There might not be a more fitting union of author and protagonist than Louis L’Amour, America’s favorite frontier storyteller, and Hopalong Cassidy, the iconic cowboy introduced more than a century ago. Originally written under the pseudonym Tex Burns, The Rustlers of West Fork, The Trail to Seven Pines, The Riders of High Rock, and Trouble Shooter were L’Amour’s first published novels, but they showcase the spirit of adventure and wonderful knack for character that would become his signature. Now these four classics are together for the first time in this thrilling eBook bundle.
THE RUSTLERS OF WEST FORK
When Hopalong Cassidy arrives at the Circle J to deliver a fortune in bank notes to rancher Dick Jordan, he discovers that a foolhardy band of outlaws has taken Dick prisoner, along with his daughter, Pam. Even if Hopalong can free them, he will have to lead the hostages across rough and untamed Apache country, stalked by the outlaws who have vowed to take him out. But Hopalong is no stranger to trouble, and before his guns—or his temper—cool, he’s determined to bring this gang to justice . . . dead or alive.
THE TRAIL TO SEVEN PINES
Outside the lawless town of Seven Pines, Hopalong comes across two men—one dead, one badly wounded. He returns with help, but the survivor has been shot through the temple. Who would do such a thing? To find out, Hopalong hires on at the Rocking R Ranch, where more than a thousand cattle have been run off by crooks who also have their eyes on the monthly stagecoach shipments of gold. To save the Rocking R, Cassidy needs men he can trust—because he’s the target of a ruthless gunslinger in a fight for frontier justice.
THE RIDERS OF HIGH ROCK
In the cattle country just east of the California line, Hopalong discovers an old friend, Red Connors, holed up in a mountain cave with a bullet in his side and a story to tell. The local ranchers had been losing their stock to a savage killer named Jack Bolt, and when Red caught the rustlers in the act, they hunted him down, shot him, and left him for dead. Now Bolt’s coming after the one man who stands in his way: Hopalong Cassidy. But he’s about to learn the hard way that if you shoot down a man like Cassidy, you’d better make sure he never gets up again.
A desperate call for help sends Hopalong to the aid of a fellow cowpoke. But by the time he arrives, Pete Melford has been murdered. In search of Pete’s killer, Hopalong signs on at the sprawling Box T ranch and confronts a mystery as dangerous as it is haunting. The owner of the Box T has built his empire with shrewd determination, but behind his success lies a bloody trail leading to the strange and forbidding Babylon Mesa, a fortune in gold, and a showdown with a desperado who isn’t afraid to cheat death.
About the Author
Date of Birth:March 22, 1908
Date of Death:June 10, 1988
Place of Birth:Jamestown, North Dakota
Read an Excerpt
TWO DEAD MEN
Hopalong Cassidy stopped his white gelding on the bald backbone of the ridge. No soil covered the windswept sandstone, only a few gnarled cedars that seemed, as is their way, to draw nourishment from the very rock itself. In this last hour before sunset the air was of startling clarity, so much so that objects upon the mountainside across the valley stood out, clearly defined as though but a few yards away instead of as many miles.
Where he sat the sun was bright, but in the west, which was his direction, towering masses of cumulus piled to majestic heights, dwarfing the mountains to insignificance. The crests of the mighty clouds were glorious with sunlight, but the flat undersides were sullen with impending rain. Hopalong squinted appraisingly at the sky and became no happier at what he saw.
Seven Pines, proudly claiming title as the toughest town west of anywhere, was a good twelve miles off, hidden in the mountains across the valley. Long before he could ride a third of that distance those clouds would be giving the valley a thorough drenching. What he needed now was shelter, and he needed it badly.
So it was that he sat in his saddle studying the country with careful eyes. The stage route was but a mile or so to the north, but he had heard of no shelter there and so far his information had been most accurate. Even as he watched, the gigantic cloud moved nearer, lightning stabbed through it, and the thunder rolled and grumbled.
To the south and west the valley narrowed before spewing out into the vast waste of Adobe Flat. Waterless most of the time, after a rain it would become a slippery, greasy surface that concealed unexpected sinks and mud traps. Close by, the mountainside was broken and serrated, carved by upheaval and erosion. There were notches among the rocks in some of the canyons, but they might well prove deathtraps in such a storm as this would be. Hopalong Cassidy had lived too long in the West not to realize the danger that lay in the bottoms of canyons and dry washes. It was such a sudden rush of water that had finally ended his feud with Tex Ewalt and brought them together as friends, but more often than not, it meant only death to the unwary traveler.
Suddenly, as he was about to ride on, a movement caught his eye and he drew up sharply. From the mouth of a canyon below and to the southwest a small group of riders had emerged. Something in their bunched way of riding warned Cassidy, and he kneed his mount to the partial concealment of a juniper. At this distance even his field glasses offered him no marks of identification, save a single white splotch on the flank of one horse and that same horse’s white nose. There were six riders, and they moved north at a rapid pace, keeping close to the mountain and choosing a route that offered cover from view.
“He watched them until they disappeared, scowling slightly, for he knew this land in which he lived. Although a stranger in this area, he was far from strange to the West and western ways, and it seemed these men were riding on a mission. A mission that demanded they remain hidden from anyone passing down the stage-coach road.
“All right, Topper,” Hopalong said quietly to the short-coupled gelding, “let’s ride along and see what happens. It’s a cinch they know where there’s shelter. They won’t like to get wet any more than we do.”
The white horse moved along, choosing its own trail, heading down and northward on a slant. With another appraising glance at the cloud, much nearer now, Hopalong Cassidy drew his six-shooters one after the other and carefully wiped them free of dust. They were worn silver-plated Colt .45’s, their bone handles networked with tiny cracks, their balance perfect. It had been weeks since he had drawn a gun for any reason, but he knew that the price of safety was unresting vigilance.
Seven Pines was his immediate destination, but actually he was just roving across the country. Somewhere to the north, an old friend of the cattle trails, Gibson of the old 3 T L, had a ranch where he lived with his widowed daughter. Hopalong planned to stop with them for a few days before swinging northeast into Montana.
The presence of the riders, even while it promised the proximity of shelter, disturbed him. He had no desire to walk into a range war or any trouble whatsoever. This ride of his was strictly a sightseeing trip, taken with money in his pocket and no feeling of hurry.
A few spattering drops of rain struck his hat brim, sweeping it with a hasty barrage. Hopalong frowned and dug for his slicker, donning it without slowing his pace. By now he was off the ridge and well into a stand of cedar, his eyes busy searching for shelter. Once he glimpsed an old mine dump, but the tunnel was long since caved in and the buildings had collapsed.
When he reached the vague trail skirting the foot of the mountain he found the tracks of the bunch ahead of him. He studied the tracks briefly, reading them as easily as another man might read a page of print. These were fresh horses, well shod, but one horse had the hoof trimmed too narrow, causing him to toe in somewhat. Another dash of rain came, gained impetus, and then proceeded in a downpour that drew a gray veil across the desert and mountains. The sky darkened and the rolling clouds closed out the sun, shutting down all the miles before him with darkness and slashing rain.
The gray streak of a trail led downward from the mine dump, offering a chance of speed, so he lifted the gelding into a canter and went down the mountain to the main road. Halting briefly, he again found the tracks of the riders. Not yet wiped out by the rain, they crossed the road and then ran along through the brush parallel to it.
The shower eased, and Hopalong smelled the old familiar odor that raindrops bring to long-dry dust. Then there was a crash of thunder and more rain, and behind the rain a roaring weight of wind. Now the darkness became absolute, without a chink of light anywhere except for the constant play of lightning. The wide valley was filled with sound, and the rain came down in solid sheets of water turned into a scythe driven by the fierce wind.
He turned onto the stage road, and Topper held to his canter. Then suddenly the storm lulled, and down this hallway of silence Hopalong heard the sudden crash of shots!
Two … three more, a light volley … and then one. The last was a lone, final shot. The ending of something.
Reining in, Hopalong strained his ears against the sudden silence, listening. There was nothing, and then the rain came again, whispering at first, then mounting in crescendo to new heights of fury. Pushing on, his hat brim pulled low, his slicker collar high around his ears, he wondered at the shots. A cold drop fell down the back of his neck and found a trail down his spine. He shivered and strained his eyes into the blackness ahead.
Riding suddenly onto the scene of a shooting was anything but smart, but this was new country to him, known only by hearsay, and if he got off the trail now he could easily wander out into the valley and become lost. Suddenly Hopalong felt the gelding’s muscles tense and in a flash of lightning he saw its head come up sharply. At the same time Hopalong saw, on the trail ahead, a dark shape sprawled in the mud!
Drawing up, he waited for lightning. It came, and he stared beyond the man’s body, but the trail was empty as far as he could see. Whatever had happened here was now over. Swinging down beside the fallen man, he turned him over. Rain splashed on a white, dead face and over a bullet-riddled body. One hole was in the head. Shielding a struck match, Hopalong’s lips compressed. This man had been downed by the other shots, but the last one had been fired by a gun held against his skull, burning with its muzzle blast the hair and skin. Of this man they had made sure.
Quickly he went through the man’s pockets, removing his wallet, papers, and what loose money he could find. These things should go to the man’s relatives, if any, and would help serve as identification. In this rain they would soon become soaked and illegible unless protected.
The dead man had made a try for his life. His pistol was gripped in his hand and one shot had been fired.
Standing over him, oblivious of the rain, Hopalong studied the situation. The man had been removed from the stage, for he lay to one side of the trail, and it looked as if he had been given his chance, had taken it, and lost. Cut deeply into the trail were the tracks of the stage. “Holdup,” Hoppy muttered. “This hombre either asked for a scrap or had it forced on him. One thing, he doesn’t size up like any pilgrim. He’d been to the wars before.”
Mounting, Hopalong rode up the trail a short distance, then stopped as a flash of lightning revealed yet another body. Swinging down, Hopalong bent to touch the man, and he groaned. Straightening up, Hopalong waited for another flash of light, then spotted a slight overhang in the rock of the cliff, an overhang that gave promise of growing deeper as the rock curved away from the trail.