It could be argued -- and given a beer or two, I would -- that town-taming gunslingers EVERETT HITCH and VIRGIL COLE are private eyes in deed, if not in name. Roaming the old West in the last part of the nineteenth century, essentially serving as lawmen-for-hire, there are at least as many echoes of Hammett and Chandler (and of course Spenser) as there are of Grey or L'Amour. And certainly there are precedents for town-taming in the hard-boiled canon. after all, what do you think Red Harvest was, but a gussied-up western?
Taciturn and pragmatic, violent when necessary and hard-boiled and loyal to a fault, the stoic Cole and the only slightly less tight-lipped narrator (and buffalo-gun-wielding deputy) Hitch are like a horse opera Spenser and Hawk, but without the glib banter, replaced by a dry dustiness of silence in these books as big as the West itself, that makes reading them a unique please -- and one any hard-boiled fan (and certainly any Parker fan) might well enjoy, despite the trappings. There's space in these books to allow a reader to breathe, and enjoy Parker's usual themes, of honour and loyalty, of friendship and love, of autonomy and morality and even, yes, romantic obsession.
Suffice it to say that Allie French, the piano-pounding tramp that Virgil chases across the West, is no Susan Silverman.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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