Mastodon

14 min read


One was a kid, the other a killer, but both were hunted riders.

Context

Lefty Dunlin is an interesting secondary character in the 1928 western pulpCheap, often lurid novels in the US during the 1920s and 1930s novel Hunted Riders. He teams with the “black Crossett”, Daniel. Lefty runs against the law making his way in the wild west.

This profile includes S P O I L E R S.

Hunted Riders was among the many stories from “Max Brand” (Frederick Schiller Faust). Mr. Faust was one of the notable writers during the pulps era in the US. Like many of his peers, he had a staggering output.

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Background

  • Real Name: “Lefty” Dunlin.
  • Known Relatives: Mother (unrevealed), Father (unrevealed), Jerry Dunlin (Brother).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base of Operations: The mountains of Lefty’s country.
  • Height: 5’8″ (1.72m). Weight: 145 lbs. (65 Kg.). (Tyson who weighs 215 by his own account called Lefty a splinter in comparison.)
  • Eyes: Unrevealed. Hair: Black.

Powers & Abilities

The Dunlins are a famous lot. They never had worked for a living and never would. They supported themselves by their wits for many generations.

Familial talents included:

  • Counterfeiting.
  • Rustling.
  • Sneak-thieving.
  • Safe-cracking.
  • Crooked gambling.
  • And murder, if it came to it.

Called a natural desperado, Lefty routinely accomplished these things single-handed. Rumored to have killed his first man at 13 and killed nine or ten since then.

Lefty runs like a deer. He’s an expert tracker and counter-tracker. Avoiding the law and bounty hunters is quite a game to him. Seeing himself as the fox in a hunt.

He’s an amazing shot and fast on the draw with his Colt revolvers or his rifle.

Hunted Riders - Max Brand - Cover with the waterfall and cowboys painting

Survivor

Lefty has great knowledge of the country he calls home. He knows where to get the best horses, guns, and anything else he needs.

In the mountains where he calls the heart of his country, he has friends.

Occasionally, he uses the railroad to quickly jump across country, riding into Chicago or St. Louis for a change.

Mr. Dunlin once was on a 15-man train robbery crew. Lefty accounts:

  • Four killed during the holdups or in the chases that followed.
  • Three crawled away full of lead. All three died.
  • One disappeared, probably dead too.
  • Six captured and sent to prison. Not one of them came out again.

That leaves one. Lefty Dunlin.

Hunted Riders - Max Brand - Pile of dime novels

History

Lefty’s family came from the town of Winhasset in the East.

The Dunlin youngest brother was stillborn. Why was this significant? The Crossett’s, a rich neighboring family, had a child around the same time. This child was Daniel Crossett.

Less than 20 years ago the Dunlins sneaked out west seeking a better life. Lefty rode, robbed, and sinned from Guatemala to Alaska. Soon, he settled in a long-ranging area he called his own.

Lefty’s country

Lefty sat atop a high plateau looking far out at his country. From the desert to the rivers to the mountains. And all the towns between.

Lefty had “worked” this country since his early teen years. He knew the people, the horses, the towns. He made his home and his friends in the mountains.

He stole crops and horses from the farmers. Money from the banks. Guns and many other things from the town-stores. Whatever he wanted.

The black Crossetts

After the death of his wife, Jeremy Crossett took his only son, Daniel, out west. A new and exciting environment for him. They settled in the town of Lammar Falls. His goal was to save his son from his destined failure and death.

Lammar Falls was a town in Lefty’s country.

You see, there are two elements in Crossett blood. The Crossetts were fair of hair. But then there are black Crossetts.

  • The hair color easily noted in family portraits. The fair-haired Crossetts outnumbered the black by a huge margin. Danny was black!
  • Physically, black Crossetts are tall, slender, supple, alert fellows. With blazing eyes and hair-trigger nerves.
  • Black Crossetts have a peculiarity about them. History proved they all have unlucky lives. Not one had lived to 40. Most took their own lives. Daniel knew his family history. A cloud of gloom stood over him.

The outlaw, captured

Lefty Dunlin was captured and put in the jail at Lammar Falls. A mob was already growing, they’d hang Lefty before any trial.

Knowing his son was near suicide, Jeremy told him he was not his own. Daniel had been switched at birth for the sake of Jeremy’s wife. He was in fact Lefty’s kin. A Dunlin.

With this knowledge, Daniel went straight away to help his new-found family. He reached the jail ahead of the mob and got inside. He drew his revolver and ordered the deputy out. Daniel helped Lefty escape his shackles and the jail cell.

A heavy rainstorm aided their escape up to the roof and down a nearby tree. They stole a neighbor’s horse and pony and made their escape into the mountains.

Hunted Riders - Max Brand - Red cover edition

Tolliver on the trail

The following day, Jeremy awoke distraught at the loss of his son. He may have saved Daniel’s life from suicide, but he’d lost him just the same. With a clear mind, he wrote a letter to his son. Then hired Doc Tolliver, a brave local man, to deliver it.

Lefty and Daniel evaded several posses. They then visited a couple of Lefty’s allies to get intel. At one place, Hannigan’s, Doc Tolliver caught up with them. Daniel, surprised, shot the man dead as he stepped from the shadows.

Lefty advised Hannigan to go to the law immediately and blame the murder on Lefty himself. But Hannigan panicked and buried the body under tons of rock, down a ravine.

A little later that night, Doc Tolliver strode through the open door of Hannigan’s place, an apparition from beyond the grave! Hannigan fled into the night screaming.

A train worth a million

Lefty and Daniel met up with Joe Tyson. Joe was in need of a few men, good at the craft, to help rob a train. The haul would be nearly three-quarters of a million dollars. They accepted and Lefty began to plan.

Back in Lammar Falls, a lawman questioned Jeremy Crossett and Jeremy knew he had to leave town. Jeremy guessed that Doc Tolliver had been killed. He needed someone else who could approach his son and Lefty without looking like a threat.

Jenny Loren, the waitress, took the job. She rode out to find Daniel with a second letter in hand.

Lefty, Daniel, and Tyson succeeded at stopping the train in the evening between Silver and Jackson. It was a tough job for three men to control a train full of folks with others nearby. Almost all had a gun. They flooded the firebox to strand the train. Lefty used dynamite to blow the safe.

Only he failed when he accidentally left the other sticks where he was blowing the safe and they all went up at once. The safe was a double wall and the blast only penetrated the outer wall. They had to flee empty-handed.

Hunted Riders - Max Brand - Blue and magenta cover edition

Flee!

Several groups of men pursued them towards the mountains. Calls were made throughout the country and a growing line of men stood between them and safety.

The three rode all night and by morning were famished. Tyson went to a farmhouse and forced the woman there to cook for them. That very morning, by luck, Jenny Loren rode straight up to the house and demanded to talk with Daniel. She delivered Jeremy’s letter to him. She had simply guessed right where they might have gone.

The letter revealed Jeremy Crossett’s lie. There was a Dunlin baby stillborn at the same time Daniel was born, but there was no substitution of babies. Daniel was a Crossett with no Dunlin blood in him. Jeremy’s letter begged Daniel to head back East.

Though tempted, and even more by Jenny, Daniel felt he couldn’t abandon Lefty until they were out of trouble.

A reckoning

The three continued towards the mountains. When next they sought refuge with a friend, they found themselves surrounded by Sheriff Bud Loftus’ men. They fought out of this with their lives but wounded.

Fleeing through the wilderness on foot nearly killed them. They chanced on a wagon driven by two Natives. Lefty and Daniel held them up. Made them take them up the mountain at gunpoint.

The Sherriff caught Tyson who fled alone on foot. Tyson tried to turn state’s evidence for a lighter sentence. But they didn’t need his evidence, only his time spent in prison.

Daniel peering out the back of the wagon saw again the phantom rider, Doc Tolliver on their trail. But he disappeared when they looked again.

Leaving the Natives and their wagon, Lefty and Daniel escaped to the relative safety of the mountains.

It was there, Doc Tolliver again caught up with them. One final time!

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Description

A darkly handsome rascal with sun-browned skin. A little white scar runs along his cheek, an old bullet wound. Rail thin. He’d been shot at many times while fleeing and still has a bullet somewhere in his guts.

Cowboy hat, boots, chaps, and spurs. Dual Colts on his belt.

When robbing a train, or engaged in other banditry, Lefty wears a mask to conceal his identity.

He’s around thirty years old but looks younger on account of his easy lifestyle.

Personality

Bold and care-free. Lefty Dunlin took to the life of an outlaw from a young age.

Primarily an optimist, he sees this life as true freedom. No matter the situation. Lefty will always draw back and reflect that this life of danger was worth it. Even if it costs his life, he’ll enjoy it as much as possible.

Lefty is calm and cool under pressure, taking the time to light a cigarette and think things through.

Lefty, over his years in the trade, learned many things. Like rushing to “do something” when in trouble causes a man’s brain to shut down. Lefty was resolved and cunning beneath his careless exterior.

Lefty seemed at all times clear-eyed, with a comment always ready to break from his lips. His speech is rapid and cheerful. A habit of his. Picking up a thread of thought from some time earlier and continuing to speak on it, unprompted.

Other traits

He’s self-centered but has a heart for “his people”. The hard-working honest folks of his country.

“Parties”, was the term Lefty used to describe being chased by the law, having a shootout, or some other illegal clash with folks. This is how he gets his thrills. Bragging and laughing about his exploits later.

He respects men with wits, skill with a gun, or good at riding.

For all his outlaw ways, Lefty really doesn’t want anyone killed. Though he puts himself in a position to be shot at, He only shoots at others when he has no other choice. He holds high respect for honest men and hates a cold-blooded murderer.

When he stays at his friends for a place to eat or rest, he pays them double for anything he takes. Lefty takes care of his friends and they take care of him.

Quotes

“No Dunlin ever was hanged.”

“A watchspring is best, of course.” (For picking locks)

“If you hurry up too much, you don’t get none of the fun out of nothing !”

“You always got to take a chance with anything worthwhile.”

“Here we go ! Only don’t run. Walk along slow and easy. It’s hard to see slow things in the dark, but the faster you go, the more light you make, you might say !”

Daniel: “We might hurry on a little, Lefty. Why not use the time that we’ve gained on them ?”
Lefty: “When I was new at the game, I always aimed at galloping… Finally, I slowed up. A trot will get a horse along in a day further than any gallop. But after that, I learned a walk is best of all. Keep a horse at three miles an hour for 12 hours and that makes close to 40 miles in a day and you’ve always got a fresh horse under you.”

(Looking down on the city of Colin).
“They got safes that are bulging with money, and when I’m short, I drop down there and pick up some capital.” (then with hungry eyes) “I’m a little short now, and they’ll hear from me before long ! You can’t do it too often, It’d discourage the depositors, y’understand. I need lots of money in my business ! It’s a grand game too !”

“You take a job like mine, you got to keep pretty close to it. You got to keep in touch with the politics and how things are happening, and the new men that are coming on.”

“I can’t afford to have a ‘favorite’ gun or a ‘favorite’ horse.”

Daniel: “What good does it do you to have them call you a ‘gallant outlaw’ ?”
Lefty: “So long as they’re doing that, you can still have a few honest men as friends. And an honest man is worth a hundred crooks when it comes to friendship.”

“A horse only has one spring-edge in a day, and once that edge has been blunted, any common pony is apt to overtake a thoroughbred runner.””

“Better to fill the eyes of an enemy with dust than to put a bullet through his brain !”

“The bigger the man the more there is of him to hurt.”

Daniel: “If only the world could have the chance to study this man, it would have to revise its moral code and its estimates of good and evil. No doubt he had done much wrong to society. But he had done much good to man. And, vaguely, Daniel perceived that there is a double truth and double standard of judgment. There is the way for the weak, and there is also the way for the strong who may transcend precedent, and custom and law.”

DC Heroes RPG

Lefty Dunlin

A 565 points Character (without equipment).

Dex: 04 Str: 03 Bod: 04
Int: 03 Wil: 05 Min: 05
Inf: 04 Aur: 05 Spi: 04
Init: 011 HP: 010

Skills:

Acrobatics (Climbing): 03, Animal Handling (Horses): 04, Evasion (Ranged only): 05, Medicine (First-Aid): 03, Military Science (Camouflage, Cartography, Danger Recognition, Demolition, Tracking, and Survival): 04, Thief (Without Security Systems): 06, Thief (Locks and Safes): 07, Weaponry (firearms): 05

Advantages:

Area Knowledge (Lefty’s Country), Expertise (Horses, Mountaineering, Safes, Native American Indians of the west), HQ (confined – Lefty has a hangout in the hills near the two towns, Silver and Jackson), Local Hero (Lefty’s Country), Luck, Schtick (Fast Draw (Pistols)).

Connections:

Daniel Crossett (High), Dunlin family (Low, although rumored High)

Drawbacks:

Minor Irrational Attraction (smoking, adrenaline junkie), Miscellaneous: Wanted! He is rightly deserving of being hung for his many crimes in the territory. He is famous, loved, and hated.

Motivation:

Thrill Seeker.

Occupation:

Outlaw.

Wealth:

013

Equipment:

Lefty gains equipment by taking from others. When he needs a horse, a gun, or whatever he knows who is near that has what he needs.

  • Winchester [BODY 03, Projectile weapon: 05, Ammo: 12, R#03, Drawback: Very Long Reload, Note: may require an Automatic Action to work the action unless this is waived by the GM for this campaign]
  • Colt Single-Action Revolver (x2) [BODY 03, Rec. STR 03, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 06, R#04, Drawback: Very Long Reload, Note: may require an Automatic Action to work the action unless this is waived by the GM for this campaign].
  • Dynamite (X6) [BODY 02, EV (Area of effect 1 AP) 07, Grenade Drawback] carried when he needs to blow a safe.
  • Horse (with standard stats) – Lefty looks for a rugged horse with good endurance for steady hill travel. Saddle, warm blanket rolled into a slicker.
  • Field glasses, a few cooking utensils.
  • Heavy cartridge belt
  • Adhesive tape roll (used to bandage small cuts), Handkerchief, iodine, cigarette rolling paper, tobacco, and matches.

Design notes

Though his name throughout is Lefty it’s never implied that this is a nickname and may actually be his first name. There’s also no insinuation, other than his name, that he is left-handed.

Another prominent tagline “A one-man posse from hell” has nothing to do with Lefty. It refers to the pale phantom rider following the outlaws from beyond the grave!

Height and weight are a best guess. Tyson was 215 lbs and they deemed his “crushing weight” would quickly wear down a horse.

Wealth – It’s hard to pin-point Lefty’s wealth as his “career” is a wild one. He might rob a bank and fill his pockets. Then he might hang-out through the winters barely leaving his hideout. In the desert, he could spend a few months picking out a couple of horses where he makes nothing. He lives off the land, hunts, and robs farmers and storeowners. He once produced from a sewed part of his shirt, five emeralds worth thousands.
Therefore, I set his wealth as high as I did. His wealth score fluctuates a lot. He is frequently involved in wealth subplots.


Writeups.org writer avatar Ethan Roe

By Ethan Roe.

Source of Character: The 1928 Hunted Riders novel by “Max Brand” (Frederick Schiller Faust).

Helper(s): Wikipedia, fadedpage.com  , Weapons Locker (old west guns), Sébastien Andrivet. Cover of the Armed Services Edition from http://www.terriwangard.com  .

Writeup completed on the 5th of November, 2020.