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Title: The Man Who Forgot Christmas
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Two men break out of prison. One of them, a thief, rightly belongs there. The other, falsely accused of murder, doesn’t. They hold up a coach and steal money from the man who setup the murderer. The thief is shot and they barely make it to a house. The daughter of the house falls in love with the murderer and the thief falls in love with her.
The local sheriff knows the murderer, as he helped arrest him. But he also knows the charges were false. The thief, in a paroxysm of anger and jealousy, sends an anonymous note to another sheriff claiming the murderer is the one who did the hold up and stole the money. The thief has a change of heart on Christmas day and goes out in a blaze of gunfire with the sheriffs, taking all the blame on his shoulders so his friend can live happily ever after with the girl.
I think it is safe to say that Max Brand has a thing for love triangles that are doomed before they even start. What sets these apart from the love triangles in modern urban fantasy is that these are not female wish fulfillment but the grim fulfillment of male dominance. Much like the Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Brand’s love triangles are not about lust and fuzzy feelings but duty and kickass men duking it out until only one is left standing. We’re talking pure, distilled testosterone folks.
The title is taken from the thief forgetting that the day he gives his life for his friend is Christmas Day. He gets a stocking and it has some things that he remembers from his childhood and makes him change his mind and thus the book ends the way it does. It was actually pretty schmaltzy and filled with “the spirit of Christmas”. I could almost hear the Muppets singing in the background, sigh. I’ve never understood why people write about generic “christmas” when the very name tells you the reason for its being.
I don’t know how far along I am in this “Works of Max Brand” collection but while it’s better than nothing, I can say that Max Brand is not a western author that I’ll seek out more of when I done. Where’s my Indians and Cowboys and the Wild West? I want scalps and outlaws and sixguns. While a few of Brands books have had those, like Crossroads, that doesn’t seem to be the majority. Oh, I just checked and I’m only 22% done with this collection. So Brand has a lot of space to improve my opinion of him.