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Warlock (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 1 May 2007
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"[A] brilliant novel of the violent West." --San Francisco Chronicle"San Francisco Chronicle Book Editor Critic Oscar Villalon's Picks Oakley Hall's novel Warlock, reissued by the New York Review of Books. 'Excellent genre stuff. A riveting Western that's also a work of literature' " --NPR, Talk of the Nation "Also in '59 we simultaneously picked up on what I still think is among the finest of American novels, Warlock, by Oakley Hall. We set about getting others to read it too, and for a while had a micro-cult going. Soon a number of us were talking in Warlock dialogue, a kind of thoughtful, stylized, Victorian Wild West diction."-Thomas Pynchon "Not since Walter Van Tilburg Clark's The Oxbow Incident has there been a novel of the West of as high a dramatic and literary quality as this one."-Library Journal "Warlock is a big novel in every sense of the word . . . Hall has earned his place above the literary salt with such as Van Tilburg Clark and Conrad Richter and A.B. Guthrie." -San Francisco Chronicle "Compelling . . . A powerful narrative that throbs unmistakably with the hum of a really big talent." -Chicago Sunday Tribune "Oakley Hall has a gift for making the historical moment immediate and concrete, pulsing and white-hot." -MacDonald Harris "Oakley Hall is among our most absorbing novelists." -Los Angeles Times "Oakley Hall is one of the country's finest writers." -Robert Stone "Like Henry James and Mark Twain, Oakley Hall is a master craftsman of the story. [His] dialogue is perfectly pitched, and intrigue will keep you turning the pages." -Amy Tan "Oakley Hall is a novelist who never seems to make a wrong move. His impulses for what's dramatic, for what will touch and move us, for how to engage the issues of the heart with those of the mind, all are uncommonly acute. He is a writer to read and read again." -Richard Ford "The mastery shines forth undimmed." -San Fransisco Chronicle "A vast mural of a novel, the best of the year . . ." -Los Angeles Times "Warlock is a story of the birth pangs of law and order, and the final arbitration of the six-shooter . . . filled with richness of background and foreground . . . hard to give a higher tribute to a book on the early West." -Paul Wellman, New York Herald Tribune "Monumental!" -Springfield Daily News "Oakley Hall's Warlock is a super-Western about a frontier marshal, a tremendous piece of writing, with with subtle characterizations of a giant cast, and dialogue that rings as true as a silver dollar tossed on the bar." -Milwaukee Journal "A 'Western' which is literature!" -Hartford Courant "As good or better than the all-time greats, Warlock whips and lashes with shootings, lynch mobs, men incredibly swift on the draw, and men who weren't swift on the draw, and men who weren't swift enough, with a drunken judge who is the town's conscience, and a prostitute who is probably its finest woman, with all the violence and blood-letting that were the fearful growing pains of the settlement of the West." -Omaha World-Herald "[An] intelligent, richly detailed mystery." -Booklist 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." --Publishers Weekly
Sharpshooter Clay Blaisedell is called to Warlock, a wild frontier town, to restore order, but the more he tries to fix the town's problems, the more the town plunges into chaos all around him.See all Product description
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It is rare to discover so thought provoking and subtle book that at the same time moves at such a compelling pace and is so incident-packed. Given time, I could have happily devoured the whole at a single sitting. Without question it is a western but like all great novels – and I have no qualms in placing it in that category – it transcends the genre. With great skill Hall filters events and their significance through the consciousness of several characters. Most prominent in this role stands the one character almost totally removed from the action, the store owner Goodpasture, whose journals work throughout to prevent any easy, moral perspective on events. However, we are also taken inside the minds of others: not only observers like the Judge, but also those at the heart of the action: Bud Gannon, Morgan, David the doctor and the ambitious young miner, Jimmy Fitzsimmons.
Outside Warlock and the mines, there are two other key locations, San Pablo, where the now near-outlawed cowboys live in uneasy alliance, and Bright City, whose authority over Warlock both threatens and stabilises. Characters we encounter only from the outside are the two key women: Miss Jessie Marlow, so instrumental in the fortunes of Clay Blaisdell, and Kate Dollar, both shrouded in mystery by virtue of their distance and laconic utterances.
The array of sharply-individualised characters is remarkable. From Abe McQuown and father, Jack Cade, Curley Burne to Carl Schroeder, Pike Skinner, Mosbie, General Peach and many others. The novel never once relinquished its hold on me. I know that I shall return to it again and again. A really exciting discovery.
I'd seen the film of the same name starring Richard Widmark et al, so knew the background and characters, but the book is so very much more detailed and complicated. Everyone has his or her own agenda. The marshal is determined to go by the rules, as he sees them; his friend Morgan has complete disdain for the rules. The Deputy, Gannon, is determined to hold to his integrity despite the hostility from everyone around him. The women have more of an important role here too, and are very complex, well-drawn characters. It all hangs together very well. Part of it is written as journal entries in the first person, and the rest as third party viewpoint. For someone like me with very little knowledge of US history this is an insight into how frontier towns struggled to come into existence (this novel is set in 1881). I was gutted to finish it and am reading it through again. It's worth it. This is the best book I've read in many years.
I like how it flitted between several stories but it seemed to lack the plot of the others. I was expecting another huge battle at the end but it just didn't materialise. And Nicholas Flamel has suddenly become a fairly minor character which is disappointing considering the series takes his name.
It won't be until the series is complete that this book's full value will be known but I feel that it's the calm before the storm. It's good as a continuation of the series but if it was a one-off book I would be really slating it now.
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