J.T. Edson and some of his heroines
John Thomas "J.T." Edson is an English writer of Westerns.
He was born in 1928 near the border of the county of Derbyshire, England, in a small mining village, Whitwell, and was obsessed with Westerns from an early age. In his 20s and 30s, he spent 12 years in the British Army as a dog trainer. It was during this time that he began writing to alleviate boredom during long periods in barracks.
Upon leaving the army, J.T. won second prize (with Trail Boss
) in the Western division of a literary competition run by Brown & Watson Ltd, which led to the publication of 46 novels with them, becoming a major earner for the company. He also wrote a series of short stories (Dan Hollick, Dog Handler
) for the Victor
boys papers, and wrote the "box captions" for comic strips, which he credited with instilling discipline and the ability to convey maximum information with minimum words.
His writing career forged ahead when he joined Corgi Books in the late 1960s, which gave J.T. exposure through a major publishing house, as well as the opportunity to branch out from the core Westerns into the Rockabye County police procedurals, the science-fiction hero Bunduki and other series.
J.T. Edson wrote 136 books, spread primarily across nine series, although there were several stand-alone novels.
His main series are:
- OLE DEVIL HARDIN SERIES (5 books): The adventures of Ole Devil Hardin, Dusty Fog's uncle, during the Texan War of Independence (1836).
- THE CIVIL WAR SERIES (13 books): The adventures of Ole Devil Hardin and the members of the Floating Outfit during the American Civil War (1861 -1865).
- THE FLOATING OUTFIT SERIES (66 books): The exploits of the Floating Outfit. This group consists of Dusty Fog, Mark Counter and the Ysabel Kid. This trio is joined by various others during the 10-year span of the novels (1870–1880) such as Waco, Doc Leroy and Red Blaze.
- THE WACO SERIES (7 books): About the adventures of former Floating Outfit member Waco.
- THE CALAMITY JANE SERIES (12 books): The adventures of Calamity Jane, a friend of the Floating Outfit.
- THE WAXAHACHIE SMITH SERIES (3 books): Smith is an associate of the Floating Outfit and a former Texas Ranger.
- THE COMPANY Z SERIES (6 books): This series outlines the adventures of the grandsons of Dusty Fog, the Ysabel Kid and Mark Counter, (Alvin Fog, Mark Scrapton and Rance Smith respectively) in this extra-legal company of Texas Rangers.
- THE ROCKABYE COUNTY SERIES (11 books): This series is about the Rockabye County Sherrif's department, of whom Brad Counter, Mark Counter's great-grandson, is a member.
- THE BUNDUKI SERIES (4 books): A Planetary Romance series about Mark Counter's great-grandson James Allenvale 'Bunduki' Gunn, who is abducted by aliens known as 'Suppliers' to act as a game warden for the planet Zillikian.
Edson retired from writing in the 1990s due to failing health.
J.T Edson's novels provide examples of:
- Abnormal Ammo: The short story "Some Knowledge of the Knife" was a murder mystery in which the assassination weapon was an oddly-balanced knife fired from a large-bore "wall gun".
- Academy of Evil: Bekinsop's Academy for the Daughters of Gentlefolk in Blonde Genius.
- The Ace: Amanda 'The School Swot' Tweedle
- Action Girl: Calamity Jane, Dawn Drummond-Clayton, Belle Boyd... Pretty much all of J.T.'s heroines qualify. Even Dusty's gently-bred cousin Betty Hardin can beat Dusty at judo if he gets careless and fight several times her own weight in outlaws when she's not dominating them by sheer force of will (short story "The Quartet").
- Amazon Brigade: The Bad Bunch
- Animal Assassin: In Cure the Texas Fever, one of the attempts to kill Waxahachie Smith involves unleashing an enraged longhorn steer to run him down.
- As the Good Book Says: Deputy Marshal Solomon Wisdom 'Solly' Cole is fond of quoting Bible verses. Some of them are made up out of the whole cloth, with Solly relying on the fact that reprobates he is lecturing will not have the biblical knowledge necessary to contradict him.
- Author Appeal: J.T.'s heroines are always well-endowed, even in historical periods when this was not considered the ideal of female beauty.
- The American Civil War: The setting for The Civil War Series.
- Archer Archetype: Dawn Drummond-Clayton from the Bunduki novels. Bunduki himself is also an expert with the bow, but is more likely to get into melee combat than Dawn, and Dawn is definitely the more analytical of the two.
- Bad Habits: Villains disguising themselves as clergymen or nuns is a common tactic in Edson's novels. Examples occur in The Remittance Kid, The Sheriff of Rockabye County and Diamonds, Emeralds, Cards and Colts.
- Banging for Help: Doc Leroy, temporarily working as a lawman, was coshed and immobilised to prevent his interfering with a planned robbery. (The crooks didn't kill him as they didn't want to spend the rest of their likely-to-be-short lives running away from the Floating Outfit.) He was reduced to banging on the floor of the hotel room he was shut up in, hoping to attract attention.
- Because I'm Jonesy: In The Bad Bunch, Belle Boyd poses as Belle Starr in order to infiltrate an all-female outlaw gang. Unfortunately for her, the real Belle Starr had the same idea.
- Breast Attack: A frequent event during the lovingly described Cat Fights.
- Bulungi: Ambagazali from the Bunduki short stories.
- But Liquor Is Quicker: In one of the Alvin Fog novels, one of the villains Company Z take vengeance on is a rapist who plied a teenage girl with alcohol-laced lemonade.
- Camping a Crapper: Assassins try to get to the drop on Waxahachie Smith this way in Cure the Texas Fever. Wax turns the tables on them by leaving behind his boots and pants, which is all of him they can see, and sneaking up behind them
- Cat Fight: A frequent occurrence and always lovingly described.
- Cattle Baron: Charles Goodnight is a heroic example. John Chisum is a more typical Corrupt Hick type.
- Cavalry Officer: The Ole Devil Hardin series and the Civil War series focus on the careers of 'Ole Devil' Hardin and his nephew Dusty Fog as cavalry officers in wars a generation apart (the Texan War of Independence and the American Civil War).
- Cigar Chomper: John Slaughter
- Cigar Fuse Lighting: Done by bad guy Santone in Rio Guns.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: Libby Craddock from Texas Kidnappers, although her exact level of classiness depends upon her mood.
- Combat Medic: 'Doc' Leroy.
- Convenient Misfire: J.T. Edson disliked it when guns jammed or misfired for no reason in movies, so whenever it happened in his novels he would give a detailed explanation of what caused the gun to jam (usually poor maintenance on the bad guy's part). That said, it still happened several times when it was convenient for his heroes. The short story "Jubal Branch's Lucky B.A.R." was one example.
- Counter Earth: Zillikan, the setting for the Bunduki series.
- Counterfeit Cash: The Rebel Spy, Two Miles to the Border
- Covers Always Lie: The covers of many J.T. Edson novels feature generic western scenes that bear no real connection to the contents of the book. And some are just flat out wrong. The Corgi edition of The Remittance Kid shows a gunfight on the deserted main street of tiny frontier town. The novel takes place entirely in Chicago.
- Crippling The Competition: Waxahachie Smith had his trigger fingers removed by vengeful foes.
- Direct Line to the Author
- Divorced Installment: Blonde Genius was originally written as a plot for a St. Trinian's movie.
- Dressing as the Enemy: A common tactic of Company C in the Civil War series. Sometimes it was not even necessary to dress in enemy uniforms as the only difference between the Federal and Confederate uniforms was the colour, so in near darkness it was quite easy to pass yourself off as a member of the opposing side.
- The Eeyore: Billy Jack
- Embarrassing First Name: Horace Rangoon, villain of The Rio Hondo Kid, has a huge chip on his shoulder on account of his first name — all the more so because his father insisted on shaming him with such a name to disgrace him for being short.
- Calamity Jane is able to keep her freight-driver boss Dobe Killem sweet by threatening to reveal that his given name is Cecil.
- Expecting Someone Taller: Dusty Fog who, though strongly built, is only about five feet five inches tall and continually overlooked by strangers who know him only by reputation. Usefully, one of his associates, Mark Counter, really is well over six feet tall with big muscles and the face and figure of a Greek god, and from time to time Mark pretends to be Dusty in order that strangers will blab secrets when he is not around but the insignificant-looking real Dusty is. Word of God is that Fog was based on Audie Murphy, who was himself of no great size (and just as much of a Big Damn Hero).
- Famous-Named Foreigner: In The Code of Dusty Fog by J.T. Edson, three trouble-making Russian members of a rail gang are named Kruschev, Gorbachev and Gorki.
- Fastest Gun in the West: Dusty Fog (except that Doc Leroy is a hairsbreadth faster with a single gun versus Dusty's ambidextrous pair; but Dusty is the one whose name gets mentioned). Mark Counter is a fraction slower than either and Waco a similar distance behind him; none of the four have ever been beaten.
- Fiery Redhead: Red Blaze. Also Rusty Willis, but he turns up less often.
- Flaying Alive: The villainess of A Town Called Yellowdog suffers permanent insanity after a tribe of Kiowa Indians take revenge on her brother for the rape and murder of one of their women. The final chapter is spoilered with the title "She Saw Her Brother Skinned Alive".
- Giving Them the Strip: InTroubled Range, Belle Starr has grabbed Calamity Jane by the waistband of her jeans. Calamity escapes by unbuckling her belt and grabbing the leg of a table, causing Belle to pull her jeans right off her.
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: While Dusty Fog gets laid less than, say, Mark Counter, he does benefit from this trope when he rescues a complete stranger - previously a man-hating feminist - from being eaten by a grizzly bear in A Town Called Yellowdog.
- Go-to Alias: 'Rapido Clint' is Alvin Fog's go to alias when posing as a criminal.
- Dusty Fog often uses 'Edward Marsden', which are his middle names.
- Great White Hunter: Johnny Orchid
- Also Bunduki before he was transported to Zillikian.
- The Gunfighter Wannabe: These turn up from time to time, sometimes living to become wiser and less set on being gunfighters, sometimes making the last mistake of their lives against one of the Floating Outfit.
- Gun Porn
- Guns Akimbo: Dusty Fog would almost always draw both of his twin Colts at the same time.
- The Gunslinger: All of the Western characters.
- Hand Cannon: The Ysabel's Kid's .44 Colt Dragoon. After a gunfight, a villain remarked to his surviving comrades that he would rather have been hit by a Sharp's Buffalo Rifle.
- A Handful for an Eye: The fake Belle Starr does this to a shotgun guard in Waco's Badge.
- Handicapped Badass: Waxahachie Smith is a gunslinger who had his trigger fingers amputated by vengeful foes.
- Historical Beauty Update: J.T's version of Calamity Jane is a stacked blonde who dresses in skintight buckskins. This is at odds with photographs of the historical Calamity Jane, who could charitably described as plain.
- Also applies to Edson's version of Belle Starr.
- Historical-Domain Character
- Historical Hero Upgrade: J.T. portrays the outlaw and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin as a wrongly accused hero.
- Historical Person Punchline: In Cure the Texas Fever, Waxahachie Smith is aided by a young man calling himself 'Frank Smith'. At the end of the novel, it is revealed that this 'Frank' is an impersonator who has been posing as Frank Smith to allow the real Frank Smith to travel to Texas unhindered. The impersonator's real name? Teddy Roosevelt.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: It is unlikely that General José de Urrea was anywhere near as black as Edson paints him in Get Urrea!. In particular, historians now believe that the Goliad Massacre was perpetrated at the orders of Santa Anna and not Urrea.
- Hollywood Silencer: In The Professional Killers, one of the killers uses a silenced revolver. This is an odd slip-up from Edson who was usually meticulous in his firearms research.
- Horned Hairdo: 'Ole Devil' Hardin
- I Call Her "Vera": In Slaughter's Way, Coonskin has a double-barrelled eight-gauge shotgun he calls 'Betsy Two-Eyes'.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Outlaw Town named Hell.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Waco uses this trick a few times to trip up a killer.
- It Works Better with Bullets: In The Cow Thieves, Ella manages to wrestle Calamity Jane's gun away from her and attempts to shoot her with it, only to discover that Calamity had not had time to fit the percussion caps to the nipples.
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Company Z
- Kissing Cousins: Bunduki and Dawn
- Knife Nut: The Ysabel Kid
- The Lad-ette: Calamity Jane
- Locked Room Mystery: "Behind Locked and Bolted Door" in More J.T.'s Ladies.
- Lost Him in a Card Game: In Troubled Range a friend of Mark Counter's accidentally wins a wife in a poker game. The friend thought the ship's captain he was playing against had been betting his ship when he tossed in the marker with the name written on it.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: In The Wildcats, Calamity Jane discovers that Madam Bulldog is actually her mother.
- Magic Feather: Used in "Dusty Fog's Gun" when Waco gives a young deputy a gun and tells him it once belonged to Dusty Fog, giving him the confidence to win an upcoming gunfight.
- Marijuana Is LSD: Edson was violently opposed to marijuana use and any time it is portrayed in his novels, it is shown in a negative light. However, he also appears to have had no idea of what its effects actually were, and it was portrayed as everything from a date rape drug to driving people into a beserk frenzy like PCP.
- Medicine Show: Doctor Erazamus K. Thornett's Superior Elixir show in Apache Rampage.
- Mid-Battle Tea Break: Troubled Range features an epic Cat Fight beyween Calamity Jane and Belle Starr. In the middle of it, the two combatants break off, stagger to the bar, down a drink, and then start waling on each other again.
- Missing Episode: J.T. completed a fifth novel his Bunduki series titled Amazons of Zillikian that was never released due to a dispute with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Fans hold out hope that it will one day be released.
- Mistaken Nationality: Tommy Okasi, who is Japanese, is almost always assumed to be Chinese. Justified because Chinese were the only Asians most people in the old west had ever encountered.
- Mixed Ancestry:
- The Ysabel Kid is half Kentucky Irish, a quarter Comanche, and a quarter French-Creole.
- Annie Singing Bear has a Comanche father and a white mother.
- Murder by Mistake: In The Professional Killers, Deputy Tom Cord is killed because he matched the description the hitmen were given of their target (old trenchcoat and hat) and got off the train the target was supposed to be arriving on. It is later discovered that target had changed his mind and not caught that train at all.
- Naked in Mink: In The Professional Killers, the police raid the house of a burgular and find his girlfriend wearing a recently stolen mink stole and nothing else.
- The Napoleon: Horace Rangoon in The Rio Hondo Kid.
- Nature Hero: Bunduki and Dawn.
- New Old West: The Rockabye County series.
- Obfuscating Disability: In The Lawmen of Rockabye County, escaped felon 'Crazy Doc' Christopher wears a prosthetic hand over his still functional right hand.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with Belle Boyd and Belle Starr.
- Only One Name: Waco
- Outlaw Town: Hell in the Palo Duro and Go Back to Hell.
- Pants Positive Safety: Almost gets Waxachie Smith killed in Cure the Texas Fever. While in Chicago, Smith is unable to carry his revolver in a fast-draw holster the way he normally does, so he sticks it in the back of pants under his jacket. When attacked, his reflexes cause him to reach for the holster he is no longer wearing.
- Planetary Romance: The Bunduki series.
- Pocket Protector: Dusty Fog's life is saved in The Bad Bunch when a bullet from a derringer strikes his belt buckle. The impact is still enough to lay him out in bed for several days.
- Professional Gambler: Professional gamblers appear in many of the novels. Frank Derringer is one who is a recurring character.
- Quicksand Sucks: In The Law of the Gun, the main bad guy perishes when he attempts to escape the heroes by diving of the trail through the cane brakes along the Rio Grande and plunging into quicksand where he vanishes without trace.
- Rancher: 'Ole Devil' Hardin, John Slaughter, Charles Goodnight (who is powerful enough to qualify as a Cattle Baron)
- Rape and Revenge: The climax of Is-A-Man.
- Reckless Gun Usage: In The Return of Rapido Clint and Mr. J.G. Reeder, a British thug picks up Rapido's Colt automatic. Being unfamiliar with firearms, he pushes the safety catch off thinking that he is putting it on. He then strikes a pose like his favourite cowboy actor and the gun goes off.
- Remittance Man: Captain Patrick Reeder a.k.a. 'The Remittance Kid'.
- The Remnant: The South Will Rise Again
- Rings of Death: Razor-edged chakrams are the weapon of choice for one of the tribes in Bunduki.
- Ruptured Appendix: Doc Leroy, one of the characters in the Floating Outfit series, once saved the life of a cowhand with a burst appendix by operating on him with a Bowie knifenote
- The Rustler: Edson preferred the term 'cow thief', which he claimed was more historically accurate.
- Scooby-Doo Hoax: A gang of bootleggers do this to scare people away from their hideout in You're a Texas Ranger, Alvin Fog.
- Sergeant Rock: Jubal Branch in the Company Z series.
- And Billy Jack in the Civil War series.
- Sesquipedalian Smith: Waxahachie Smith
- Shaming the Mob: Waco does this in the short story "A Man Called Drango Dune" in Arizona Ranger.
- Shooting Gallery: Features prominently in The Sixteen-Dollar Shooter, when Deputy Brad Counter leaves a combat pistol shooting competition and walks straight into an armed showdown with four Mexican terrorists.
- Shown Their Work: In spades.
- Sickbed Slaying: In The Remittance Kid, one of the anarchists sneaks into a hospital disguised as a priest and uses a Vorpal Pillow to smother a wounded accomplice before he can talk to the police.
- Straw Character: Especially in the later novels, any character described as 'liberal' will be a coward, a hypocrite and a homosexual. They will also be ugly and not bathe.
- Ten Paces And Turn: Dusty Fog fights a traditional pistol duel (albeit using Colt revolvers rather than duelling pistols) in A Matter of Honour. His opponent cheats by having a fully loaded revolver (Dusty's has only one loaded chamber) and firing before the full ten count. Dusty still beats him.
- Tome Is Where The Heat Is: In Two Miles to the Border, the so-called 'Daughters of the Lord' conceal Colt Cloverleaf Pistols inside the heavy bibles they carry.
- Trojan Prisoner: Alvin Fog and Mark Scrapton do this in order to get access to the prison where 'Handsome Phil' Foote is being held in The Justice of Company Z.
- The Trope Kid: The Ysabel Kid
- True Companions: The Floating Outfit
- Undercover as Lovers: Dusty Fog and Belle Boyd in The South Will Rise Again.
- Underside Ride: In Terror Valley, Calamity Jane sneaks out of the mission by hiding in a 'possum-belly'; a sheet of rawhide attached to the bottom of a wagon for carrying firewood.
- Belle Starr pulls the same trick in Troubled Range.
- U.S. Marshal: Waco ends his career as a U.S. Marshal. Deputy U.S. Marshal Solomon Wisdom 'Solly' Cole is a supporting character in several books.
- Vapor Wear: Edson's descriptions of his heroines often mention that it is clear that they are not wearing anything under their clothes. This is usually a sure sign their clothes are going to be shredded in a Cat Fight.
- Vorpal Pillow: In The Remittance Kid one of the anarchists sneaks into a hospital disguised as a priest and uses a pillow to smother a wounded accomplice before he can talk to the police.
- We Named the Monkey Jack: In Slaughter's Way, Camp Cook Coonskin has a pet skunk named 'Mr. Earp', reflecting how most Texas cowhands felt about Kansas lawman Wyatt Earp.
- Whip It Good: Calamity Jane
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: In Texas Teamwork, the Sheriff's Department goes looking for a call girl named Lois Lane. The deputies are sure this is an alias, but the madam assures them it is the name on her social security card.
- The Wild West
- You Are in Command Now: You're In Command Now, Mr Fog by J.T. Edson tells how, as a 17 year old first lieutenant, Dusty Fog found himself in command of a company during the American Civil War.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Gus Saunders is ejected from a plane without a parachute for this reason in Blonde Genius.
- Young Gun: Waco is a hard-eyed youngster of about sixteen when he is first encountered, and already has several notches on his gun-belt, all of them nominally "fair fights" but several, as he later admits, for no good reason at all. He reforms after being pulled out from in front of a cattle stampede.