CriminOlly thinks: Another winning mix of appalling brutality, sly humour and punchy prose. 4/5
Title: Apache Death | Author: George G Gilman | Series: Edge #3 | Publisher: New English Library | Pages: 126 | Publication date: 1972 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: Yes
The problem with reading old pulp paperbacks is that they’re often pretty icky. I’ve fallen foul of this with Matt Helm (a bit rapey) and MIA Hunter (massively racist). When I picked up my recently arrived copy of the third novel in George G Gilman’s ‘Edge’ series and saw that the title had the word ‘Apache’ in it, I was pretty sure I’d be shaving a star off my rating for objectionable bigotry. Turns out I needn’t have worried quite as much as I did.
Like the previous two books, this is a brutal, nihilistic tale, where the hero’s aim is simply to survive to the last page. This time Josiah Hedges (Edge) winds up in a small town, Rainbow, which sits next to a US cavalry fort. There’s a fragile peace in place between the population and the local Native American tribes, which is broken when a local farming family are slaughtered. Throw into the mix rumours of a fortune hidden in the nearby hills and a foppish English gambler, and you’ve got the makings of another great western page turner from Gilman.
Like the other books this is an insanely violent tale, with a tonne of gory action throughout, culminating in a stunningly destructive ending. The English character adds some humour to the proceedings, with him and Edge indulging in some entertaining banter. Other characters come and go, rarely lasting very long but all adding a bit of colour.
Written in the 70s, and very much aping westerns from previous decades, this was never going to be a book held up as a great example of the portrayal of Native Americans. There are some interesting nuances though. The Apache characters are ruthless and bloodthirsty, but then everyone in these books is. In fact Edge seems to prefer their approach to life and combat than that of the white characters, who are far more likely to be duplicitous. “I’d try exactly what old Cochise is trying,” he comments at one point. What’s more, both Edge and the book seem very much aware that this isn’t a fight of the Native Americans’ making.
“They’re like beasts of the jungle,” a woman said to Edge.
“But it was their jungle first,” he answered.
Violence was a way of life for Josiah Hedges, better known as Edge. And the murdering band of renegade Apache that crossed the heartless avenger were about to find out they had made the biggest mistake of their lives. Because when you toyed with Edge, you were playing with killing fire!
Content Warning: Racism, sexual violence
Tolerance Warning: Extremely sexist, possibly racist