Port Hazard (Page Murdock Series #7)

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Hired killers, sent one by one to Montana Territory after Page Murdock. Murdock doesn't know why someone wants him out of the way, but he knows where they're coming from.

Thus begins Murdock's descent into a hell more decadent, corrupt, and dangerous than even he has ever seenSan Francisco's Barbary Coast. With an unwilling backup man, Murdock takes up temporary residence among the whores, gamblers, dope addicts, and cutthroats of the ...
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2004 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Book is New! Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 304 p. Page Murdock Novels. Audience: General/trade.

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Port Hazard (Page Murdock Series #7)

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Overview

Hired killers, sent one by one to Montana Territory after Page Murdock. Murdock doesn't know why someone wants him out of the way, but he knows where they're coming from.

Thus begins Murdock's descent into a hell more decadent, corrupt, and dangerous than even he has ever seenSan Francisco's Barbary Coast. With an unwilling backup man, Murdock takes up temporary residence among the whores, gamblers, dope addicts, and cutthroats of the continent's foulest district. No man here is trustworthy. The enemies he's really worried about, though, are the men who run things, the politicians.

Murdock's quest also takes him into Chinatown, into opium dens, and into league with a man of an alien culture who controls vices that make respectable people quail. But perhaps the men who seem respectable are the most insidious of all.

Loren D. Estleman's latest tale of Page Murdock takes the deputy to the federal marshal into danger and evil appalling even for him, and delivers excitement and satisfaction as only Estleman can.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Western writer and crime novelist Estleman (White Desert, etc.), winner of both Shamus and Spur Awards, is at the top of his game in this latest installment in a series featuring Page Murdock, deputy U.S. marshal. Murdock may be a peace officer, but there's little real peace when the cynical, crusty deputy is around. Together with his boss, Judge Harlan Blackthorne, a hardcase jurist who never met an outlaw he wouldn't hang, he serves up swift justice in the Montana Territory in the 1880s. Murdock is puzzled by assassins repeatedly trying to kill him when he is minding his own business, but the judge discovers the motive. A shady conspiracy called the Sons of the Confederacy is plotting to renew the Civil War, and their first step is to murder prominent lawmen and other public officials. The judge, unconcerned about jurisdictional niceties, sends Murdock to San Francisco, the home of the conspirators, to root them out before their aim improves. Murdock deputizes his own backup by hiring a black ex-soldier named Beecher, who is armed with a fearsome Le Mat pistol that fires shotgun shells. Murdock and Beecher find themselves awash in the filth and corruption of San Francisco's Barbary Coast, surrounded by gamblers, drunks, vigilantes, whores, petty thugs, crooked politicians and the deadly Chinese gangs called tongs. Their investigation reveals much more than they expected, including an undercover Pinkerton detective, a dwarf with an iron ball on a chain attached to the stump of his arm and a dead man who isn't really dead. Snappy dialogue, fast-paced action, colorful characters and plenty of bullets, booze and blood make this western crime drama a wicked romp through the legendary gutters of the Barbary Coast. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Having shut down the whiskey, music, and fast cars of his superb industrial Detroit quintet with 1999's Thunder City, stylist Estleman returns with a historical western in mirror-smooth mahogany prose. This seventh deputy US marshal Page Murdock installment picks up where 2000's White Desert left off. With a more densely ambitious style and dialogue that rings tones from the overblown bittersweet rhetoric of the day, it opens in Montana, then sinks into the opium-beclouded, bullet-zinging sinfest of San Francisco's Barbary Coast with pages indebted to Herbert Asbury's 1933 classic, The Barbary Coast. This federal lawman, working out of Helena, is seen by many as a killer hired by Washington to shrink the ranks of desperadoes. It's now 20 years since the Civil War, but legions following the Sons of the Confederacy (led perhaps by the Honorable D.W. Wheelock, city alderman and captain in the San Francisco fire brigade) still plan on secession for the 13 Confederate states. Bound for Frisco on a train also bearing General US Grant, Murdock hires Edward Anderson Beecher-a railroad porter and ex-black cavalryman-as deputy to guard his back. When two assassins, each bearing a 20-dollar gold double eagle, attempt to kill Murdock, Beecher saves him. Here, the amusing dialogue turns dizzy with thieves' jargon in Port Hazard (San Francisco), talk that demands subtitles. But it's with the descent into Chinatown that unthinking evil turns thick as liquid opium, with blood geysering from beheaded bad guys. As for Bella Union's melodeon section: "Cabbage roses exploded on burgundy runners in the aisles. Laurels of gold leaf encircled a coffered ceiling with a Greek Bacchanal enshrined in stained glassin the center, lighted from above so that the chubby nymphs' nipples and the blubbery lips of the bloated male gods and demigods glittered like rubies." Louis L'Amour looks down with envy.
From the Publisher

“Louis L’Amour looks down with envy.”—Kirkus Reviews on Port Hazard

“What we have here is a true professional, a writer of a sort increasingly rare . . . telling stories of America’s open spaces and choked cities and of people forever in between, a craftsman so given to his work as to spontaneously combust to genius.”—The Boston Globe on Loren D. Estleman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765301901
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Series: Page Murdock Series , #7
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Loren D. Estleman was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a BA degree in English Literature and Journalism in 1974. In 2002, the university awarded him an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters for his contribution to American literature.

He is the author of more than fifty novels in the categories of mystery, historical western, and mainstream, and has received five Western Writers of American Golden Spur Awards, three Western Heritage Awards, and three Shamus Awards. He has been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Britain's Silver Dagger, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2003, the mammoth Encyclopedia of Detective Fiction named him the most critically acclaimed writer of U.S. detective

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

I was killing a conductor on the Northern Pacific between Butte and Garrison when my orders changed. 

He wasn’t a real conductor. They all have bad feet, to begin with, and the three-inch Texas heels poking out of his serge cuffs caught my eye just before he tried to punch my ticket with an Arkansas toothpick the size of a sickle. I was half out of my seat and used the momentum to grasp his wrist, deflect the blade, and butt him under the chin, crushing the crown of a good pinch hat and making him bite through his tongue. He bled out both corners of his mouth. I drew my Deane-Adams awkwardly with my left hand, jammed it into his crotch, and fired.

He fell on top of me, there not being any other place to fall in a sleeping compartment. I had several pounds on him and I’m not a big man, but deadweight is deadweight. I was still climbing out from under when someone knocked at the door. In the throbbing echo of the .45’s report, he might have been tapping on a door at the other end of the train.

I was plastered with blood from collar to knees when I opened the door. The Negro porter paled beneath his deep brown pigment at the sight of the blood and the revolver in my hand, but he had an old scar on his cheek that looked combat-related, a saber cut, and in any case, they’re trained by Pullman not to panic easily. He held out a Western Union envelope.

“Wireless for Deputy Murdock,” he said.

I holstered the Deane-Adams, tore open the flap, and read while he took in the heap on the floor:

RETURN TO HELENA AT ONCE STOP YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER

BLACKTHORNE

“That man ain’t a conductor on this train,” said the porter.

“I guessed that when he tried to hack me open. Is there a detective aboard?”

“No, sir. We ain’t been robbed on this run all year.”

“When do we get to Garrison?”

He had a little trouble thumbing open the lid on his turnip watch. “Eighteen minutes.”

“The town marshal’s name is Krueger. He knows me. Send someone to tell him I’ll need help with this extra baggage.”

“I needs to tell the conductor.”

“If that’s his uniform, you might have trouble getting an answer.”

He dipped a knee and turned the dead man half over on his side. Then he stood.

“Yes, sir. Mr. Fenady was missing that there third button this morning. You reckon this fellow kilt him?”

“He didn’t strike me as the bargaining kind. What’s that?” I pointed to something on the floor that glinted.

He bent and picked it up. “It must of dropped out of his pocket when I turned him over.” He handed it to me.

It was a double eagle, solid gold, the size of a cartwheel dollar. It threw back light in insolent sheets, and the edges of the eagle’s wings were sharp enough to cut a finger. “See if there are any more.”

If I expected the porter to balk at the prospect of rifling a dead man’s pockets, I was disappointed. He knelt again, and in less than a minute he rose, shaking his head. He was used to searching drunken passengers for their tickets to find out where they belonged.

I felt the coin, reading san francisco, california, with the ball of my thumb. “Is your Mr. Fenady the kind to carry around uncirculated double eagles?”

“No, sir, he sure ain’t. That, or he lied about not having the cash to replace that lost button.”

I pocketed the coin. He watched without expression. I said, “You want a receipt?”

“No, sir.” He turned to go.

I put a hand on his arm, stopping him. It was hard under the uniform sleeve, roped with muscle from carrying trunks and hoisting fat women aboard parlor cars.

“Thirty-sixth Infantry?” I asked.

“No, sir. Tenth Cavalry. Buffalo soldiers. I was too young to serve in the War of Emancipation.”

“That doesn’t look like a tomahawk scar.”

He grinned joylessly. “Wasn’t always the red man we was fighting, sir.”

“What’s your name?”

“Edward Anderson Beecher.”

“Did you ever consider serving the law, Beecher?”

“What’s the pension?”

“No pension. Congress covers the cost of your burial.”

“Thank you, sir. I reckon I’ll go on taking my chances with

Mr. J. J. Hill.”

“That’s the problem. The good ones are too smart to serve for the money.”

He said nothing, saying plenty.

“Don’t forget to tell Marshal Krueger about the double eagle,” I said.

That took a moment to filter through. This time when he grinned, the sun came out. “Yes, sir.”

“Did you think I intended to keep it a secret?”

“It ain’t my place to think, sir.”

“I’m a killer, not a thief.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Stop calling me sir. I quit the army in sixty-five.”

“Yes, boss.”

After he left, I took the coin back out and weighed it on my palm. Its face value was twenty dollars. That bothered me more than the attack. I’d thought my life was worth a little more.

 

Copyright © 2004 by Loren D. Estleman

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