wyatt Earp and a young, wet-behind-the-ears Al Capone, I was excited. I conjured up images of alley showdowns with six-guns and Thompson submachine guns. We almost got that here.

The action was a little more downplayed that I would have wanted, but I was working off my own expectations. Collins stayed within the truth of what really happened in those days in 1920, with a little bit of what COULD have happened thrown in. Collins gave us a fictional son of Doc Holliday and painted the Prohibition backdrop both eloquently and faithfully. His other "characters" like Texas Guinan, Jack Dempsey, and Damon Runyon were great and added a lot of color to the story.

But it's Wyatt and Bat Masterson who really seize the spotlight. Their friendship comes across clearly and believably, and it was fun seeing them in action together. The plot was especially well done too. John Holliday had won a warehouse full of liquor in a poker game at a time when the rest of the city (and the state) were dry and having to import their liquor from Canada. It was a treasure trove on par with one of the acheological finds that would have sent Indiana Jones scampering for his fedora.

I was a little disappointed with the ending because it wasn't as BIG as I'd imagined. But it had neat little twists that made everything come together well. BLACK HATS is a fast, fun read with plenty of history, atmosphere, and trivia to keep armchair historians and thrill-seekers turning the pages.

1 comment:

Bill Bennett said...

Sounds like a great read!