The Hell Bent Kid
Charles O. Locke
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Hailed by the Western Writers of America as one of the top twenty-five Westerns ever written: The harrowing story of an innocent young man pursued across west Texas by a relentless posse
A crack shot more skilled with a rifle than are men twice his age, eighteen-year-old Tot Lohman has no intention of using his genius for evil. But when a fight erupts at a schoolhouse dance, Lohman is forced to defend himself, and a young rancher named Shorty Boyd winds up dead. The Boyds are numerous, powerful, and vicious, and they want revenge. With no one else to turn to, Lohman sets out across canyon country to reunite with his ailing father in New Mexico Territory. The journey will be long, hot, and perilous, and to survive it, this mild-mannered boy must become the cold-blooded killer he never wanted to be.
Based on real events, The Hell Bent Kid is a tale of pursuit as stark and mesmerizing as the Southwestern landscape in which it is set. Unrelenting from first page to last, it ranks alongside The Ox-Bow Incident, True Grit, and The Searchers as one of the most unique and artful stories of the West ever told. In 1958 it was adapted into the film From Hell to Texas, directed by the famed Henry Hathaway and starring Don Murray, Diane Varsi, Chill Wills, and Dennis Hopper.
“Marvelous . . . I know of no other Western except Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s The Ox-Bow Incident that stirs me as deeply.” —Boston Herald
“Not only a superb Western, but a superior novel.” —New York Herald Tribune
“[Locke] manages to transcend the stereotyped patterns of the Western manhunt. . . . [His] accomplishment lies in his gift for sketching believable characters, his deep interest in their motives, their devices and desires.” —The New York Times
“Taut and suspenseful.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“Memorable . . . As stark and stripped of unessential detail as a ballad.” —Harper’s Magazine
“In all ways an admirable achievement . . . A story of great force.” —Alan Le May, author of The Searchers
“Taut as a bow-string; the suspense accumulates slowly like desert heat.” —The Sunday Times
“A masterpiece.” —Daily Express
Charles O. Locke (1896–1977) was an American author best known for his novels of the West. The scion of a newspaper family, he was born in Tiffin, Ohio, and graduated from Yale University. Locke began his career as a reporter at the Toledo Blade and before long moved to New York City, where he wrote for a number of newspapers, including the New York Post and the New York World-Telegram. Like many, he fell in love not only with the city but with its huge public library and access to the world of theater. He composed songs and libretti for stage shows, wrote plays for radio programs, and joined a local theater group, for which he wrote, directed, and performed, sometimes in his own plays.
Locke published his first novel, A Shadow of Our Own, in 1951, following it with his breakout success, The Hell Bent Kid, in 1957. The story of a young man in the 1880s who is unjustly pursued across the state of Texas by relentless enemies, this mesmerizing tale was heralded by the Western Writers of America as one of the top twenty-five Western novels of all time. 20th Century Fox adapted the book into a feature film, From Hell to Texas, in 1958.
The Southwest continued to fascinate Locke, and it provided the backdrop to two more, equally powerful novels, also set in the nineteenth century: Amelia Rankin (1959) and The Taste of Infamy: The Adventure of John Killane (1960).