Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote only four westerns and The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County was the last of them. It was published in the pages of Thrilling Adventures magazine and illustrated by his son John Coleman Burroughs. What makes this book stand out from many other westerns is that not only was it a good look at the Contemporary West but it was also a solidly written mystery as well.
The book begins with the introduction of your
standard hero; Buck Mason, a straight talking straight shooting cowboy
who has a problem with Ole Gunderstrom surrounding a land dispute that
has been going on for 18 years. His visit is most likely not entirely
about this dispute but more to garner information about Gunderstrom's
daughter Olga who he sent out East for a proper education. Buck and Olga
had been friends since childhood but Ole Gunderstrom has no intention
of letting his daughter marry an ignorant cowpuncher. Despite all kinds
of discouragement, Buck has been secretly reading up on society,
perusing such magazines as Vogue to make himself more appealing to a
returning and presumably more sophisticated Olga.
take a turn for the worse when Ole Gunderstrom is murdered by a group
of cutthroats who gun him down in his cabin in the middle of the night.
Buck Mason, who is also Chief Deputy of Comanche County, is sent ahead
by the Sheriff to investigate. Later, the Sheriff learns of an anonymous
phone call accusing Buck Mason of the murder, and when Buck vanishes
after investigating the crime scene everyone jumps on the “Buck is
Kay White’s horse gets spooked while the group is out hunting lions and
starts off running madly down a dangerous trail, it's Bruce Marvel who
jumps into action and rides like the wind to rescues her from certain
injury or death. This sudden competence in horsemanship does not go
unnoticed by the group. It also has Kay looking at Bruce Marvel in a
different light and begs the question, “Just who is Bruce Marvel?”
is made clear rather quickly to any astute reader that Bruce Marvel is
in fact Buck Mason and that he has obviously come to the TR Ranch to
investigate the murder of Ole Gunderstrom. This not only makes The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County
a fun and exciting Western but it puts it on par with a good Agatha
Christie mystery with the added bonus of the investigator being a badass
In The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County
Burroughs gives us well drawn out villains, numerous colorful
characters and a savvy hero who is as smart as he is strong. And as with
any good mystery we even get the standard Drawing Room reveal where the
hero lays out all the “Whos and Whodunnits” to the astonished group.
This is a must read for fans of westerns and mysteries alike.