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Warlock by Oakley Hall
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Warlock (1958)

by Oakley Hall

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
If you were to read one Western, ever, this is it! The themes reviberate in the fictional town of Warlock, where things are badly out of hand. The action somewhat resembles the events in the real Tombstone, but there are significant changes. The cast is relatively large, and the events dealt with are the matters of the historical West, not the pulp fiction one. Like the the TV epic "Deadwood" we are present at the evolution of a community, and live through serious challenges to law and order, the problem of conflicting jurisdictions, and the attempt to make a living from a rough landscape. Never forgotten if read.
Dipped into quite often. There was a movie, dealing with only the showy bits, but a showcase for that great, but often misused actor, Richard Widmark. (and for Trekkies..an example of the kind of thing Dr. McCoy could get into if left to his own devices.:-), ) ( )
1 vote DinadansFriend | Dec 16, 2013 |
The Citizens’ Committee made up of the prominent merchants and professionals in the mining town of Warlock want some law and order. The territorial governor and the county sheriff are miles away and they don’t seem to care. So they hire a notoriously fast shootist from out of town to act as marshal. Any trouble-making cowboys like a few rustlers from nearby San Pablo Valley will be told to get out of town and stay out! Wonderfully full of characters and action this intricately plotted novel appropriates some of the historical events and characters of famous western conflicts: the Lincoln County (New Mexico) and Johnson County (Wyoming) Wars and the gunfight behind the O. K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, and turns them into a meditation on social conflict, political power, and the law as well as a powerful narrative tale. ( )
  MaowangVater | Jun 9, 2013 |
Brilliant

Classic of the Western Genre

The pursuit of truth, not facts, is the business of fiction

Take every single cowboy trope you can think of, its in here - Rustlers, lawless town, gunslingers, town drunk with philosophy, stagecoach hold ups, apaches, US cavalry and much much more. I mentioned to the guys in the book store that I was thinly read when it came to westerns but had hugely enjoyed [lonesome dove] and this is what they sent me. This was a Pulitzer nominee in the 50’s and is loosely based on the gunfight in the OK Corral (there is a chapter called gunfight at the Acme Corral). When a town without a charter, and no sherrif but a long line of deputies (who either run or are shot) has a problem with local criminal cowboys, rustlers and road agents led by Abe McQuown they hire a Texas gunslinger named Clay Blaisedell to be Marshall of the town. Although things improve the moral ambiguity of his “posting” men out of town so that if they return they are under sentence of death quickly complicates matters. This is a brooding character study not least of one of the Deputies John Gannon who has a foot in both camps having once worked for McQuown but left after becoming tired of the rustling lifestyle. Things are further complicated by the fact that Blaisedell brings with him a gambler friend Tom Morgan. No-one really comes out well in this morality tale but although it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test there are two very strong female characters that are central to the plot.

The earth is an ugly place, senseless, brutal, cruel and ruthlessly bent only upon the destruction of men's souls. The god of the old testament rules a world not worth His trouble and he is more violent, more jealous, more terrible with the years. We are only those poor, bare, forked animals Lear saw upon his dismal Heath, in pursuit of death, pursued by death

Overall – absorbing reworking of the Wyatt Earp legend ( )
1 vote psutto | Nov 1, 2012 |
Oakley Hall populates his novel Warlock with an entire townfull of characters, the way Charles Dickens does, or more apropos the way Pete Dexter did in his western Deadwood. While there is a central plot with its handful of major characters, Mr. Hall takes the time to bring each minor player to life, enough to fill his small Arizona town of Warlock with a memorable populace.

Like Pete Dexter's Deadwood, and the television series that was probably based on it, the main plotline of Warlock centers on a gunslinger attempting to go straight as the town marshall. Clay Blaisedell, who is loosely based on Wyatt Earp, is hired by a citizen's committee made up of the moneyed property holders of Warlock. They need someone to keep the locals in line and to prevent the nearby gang from further robberies and rustlings. But Blaisedell soon finds that the citizen's committee also wants him to keep people they deem undesireably out of town, even if those people haven't violated the law. After he is forced to fire upon men he laters finds innocent, he refuses to remain the town's marshall, stepping aside in favor of Deputy Gannon, another former gunslinger.

Blaisedell and Gannon are soon set on a course of conflict that will inevitably lead them to fight eachother as they try to maneuver between the citizen's committee that wants to control them and the townspeople who either worhsip them as heroes, fear them as villains or envy them as rival gunslingers. That both men want a peacefull town, won't help either of them in the end. Too many people have too many conflicting demands on them. I desperately want to tell you what happens in the final shootout, but I can't. I will say that it took me completely by surprise; it's unlike anything I've ever read before; I loved it and I so should have seen it coming.

Into this more-or-less typical scenarios, Mr. Hall introduces a cast of supporting characters centered around the local mine and the minors who attempt to form a union. The citizen's committee demands the sheriff drive the union agitators out of town, but he refuses as they have done no wrong in his eyes. This is but the first in a series of events that will culminate in a showdown between the minors and the army, brought in from the nearby territorial capital at the mine owner's request.

Warlock is an excellent novel for the way it explores the complexity of what is morally right in a place without law. The citizen's committee has no real legal standing--they are simply the ones with enough money to hire the best gunslinger. Blaisedell and Gannon both are as dirty as the outlaws they attempt to keep in control. They've just switched sides sooner. Gannon's brother fell to Blaisedell's gun just before he became deputy. That he did not seek 'justice' for his brother has put Gannon under suspicion as far as many in Warlock are concerned.

There is an element of romance for both Blaisedell and Gannon, though here the novel is arguably at its weakest. Blaisedell is in love with the "Angel of the Mines." A local woman who runs a boarding house for miner's that doubles as a hospital for them when needed. She functions as the woman on a pedastal much the way so many women did in 19th century fiction. Through the example of her goodness she hopes to redeem many of the men in town. Gannon is in love with a former prostitute who has come to town hoping to see Blaisedell gunned down at last. She cannot kill him herself, but she wants to know that the man who killed her brother has finally met his end. She is not above trying to manipulate Gannon into killing Blaisedell for her.

The two are such obvious Madonna/whore characters that many readers may find them trying. But if you can look at them not as stereotypes but as explorations of stereotypes, you'll find both have much to offer, both are fully developed characters, both speak to something profound, a desire for security or a desire for the sense of quietess justice might bring but never does. It's a tribute to Oakley Hall that what should be characterture become memorable characters.

Lots of people avoid westerns for reasons I don't really understand. Warlock is among the best I've read to date. If I still gave stars, I'd give it five out of five, maybe four and half. Butcher's Crossing is still my all-time favorite, but Warlock will hold certainly hold it's own. ( )
  CBJames | Jul 5, 2012 |
Pre politically corect western good yarn ( )
  brone | Sep 13, 2010 |
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Deputy Canning had been Warlock's hope.
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The pursuit of truth, not of facts, is the business of fiction.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553271148, Mass Market Paperback)

Oakley Hall's legendary Warlock revisits and reworks the traditional conventions of the Western to present a raw, funny, hypnotic, ultimately devastating picture of American unreality. First published in the 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era, Warlock is not only one of the most original and entertaining of modern American novels but a lasting contribution to American fiction.

"Tombstone, Arizona, during the 1880's is, in ways, our national Camelot: a never-never land where American virtues are embodied in the Earps, and the opposite evils in the Clanton gang; where the confrontation at the OK Corral takes on some of the dry purity of the Arthurian joust. Oakley Hall, in his very fine novel Warlock has restored to the myth of Tombstone its full, mortal, blooded humanity. Wyatt Earp is transmogrified into a gunfighter named Blaisdell who . . . is summoned to the embattled town of Warlock by a committee of nervous citizens expressly to be a hero, but finds that he cannot, at last, live up to his image; that there is a flaw not only in him, but also, we feel, in the entire set of assumptions that have allowed the image to exist. . . . Before the agonized epic of Warlock is over with—the rebellion of the proto-Wobblies working in the mines, the struggling for political control of the area, the gunfighting, mob violence, the personal crises of those in power—the collective awareness that is Warlock must face its own inescapable Horror: that what is called society, with its law and order, is as frail, as precarious, as flesh and can be snuffed out and assimilated back into the desert as easily as a corpse can. It is the deep sensitivity to abysses that makes Warlock one of our best American novels. For we are a nation that can, many of us, toss with all aplomb our candy wrapper into the Grand Canyon itself, snap a color shot and drive away; and we need voices like Oakley Hall's to remind us how far that piece of paper, still fluttering brightly behind us, has to fall." —Thomas Pynchon

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:16 -0400)

A newly hired gun-slinging lawman, Clay Blaisedell, tries to restore order to the mythical silver mining town of Warlock.

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