From the library of Murray Roberts, who writes:
The Australian paperback scene was a wasteland for spankos until the arrival of Carter Brown, Larry Kent, and Marshall Grover. CB became an international bestseller, but the other two had only limited success outside Oz.
MG was a prolific writer of Western paperbacks, his most successful characters being Larry & Stretch, a couple of ‘pards’ who drifted around the Old West after the Civil War. I recall the author telling me how infuriated he was when ‘academics’ insisted there ‘must’ have been a homosexual relationship between them.
Both were chivalrous, but Larry was never averse to ‘spanking the sass’ out of an uppity female. In this story, teenage Miranda is set on an acting career, and, in her parents’ absence, indulges in a little role-play.
There was far too little of the gown and a great deal too much of Miranda.
“You’re a blame disgrace!” barked Cromwell, “Ain’t you got no shame?”
He advanced on her, with arm upraised. She took a pace backward, adopted a dramatic stance, and cried:
“Do not strike me, Father! I am no longer a child. I am a woman!
You want to bet?” roared Cromwell.
He seized one bare arm, flopped into a chair and threw her face downward across his knees. His broad hand rose and fell with rhythmic precision, against the tightly swathed posterior of his wayward offspring. She shrieked and pounded the floor with her clenched fists.
Upstairs a door slammed. Eva Cromwell, a thin, nervous-looking woman in the late forties, fluttered down the stairs attired in a yellow kimono and looking like a canary in startled flight. She flew into the corridor and entered her daughter’s bedroom, then uttered a shriek and clasped her hands to her flat breast.
“Edward!” she whooped. “You’ll kill the child!”
“Wouldn’t be a bad idea that!” retorted Cromwell. rising to his full height and depositing the girl on her feet.
“Look at her! Look at your daughter…!”
“She’s your daughter, too” gasped Eva.
Cromwell scowled at Miranda, who had backed over to the mirror and was tenderly feeling at her smarting rump.
“What’ve you got to say for yourself?” he challenged.
“You’re a brute!” “she accused, jabbing a finger at him.
“Miranda Cromwell!” gasped Eva.
“It’s true!” said the girl, her breast stormy. “Only a brute would use his strength on a – – a defenceless woman…”
“How many times do we have to tell you?” moaned Eva, slumping onto the bed. “You are not a woman. You’re a mere child. You’re far too young to be stealing my dresses and — and powdering your face. Oh Edward — is this our child? What have we done?
“Don’t you start!” snapped Cromwell. “One addle-brained play-actress in a family is enough – without you takin’ on the same way!”
Miranda decides to leave home, and, being a strong swimmer, hitches a lift downstream on a floating log.
Stretch remained on the sand, shading his eyes with a hand, following his partner’s progress. Larry was fast closing the distance between himself and the drifting log, and the girl sprawled atop it was now well aware of his approach. He gave her a yell of encouragement, begging her to hang on a moment longer, then struggled on. With a last strenuous effort, he drew level with the log and reached up to grasp at her waist.
“Get away from me!” gasped Miranda. “Leave me alone — leave me alone…!”
Larry Valentine nodded grimly. He had heard of shock before. He trod water and looked her over. She was astride the log, and except for the lower part of her jeans, her clothes appeared to be dry.
Again he reached up for her. She scowled at him and raised a small fist, threateningly. Then he made a grab for the log and hung on. Miranda gave out a shriek and pounded at his face. He stifled an oath, seized one of her wrists and tugged. With another shriek, she came free of her perch and splashed into the water. He held his grip on her wrist for a moment, then switched to a new grasp, crooking his left arm about her neck.
“I — know you’re loco-scared ma’am!” he panted. “But I’m gonna get you back to dry land!”
“Let me go –ulp!” spluttered Miranda.
The last word was caused by the fact that Larry was holding her head half-in and half-out of the water. He began striking out for her bank, mentally praying that she would not struggle. The thoughts of slamming her shapely chin with his bunched fist filled his soul with gloom. To Larry, it just didn’t seem right.
He need not have worried. Miranda was incapable of struggling. So firm was Larry’s grip on her neck that she could do little more than gasp for breath. By the time he reached the shallows and waded to the shore, carrying her across his shoulders, she was speechless. Gently, he laid her on the sand and bent her over her. Stretch, now fully dressed, joined him there and, in his helpful way, began fanning the girl’s face with his Stetson. Her eyelids flickered.
“She’s comin’ round!” whispered Stretch.
The brown eyes opened wide and flashed a baleful glare at a startled Larry Valentine. His alarm increased when she raised herself to a sitting position and swung a fist at his face missing his chin by a mere half-inch.
“Hey!” he gasped. “Take it easy, ma’am!” To Stretch he said, significantly. “Still crazy-scared-from bein’ near drowned.”
“Near drowned my eye!” blurred Miranda. “I was safe out there – safe and dry! Then you had to make a big hero of yourself and pull me in the water and get me all wet again – you – you big ox!”
“Hold hard, now,” remonstrated Stretch. “You ain’t bein polite – to a feller that’s just risked his life on your account…”
“Did I ask for help!” blared Miranda. “Why couldn’t he mind his own business?”
“That does it!” scowled Larry, rising to his feet. “I damn near drowned myself – draggin’ this maverick out of that river. Maybe she’s a mite loco from shock, but she needs a lesson – and the best lesson for her is another shock!”
“Let go off me!” shrieked Miranda.
It was no use. She was powerless in his grasp. In a swift double movement, he dropped to the sand, cross-legged, and hauled her across his knee. For the second time in twenty-four hours, Miranda Cromwell suffered the supreme indignity of an energetic paddling.
Strong as her father was, Larry Valentine was even stronger. His broad, hard palm attacked her nether region so forcefully that, after ten blows, the sharp pain had increased to a tingling numbness. Miranda screamed, Miranda shrieked threats, Miranda pleaded – but the Texan did not desist until his hand was aching.
“Lucky for you I was usin’ my gun-hand,” he growled, pushing her from him and getting to his feet, “else I’d never have let up!”
All ends well. Miranda’s parents agree to her joining a troupe of actors, while Larry & Stretch drift on, never seeking Trouble, but somehow always finding it.