Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch

Created by Robert B. Parker
(1932-2010)

It could be argued — and given a beer or two, I would — that town-taming gunslingers VIRGIL COLE and EVERETT HITCH are private eyes in deed, if not in name. Roaming the old West in the last part of the nineteenth century, essentially serving as lawmen-for-hire, there are at least as many echoes of Hammett and Chandler (and of course Spenser) as there are of Grey or L’Amour. And certainly there are precedents for town-taming in the hard-boiled canon. After all, what do you think Red Harvest was, but a gussied-up western?

Taciturn and pragmatic, violent when necessary and hard-boiled and loyal to a fault, the stoic Cole and the only slightly less tight-lipped narrator (and buffalo-gun-wielding deputy) Hitch are like a horse opera Spenser and Hawk, but without the glib banter, replaced by a dry dustiness of mutual respect and trust in books that feel as wide-open as the West itself, that makes reading them a unique pleasure — and one any hard-boiled fan (and certainly any Parker fan) might well enjoy, despite the trappings. There’s space in these books to allow a reader to breathe, and enjoy Parker’s usual obsessions, of honour and loyalty, of friendship and love, of autonomy and morality and even, yes, romantic love.

Suffice it to say that Allie French, the piano-pounding tramp whom Virgil chases across the West, is no Susan Silverman.

Part of Parker’s late career boom, he only wrote four Cole and Hitch novels, but I’m guessing he was pretty happy to see the first novel, Appaloosa (2005) adapted successfully to the big screen in 2008, starring Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris (who also directed) as Hitch and Cole respectively. It was nothing less than something Spenser himself would have heartily approved of: a good old-fashioned, rootin’-tootin’, pass-the-popcorn western.

UNDER OATH

  • “Robert B. Parker was a wonderful writer, although he even made a few errors from time to time. Like recently, in Blue Eyed Devil, Sheriff Callico’s Colt was described on the inside fly cover as ‘pearl handled,’ although later in the book it was described as ‘black handled’. Minor mistakes, but correctable and many times found by people like myself who notice those types of things… The description of the long-gun carried by Everett Hitch is also incorrect. It is not a ‘buffalo gun’ but an 8 gauge double-barreled shotgun similar to what may have been issued to shotgun messengers by Wells Fargo & Co. During this period, they also issued 10 gauge and 12 gauge shotguns.”
    — Jack Furr, Director of Training, Firebase Academy

UNDER OATH (THE MOVIE)

  • “Ed Harris did a wonderful job, I thought, with the movie. It is as close as it could possibly be to the book, and those parts that had to be added are hard for me to tell from my own stuff. Harris is genius, as is Viggo [Mortensen]—they nailed the characters and the relationship. You can also take Ed Harris’s word—in your own adventures in Southern California you may have noticed how infrequent that is. Incidentally, Bragg’s lawyer in the courtroom scene was played by the great Daniel T. Parker.”
    — Robert B. Parker, author (and proud father)

NOVELS

FILMS

  • APPALOOSA Buy this DVD Buy this Blu-ray
    (2008, CBS)
    30-minute episodes
    Based on the novel by Robert B. Parker
    Screenplay by Ed Harris, Robert B. Parker, Robert Knott
    Directed by Ed Harris
    Starring Ed Harris as VIRGIL COLE
    and Viggo Mortensen as EVERETT HITCH
    Also starring Renée Zellweger, Robert Jauregui, Jeremy Irons

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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