Saturday, 17 February 2018

A Sidekick's Tale

By Elisabeth Grace Foley
Published, November 2017

Illustrations by Annie Grubb

Meredith Fayett needed to marry someone before the week was out or she would lose her ranch. It sounded simple, so ranch hand Chance Stevens agreed to take on the job, in spite of his friend Marty’s warnings that it could only lead to trouble. But even Marty, a loyal though opinionated sidekick, couldn’t have predicted the mayhem that ensues when his own eccentric relatives appear on the scene, dragging Chance, Marty, and Meredith into the latest skirmish in a long running family feud.

What follows is a hilarious tangle involving an emerald ring, a fearsome aunt, a scheming suitor, and a term of runaway mules – by the end of which Chance finds that even a marriage just on paper has its complications, and that it never hurts to have a good sidekick.

Elisabeth Grace Foley takes the age-old plot of a young, pretty, girl about to lose her ranch to the bank, and comes up with a fresh, and extremely enjoyable, approach to resolving this problem.

Elisabeth’s character studies are superbly portrayed and the story is beautifully told through Marty, and it’s his observations that offer most of the witty and laugh aloud moments that come thick and fast throughout this fun read.

Marty’s extended family and their polite generational feud provide the complications to what should have been a straightforward solution to retaining the ranch and I don’t think any reader will be able to forget Aunt Bertha for a long time. 

There are also a number of surprises that offer some great plot twists that will have you wondering how the lead characters are going to solve them satisfactory.

I’ve read a number of Elisabeth Grace Foley’s stories, and reviewed them on Western Fiction Review, and like those I found this one to be as thoroughly entertaining as any of them. In fact I’m even thinking it’s time I read her non-western books too.


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Wanted: Dead

MAGGIE O’BANNEN #2
By Joe Slade
Piccadilly Publishing, April 2018 

‘Frank O’Bannen wanted five thousand dollars to let you go. I offered him ten thousand to kill you.’

Kidnapped at sixteen, Maggie O’Bannen returns home after seven years to be reunited with her father. No longer the idealistic girl she once was, her return is meant to help put her demons to rest. Instead, it sets in motion a series of events that will put her on a collision course with trouble, and this time, Maggie has no qualms about speeding towards it.

Discovering who was behind her abduction is just the beginning. Murder with no apparent motive and no suspect soon brings her under the scrutiny of the local sheriff. As the body count rises, Maggie fights for her life against a foe who will stop at nothing to win.

As events escalate, Maggie will need to rely on her friends more then ever before if she is to survive. But at what cost?

After the excellent first book I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the second entry into this series and the author has once again written a superb story that is, perhaps, even better than the pervious tale. I say perhaps because that will be down to individual taste as that opening story is a lot more graphic in its descriptions of violence and in this one it’s been toned down a little. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a criticism in any way, and there is certainly some very hard hitting bloody action to be found in this story, especially towards the end that will satisfy all readers who like this kind of content in their reading material. 

This time around Joe Slade includes a perfect blend of murder mystery into the story that never loses its western atmosphere and this very welcome element grabs hold of the reader urging you to keep turning the pages as you will want to discover who is poisoning Maggie’s father, and more importantly why. There are also numerous attempts on Maggie’s life and this brings forward additional questions of whether this is the same person who is slowly killing her father or is it someone else? All this makes for some gripping reading.

Like in the first book, Maggie must suffer some brutality, and not all her friends will escape unscathed. The final confrontation makes for an exciting and satisfying conclusion to this very fast paced tale and, once again, leaves me impatiently waiting for the third book to be released.



Sunday, 4 February 2018

THE RIMROCKER and THE OUTLAWED

SHAWN STARBUCK 1 & 2
By Ray Hogan
Piccadilly Publishing; January 2018

THE RIMROCKER – It was more than Shawn Starbuck had reckoned for. Unceasingly he had searched for his brother – a legacy at stake for them both – asking endless questions on numberless trails, in sun baked-towns, at desolate huts and sprawling ranches . . . and now it seemed, at long last, his search would end. Only it wasn’t that simple. Suddenly there were three desperate men on the scene – cutthroats and renegades – each staunchly determined to see Starbuck dead. If they couldn’t do the job, the richest man in the territory would hire gunslingers who could. Starbuck had a choice. He could turn tail, clear out, and save his hide. But he wasn’t the kind of man who dodged trouble – no matter what the odds.

THE OUTLAWED – Starbuck had ridden endless miles over the trackless southwest on an unending quest for his brother. Now he was almost on the heels of the man who might be Ben. But deep in the wilds of Arizona, Starbuck stopped to aid a stranger against savage Apaches, a man on a mysterious mission of his own, a man who led Starbuck into a web of vengeance and bloody violence.

Piccadilly Publishing continue their own quest to bring back excellent westerns from the past so that those who may have missed them the first time around can discover new authors or heroes. This is the case for me. I have long been aware of Ray Hogan, and his twenty-four-book series published in the 1970’s featuring Shawn Starbuck, but have never got around to reading these books, or any others by this author. Packaging two books in each ebook edition at very attractive prices made it a perfect opportunity for me to try Ray Hogan’s work and I’m extremely glad I did.

The first thing that struck me was how well these books, both originally published in 1970, stand up with those being published today. True, Starbuck may have a very obvious belief in the difference between right and wrong, whereas modern western writers often grey that area, but this was one of the things that appealed to me about Starbuck. The fact that he won’t back down until justice is served as he sees it should be is a strong and memorable trait of the character.

As expected the first book tells of Starbuck’s past, of why he is hunting his brother. It also explains Starbuck’s ability of using his fists and this type of fighting features heavily in both these stories, as I imagine it will in the rest of the series. Both tales seem to be straight-forward in plot but then Hogan injects twists that took me by surprise and heightened my enjoyment of these well written and very readable books.

It is rare for me to read two books by the same author one after the other, but on finishing The Rimrocker I just had to dive straight into The Outlawed and on finishing the second story I found myself wondering how it is I’ve only just discovered this terrific series and author and now I’m chomping at the bit waiting for the next two books to be published, and as it seems Piccadilly are hoping to put these double volumes out bi-monthly I haven’t got long to wait.


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Ride Harder

By Gordon L. Rottman
The Hartwood Publishing Group, January 2017

Cowpuncher Bud Eugen and his resourceful fiancée Marta confront all kinds of dangers in late 1880’s Texas, both old and newfangled. When the seed money for Bud and Marta’s ranch is stolen from a local bank out of its Yankee-made safe, along with an Army arms shipment, Bud and Marta go back to Mexico to secure their future and that of Texas itself, come hell, high water, or steam-powered locomotives.

This is the second book in what has now become known as The Ride trilogy. I read the first book, The Hardest Ride, some time ago and really enjoyed it. That book also won the 2014 Peacemaker Award for best western novel. Finding out that Gordon had published a sequel to that book put it on my must read list.

The story is told in the first person through Bud and I soon found myself becoming involved in the lives of both him and his mute wife-to-be Marta, and the many other excellently crafted characters that this story revolves around.

Once again the relationship between Bud and Marta is extremely well told and you’ll share their frustrations and joys as Bud tries to have Marta stay at home whilst he goes on his dangerous assignment to retrieve or destroy some stolen Gatling guns whilst at the same time getting back his stolen money in the face of impossible odds. Even though Marta is unable to speak you’ll have no problems understanding her motivations and thoughts through Rottman’s descriptions of her actions. 

Throughout the story the author includes a lot of information about the workings of not just the Gatling guns but a variety of other weapons too.

As Bud infiltrates the rebel Mexican army whose General intends to carve out a piece of both Mexico and Texas for himself you’ll soon be wondering along with Bud how he can possibly achieve his aim. The more characters we meet the more complicated the plot becomes and as the rebel army grows into hundreds Bud comes up with a reckless, spur of the moment plan to complete his task which involves a stolen steam locomotive.

The book contains plenty of bloody action, particularly when the Gatling’s are used in anger and the final bid for freedom is filled with some dramatic and tense scenes.

Gordon L. Rottman concludes his tale with a chapter that explains what happens to the survivors for the rest of their lives which brings a very satisfying ending to his stories of Bud and Marta. So how does the third book, Marta’s Ride fit in? All will be revealed when I get around to reading it and if it’s anywhere near as good as the first two books then I’m sure I’m in for a very entertaining read indeed. 


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Iron Eyes the Spectre

By Rory Black
The Crowood Press, December 2017

Having delivered the body of wanted outlaw Mason Holt to the sheriff at Diablo Creek, infamous bounty hunter Iron Eyes collapses, badly wounded, and his would-be sweetheart Squirrel Sally desperately tries to find a doctor to help him.

However, unknown to Sally, she is heading into a dangerous and uncharted desert where a mysterious tribe of Indians live. Then when Holt’s older brothers discover their sibling is dead, they vow revenge and set out after the man who killed him. Soon both outlaws and Indians alike realize how dangerous Iron Eyes is.

The Iron Eyes series began way back in June 1999 and has gone from strength to strength ever since. Iron Eyes the Spectre being the twenty-eighth book in the series. Rory Black is a pseudonym used by Michael D. George and under his own name and other pseudonyms he’s written many Black Horse Westerns making up a variety of series along with a few stand-alone titles. Whenever I want a fast, action packed read I’ll often reach for one of his books because I know for sure I’ll be getting just that.

Iron Eyes the Spectre starts with the wounded bounty hunter travelling unconscious in the back of Sally’s stagecoach. It isn’t long before Sally is fighting for their lives as the Indians attack. This makes for some tense reading as you have to wonder how a heavy stagecoach can outrun the assault.

Every now and again the author leaves Sally and Iron Eyes in a deadly situation to write a chapter detailing how the older Holt brothers find out about the death of their younger sibling. This discovery leads to a violent reaction that eventually sees them heading into the desert in pursuit of Iron Eyes.

The author is extremely good with his descriptions of both characters and action scenes. Iron Eyes attempt to free Sally from the Indians is both dramatic and entertaining. His plan desperate and foolhardy leading to a humorous exchange to finish the book that left a grin on my face and the hope that it isn’t too long before the next Iron Eyes adventure is published.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Wild Blood

HERNE THE HUNTER #22
By John J. McLaglen
Piccadilly Publishing, February 2018

Originally published by Corgi, 1983

Herne has been hired by Major Russell to stop the man who was blackmailing him over his youngest daughter’s gambling debts. What Herne discovered was that Cassie was involved in much more than just gambling – she was living in a world of violence, pornography and murder – and it was up to Herne to get her out.

Herne the Hunter is one of my favourite series written by the group of authors known today as The Piccadilly Cowboys. The writers behind the John J. McLaglen pseudonym being Laurence James and John B. Harvey, the latter of which wrote this entry into the series.

In many ways this book reads like a detective mystery as Herne delves into the background of the Russell family and those running the gambling house. This leads to attempts on his life and then we get the western elements back in full as Herne pursues two hired guns and shows he isn’t above treating the culprits brutally to get the information he needs. Of course everything isn’t as straight-forward as it seems and Harvey includes many twists and turns, not least the fact that no-one seems concerned with finding who killed a man named Conners, this dead man being the previous person Major Russell hired to stop the blackmail.

One of the things that makes this book stand-out from other westerns is the plot involving pornography, something that doesn’t appear to often in the genre, so if you are looking for a story that offers something a bit different then this book could be worth considering.

Harvey’s character studies are well done, each having their own personalities. His descriptive scenes creating an intense backdrop against which the plot is played out in all its brutality, and the violent acts are graphically illustrated.

Fans of this series, and others written by the Piccadilly Cowboys, will not want to miss this one and I believe any western reader will find much to commend in this book too.


Sunday, 31 December 2017

Westerns read during 2017

I managed to read a few more westerns this year than last even though I haven't managed to find the time to write and post reviews for all of them yet, hopefully I will catch up soon. Clicking on the book number will take you to the review.


JANUARY READS – 2 books

1. Deception Creek by Ned Oaks
2. The Range Detectives #2: Hang Them Slowly by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone



FEBRUARY READS – 3 books

3. Outlaw Express by Gillian F. Taylor
4. Cotton’s Inferno by Phil Dunlap
5. Blaze 15: Red Rock Rampage by Ben Boulden



MARCH READS – 5 books

6. Taggart’s Crossing by Paul Bedford
7. Coyote Courage by Scott Harris
8. Incident at Pegasus Heights by I.J. Parnham
9. The Iron Horse Chronicles #3: Golden Spike by Robert Lee Murphy
10. Brothers in Blood by Lee Lejeune 



APRIL READS – 4 books

11. Lady Gunsmith #1: The Legend of Roxy Doyle by J.R. Roberts
12. From the Vineyards of Hell by Harry Jay Thorn
13. Way of the Lawless by P. McCormac
14. Gideon Ryder #2: Rough Justice by Lyle Brandt



MAY READS – 5 books

15. Borrachón by Kevin Cullen
16. Wanted 2 – various authors
17. The Mountain of the Wolf by Elisabeth Grace Foley
18. Massacre at Red Rock by Jack Martin
19. To the Far Sierras by Will DuRey



JUNE READS – 5 books

20. The Gunsmith #30: The Ponderosa War by J.R. Roberts
21. The Spanish Bit Saga #24: Bearer of the Pipe by Don Coldsmith
22. LeRoy U.S. Marshal by Neil Hunter
23. To the Death by Scott Connor
24. Six Bullets Left by Barry Cord



JULY READS – 3 books

25. Rusty Spurr #2: The Old Wolves by Peter Brandvold
26. The Landon Saga #10: Midway by Tell Cotten
27. Brock Clemons #2: Coyote Creek by Scott Harris



AUGUST READS – 3 books

28. Gunpowder Empire by Matt Cole
29. A Short Ride to Hell by Paul Green
30. The Judge #10: Death Warrant by Hank Edwards



SEPTEMBER READS – 4 books

31. Widowmaker Jones by Brett Cogburn
32. Maggie O’Bannen #1: Days of Evil by Joe Slade
33. Pirates of the Desert by C.J. Sommers
34. Legacy of a Gunfighter by Terry James



OCTOBER READS – 5 books

35. John Hawk #1: Hell Hath No Fury by Charles G. West
36. The Holmbury County Seat War by K.S. Stanley
37. Remington 1894 by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
38. Blaze #18: Spanish Gold by Ben Boulden
39. 52 Western Novels by Scott Harris and Paul Bishop



NOVEMBER READS – 5 books

40. An Arizona Christmas by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
41. Lew Eden #1: Bugles and Blood by Ben Bridges and Brent Towns
42. Wilkie John #1: A World of Hurt by Tim Bryant
43. A Dark Dawn in Texas by Richard Smith
44. Bone Treasure by Paul Bedford



DECEMBER READS – 6 books

45. James Harding #: Lone Oak by Phillip Hardy
46. Blade #1: The Indian Incident by Matt Chisholm
47. Dead Man at Snake’s Creek by Rob Hill
48. Ride Harder by Gordon L. Rottman
49. Herne the Hunter #22: Wild Blood by John J. McLaglen
50. Iron Eyes the Spectre by Rory Black