I actually bought Last Stage to Satan’s Butte by Sundown McCabe at an Op Shop with the intention of buying three or four similar paperback Westerns to cut out and frame the covers. After reading the book, I’m not sure that I will.
At first sight, I loved the cover art on Westerns. Handsome, rugged looking men, gorgeous horses and romantic scenery, with beautiful women falling out of historically inaccurate dresses. A closer investigation of the covers either show bad guys giving chase to stagecoaches, or dead people lying on the ground. According to the storylines, the dead people mostly deserved to be shot by the hero.
The title of this novel appealed to me too. ‘Butte’ is a term which is rarely used in Australia and it made me laugh. Connotations of Satan’s bottom or rings of fire are funny.
The author’s name is great too. Sundown McCabe is the perfect choice for this genre.
Okay, now that I’ve justified selecting this book, on to the story.
The story begins with the massacre of the O’Leary family by an Apache raiding party. Deborah O’Leary, who was the sweetheart of Dan Calhoun, is raped and murdered and her sister Bonny is taken prisoner by the tribe.
When Dan returns from the Civil War he goes on a ten year hunt to find and kill Hawk, the leader of the raid on the O’Leary family. During his hunt for Hawk, Dan has rescued seven white women from the Apaches and has heroically killed loads of Apache people.
While in town, Dan has a chance meeting with Sally-Anne Parker, who is presumed by the townspeople to be the whore of a rich man named Van Cleet. Sally-Anne gets on a stage coach to Satan’s Butte.
Sally-Anne’s stage coach is ambushed by Apaches and she is taken hostage. Dan rides out after her, hoping her trail will lead to Hawk. Van Cleet, who turns out to be a bully and a fool follows Dan, along with one of his stooges (being a rich man, Van Cleet has several). Van Cleet and the stooge get them all captured by the tribe who took Sally-Anne, who, being beautiful and red haired, is being kept as a bride for Hawk, the man Dan has been hunting.
Bonny O’Leary turns out to be living with the tribe. She is married to a brave and has children of her own. Bonny helps Dan, Sally-Anne, Van Cleet and the stooge to escape, but decides to stay with her husband and children and the tribe.
Eventually Dan and Van Cleet argue over Van Cleet’s treatment of Sally-Anne and Dan shoots Van Cleet when Van Cleet tries to shoot him. Despite Sally-Anne’s fear that a white man will never want her again because she was raped by the Apache men, she and Dan fall in love and have a romantic night beside the campfire. (I bet the ground was hard and they both smelled horsey and sweaty, and that was before things got interesting). Dan goes on to shoot more people (the white men who have been supplying the Apaches with guns and ammunition), then meets Hawk and shoots him, as revenge for killing Deborah and her parents. Presumably, Dan and Sally-Anne live happily ever after.
The story was probably a formula, although the actual writing was better than I expected. I won’t go into the cliches and stereotypes and racism and sexism or the rights and the wrongs of the Apaches versus the white people. I probably won’t be framing the cover art of this novel either, because I liked the idea much more before I read an actual example of a Western novel. There is obviously something for everyone, but this wasn’t for me.