He was educated as a member of the Corps de Cadets at West Point. (14) The curriculum of West Point centered around engineering prior to the Civil War, which may have attributed to his knowledge of engineering and interest in Emperor Hadrian. (25) Upon graduating from West Point as a cavalry lieutenant, he met Tom Carey, the scout on his first command. (204) During the Civil War, he saw action at Shiloh, Bull Run, Chancellorsville* and the Battle of Antioch.** He served under Colonel Abner Doubleday (which indicates he was a member of the Union soldier). (121) Abner Doubleday is attributed by some as having invented the game of baseball, a fact disputed by others. Doubleday sought to raise his soldiers’ morale by having them play baseball during the Civil War and the young lieutenant may have been involved in those games. This may have contributed to his interest in baseball and attendance at the game where William Arthur “Candy” Cummings threw “the first” curve ball in “1876.”***
He also served under General Crommer, whose life he saved “with a rather loose interpretation of orders.” Despite the results, General Crommer had him court martialed for that action (86). By this time in his career, he was accomplished enough in his understanding of military law to successfully handle his own defense and turn the tables on General Crommer, who was himself then cashiered from the army. This interest in the law appears to have expanded into criminal and public law, the knowledge of which served him well in a number of his adventures. It may have been because of this experience that Paladin believes that every man should have his day in court.
He may well have come from an upper middle class family of some repute. In his youth, he was a bouncer in Scollay Square in Boston, Massachusetts (21) and had already developed a taste for tailored clothers, specifically those by Brooks Brothers. His family sent a small monthly remittance, after the Civil war was over and he had resigned his commission (94), with the agreement that he was “not to go home.” (194) He chose to reside in San Francisco, enjoying the high life of wine, women and gambling. It was the latter that led to a decided change in his life’s path.
He is a polymath, a voracious reader who can quote with some accuracy a wide circle of authors of literary eminence and recount the pertinance of many historical events and personages, and a world traveller who immerses himself in the cultures he encounteres. Traveling to India in 1857 and killing his first tiger in the village of Jaunpur on June 20th of the same year, he killed his second in the foothills of the Satpura range. (89) He also spent a year in the Sandwich Islands (107), visited Van (once a part of Armenia) (16), and Spain. (42) Closer to home, he was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (58), Laramie, Wyoming in 1871, (17) and Buffalo, North Dakota in 1872, (112) lived with the Yumas, is respected by the Yavapai, Chiricahua Apache, Pimas, and Opata and rode wth Cochise. (14) It is fortunate, therefore, that he also has an affinity for languages and is fluent in American, Apache, Armenian, Chinese, French, Greek, Hindi, Pawnee, Romany (Romani), Spanish, and Yiddish. He can also tap out Morse code.
Paladin does not like to be referred to as a gunfighter. He is not simply a gun for hire. The assignments he accepts must fit within his own formula of acceptance. Or, as Paladin puts it, “My sole professional secret is to make profit agree with principle.”
His tools of the trade include a:
- Custom-made .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Cavalry Model revolver (“The balance is excellent. The trigger responds to a pressure of one ounce.” The bore is rifled. (1)) carried in a smooth black leather holster, unadorned except for the image of a chess knight (a constant reminder of his purpose);
- A black leather gunbelt behind which are secreted a derringer and business cards;
- A rifle with a representation of a chess knight on the butt pad;
- A good horse; and
- His fists.
While naturally a right-handed fast gun, he can also shoot left-handed. Beware when Paladin physically draws himself into a crouch as he strives to present a minimal target. The tiger is getting ready to strike. He has also developed the habit of sleeping with a “hand on his belt, which he refers to as “an occupational disease.” (199) Surviving his chosen profession requires that the speed of his draw be accompanied by accuracy, which Paladin demonstrates by shooting a thrown silver dollar through the middle. Accuracy is also dependant upon one’s ability to see. Regular gunpowder often results in a cloud of smoke issuing from the weapon, which may interfer with the shootist’s ability to see. Thus, as his armorer noted, “I always feel that when matters have deteriorated to a point where a man reaches for his gun, only the finest quality smokeless powder is good enough.” (189) Paladin claims it took him eight months to work out his formula for smokeless powder. (189) The difficulty in developing a smokeless gunpowder was also noted by Alfred Nobel, whom Paladin met in the Hotel Carlton. (185) Nobel undertook the creation of ballistite because of the challenge of the theoretical aspects of the chemistry.
The formula for Paladin’s smokeless powder is underwritten by Lloyd’s of London. As described by Paladin’s armorer, “If this powder explodes in your hands, $10,000 for the loss of each limb, and $15,000 for the loss of your eyesight. But of course, you don’t stand a chance of, uh, cashing in. As long as you don’t overload the cartridges, this powder is as stable as the Rock of Gibraltar.” Paladin uses a Berdan primer for his bullets. (189)
While his adventures begin on a pale horse, he rides a number of different steeds of many different colors including bays (89%), dapple grays (5%), blacks (3%), chestnuts (2%), and a blonde sorrel, a pinto and a buckskin once. Two bays dominate. One has an irregular blaze and a white left front stocking and right front sock. The second sports a white pastern on his left front and stocking on his right rear.**** The only mount that Paladin refers to by name is Ezekial (3).
How is Paladin described by those who have met him?
Adella Liggett sympathizes, “I suppose he can’t help being what a life of violence has made him.” (156)
Shep Montrose characterizes Paladin as “half civilized and the other half is pure grizzly.” (146)
Colonel H. P. Lathrop wanted a “Man with investigative abilities, tact, perceverance, and proven physical courage for possible hazardous mission. Must be a man of taste and discernment, a West Point graduate and a former army officer.” (11)
Yvonne noted that, “He is very strong, intelligent with a simplicity. There are no men like this in Paris.”
Madame Chalon then adds, “For which the French Government can give thanks.” (81)
Miss Windom remarks, “Paladin is unbridled, rigid, austere, yet one who likes his comforts as well as luxuries. Though he could never quite forget he was once a soldier.”
Dallas Burchfield alleges that Paladin “has the gift of persuasive eloquence.” (173)
Norge knows that “…disgrace to your honorable family name,” is probably the only thing that the young man will not allow to occur. (194)
Smoke cautions his protege, “Too quick to action, too slow to thought. That’s the sin of youth and penance of old men, my paladin.” (194)
Paladin offers the following self-portrait:
- “… I don’t care to own land. It’s a thing that grows to a man’s feet and that”s not the kind of a life I’ve chosen for myself.” (4)
- “I don’t hire out for hatred. I don’t hire out for revenge…I’ve been tempted many times to use this gun as an instrument of judgment; to be judge, jury and executioner. I have so far resisted the temptation…” (221)
- “When I give a man satisfaction, he’s seldom satisfied.” (86); and
- A “chronic busybody.”
Paladin’s personal logo – a chess knight. As the only piece that can leap over the other pieces on the board, it is an extremely versatile piece in the game of chess, the successful conclusion of which is accomplished through strategic capture of the king of the opposing side. The prize for winning Paladin’s personal chess game is his own sense of justice and personal honor.
Paladin is quite the bon vivant. He enjoys his pleasures – Suite 205 at the Hotel Carlton, Havana cigars, silk evening jackets, expensive wines and liquors, tailored clothing, gourmet food, the opera, ballet and theatre. He is an accomplished pianist, is writing the first Paladin concerto, (176) and is San Francisco’s most respected wine conniseur. (23) He is welcome at some of the most prestigious gentleman’s clubs in San Francisco, including Bordelli’s (119), and president of the San Francisco chapter of The Stock Exchange Club. (21)
And then there are the women. So many women. The “many” are often a passing fancy. There are, however, a few who actually touch his heart and of those he is extremely protective. He is free with his advice to women as to how to make themselves attractive to men (6, 17, 81, 195) and visa versa. (42, 119, 160, 177)
He acknowledges that he is a confirmed bachelor and due to his line of work, will remain so. At times he may waiver, even consider the possibilities of a coupled existance. The truth of the matter is best exemplified when he is presented with the option of placing the centuries old Von Albrecht ring upon the finger of a blonde or dark haired beauty, and chooses instead to place the ring upon his own pinkie. (193)
Paladin enjoys games of strategy such as backgammon, go, chess, and of course, solitaire. He enjoys playing poker and the horses. It is the former that takes him down a path that changes him from a self-indulgent boy whose world has left him with nothing but his family honor, to a man seeking, in fact demanding, justice in the world. A wild west knight with a reputation for heroism and chivalry. A Paladin.
Paladin. It is not the only name by which he is known. The Pawnee call him “Oo-Loo-Chate” or “He who rides with many tribes.”(14) Rivka Shotness notes that “in the holy tongue ‘Pala’ is ‘Wonder’ and ‘Din’ is judgement.” (118 ) However, it is the man called “Smoke” who christens him. “In the books there’s a name for a man like you…yeah…a paladin. Paladin. That’s a gentleman knight in shiny armour, all armed with a cause – rightousness – and a fine pointed lance…and yet a mercenary. A man who hires out for gold. What was your price, my paladin?” (194)
Smoke passes the baton to his paladin in a rite of manhood and mercy, asking, “…where is righteousness, noble paladin? Where is your cause? Remember, there’s always a dragon loose…somewhere.” What Smoke provided was a purpose for a hitherto tawdry existence, thereby transforming the purposeless and nameless boy, into the onymous man, for “if a man’s mistakes determines what he was than what he does about those mistakes should determine what he is.” (194)
Perhaps the best description of Paladin is found in the ballad written about him.
“‘Have Gun Will Travel’ reads the card of a man.
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.
Where do you roam?
Far, far from home.
He travels on to wherever he must.
A chess knight of silver is his badge of trust.
There are campfire legends that the plainsmen spin.
Of the man with the gun, of the man called “Paladin.”
Where do you roam?
Far, far from home.
Far from home,
Far from home.
The Hotel Carlton Staff
Kim Chan, known as “Hey Boy,” in reference to his position as a porter at the Hotel Carlton, is a Chinese immigrant who lives at 49 Powell, in Apt 9. (31) This is about 1.4 miles from San Francisco’s Chinatown, which is appropriate as he lives between the two worlds of Chinese tradition and Paladin’s assignments.
Kim Chan becomes a willing participant in the business of Paladin’s world. This begins with the delivery of Paladin’s newspapers . He then begins insinuating himself into the excitement of Paladin’s adventures by looking through the newspapers for assignments for Paladin, reading Paladin’s communications, and finally actively referring people in trouble to Paladin. He spends a great deal of time catering to the needs of Paladin, seeming at times more of a personal valet than porter, although, with the ups and downs of Paladin’s resources and Paladin’s penchant to perform pro bono services and give away his fee, Kim Chan must have ascertained that leaving the steady employment of the Hotel Carlton was not in the cards. Besides, Mr. Paladin is a generous tipper. Kim Chan even becomes, with trepidation, a co-conspirator in the successful outcome of some of the adventures. (103, 107)
They form a comradship, trading secret communications such as, “Ho sai gai” (“Life is good”) and taking verbal pot shots at each other. Unfortunately, he will never share Paldin’s taste for French wine. Kim Chan prefers rice wine, as French wine makes him ill. (103).
Paladin values their friendship and comes to Kim Chan’s assistance as necessary. (29, 31)
Kim Chan’s sister came over from China with her brother, Kim Sung, due to a widespread famine. Kim Sung went to work, and unfortuately died, on a railroad gang. If the debt to the ancient merchant that provided the passage money could not have been repaid, Kim Li would have become the elderly gentleman’s bride. (42)
Kim Li did not speak English when she arrived in San Francisco. She learned quickly, came to work at the Hotel Carlton as a porter ( referred to as “Hey Girl”), and quickly became indispensible to Paladin. (120)
Her relationship with Paladin is different from the other women with whom Paladin associates. She acts almost as his conscience, deftly moving Paladin towards a more financially responsible existance.
Paladin has a great deal of respect for Kim Li, perhaps realizing that he has met his match. It is much later revealed that she becomes his dealer, at which time she is referred to as the “Lady Li”.*****
French-born, Andre is the Chef de Cuisine at the Hotel Carlton and appreciates the fact that Monsieur Paladin likes to “eat well.” (102)
The Hotel Carlton’s wonderfully warm and whimsical Irish housekeeper. (211, 214)
The Hotel Carlton stenographer can be found in Room 324. She is prim, proper and unaccepting of both Paladin’s advances and profession; facts that she has no problem imparting to Paladin. As Paladin recounts, “Some friendships are like good wine. A wise man lets them age before sampling…But then, some good wines are much better slightly chilled.” (91) And so he keeps trying. (107)
The front desk is manned by an unnamed desk clerk, Matthews the Cashier (97), Hotel Carlton Managers Cartwright (107) and McGinnis (152) and Assistant Manager Cartright (185), a decidedly nervous fellow, especially where Mr. Paladin’s adventures are concerned.
Paladin often dines in the dining room of the Hotel Carlton and is graciously attended by the steward. (126, 128, 136, 167, 206, 209)
*Paladin states that he served with Doubleday at “Chancellorburg.” (121) There is no Chancellorburg in the United States. Abnor Doubleday was at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg during the Civil War.
** There is an Antioch, Tennessee approximately 12 miles south/southeast of Nashville which may indicated that he was involved in the Battle of Nashville during the Civil War.
*** The first curveball pitched by William Arthur “Candy” Cunmmings at Worcester, MA occurred in 1867 while he was playing for Brooklyn Excelsiors. However, it was not until Nat Hicks and “Candy” Cummings were on the same team that Cummings was able to really work on the curve ball because Hicks played the position of catcher immediately behind the batter, rather than 20+ feet behind him. While the year quoted may be questionable in actual history, it does assist the viewer to affix the episode and series in “time”.
*** This is the gelding that Richard Boone named “Rafter.” Paladin does not refer to any of his horses by name.
***** The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991), (TV). The role of Lady Li is played by Kim Miyori.
6, “The Bride”
17, “Ella West”
21, “The Bostonian”
29, “Gun Shy”
58. “Teasure Trail”
81, “Les Girls”
86, “The Unforgiven”
94, “The Prophet”
103, “The Hatchet Man”
112, “Full Circle”
118, “The Fatalist”
120, “A Head of Hair”
126, “The Poker Fiend”
146, “Long Weekend”
152, “The Cure”
156, “The Vigil”
167, “A Drop of Blood”
173, “Justice in Hell”
174, “The Mark of Cain”
176 “The Hunt”
177 “Dream Girl”
185, “Hobson’s Choice”
189, “Cream of the Jest”
193, “The Knight”
195, “Taylor’s Woman”
199, “The Bird of Time”
209, “The Treasure”
211 “Bob Wire”
214, “American Primitive”