Plot introduction[ edit ] The story begins with a perilous winter railroad journey through the Sierra Nevada mountain chain in the s in the midst of a blizzard. Aboard the train are Nevada state governor Fairchild and his niece Marica, along with U. Army cavalry Colonel Claremont and two carloads of troops. Joining them are U. Pearce, a lawman and Indian agent is transporting supposedly dangerous murderer and gunman John Deakin. Their destination is the remote Fort Humboldt deep in the Nevada mountains, whose troops have recently been decimated by a cholera epidemic.
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Shelves: western Please read my complete review at Casual Debris. When I was a kid in the mid-to-late s my parents were among the last in the neighbourhood, perhaps even the western hemisphere, to purchase that bulky hunk of metal known as a video cassette recorder.
Popularly known at the time as a VCR, it was a piece of medieval technology that could both record and play back movies using a cheap, slim strip of plastic encased in a large rectangular hard plastic casing known as a cassette.
Oddly, at times Please read my complete review at Casual Debris. Oddly, at times appropriately, the hard casing was worth more than the flimsy strip that contained the data. This massive cassette slipped inside that box of metal, often getting stuck, which in turn was hooked to your television set--not that sleek and slim apparatus in your living room, bedroom, washroom, etc.
Most of you are probably laughing at my wild fantasy, but this was reality back in those dark ages. One evening before supper my mom ushered me out of the house to pick up a movie. Yes, this was a dark era when to watch a movie at home you had to first leave the house. I dreaded the chore, knowing that if I picked a bad film my mom, being a film lover, and my brother, being an older brother, would never let me hear the end of it. Days it seemed I searched those shelves of videocassette boxes for something we all would enjoy, until my eye was caught by a photo of Charles Bronson covered in western garb hanging from a train overlooking a ravine.
Fans of MacLean consider Breakheart Pass to be among the oddest of his novels, and it flopped on its initial release. A later MacLean work, it focuses as usual primarily on action and plot, but is his first novel set in the American West.
It deals with a motley crew of white gun-runners, US Army soldiers and Paiute Indians, rather than his normal array of spies, soldiers and other evildoers. Yes, even the train. Information appears to be revealed at the most convenient of times. Hey reader, he seems to be saying, this is gonna be cool.
The novel is written so haphazardly and with such unbelievable lines as "She gave him a look as cold as ice," that I doubt MacLean spent too much time in the composition, or perhaps this quick straightforward and unimaginative style was his bid for the contract to write the screenplay, which was eventually offered to him. As for Deakin he is a man of few words, but his few words are so vacuous and expected that it would have been better had he been mute.
He comes across as abrasive and unpleasant, and the film producers lucked out in nabbing the abrasive yet far more charming tough guy Bronson to take on the role. And what Deakin comes up with usually consists of blowing something up. The opening was a little slow but half-way through I was quite into it, soon losing interest and speeding through the rest so quickly that I had to pause and wait for the train to catch up with me before I could go on.
Finally I was done, and had to face that final pitiful exchange between Deakin and Marica.