Sunday, 15 October 2017

Hell Hath No Fury

JOHN HAWK #1
By Charles G. West
Pinnacle, November 2017

To make a new life, Jamie Pratt and his young bride join a westward wagon train bound for the Rocky Mountains. They get as far as Helena when their unscrupulous wagon master deserts them, leaving them as good as dead in a godforsaken, blood-scorched land. Even still, the other settlers agree to set stakes where they are, but Jamie and his bride press on towards the Bitterroot Valley, deep into Sioux territory.

They never come out the other side.

Jamie’s brother Monroe enlists the legendary scout John Hawk to find them. A hardened veteran of the range, Hawk is living off the land in a little cabin on the Boulder River when Monroe comes begging for his help. To rescue Jamie and his bride, Hawk – and his guns – will come out fighting, riding fast and fierce into deadly odds. For any other man, it’s a suicide mission, for Hawk, delivering justice is what he was born to do… 

Charles G. West starts this first book in a new series by introducing his readers to Hawk and a number of other characters that will have major roles to play as the story develops. These people include another scout, some soldiers and some Lakota and Blackfoot warriors. It’s after this that Monroe arrives and the search for his missing brother and his bride begins.

The hunt for Jamie and Rachel is actually just a small part of this story but the author links all the events in this tale by more than just Hawk, to say more would have to include major spoilers so I won’t add anything else about this here.

Later, when Hawk finds himself trying to solve the mystery of some cattle rustling, we meet the character that I believe the title of the book comes from, and what a terrific adversary she proves to be. The action content of the story really picks up when her family enter the tale.

Fans of Charles G. West’s many other books should enjoy this, as I did, and like me be left looking forward to the second John Hawk novel, No Justice in Hell, which has a publication date of May. If you’ve never read any of Mr. West’s work then Hell Hath No Fury could be the ideal place to discover his excellent ability to write terrific westerns. 


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Widowmaker Jones

By Brett Cogburn
Pinnacle, August 2016

With a bag full of gold dust, Newt “Widowmaker” Jones is set for life. Then he makes his first mistake, trusting a cheerful stranger. By dawn the stranger – Javier Cortina, the son of the famous Texas border bandit Juan “Red” Cortina – is gone. So is the gold. So are Newt’s horse and even his fearsome Winchester rifle. It’s enough to make a man want vengeance. And vengeance will be Newt’s.

Newt chases Cortina into Mexico, where the man is legendary for the horses he’s stolen, the women he’s bedded, and the men he’s killed. As for Newt, he has a unique talent for choosing the wrong partners, from an angry, addled judge named Roy Bean to a brother and sister pair of circus Gypsies, Fonzo Grey and Buckshot Annie. The more Newt pursues the cunning and deadly Cortina, the angrier he gets, until somewhere on the border the whole crazy journey explodes into an all-out battle of bullets and blood….

This is the first book I have read by Brett Cogburn and it certainly left me eager to hunt out his previous works and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any future publications, especially in this series (the second book Buzzard Bait is already out and a third, Gunpowder Express, is listed for a February release).

Cogburn has created a wonderful set of characters for this book and switches between Newt and the Gypsies as misfortunes befall them, these hardships putting them on converging trails. Cogburn’s portrayal of Judge Roy Bean is top class, he’s a colourful character whose court hearings had me laughing out loud, and he certainly painted some vivid imagery in my mind’s eye, such as riding his horse with a cockerel perched behind him.

Newt is a great lead character who earned the name “Widowmaker” (a nickname he hates) as a fist-fighter and due to this he is recognized every now and again, usually at the most inappropriate moments.

Cogburn's prose is extremely readable, and he mixes plot twists, action and plenty of humour perfectly making this a very enjoyable read.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Legacy of a Gunfighter

By Terry James
The Crowood Press, September 2017

Following his release from prison, all gunfighter Luke Nicholls wants is revenge against William Grant, the man who almost killed him. Unfortunately, when the two meet, things don’t go the way Luke had imagined. Struck down by a mysterious malady, his confidence is shaken. More complications arise when Kate Portillo, a woman out to avenge the murder of her husband, tries to enlist his help. He refuses, determined not to lose sight of his own ambition, but Grant has other ideas. Dragged into a fight for survival, the odds are suddenly stacked even higher against Luke. As outside forces emerge and the game starts to take shape, Luke realizes that his part in it was never in doubt. This is the legacy of a gunfighter and he will have to dig deep to claim his reward.

Having read all of Terry James’ previous Black Horse Westerns I was looking forward to the publication of this one. Almost as soon as it arrived I began to read it and was soon swept up into the story, a tale filled with intrigue that had me wondering as to just what was going on. Not only to what Nicholls' illness was but as to just who was pulling the strings to the unfolding deadly events.

Even when the identity of the person behind the twisting storyline was revealed there were still many questions to be answered, especially what would happen if this mysterious figure managed to get everyone together to play out the lethal game. I can’t really say any more about the plot without including major spoilers so will conclude my thoughts on the plot here.

It’s no secret that Terry James is a pseudonym used by Joanne Walpole and once more she has come up with a gripping tale, fascinating characters of both sexes, well-crafted action scenes and believable dialogue. All written in very readable prose.

On finishing this book I was left hoping it won’t be too long before her next work hits the shelves.

Legacy of a Gunfighter is a book that should be enjoyed by all fans of the western genre.


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Impostor

THE BADGE #7
By Bill Reno
Bantam, October 1988

Outlaw Jack Decker and his gang are in Dodge City, and they’re out for blood – gunfighter Johnny Valentine’s blood. When Decker makes the mistake of gunning down Valentine’s brother instead, Johnny vows to find Decker and make him pay. Valentine dons the badge of a U.S. marshal and heads out onto the range, looking for Decker’s murderous gang. But he finds more trouble than he bargains for: a killer tornado, a renegade pack of bloodthirsty Kiowas, and a scorned woman who has vowed to find Johnny Valentine and put a bullet between his eyes.

The Badge is a series of 24 books that are linked only by the fact that their heroes wear a badge of some kind, although I believe one or two characters do appear in more than one story. Each book, therefore is a stand-alone tale.

Bill Reno is a pseudonym used by Lew A. Lacy and he is an author that knows how to write page-turners that capture the readers’ imagination easily through excellent characterization, visual descriptions of both landscape and action, and with gripping story-lines that twist and turn and offer surprising outcomes for some of his characters, both good and bad.

The Impostor has as its main theme the desire for revenge and this drives a number of different people, including Suzanne Lane, whose need for vengeance is as just as that of Johnny Valentine’s. When Valentine takes on the identity of a dead lawman it isn’t long before he’s riding alongside the unsuspecting Suzanne, and the story builds to the moment Suzanne discovers his deception superbly. The need to find out how she reacts to this discovery, especially as she’s falling in love with this fake lawman, the man she’s vowed to kill, is what makes this book so hard to put down.

The Badge books are hard-hitting, action-packed and often quite dark in tone. You can never be sure who will be left alive at the end either. All this adds up to compelling reading that leaves me eager to pick up the next in the series straight away. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Boot Hill Breed

By Ned Oaks
The Crowood Press, November 2016

Upon learning his mother is seriously ill, Jack Marric leaves his carefree life in California to return home to the tiny village of Jasper, Oregon. He is a quiet man, slow to anger but good with a pistol, who minds his own business and doesn’t look for trouble. But before he reaches Jasper, he is forced into a shootout in a saloon, leaving two of the notorious Harper brothers dead.

Back home, Marric reunites with his family, and he is particularly happy when he learns his sister is engaged to the town marshal. Then some local ranch hands kill the marshal, reigniting an old feud between Marric and their boss, Chance Elson.

As Marric takes over as lawman, he is determined to bring the murderers to justice. Little does he know that one of the surviving Harper brothers is stalking him, just waiting for the opportunity to take vengeance on Jack Marric… and his family.

Ned Oaks doesn’t give his hero Jack Marric an easy time as he has to endure physical and mental pain in a story that revolves around different characters desires for revenge, which will eventually include Marric being driven by the need for vengeance whilst hunting for his sister’s kidnapper.

This book starts with gunplay, then dips slightly in the action stakes as the author paints a picture of happy family life that will be ripped apart violently and that is when the pace picks up again and it becomes an action-packed tale again and by the bloody end all the story threads will be tied up neatly.

Ned Oaks writing is extremely readable, he has created a great set of characters that will keep you turning the pages as you’ll want to find out what happens to them. The Boot Hill Breed is a western that I believe should be enjoyed by all fans of the genre. 


Monday, 11 September 2017

The Old Wolves

RUSTY SPURR #2
By Peter Brandvold
Berkley, August 2013

Deputy United States Marshal Spurr Morgan’s ticker isn’t what it used to be. After Spurr suffers a heart attack on the job, the chief marshal convinces him it’s time to step down. Unwilling to go out on a sour note, Spurr asks for one last assignment.

The chief sends him to bring a prisoner back to Denver from the Medicine Bow Mountains. The mission seems routine for an old hand like Spurr, until he discovers that the criminal in question is his old nemesis, Boomer Drago – the former lawman turned train robber that Spurr’s been trying to run down for years. Now, with Drago’s gang on his trail and a young girl named Greta needing help out of the mountains, Spurr is ready to face his dangerous final job and prove that even old wolves still have a mean bite…

There might only be two books dedicated solely to Spurr Morgan, but followers of Peter Brandvold’s work will know that this likeable old lawman has also appeared in a number of the authors other books under his own name and his pseudonym Frank Leslie. I for one am glad that Peter managed to write a book that brings an end to Spurr’s career before Berkley stopped publishing westerns so that Spurr didn’t become another hero that just vanished as a publisher cancelled a series without giving the author a chance to bring about a satisfying conclusion to his characters escapades.

This book offers everything Brandvold’s followers could ask for; a fast paced plot, tough characters – both male and female, some explicit sex, plenty of brutal action and occasional moments of humour. In fact there are some great one-liners to be found in this book, mainly coming from Morgan or Drago as they reflect on old age.

So does Spurr survive this assignment or does he meet his end by bullet or heart attack? I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out, and hopefully enjoy this excellent story as much as I did. 


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Bearer of the Pipe

THE SPANISH BIT SAGA #24
By Don Coldsmith
Paperback edition, Bantam, March 1996

From his auspicious birth, Wolf Pup has demonstrated an instinct for the ways of the wild. Yet it is in the lodge of his grandfather Singing Wolf that he seeks his true calling: medicine man and future bearer of the story skins, the pipe, and the sacred Spanish bit. But before he can claim his destiny Wolf Pup must undertake a perilous vision quest. He must learn to see through the eyes of the deer, soar with the red-tailed hawk, sit coiled with the snake in the grass. Then a whirlwind of terror, an instant of destruction, will leave his village in ruins and chase the life-giving herds of buffalo across the horizon and beyond the People’s reach. Suddenly Wolf Pup discovers the burden of being Pipe Bearer may require the most profound and painful sacrifice of all.

As this is a generational saga it comes as no surprise that Don Coldsmith has to return to similar themes in some of the entries to this superb series. Here it’s the vision quests and the calling of a medicine man. Coldsmith tells this kind of tale so well, confusing both his characters and readers with the true meaning of these vision quests and only revealing the truth when he is good and ready.

Wolf Pup has a distraction though, a girl he hoped to marry someday is courting another, so jealously is an emotion to cope with, something that Pup struggles with. These feelings beautifully written and make Wolf Pup so very human.

Don Coldsmith also describes events in such a way that you’ll feel you are sharing the dangers, excitement and wonders with his characters. The whirlwind build up and destructive force being one of the highlights.

As I said the story may revisit certain themes we’ve read about in this series before, but Coldsmith combines them with new elements that makes the tale seem fresh and new making this a worthy entry into what has to be one of the best, if not the best, series written about the native Americans.