This old western, which I found at our town's recycling center, is typical of novels of the 1970s, a good plot, a kind of negative and self-debasing attitude by its hero, and a perhaps predictable ending -- leaving just a bit of mystery for the reader to solve.
|Dutch Uncle is an old-fashioned fiction western novel, typical of the 1970s when it was published. Photo by Milt Gross.|
A good plot but a little too complicated in the middle with many characters sharing the complication. The ending has our hero Jake Hollander and the lead woman character, Carrie, finally expressing their love openly at the end. Happy endings are great and do away with much reader frustration.
The background of the story in chapter two reads, "The Southern Pacific railroad was driving steel eastward across the wastelands of the Arizona and New Mexico territories at top speed in spite of common sense, the terrain, and the concerted opposition of the Apaches, but as of that day in early March, 1880, the trains went no farther than Tucson."
Hollander encounters a woman and two small children in the railroad temporary destination's dusty street. The woman dies, and Hollander finds himself with the two tots. On his way to El Paso for some unnamed business, he takes the two on a Texas and California Stage Company stage coach, landing for a night in a tiny mining town called Arredondo, where the rest of the tale take place.
A professional gambler and former gunhand, the hero is offered a position of sheriff in the fledgeling town. A wanted bad guy shows up and remains in the background until near the end of the story. Hollander meets and falls in love with Carrie, the brother of a newspaper operator.
The story becomes complicated with many players and, of course, another woman who poses the question for the reader of with which woman will Hollander finally settle down. One of the children, a little deaf girl, is killed when she steps in front of a wagon. Hollander tries to rid himself of the boy, Paco, but ends up, as expected by the title, keeping him.
The climax of the tale occurs when the bad guy shows up. He is looking for some money he had stolen, which had been kept by friends when he was imprisoned for a time, and disappears. He holds Hollander captive in a cave as part of his plot to find the missing loot, but Hollander is rescued after a time by townspeople.
The last 15-20 pages are a kind of wrap-up to the tale, including Hollander's final decision and Carrie's to be permanently with one another. And Paco is with the two. I find this long, slow wrap up to be typical of novels of the 1970s and earlier. Sometimes it still happens in newer stories.
The style of writing includes typical complications of books of that 1970s and earlier era, the hero self effacing, the romance taking several bad turns, and the climax a heart stopper. Who wants the hero to die in a dark cave while the bad guy gets away free?
Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, Dutch Uncle is one of a half-dozen books by Marilyn Durham, born in 1930, with the most recent date mentioned about her I found online being the 1980s. Wikipedia states, "Her father was a blacksmith. She attended Evansville College (now called the University of Evansville for a year (1949--1950). She married Kilburn Durham, a field worker for Social Security, in November 1950, and settled into life as a wife and mother--she is a self-described "frumpy housewife." The Durhams would have two daughters:Joyce and Mary. Durham has a lifelong interest in the history of Medieval England, archaeology, theology and astronomy, and has read extensively on all of these topics."
The author in 2013 is 83.
Her most popular book, was her first, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, another western that that takes place in Wyoming.
Online, I found Dutch Uncle and other of her books at Amazon.com and other sites. Two prices I noticed were $7 for an online hardcover of this book and $1.96 for a used paperback. Or you could check your town's recycling center.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013