"If he farts, kill him."
Before there was Deadwood or Unforgiven, there was 1991's The Search for Temperance Moon, which reads like a hard-boiled cross between Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove and James Crumley's later novels.
It's 1892, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and disgraced former U.S. Deputy Marshall OSCAR SCHILLER is been hired by a local madame to look into the murder of her mother Temperance Moon, the infamous "outlaw queen" of the unsettled "Indian Territory". Oscar jumps at the chance. He lost his job as a Marshall due to an unfortunate, drunken incident at a whorehouse, and all he really wants is a chance to be reinstated. He's tired of living in the basement of a local businessman's home, working as a guard at the man's scissors factory, and occasionally diddling the man's wife.
Oscar's a small, humourless man, the Continental Op turned bad, with pale eyes tucked behind thick, steel-rimmed glasses. And he's got a nasty little cocaine habit and a staggering propensity for violence. But he's also a methodical and shrewd detective with an extensive network of various lawmen, both white and native, official and unofficial, whom he can count on to help. And in turn-of-the-century Arkansas, a man needs all the help he can get. As someone remarks, "The things Oscar Schiller deals in are always bad. For somebody."
Although Schiller first appeared as a US Marshall in quite a large role in Winding Stair way back in 1979, it was The Search for Temperance Moon that really set the stage for what could have been a great series. And in fact Oscar did appear in a highly recommended sequel, 1997's A Spider for Loco Shoat, set in 1907 and in which he looks into the murder of one of Fort Smith's most powerful citizens. Unfortunately, the author, Douglas C. Jones, died as the book was going to press.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a tip of the Stetson to Bruce Lander for digging up some dirt.
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