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




Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Dead Man at Snake's Creek

By Rob Hill
The Crowood Press, December 2017

Credence, Texas, is a one-horse town. Dying on its feet since the closure of the Shawnee Trail, the place is divided by bitterness, resentment and feuds that have smouldered on for years.

This is what Johnny Hartford finds when he returns home for his brother’s wedding. Ten years before, he left the town in a blaze of glory to travel to Chicago and become a Pinkerton Agent. But that was before the war. Now everything has changed: his dying father will barely speak to him, his brother is running wild and longhorn rustling is rife. Determined to make amends with his family and catch the cattle thieves, Hartford turns to old Sheriff Milton for help. But the day after he arrives, a prominent local rancher is shot in the back and Hartford discovers that almost everyone in town has a reason for wanting him dead.

The story opens with the murder of the rancher by an unknown killer and it isn’t long before the author has the reader meeting a number of people who all have reason for wanting the rancher dead, and the mention of items in that opening scene take on more significance, perhaps pointing at the identity of the killer?

Rob Hill doesn’t include a lot of gunplay in this gripping tale, it isn’t needed. There is more than enough intrigue to hold any reader’s attention as Hartford struggles to solve the mystery of who killed the rancher whilst seeking out, and stopping the cattle rustlers.

Hill’s prose is very descriptive and at times almost poetic and captivates the imagination well, painting vivid imagery in the minds-eye. His story development is well paced and contains a number of surprises. Even after all the denials from a number of characters as to being the killer, imagine the frustrations Hartford faces when a handful of those people all declare themselves the murderer.

With Dead Man at Snakes Creek, Rob Hill once again proves to me that he is an author worth reading as this story is every bit as enthralling as any of the others I’ve read by him and once more I’m left eagerly looking forward to the release of his next book.


Friday, 22 December 2017

Lone Oak

JAMES HARDING #2
By Phillip Hardy
BHC Press/Gelan, October 2017

James Harding rides into the small town of Lone Oak and straight into trouble. Dean Morrish and his pals have been running roughshod over the townsfolk, but that is all about to come to an end. The spoiled son of the largest rancher in the area has never run into someone quite like the average-looking, sarsaparilla-drinking man on the dusty buckskin horse.

The mild-mannered stranger will allow himself to be belittled and pushed to a point. Then he pushes back, hard! But will the town of Lone Oak learn its lesson, or will James Harding finally meet his maker?

I’ve not read the first book, Vengeance is Mine, in this series but Phillip Hardy includes enough information in this one to give plenty of details as to what happened to Harding, his family and friends to fill in Harding’s backstory thus explaining how he became the man he is in this chapter of his life. 

Harding is a man who tries to live as a good Christian but also allows his darker side to emerge in an explosion of violence when required. These two sides of his character make James Harding a fascinating person to read about, especially as you can never be sure how he’ll react in any given situation. His inner conflicts between dark and light will also cause problems with developing feelings for the woman he attempts to help.

Phillip Hardy has crafted a well-structured story that revolves around a set of terrific characters. There is plenty of action and hard-hitting scenes and the outcome for some people is surprising, certainly not as expected. Even though this story contains a lot of dark elements the tale ends, as you’d expect from a Christian western, with encouraging expectations for a brighter future. But will these hopes become reality as a third book has been announced, Fool’s Gold, for a 2018 release. I for one am looking forward to finding out.



Also available as an ebook

Monday, 18 December 2017

The Indian Incident

BLADE #1
By Matt Chisholm
Piccadilly Publishing, January 2018

Originally published in 1978 by Hamlyn Paperbacks

Blade – Tough, tender and temperamental. Slow to anger, fast with a gun and no slouch with women. A man tempered by the West, dangerous living and a perpetual gamble with death.

The Women – The Indian girl: lovely waif of a grisly massacre. The Mexican girl: mettlesome as a thoroughbred filly and heiress to half New Mexico. Both of them more desirable than the women of men’s dreams.

The Killers – Drawn to gold like steel to a magnet, blind to mercy, indifferent to death, they plundered the living and the dead. The scourge of the West.

Matt Chisholm is an alias for English author Peter Watts, who also wrote westerns under a couple of other pen-names. Matt Chisholm is the name he is best known by though and he wrote both series and stand-alone titles under this pseudonym. He is also one of the authors I actively sought out each new release back in the day. For me, it is great to see Piccadilly Publishing bringing the superb Blade series back into the limelight.

At the beginning of the story we find Joe Blade shoeless, horseless and without weapons, all having been stolen from him. Blade is hunting down those responsible for his current predicament and it’s whilst doing this he stumbles onto the site of a massacre of Indians and discovers the only survivor and the action never lets up from there.

Chisholm introduces a whole load of terrific characters such as Crazy Annie, someone I don’t think any of us will forget quickly. Then there’s the half-breed, George McMasters, and a great selection of outlaws. The story switches between the various groups before they all come together for a prolonged final showdown that offers a number of twists and surprises along with a variety of deadly situations that will have you wondering how anyone can possibly escape with their lives, never-mind the gold.

If you’ve never read any of Matt Chisholm’s books, then this is a great place to introduce yourself to his work. His pacing is excellent, his characters are tough, his plots gripping, his action vivid without being too graphic and he doesn’t include explicit sex scenes and bad language is used sparingly. 

I will also add that to get the best enjoyment from the Blade series you should try to read them in order as a number of characters appear in more than one book.

Top entertainment from yesteryear that more than matches anything being written today.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Bone Treasure

By Paul Bedford
The Crowood Press, November 2017

In a sheltered basin, high up in Colorado’s remote Rocky Mountains, two field collectors discover an awesome array of dinosaur bones. Knowing that two competing and irreconcilably hostile palaeontologists will pay big money for knowledge of such a find, the men realise that they have struck bone treasure. Unfortunately for all concerned, a supposedly extinct race of Anasazi Indians regard these relics as sacred and are prepared to slaughter anyone who tries to remove them.

Only one of the men makes it back to Denver, his hair turned prematurely white by his horrifying experiences, but what he brings with him touches off an unstoppable chain of events.

Joe eagle, a frontiersman desperately in need of money, agrees to lead a large party into the Rockies to plunder the fossil beds, but word of the find has got around and their ruthless competitors are never far away. And, somewhere up ahead, the terrifying Anasazi await them all…

From the opening scenes of almost palpable tension Paul Bedford had me hooked. His story is filled with superb characters, from the out-of-their-depth scientists to tough hired guns, the hard-as-nails Joe Eagle and the savage Anasazi I was soon wondering how many would be left alive at the end. The author also includes elements of mystery, such as why Joe Eagle needs money and who is supplying information to the rival bone hunters?

Once the searchers begin to home in on their prize the book becomes one long struggle to stay alive and the author paints some horrific scenes, not least what happens to one man caught by the Anasazi. As well as this ancient race of Indians wanting to protect what they see as their property they also set out to kill all those who venture onto the land as they need to keep their presence a secret as well as the location of the bones. You’d have thought the white men would have the advantage with their guns against the Anasazi’s stone tipped weapons but the ferocious Indians prove to be more than a match for the bone seekers.

As Joe Eagle’s party is whittled down you have to wonder how the survivors will get out with any bones assuming they get to them, as there is the second group of fossil hunters waiting to ambush them on their return journey.

So are the bones worth the cost in human life? Does anyone survive? Not for me to reveal the answers to those questions here but I will suggest you grab a copy of this book and find out for yourselves and at the same time you’ll discover why I keep reading Paul Bedford’s books and am looking forward to his next. 



Also available as an ebook