RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled western by Van Vogt

From: Kent Johnson ( kjohnson@slip.net)
Date: 06 Feb 2000

Golden Age pulp science fiction author A.E. Van Vogt, who died about a week and a half ago, wrote one western story in his entire career and not unsurprisingly, it's a hard-boiled one.

You can read the story, "Ride in, Killer," scanned from its sole publication in the February 1951 FAMOUS WESTERN, at Magnus Axelsson's excellent Van Vogt site at http://www.mmedia.is/vanvogt/western.htm. (Scroll down below the cover picture to the page links.)

The illustrations and ads lend charm to this curious story which is told from the viewpoint of one of Van Vogt's supermen, here a villain rather than a hero, who joins a cattle drive in order to kill the crew and steal the herd. Due to the viewpoint and the character's competence and self-confidence, we're actually rooting for him to succeed. The writing is unique and inconsistent, showcasing both Van Vogt's strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are superior moments of psychological description and slow-motion hyper-action. Well-worth checking out.


Kent Johnson San Francisco kjohnson@slip.net

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