Mike (the Paladin)'s Reviews > Gunsmoke 1: The Novel

Gunsmoke 1 by Gary McCarthy
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Jan 24, 11

bookshelves: western

If you're not a fan of Gunsmoke then this review may be a little pointless for you I suppose. If you read this simply as a western, it's at best mediocre. I like some westerns but I haven't been on a "western kick" for a while. I picked this up more for an overwhelming nostalgia that "got me" when I watched a couple of Gunsmoke movies on Encore's Western channel recently.

I got this out of the library...I also own a couple of this series I picked up at one of my favorite used book stores. I hope the others are better than this one.

While I actually remember the Gunsmoke radio program (it was on until 1961) my primary memories are of the TV series. My mother loved it, and while he never said much about it I believe my dad liked it (my dad never said much about anything). I grew up watching this program and while in the end it wasn't what it had been I hated to see it end.

This book might be said to have been loosely based on the later part of the show. One of the "in town" episodes that in my opinion centered far too much on Festus and the "crew". Doc has a heart attack at the open of the book and without giving a "spoiler" (which would be hard here as there's not a lot to spoil).... Matt decides he needs to find a younger doctor who can help Doc out. he draws a young "doctor" in a medicine wagon who's more a lady's man than a medical man. The book manages to work in a little dialog that isn't "too far off" and a little gun play. But at least as far as I'm concerned fails both as a simple western and it fails big time as Gunsmoke.

We've talked here often about good books that get made into mediocre or bad movies. What we have here is sort of the flip of that. Gunsmoke was a quality TV (and radio) series that lasted for 20 years (and at 635 episodes is still the longest running drama that's been on TV) (Law and Order has been on 20 years but produced 456 episodes) being written into a poor western novel. The book has so many flaws that it almost pains me....okay, I still like Gunsmoke, Matt Dillon was one of my heroes as a kid. This guy not only doesn't capture "who" Matt is, he doesn't even know "what" Matt is. He treats Matt as a town Marshal...Matt was a Deputy United States Marshal who worked from Dodge. Half the episodes concerned Matt making a trip to transport or pick up federal prisoners.

So, a very disappointing book on several fronts...I hope the others (that I bought) are better.
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