I must admit, open and first, that I nearly quit Charles O. Locke’s THE HELL BENT KID at just five percent read. It was a little startling to see Tot, the protagonist of the story, have his horse shot in the desert and, because it was desert and water was scarce, drain blood from the horse to drink as he kept walking to Socorro. Suffice it to say, horse blood is not a good replacement for water and Tot quickly abandoned the idea.
Tot did not abandon his quest to leave Texas for New Mexico in the hopes of saving his father from something vaguely defined as a crooked English cattle rancher. I think.
Everybody the teenaged Tot meets along the way all but begs him to give up his father for lost and go back to the safety of the Texas ranch were he worked. Not everybody, I suppose. The Boyds try to kill him because he took credit for killing a Boyd, though he did not. I think.
Tot listens to no one. He can’t even be swayed by pretty girls willing to run away to Wyoming with him.
In that, slightly irritating, sense, Tot is what a reader probably expected and enjoyed when this book was originally published in 1957 and the cowboy western culture what at it’s most romantic. So I read Tot’s story, a fiction story, trying to put myself in the mindset of the original readers. And that’s why I liked it a lot, despite the horse blood scene and the frustration I felt with Tot’s never doing the smart thing.
I probably won’t read it again, but it’s worth a read so I won’t say how Tot, Tot’s father, and all the people who tried their damnedest to keep them apart fare in the end.
I received a copy of THE HELL BENT KID through NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media in exchange for an honest review.