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Warlock (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – November 21, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Legends West Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hall's brilliant, complex take on the American western, first published in 1958, more than stands the test of time. A newly hired gun-slinging lawman, Clay Blaisedell, tries to restore order to the mythical silver mining town of Warlock, Calif. His reputation for violence serves him well during the first robbery on his watch, but his quick trigger finger, and that of deputy John Gannon, also get him in trouble. A bizarre killing spree (covertly perpetrated by Blaisedell's best friend, a murky political figure named Tom Morgan) and an impending miners' strike (one that allows gang leader Abe McQuown to mount a charge against Blaisedell and Gannon) set up the inevitable final, blazing set of confrontations. Hall, who has written more than 20 novels, taps into the mythic essence of the Wild West with a potent combination of dense but fast-moving prose; a colorful cast of violent, corrupt characters; and a diabolical, ethically neutral worldview. His prosaic tracking of the town's violently shifting nodes of power is prescient and brings Cormac McCarthy to mind as the story unfolds. No account of the fictions of the American West can be complete without reconsidering this revelatory novel. (Dec. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal

"Not since Walter Van Tillburg Clark's The Oxbow Incident has there been a novel of the West of as high a dramatic and literary quality as this one," said LJ's reviewer, adding that "Hall writes an individual, powerful prose, and obviously is thoroughly familiar with his milieu" (LJ 9/1/58). If Westerns circulate well in your library, lasso a copy of this one.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (November 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171615
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Warlock was an enormous genre-stretch for me, someone who doesn't usually go in for Westerns at all, generally sticking to horror and science fiction on the popular end of the literature scale; and with ummm... modernist and po-mo novels and poetry on the non-popular end. In fact, it was my favorite author, Thomas Pynchon, mentioning "Warlock" as an influence and college favorite in his preface to Richard Farina's "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me," who led me to read it. That said, I have to add this is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding books I've read in a long time. In particular, I thought the plotting and pacing were superb; after finishing a section one is surprised by how many pages have gone by in description of--so it seems--such basic action, but the pages turn easily and quickly with no sense of padding. The writing itself is confident and understated, believably pitched, seemingly unmannered; and for me the dialogue had just the right balance between plain English and "dadburned" Westernisms, going lightly on the latter. The characters appear in sharp focus and maintain appropriate perspective. (Though an important subtext throughout concerns the pressures between real men and their deeds, and their images as heroes and characters of legends and fiction.) Underneath it you have the existential Western bass line a reviewer above mentions, a handful of pessimistic figures having to do with the nature of justice and human relationships, above which are rung 450+ pages of changes.Read more ›
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By Dr. Eigenvalue on September 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
Page 408 of Warlock contains the following:

"Men are like corn growing. The sun burns them up and the rain washes them out and the winter freezes them, and the cavalry tramps them down, but somehow they keep growing. And none of it matters a damn so long as the whisky holds out."

I don't usually read books that talk about whisky and cavalry, but this one was really good. Although a lot of the writing is like the quote above, the plot is a fairly sophisticated examination of the practical complexities of human morality. At first glance, the two main characters seem to be from the wild west boilerplate, one good guy and one bad guy. But the good and the bad are close friends, and they actually identify with each other qutie a bit. There's also an ugly guy who turns out to be the closest thing the book has to a hero. In contrast to the standard cowboy-movie theme, the characters struggle with the difficulties of figuring out what it would even mean to be good, bad, or ugly in a place that has no real laws and exists permanently on the brink of extinction. Apparently the book was made into a movie, but I would bet that it didn't translate well.
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Format: Paperback
Although you won't hear much talk about this book today, it was well thought of in its day, and they even made a movie of it with Henry Fonda. The movie is good, but this book is better. This is pretty much an existential western, our hero a man confronted with living up to a code which even he knows is phony and impossible to sustain, and those who love him trying to make it possible for someone, anyone, to live their life truly. Unfortunately, when the hero knows this is happening, conflict ensues. Well, it's a great book, a better western than The Ox-Bow Incident, with more action and a more provocative theme.
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Format: Paperback
No, this novel has nothing to do with Charlie Sheen. Instead, it's one of the four great (20th century) Western novels, along with True Grit, Butcher's Crossing, and Blood Meridian.

Instead, it's a literary version of the TV show Deadwood. A 19th century frontier town struggling with issues of law/justice/order, union organization in mines, and the politics of incorporation into the United States. The attention to political and personal power dimensions within Warlock is impressive. It can be a difficult read at times because the ensemble cast is extensive, and remembering information about 15-20 townspeople (and bandits) can be frustrating. Perhaps a guide a la 19th century Russian tomes might have been helpful.

For anyone well-versed in Western mythology, this is a goldmine. I have as of yet been unable to figure out the connections between the politics of the period (the last 1950s), the author, and the political and cultural perspectives that Warlock portrays and supports, but it would be fascinating to compare Warlock to the more popular manifestations of Western mythology which were so popular in the 1950s (in TV and film), such as The Wild Bunch, Gunsmoke, High Noon, and the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The fundamental dichotomy between Clay Blaisdell, the hired gunslinger-marshall, and Bud Gannon, the outlaw turned deputy (with a heat of gold), underscores the question of frontier justice.

A combuination of War and Peace, Deadwood, and perhaps some Steinbeck, the novel doesn't feel the need to openly ruminate on the manifold questions it raises. Like the conversations of its characters, it retains gritty and direct without explicit explications of its implicit meaning. This is a good thing.
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