CriminOlly thinks: Vicious western skilfully juggles two plots and throws in some humour to boot. 4/5
Title: Seven Out of Hell | Author: George G Gilman | Series: Edge #8 | Publisher: New English Library | Pages: 122 | Publication date: 1973 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: Yes
Seven Out of Hell is a brutal pulp western with an utterly ruthless protagonist. Rather confusingly, given the name, it’s the eighth book in the Edge series. Given George G Gilman (aka Terry Harknett)’s rather perverse sense of humour, that may well be deliberate. This book, like the previous few, is littered with terrible puns and dad jokes alongside the horrific violence. It’s an uncomfortable mix at times, but by and large it works.
This one is pretty much a direct sequel to book six, The Blue, the Grey and the Red, in its continuation of Edge’s back story as a Union captain in the American Civil War.It sees Josiah Hedges (as he was then) and his band of compatriots on the run deep behind Confederate lines. Interspersed with that we get a story involving Edge on a train that has been hijacked by Chinese bandits. Edge remains as stoic as ever as they brutally work their way through his fellow passengers, but naturally gets pissed off when they take his money.
Both stories are as vicious as readers will expect, and the flipping between the two plots works really well. They’re filled with the mix of tension and bursts of extreme violence that Gilman is so good at. Interestingly in the war story, Hedges spends much of his time incapacitated by wounds and so dishes out less punishment than he normally does. The other characters more than make up for it though, and the book Is gripping and grimly entertaining throughout.
There’s a simple pleasure to be had from this kind of formulaic men’s adventure novel. One that has been replaced for many by the joys of video gaming and the endless delights of streaming services. Straightforward stories of action told with a wry panache. Reliable entertainment that readers knew would give them an honest return for their money.
Summer of ’63 – back to the Civil War.
A truly great train robbery.
Chinese bandits and a village of women.
Edge betrayed for a fistful of dollars.
Cross and double-cross.
And Death – always Death!
Everyone comes together at a small town called Wounded Knee.
Content Warning: Racism, sexual violence
Tolerance Warning: Extremely sexist, possibly racist