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Title: Gunman’s Reckoning
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Donnegan is a gunman riding the rails. Surviving one attempt on his life, he comes into contact with Colonel Macon and his lovely daughter. Macon hires Donnegan to go to a gold town and bring his heir back home to the young woman, or to shoot him down so Macon can take control of the gold town.
Donnegan falls in love with the daughter but determines to do what the Colonel asks. Once at the town he realizes the heir is in love with a woman there and that he is a wastrel and neerdowell. The town is run by some man who everybody is afraid of. Donnegan takes down the heir so as to return him to the Colonel only to have the colonel show up. Eventually Donnegan faces down the Man of the Town only to realize it is his long lost older brother.
Everything works out in the end and Louis Macon and Donnegan end up together while the brother lives, the heir and Macon get theirs and it’s happily ever after.
The alternate title for this story is Donnegan and I have to admit, that is a much more fitting title than the one included in this collection.
While Donnegan is a murdering hellhound, he at the same time holds to a code of chivalry which would appeal to any 16 year old. This story made no sense to me whatsoever and Donnegan was almost 2 different people. I understand that people can be internally split about things, but man, this was just too much.
At the same time, this felt like one of the best stories by Brand that I’ve read yet. The whole gold town setting worked out great, Donnegan as a master manipulator pushing people’s buttons and not just a stupid gunman made things interesting. One minute I’d be wishing Donnegan would hang and then the next I’d be cheering him on. That just made for an odd reading experience.