Though I’m not a big fan of western novels, I decided to read Robert B. Parker’s book, “Appaloosa,” when I heard that Ed Harris was turning it into a major motion picture.
Parker is the author of the “Spenser” and “Jesse Stone” series. Harris not only is starring in the movie as Virgil Cole, but he’s also directing the film. Viggo Mortensen is co-starring as his partner, Everett Hitch, and Renee Zellweger is playing Ms. Allie French, the woman who steals Virgil’s heart while sleeping around with other men behind his back.
The story deals with Cole and Hitch, two gunfighters who are hired as lawmen to clean up the small town of Appaloosa. Hitch is one of the fastest men in the West with a Colt .45 revolver, and Cole isn’t too bad, either. To make Appaloosa a decent place to live, both men will have to take on evil rancher Randall Bragg, who’s already known for killing the town’s previous marshal and deputy. The new lawmen don’t have the slightest hesitation in doing this, but bringing Bragg to justice will prove to be a major undertaking since he has such a large crew of ranch hands working for him. Eventually the two lawmen come up with a plan to capture Bragg without having to confront the rest of his small army, but Bragg (played by Jeremy Irons in the film) isn’t stupid, and he quickly has one of his employees bring in a couple of gunmen to rescue him on his way to being hanged. That’s when the long chase sequence through Indian Territory begins. Of course, there are a number of major shootouts throughout the novel, especially at the end when everything finally comes to a head.
The characters in “Appaloosa” are well-drawn and the pace of the story is bullet fast. The novel is one of those that you’ll want to stay up all night just to finish. I certainly did.
My only complaint is that the story ends rather abruptly. I wasn’t paying attention to the page numbers and thought I still had another 10 to 15 to go when it suddenly ended. I would’ve like to have known what happened between Virgil and Ms. Allie after the gunfight, since she was the proverbial match to the powder keg at the end.
Parker definitely gives you a solid look at the old West with this tale of good versus evil, and how many of the lawmen weren’t much better than the outlaws they arrested. As Virgil Cole is so fond of saying, “It’s obeying the law that makes us different from the others.”
Needless to say, I can’t wait to see the film, which starts on Oct. 3. I’ve seen the movie trailer, and it was so good that I was ready to lay down my money right then and there for an advance ticket. Oh, the sequel (“Resolution”) to this novel is now out in hardcover.