|If Hawk's Pledge is any indication of where the Western is going, fuggedaboutit! It is as washed out and worn through as a dirty, old bandana. When I wasn't hearing cheesy Spaghetti western music and bad dialogue, I was seeing Mary Pickford tied to the railroad tracks. Not that the heroine has any of the charms of America's onetime sweetheart.
Whit Hawk earns his living as a gambler while he searches postwar
Texas for his brother (camera pans the dry plains as theme song
plays). He has no friends and, with the exception of his missing
brother, no family (theme song fades into lonesome cowboy blues). His
mother took off with a lover. His father left the four children to
search for gold in California. His two younger sisters allegedly
perished in a fire at the orphanage. Whit wasn't around to save them
and so feels responsible for their deaths.
When Whit's horse goes lame, he accepts Jacqueline Douglas's
hospitality (string orchestra plays romantic tune). He helps out on
her family ranch while waiting for the hoof to heal. Whit and Jackie
are very attracted to each other (music rises to a crescendo and
cymbals clash). But he has a mission to accomplish, not to mention
that tortured hero thing. So he heads off to Galveston, leaving her
to huff and puff and toss her fiery red hair (no music necessary, her
huffing would drown it out anyway).
Jackie has her own mission: the bank is about to foreclose on her
mortgage (villain music in the background). If she doesn't pay it
off, she will lose her family ranch. She could always marry her rich
neighbor (more villain music), but she would rather hold out for real
love. Guess who comes to her rescue (with bugles tooting loudly in
the distance)? In Whit's trail follows an old Hawk family enemy,
Simon Gault, who really gets into doing the mustache-twirling,
villainous villain thing.
The novel is as awful as it sounds, but it didn't have
to be. I could have overlooked the predictable plot and the clichéd
characters (I've sat through my share of Clint Eastwood westerns and
enjoyed them) if the writing weren't so purple. With dialogue that
sounds like a badly dubbed Brazilian soap opera, Hawk's Pledge
practically begs to be laughed at. "I am about to become your worst
nightmare," Whit threatens his archenemy. The very next second, he
loses the heavy duty Terminator pose and goes archaic on us: "I
don't approve of craven men who hurt women." Craven? Yeah, right.
That's really bound to make someone drop his gun belt.
Each character has his preferred verb. The villain "snarls." The hero
"groans" and "growls." The heroine, well, she has more lexical
variety, but it always amounts to the same thing: she yields her
enflamed body to his soft touches, then horrified with her boldness,
hoists her head and stomps off. She is a real lesson in how not to
be a heroine.
Hawk's Pledge is first in a multi-authored series about
the four Hawk orphans. They have to be much better to catch up after
this bad start. Stomp. Stomp. Snarl.