On the recommendations of Bill Crider and James Reasoner, I read H.A. DeRosso’s THE GUN TRAIL. It’s a cruel, ugly, violent western…and I enjoyed every page of it. There are no heroes, only bitterness, regret and hopelessness. And not a shred of humor. If all of DeRosso’s westerns were as unremittingly bleak as this, I can see why he might have had a tough time in the marketplace. Like Reasoner, I don’t think I could go on a DeRosso binge (as I did when I discovered Garry Disher, Harry Whittington, Thomas Berger, Elmer Kelton, Ian Rankin, A.B. Guthrie, Frederick Manfred, and Dan J. Marlowe, to name a few) but I know I’ll be reading more of his work.
Does anybody know what became of H.A. DeRosso? The copyrights to some recent reprints of his work are held by a hospital.
4 thoughts on “The Gun Trail”
I don’t specifically recall DeRosso, but I do remember reading some unremittingly violent westerns that fit that mold. They all had several things in common: a tough, lone gunman who killed a lot of people in various ways, and who almost always had sex with two different women in the book, one of whom usually died.
There must have been tens of thousands of westerns written. They’ve almost all disappeared.
DeRosso lived on a farm in upstate Wisconsin. In October 1960 he was found there dead of a gunshot wound, with the gun beside him. His death was ruled accidental, but it’s possible he committed suicide. (This information comes from Bill Pronzini’s introduction to the DeRosso story collection UNDER THE BURNING SUN.)
I tried to option UNDER THE BURNING SON for a film…but the agent for the estate wanted an utterly outrageous sum of money. He was still pissed off over optioning Lauran Paine’s OPEN RANGE to Kevin Costner for what he later thought was way too little money. Frankly, the property was next to worthless until Costner gave it value with the film. Some agents and estates just aren’t realistic when it comes to setting a price on their properties.