Monday, July 21, 2008

EDGE: The Loner by George G. Gilman

EDGE: The Loner by George G. Gilman
Pinnacle Books, Copyright 1971

"He was now a killer of the worst kind. A man alone."

I've had a few EDGE books collecting dust for years, and I never picked one up. It seemed I always passed them up to read another western. I finally forced myself to read the first in the series, created and authored by British writer Terry Harknett under the pen name George G. Gilman. I found it enjoyable enough, even with it's violence and cruelty, though I'll most likely not become a big fan of the series.

This story introduces the reader to Edge, Josiah (Joe) Hedges just back from the Civil War, who finds his little brother viciously murdered on the Iowa ranch. He knows immediately who mutilated and killed his brother and sets out to seek vengeance in his own special way. We go chapter after chapter with him on his quest, and along the way Edge lets no obstacles stop him. After leaving behind a trail of blood and butchered bodies, he finds the men responsible for his brother's murder and ... well you can guess how he settles the score.

Of course this is not your typical western; it is in your face, harsh, and goes down like snake venom. Wherever Edge goes, brutality and destruction follows. The first couple of chapters, which deal with the torture and murder of Edge's brother, are really good and surely hold your interest. The following chapters leading up to the final showdown, have Edge traveling and running into continual encounters with unmoral people, and he sets them straight. If Gilman was trying to get the reader to like Joe Hedges, it didn't come across. (he may of wanted it that way)

Edge is a western nihilist, who carries a neat assortment of weapons, including a honed razor knife concealed in his shirt collar which when used provides the most horrific occurrences in the story.

...the knife buried itself into the back of his throat. He gagged on blood and steel and his teeth clanged down on to the blade. His only sound was a gurgling, but his eyes blurred by tears, reveal the full extent of the pain. Then the stock of the Henry completed his execution, cracking against his forehead, splitting the skin and laying the flesh open to the bone.
"You don't fool around," the girl said.

"Now he knows it, too,"Edge said.

The story is not complex and it is a quick read. To me, each chapter is actually a story in itself, containing its own amount of gore and violence. I found I like it best when I read a chapter, then later picking it up to read another chapter -like reading a book of stories. The western setting descriptions are weak, but that's not what George Gilman was slamming into the reader. I can see why there is a following for the series, it can be attractive to readers with it's raw violence, vengeful plots, and a touch of humor thrown in. I'm sure I'll read a few more, but I know I'll never tackle the complete series. Not for the all western fans, I'll take mine in small doses.

11 comments:

James Reasoner said...

I read most of the Edge books and enjoyed them, although like you say it's best to take them in small doses. But this reminds me that when I was in Half Price Books last week looking through their clearance shelves, I found one of those plastic-wrapped packages of eight books for two dollars that was split between Edge books and Grace Livingston Hill books. One way or the other, whoever picked up that assortment was in for one heck of a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Odd you should list this one as I was just going through my unread westerns and found the first two Edge books.
Way back in the day I read a few of the latter volumes and wasn't much impressed. Lots of gory violence but with little impact, and each scene was burdened with Edge having to come up with a joky one-liner to cap it off.
Someone told me the early ones are better, so maybe I'll try them at some point. Your review will keep me from ditching them, but I don't feel any driving need to read them right now either.

John Hocking

August West said...

Guys: I always wanted to get a hold of one of the HAWK series books by Brett Sanders (Dudley Dean) Do you know if it similar to the the EDGE series? I suspect they may be better written because of Dudley Dean being the author....

AndyDecker said...

The EDGE series really hits it´s rhythm with No.4.

in the later books the goryness diminished a lot, as Gilman aged his character gently. The one-liners and the spaghetti western touch remain.

ARCHAVIST said...

I love the Edge book and a Google search led me to your blog. Excellent blog - I've subbed and linked from my own blog at _ http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com/

Oh the third Edge book Apache Death is absurdly brilliant. One of the most violent westerns I've ever read - fun, though.

August West said...

I'll grab that third EDGE book.

The Tainted Archive is a wonderful site and I will visit it regularly.
"It's my cup of tea."

Chris said...

Dear lord, that sounds violent. It is interesting to hear another author's take on the old west, since I've been reading so much Louis L'Amour lately. About the most violent it's gotten so far is describing a guy who got beat up so bad, his face looked liked it had been dragged over a lava bed.

Anyway, I am really enjoying your blog. Hope to see you at mine sometime!

Anonymous said...

I read the early Edge novels back in the very early 70s and was astounded by the extreme violence. Even now, they come across as very unsettling. But Gilman knew how to write a good story so I guess thirty five years later, the fact that I can still remember them shows how memorable the character was

Anonymous said...

As a western fan of Zane Grey, Loius L'amore and several other writers of the genre I happened to notice a new series that proclaimed to be the most violent of it's kind. This sparked my interest since I liked the spaghetti westerns which had a good deal of bloody shoot outs, etc. I read the first few that were out at that time, which I found in the public library, and liked the lone hard edged character as well as the setting and violent story line. Before long I started collecting the series as they came out and followed it to the end. Naturally some stories were better than others but overall I enjoyed them. Somehow the Edge character that formed in my head sort of reminded me of Lee Van Cleef with those slit eyes, rather tight cruel like grin on the face along with the sharp nose and tanned complexion. If a movie had been made at that time he would have been perfectly cast as Edge. I hope the new pilot is successful even though the actor isn't what I envisioned. Too bad Lee is too old now to play the part.

Anonymous said...

Lee van cleef? How about Jack Palance

Anonymous said...

No one I am aware of writes about pure brutality quite like George Gilman. And to do so in the age of the Wild West is a feat in itself. My older brother had picked up on Louis L'amour when he was in the Navy. I started reading one that he'd brought home but never finished it. It was good but I didn't care enough about it to finish it. A couple years later, in the PX in the early 70's, I was thumbing through the paperbacks for sale. I was tired of the ever-popular porn (yes they sold those in the PX too back then) and wanted my reading horizon LOL! I picked up a copy of Edge took it back to the barracks and started reading and didn't put it down until I finished the book. I was hooked. I then bought and read (in order of publication) every one of them the PX had. Every week I would look for the next one to be published buy it and read it. As a US Marine I had become very aware that I could be picked up, taken away and dropped smack into the middle of a bunch of tough, hard-fighting enemy who would do everything in their power to kill me. Yes, the Marines had taught me how to fight and defeat such an enemy using all means available to complete the job. Vietnam was a war in which brutal hand-to-hand combat was still common. Once in I started to wonder "what I'd got myself into"? What if I ended up in a kill or be killed situation of hand-to-hand combat? I became concerned. Could I actually engage in the all-out brutal nature of this type of combat and survive? You don't get a second chance in a fight like that. I had never been a "tough guy" per se and never had that cold-blooded killer instinct but if I was put into the situation I would have to drum up every drop of "savage" in me to survive. It was about this time I picked up that first copy of Edge. I not only enjoyed reading the series but by reading the stories could "work-out" or prepare my mind for the eventuality of such a fight so that I would have the mental ability to compliment the physical ability in a life or death struggle to the finish. Both would be needed. At the time there was another series of books being sold in the PX. The series was The Executioner. A more modern version of Edge as a Vietnam vet who comes home and has a similar vengeance for The Mob. I read many of them as well as they were a great feel of modern weapons warfare. Fortunately I never had to actually answer the question that "haunted" me. At discharge I had the complete Edge Series of about 26 or 28 books. I packed them around for many years and they were in pristine condition. One day I got tired of packing them around, and while moving, threw them in the garbage. I had a sick feeling in my stomach as I walked away from those books in the can. At times I would ask myself why I did that. A few years ago, out of curiosity I searched the internet for the books. I shouldn't have done that. I now own the complete series again. However, they are not all first edition like my originals were and many are not nearly the mint condition of those I originally owned. But will enjoy passing them down when the time comes. They should be preserved. This is all for what its worth. Take it or leave it, it is a true story of my experience with this series and is now recorded in history. Maybe someone will find it interesting.