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"Voice of the Gun" is a 1962 Western novel, published as half of an Ace Double novel. It was written by Gordon D. Shirreffs, and the other half of the Ace Double, "Rio Desperado", was written by him as well.

I have spent some time reading Ace Double science-fiction novels, and found that despite their sensational covers and pulpy subjects, they usually were quality science-fiction, covering a variety of subjects. Although Ace Double science-fiction are well-known, at the time, Ace published just as many Westerns, in the same format. When I found one of these Ace Doubles for sale at a thrift store, the type of thrift store that still sells paperback books ten for a dollar, I had to get it. The price was a dime, less than the cover price, and making this a true dime novel.

Sloan Sutro has inherited, so to speak, a ranch. More precisely, he inherited it from an outlaw that he arrested, and who was later lynched. Sutro believes the outlaw is innocent, and the outlaw wanted Sutro to have his ranch. That part of the plot was a little confusing, since I don't believe that granting your property to your captor was a normal part of property transfer, even in the Old West. But the next part of the plot is very clear-cut: it turns out that the "Rio Blanco Development Company", led by greedy banker and fat cat Garth Bylas, has eyes on the property. Sloan Sutro, former Texas Ranger, just wants to settle down for a simple life of hunting and ranching on his new Arizona property, but the corrupt local banker and his army of hired goons is going to make that difficult. But does Sloan Sutro have an almost super-human amount of skill when it comes to shoot-outs, fisticuffs, horse riding and wilderness survival? Oh yes, he does. Is the steely-jawed, soft spoken morality of our protagonist enough to not only draw the attention of the sweet young lady working in the corrupt bankers office, but enough to convert one of Bylas' hired goons to his cause? Of course it is. Do some corrupt and weak bankers get their ass handed to them, and do the townspeople spontaneously revolt against Bylas, asking Sloan to be their sheriff? Oh yes! The book proceeds, through a series of cliff hangers, to a satisfying conclusion where justice is served.

One of the major differences between this book and an Ace Double science-fiction is that this book has much less to introduce. Ace Doubles have to acquaint the reader, at some level with just what the Galactic Federation is, but this book has no such problems: the reader already knows where and what the Arizona Territory is. The social organization is also clear: who a Texas Ranger is, is more clear than who a member of the Galactic Survey Service is. So not having to world build makes the story go more quickly, and allows the author to fit more into 120 pages. But it also takes away the payoff. In a science-fiction novel, the reader and the protagonist explore the world and learn about it: there is a fun surprise when we find out, for example, that the humans of a planet are actually mutated cats. This books payoff is a bit more linear: we get to see the bad guys defeated and peace restored. But it introduces us to no new concepts.

One concept that was present in the book, and something that is a very complicated issue in American culture, is its attitude to authority. Our hero, it is true, is a Texas Ranger, and the book does follow the theme of "a new sheriff in town", but at the same time, the book presents a noir picture: the town is controlled by a greedy, ruthless real estate developer, who manages to subvert law enforcement to his whims. The book, written in the seemingly idealistic year of 1962, still has a message about power and its abuses. American culture has been full of these warnings for a long time, even in inconspicuous places like a dime novel. "Be afraid of corrupt real estate developers, and how they can subvert the law", would be a good take away from this book, and something that I hope people remember.

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