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John Thomas "J.T." Edson is an English writer of Westerns.

He was born in 1928 near the border of the county of Derbyshire, England, in a small mining village, Whitwell, and was obsessed with Westerns from an early age. In his 20s and 30s, he spent 12 years in the British Army as a dog trainer. It was during this time that he began writing to alleviate boredom during long periods in barracks.

Upon leaving the army, J.T. won second prize (with Trail Boss) in the Western division of a literary competition run by Brown & Watson Ltd, which led to the publication of 46 novels with them, becoming a major earner for the company. He also wrote a series of short stories (Dan Hollick, Dog Handler) for the Victor boys papers, and wrote the "box captions" for comic strips, which he credited with instilling discipline and the ability to convey maximum information with minimum words.

His writing career forged ahead when he joined Corgi Books in the late 1960s, which gave J.T. exposure through a major publishing house, as well as the opportunity to branch out from the core Westerns into the Rockabye County police procedurals, the science-fiction hero Bunduki and other series.

J.T. Edson wrote 136 books, spread primarily across nine series, although there were several stand-alone novels.

His main series are:

  • OLE DEVIL HARDIN SERIES (5 books): The adventures of Ole Devil Hardin, Dusty Fog's uncle, during the Texan War of Independence (1836).
  • THE CIVIL WAR SERIES (13 books): The adventures of Ole Devil Hardin and the members of the Floating Outfit during the American Civil War (1861 -1865).
  • THE FLOATING OUTFIT SERIES (66 books): The exploits of the Floating Outfit. This group consists of Dusty Fog, Mark Counter and the Ysabel Kid. This trio is joined by various others during the 10-year span of the novels (1870–1880) such as Waco, Doc Leroy and Red Blaze.
  • THE WACO SERIES (7 books): About the adventures of former Floating Outfit member Waco.
  • THE CALAMITY JANE SERIES (12 books): The adventures of Calamity Jane, a friend of the Floating Outfit.
  • THE WAXAHACHIE SMITH SERIES (3 books): Smith is an associate of the Floating Outfit and a former Texas Ranger.
  • THE COMPANY Z SERIES (6 books): This series outlines the adventures of the grandsons of Dusty Fog, the Ysabel Kid and Mark Counter, (Alvin Fog, Mark Scrapton and Rance Smith respectively) in this extra-legal company of Texas Rangers.
  • THE ROCKABYE COUNTY SERIES (11 books): This series is about the Rockabye County Sherrif's department, of whom Brad Counter, Mark Counter's great-grandson, is a member.
  • THE BUNDUKI SERIES (4 books): A Planetary Romance series about Mark Counter's great-grandson James Allenvale 'Bunduki' Gunn, who is abducted by aliens known as 'Suppliers' to act as a game warden for the planet Zillikian.

Edson retired from writing in the 1990s due to failing health.

J.T Edson's novels provide examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: The short story "Some Knowledge of the Knife" was a murder mystery in which the assassination weapon was an oddly-balanced knife fired from a large-bore "wall gun".
  • Academy of Evil: Bekinsop's Academy for the Daughters of Gentlefolk in Blonde Genius.
  • Action Girl: Calamity Jane, Dawn Drummond-Clayton, Belle Boyd... Pretty much all of J.T.'s heroines qualify. Even Dusty's gently-bred cousin Betty Hardin can beat Dusty at judo if he gets careless and fight several times her own weight in outlaws when she's not dominating them by sheer force of will (short story "The Quartet").
  • Amazon Brigade: The Bad Bunch
  • The Archer: Dawn Drummond-Clayton and, to a lesser extent, Bunduki.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Deputy Marshal Solomon Wisdom 'Solly' Cole is fond of quoting Bible verses. Some of them are made up out of the whole cloth, with Solly relying on the fact that rebrobates he is lecturing will not have the biblical knowledge necessary to contradict him.
  • Author Appeal: J.T.'s heroines are always well-endowed, even in historical periods when this was not considered the ideal of female beauty.
  • The American Civil War: The setting for The Civil War Series.
  • Bad Habits: 'Father Devlin' in The Remittance Kid.
  • Bandito
  • Banging for Help: Doc Leroy, temporarily working as a lawman, was coshed and immobilised to prevent his interfering with a planned robbery. (The crooks didn't kill him as Leroy had plenty of the kind of friends you don't want to spend the rest of your life running away from.) He was reduced to banging on the floor of the hotel room he was shut up in, hoping to attract attention.
  • Because I'm Jonesy: In The Bad Bunch, Belle Boyd poses as Belle Starr in order to infiltrate an all-female outlaw gang. Unfortunately for her, the real Belle Starr had the same idea.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: The Fast Gun is a pastoral interlude in which Dusty Fog meets a young woman and her family, who (though Dusty never finds out) are space travellers complete with flying saucer.
  • Bulungi: Ambagazali from the Bunduki short stories.
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: In one of the Alvin Fog novels, one of the villains Company Z take vengance on is a rapist who plied a teenage girl with alcohol-laced lemonade.
  • Cat Fight: A frequent occurance and always lovingly described.
  • Cattle Baron: Charles Goodnight is a heroic example.
  • Cavalry Officer: The Ole Devil Hardin series and the Civil War series focus on the careers of 'Ole Devil' Hardin and his nephew Dusty Fog as cavalry officers in wars a generation apart (the Texan War of Independence and the American Civil War).
  • Cigar Fuse-Lighting: Done by bad guy Santone in Rio Guns.
  • Convenient Misfire: J.T. Edson disliked it when guns jammed or misfired for no reason in movies, so whenever it happened in his novels he would give a detailed explanation of what caused the gun to jam (usually poor maintenance on the bad guy's part). That said, it still happened several times when it was convenient for his heroes. The short story "Jubal Branch's Lucky B.A.R." was one example.
  • Counter-Earth: Zillikan, the setting for the Bunduki series.
  • Covers Always Lie: The covers of many J. T. Edson novels feature generic western scenes that bear no real connection to the contents of the book. And some are just flat out wrong. The Corgi edition of The Remittance Kid shows a gunfight on the deserted main street of tiny frontier town. The novel takes place entirely in Chicago.
  • The Eeyore: Billy Jack
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Dusty Fog who, though strongly built, is only about five feet five inches tall and continually overlooked by strangers who know him only by reputation. Usefully, one of his associates, Mark Counter, really is well over six feet tall with big muscles and the face and figure of a Greek god, and from time to time Mark pretends to be Dusty in order that strangers will blab secrets when he is not around but the insignificant-looking real Dusty is. Word of God is that Fog was based on Audie Murphy, who was himself of no great size (and just as much of a Big Damn Hero).
  • Fastest Gun in the West: Dusty Fog (except that Doc Leroy is a hairsbreadth faster with a single gun versus Dusty's ambidexterous pair; but Dusty is the one whose name gets mentioned). Mark Counter is a fraction slower than either and Waco a similar distance behind him; none of the four have ever been beaten.
  • Fiery Redhead: Red Blaze. Also Rusty Willis, but he turns up less often.
  • Go to Alias: 'Rapido Clint' is Alvin Fog's go to alias when posing as a criminal.
  • Great White Hunter: Johnny Orchid
    • Also Bunduki before he was transported to Zillikian.
  • Gun Porn
  • Guns Akimbo: Dusty Fog would almost draw both of his twin Colts at the same time.
  • The Gunslinger: All of the Western characters.
  • Halfbreed: The Ysabel Kid is half Kentucky Irish, a quarter Commanche and a quarter French-Canadian.
    • Annie Singing Bear has a Commanche father and a white mother.
  • Hand Cannon: The Ysabel's Kid's .44 Colt Dragoon. After a gunfight, a villain remarked to his surviving comrades that he would rather have been hit by a Sharp's Buffalo Rifle.
  • A Handful for An Eye: The fake Belle Starr does this to a shotgun guard in Waco's Badge.
  • Handicapped Badass: Waxahachie Smith is a gunslinger who had his trigger fingers amputated by vengeful foes.
  • Historical Beauty Update: J.T's version of Calamity Jane is a stacked blonde who dresses in skintight buckskins. This is at odds with photographs of the historical Calamity Jane, who could charitably described as plain.
    • Also applies to Edson's version of Belle Starr.
  • Historical Domain Character
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: J.T. portrays the outlaw and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin as a wrongly accused hero.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: It is unlikely that General José de Urrea was anywhere near as black as Edson paints him in Get Urrea!. In particular, historians now believe that the Goliad Massacre was perpetrated at the orders of santa Anna and not Urrea.
  • Horned Hairdo: 'Ole Devil' Hardin
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Waco uses this trick a few times to trip up a killer.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Company Z
  • Kissing Cousins: Bunduki and Dawn
  • Knife Nut: The Ysabel Kid
  • Magic Feather: Used in "Dusty Fog's Gun" when Waco gives a young deputy a gun and tells him it once belonged to Dusty Fog, giving him the confidence to win an upcoming gunfight.
  • Missing Episode: J.T. completed a fifth novel his Bunduki series titled Amazons of Zillikian that was never released due to a dispute with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Fans hold out hope that it will one day be released.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Tommy Okasi, who is Japanese, is almost always assumed to be Chinese. Justified because Chinese were the only Asians most people in the old west had ever encountered.
  • The Napoleon: Horace Rangoon in The Rio Hondo Kid.
  • New Old West: The Rockabye County series.
  • Only One Name: Waco
  • Outlaw Town: Hell in the Palo Duro and Go Back to Hell.
  • Planetary Romance: The Bunduki series.
  • Pocket Protector: Dusty Fog's life is saved in The Bad Bunch when a bullet from a derringer strikes his belt buckle. The impact is still enough to lay him out in bed for several days.
  • Rancher: 'Ole Devil' Hardin, John Slaughter, Charles Goodnight (who is powerful enough to qualify as a Cattle Baron)
  • Rape and Revenge: The climax of Is-A-Man.
  • Remittance Man: Captain Patrick Reeder a.k.a. 'The Remittance Kid'.
  • The Remnant: The South Will Rise Again
  • Rings of Death: Razor-edged chakrams are the weapon of choice for one of the tribes in Bunduki.
  • Ruptured Appendix: Doc Leroy, one of the characters in the Floating Outfit series, once saved the life of a cowhand with a burst appendix by operating on him with a Bowie knife[1]
  • The Rustler: Edson preferred the term 'cow thief', which he claimed was more historically accurate.
  • Sergeant Rock: Jubal Branch in the Company Z series.
    • And Billy Jack in the Civil War series.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Waxahachie Smith
  • Shaming the Mob: Waco does this in the short story "A Man Called Drango Dune" in Arizona Ranger.
  • Shown Their Work: In spades.
  • Straw Character: Especially in the later novels, any character described as 'liberal' will be a coward, a hypocrite and a homosexual. They will also be ugly and not bathe.
  • The Trope Kid: The Ysabel Kid
  • True Companions: The Floating Outfit
  • Undercover As Lovers: Dusty Fog and Belle Boyd in The South Will Rise Again.
  • Underside Ride: In Terror Valley, Calamity Jane sneaks out of the mission by hiding in a 'possum-belly'; a sheet of rawhide attached to the bottom of a wagon for carrying firewood.
  • US Marshal: Waco ends his career as a U.S. Marshal. Deputy U.S. Marshal Solomon Wisdom 'Solly' Cole is a supporting character in several books.
  • Vorpal Pillow: In The Remittance Kid one of the anarchists sneaks into a hospital disguised as a priest and uses a pillow to smother a wounded accomplice before he can talk to the police.
  • Whip It Good: Calamity Jane
  • The Wild West
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Gus Saunders is ejected from a plane without a parachute for this reason in Blonde Genius.
  • Young Gun: Waco is a hard-eyed youngster of about sixteen when he is first encountered, and already has several notches on his gunbelt, all of them nominally "fair fights" but several, as he later admits, for no good reason at all. He reforms after being pulled out from in front of a cattle stampede.

Notes

  1. or so the legend was widely repeated. In Doc Leroy, M.D. the character explains to a medical professor that this is untrue and he did carry around a bona fide scalpel and other instruments.
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