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.