Last year we lost one of the best crime crime writers in Texas, Milton T. Burton. He had a unique and knowledgeable take on the the state’s people as well as its sordid history. He left us before he had the chance to have the career many of us hoped he’d have. His posthumously published The Devil’s Odds demonstrates his great promise.
The World War Two era novel features Virgil Tucker, an affable stand-up-if-slightly tarnished Texas Ranger who decides to help out a red headed damsel in distress. The lady witnessed a murder and its circumstances, as well as those involved, prevent her from going directly to the police. It’s not long before Virgil is involved in a turf war between the New Orleans mafia and the infamous Maceo Brothers over gambling in Galveston. It also turns out the damsel might not be so innocent. Before it is over, the book becomes a free wheeling game of cowboys and gangsters.
Burton makes this era breathe. You get caught up in the rough glamor of Galveston’s gambling scene and wish you had Virgil’s self confidence as he swaggers into trouble. It’s a fascinating world of “good” and “bad” political corruption, strong frontier women, and western justice that hasn’t died, all done with enough humor to make it human. Welcome to noir, Texas style.
You’ll be missed Milton.