Robert Knott and his friend Ed Harris helped bring itinerate frontier lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch to thrilling life on the big screen in 2008 when they co-wrote and co-produced a great film adaptation of Robert B. Parker's “Appaloosa,” with Harris directing and starring as Cole, and Viggo Mortensen playing Hitch.
Now, with the passing of Parker in January 2010, Knott is keeping the characters alive in print with “Ironhorse” (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $26.95), the Oklahoma-born actor's first novel and the fifth installment in the Cole/Hitch series.
It finds Cole and Hitch, recently appointed territorial marshal and deputy, respectively, traveling by train through the Indian Territories after delivering Mexican prisoners to the border. It's an uneventful ride home from routine duty until train robbers start swarming the cars, bullets begin flying, and the gun-handy lawmen start putting down outlaws and throwing their bodies from the train.
It turns out the Texas governor and his wife and two daughters are on board, guarded by Pinkertons because they've brought along $500,000, and a large contingent of bad men is looking to make easy money. They are led by Bloody Bill Brandice, who has an old score to settle with Virgil.
Parker, best known for his contemporary crime novels featuring a detective named Spenser, was a master of lean, mean prose who had only lately — and with excellent results — tried his hand at Westerns with these two horse-mounted characters, classic men-of-few-words with fast guns.