Buck Hawkins and Dobie Garrett are cowboys who work for a kind boss on the Singletree Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. When a crooked banker steals the ranch and frames them for rustling and horse stealing, they go on the run. Unable to find work, and wanted by the law, they decide they might as well become outlaws. Unfortunately, they know nothing about being desperadoes, and things just keep going from bad to worse. Then, they meet Marylou Kowalski during a bumbled attempt at robbing a stage, and at gunpoint, she forces them to kidnap her and then makes herself part of their ‘outlaw’ gang. Under her tutelage, they decide to go for one big score, rob the bank run by the crooked banker and hightail it to Mexico.
The idea of the western as comedy is not the usual way one looks at the genre. Except for Blazing Saddles, which was a funny, but only so-so movie, and The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, I don’t recall it really being done well. Until, that is, I read Unwanted Dead or Alive by Gene Shelton. This book’s has some serious (pun intended) movie potential. As Buck and Dobie flub one attempt of thieving after another, I found myself laughing so hard I almost wet my pants, or as Dobie would say, ‘peeing my jeans.’ It was just that funny. And, by that, I don’t mean in a contrived way. This was written in an authentic style, but it was seriously funny, and is probably a more credible depiction of the Old West than the vast majority of stuff that’s been written about the golden age of the cowboy.
This is a book that will appeal to both western and humor fans. I received it as a gift.
I give it five stars!