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JOHN COLEMAN BURROUGHS
The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County
Comments by David Adams
The dust jacket, frontispiece and 22 chapter headpieces are by John Coleman Burroughs. The fact that the frontispiece and headpieces are reproduced in the Ace paperback edition came as a surprise to me, as I have had this book in my shelf for some years without this knowledge. Zeuschner informs us that this paperback appears to be a photographic reproduction of the original ERB, Inc. edition, although I would assume it is somewhat reduced in size.
This is a very nice painting of a cowboy on a rearing horse. The man is twisted in the saddle, holding smoking six shooters in each hand with the reins tucked around his left arm near the elbow. He is wearing a red neckerchief, a blue vest, leather chaps and a Western cowboy hat. He has a no-nonsense look on his poker face, a tough hombre ready for business.
It is a very attractive dust jacket, much nicer than anything found inside the covers. The story, according to Lupoff, is “a poor western turned out in twenty-eight days in 1930.”
The interior pencil drawings range from ordinary to very good sketches and studies of Western topics that fit the text of the story. JCB covers a wide range of subjects from action pictures of cowboys on horses, a very nice saddle, to Western landscapes, and a reproduction of a ransom note.
The style of these interior sketches may seem crude, but I believe they were meant to have this rough edge to them to fit the homespun nature of the story. The thick, black, pencil JCB used to draw these pictures sometimes gives them the appearance of woodcuts. It’s hard to tell given the poor reproductions in the paperback edition, but the drawings may actually be a combination of pencil, pen, and pen and ink washes.
I like these little drawings. They seem very suitable to the story, and although they are not up to Remington’s quality, they do have a certain charm that is hard to deny.
I would imagine that many of ERB’s fans have in their collections a copy of Owen Wister’s “The Virginian” with similar Western illustrations by C.M. Russell that they might like to look at again in comparison to JCB’s. While it perhaps isn’t fair to compare JCB’s work with Remington or Russell, it does give a point of reference as to where he was going with these little illustrations.Nkima, May 7, 2000