The Hard Time Bunch is a Doubleday Western by Clifton Adams published in 1973. I just read James Reasoner's post yesterday with his review of The Colonel's Lady by Adams and agree with what he had to say about Mr. Adams being a gritty writer of the hard-boiled variety. In The Hard Time Bunch Adams has another fine western with grit and humor. Frank Beeler is out of a job having quit as a Deputy Marshal in the Indian Territory and is half-looking for something else that would support him and his on-again, off-again romance with his old true love, Elizabeth Stans. He found it as a hunting guide for two dude Easterners who wanted to go hunting in the Indian Territory. Although the two decimated a flock of wild turkeys just to continue on with their deadly games, that wasn't exactly what they were looking for as they moved further into the Territory.
The Hard Time Bunch was just a few farm boys who were in hard times and took up robbing trains to feather their nests. However, they weren't very good at it and after a failed attempt, a bounty was put on their heads. Known as the Brannon Bunch, the gang was made up of two Brannon brothers, another farmer named Rafe Jackson and an Indian named Johnny Coyotesong. And when the hunting party runs into these outlaws, the story gets interesting and more complex. The two dudes, Warren Conmy and Ben Sutter, and their hired help Duane Keating and Humphrey O'Toole, were not exactly "dudes", all being dead shots and expert in the use of firearms. Along with them was Conmy's pretty wife Verna, adding a bit of mystery and romance to the plot. The "dudes" game now becomes one of who can kill the Brannon bunch. Frank Beeler sees what's coming and wants out and joins the Brannons and becomes an object for the killers to hunt down, too, in their little game.
As the story winds down to its bitter end, they all get caught up in a Creek funeral as one of the Creeks agrees to help his old friend, Beeler, hide out with the Brannons in their camp while the funeral goes on and on and on to its unexpected conclusion.
This novel was only 161 pages long and read easy and fast and I liked it (as I do about all of them).
Enjoy Memorial Day and drive carefully if you're leaving town on the road!