Tuesday, 14 November 2017

A World of Hurt

By Tim Bryant
Pinnacle, December 2017

Wilkie John Liquorish is an outlaw as unusual as his name, facing trial in 1882 Fort Worth for the deaths of sixty people and eight hundred head of cattle. Is he responsible? Not really. Is he guiltless? Not at all …

For a young man of seventeen, Wilkie John Liquorish has lived one sorry life. From his ill-fated stint in the U.S. Army to a back-breaking job as a gravedigger, Wilkie just can’t seem to catch a break. His latest gig – working a cattle drive from Mobeetie, Texas, to Fort Worth – is no exception. The food-poisoning death of a chuckwagon cook has everyone spooked, and fear spreads like a disease. Wilkie barely makes it out alive. But when he shows up in Fort Worth, he has another kind of death waiting for him – in the unlikely form of Gentleman Jack Delaney …

A fancily-dressed bounty hunter from New Orleans, Gentleman Jack is ready to nail and hang young Wilkie as soon as he arrives in town. He claims the boy is the most wanted outlaw in Texas. If Wilkie can manage to outsmart, outrun, or outgun this not-so-gentle man, he just might go down in history. Or swing from a tree. Or both …

Although Tim Bryant has had a number of books published, this, the first western to carry his name, is my introduction to his writing.

The book is written in the first person and is filled with colourful characters. Most of the story follows Wilkie John’s trial but this is broken up by many flashbacks that tell the sorry tale of how Wilkie has ended in this deadly situation. Tim Bryant builds the tension extremely well and you’ll soon be wondering how Wilkie can possibly escape with his life as Gentleman Jack and a preacher argue the points for either taking or saving his life.

Wilkie John’s backstory is one of adventure, love and violence. Wilkie has a wonderful way of getting round people who get in the way of him achieving his goals, yeap he ups and shoots them. So a white-hatted hero he isn’t.

Tim Bryant tells his story with style and includes a lot of dark humour in both Wilkie’s observations and some of the situations Wilkie finds himself in. Bryant’s descriptions are top class too, painting vivid imagery of both characters and surroundings. The author also has a number of surprises waiting in store too, but to say more would ruin the story for those intending to read it and those readers ought to include all fans of the western genre.

A World of Hurt is the first Wilkie John Western and the second, Dead and Buried is due out in June 2018 and I am certainly looking forward to reading it.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

An Arizona Christmas

By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, November 2017

Like most families, the Jensens gather together to celebrate the holidays. This year, since half the clan is scattered across the American West, they've decided to split the difference and meet up in Tucson. Matt and Luke will be there, for sure, and maybe Ace and Chance, too. That leaves Sally, Preacher, and Smoke Jensen, who've reserved three seats on a westbound stage to make sure they don't miss out on the festivities. What could possibly go wrong? 

Mother Nature is the first to strike, dusting up the trail with a sandstorm as blinding and deadly as any northern blizzard. Then comes an Apache ambush, forcing the passengers and drivers to seek shelter in a cave. Even if Smoke and Preacher manage to shoot their way out of this, they have another big surprise waiting--a ruthless gang of outlaws after the cargo of cash on the stage, happy to slaughter anyone who tries to stop them. If the Jensens hope to save Christmas this year, they'll need to save their own lives first . . .

The seventh Johnstone book set at Christmas and the first one I’ve read. Great to see the author bringing together some of the Johnstone’s greatest characters but as expected the trail to their Christmas rendezvous doesn’t run smoothly.

Most of the story concentrates on the dangers facing Smoke, Sally and Preacher as they journey together first by train and then stagecoach, and it’s whilst travelling on the latter that most of this tale revolves. The stage is also filled with a number of interesting characters too and the author often switches between them as well as those attempting to stop one of them reaching Tucson.

With outlaws, Apaches, and Mother Nature out to destroy the stagecoach and its passengers the book offers plenty of action and there is an impressive body count. Once the travellers are pinned down in a cave the tension mounts as you’ll be wondering just how they can possibly escape.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was the names of some of the characters, Ballard and Tuttle for instance which many long-time readers of westerns will recognize as past authors of the genre. A nod to those old time pulps which is strengthened by the comments in the last part of the story about newspaper reporters and writing for those pulps.

If you’re looking for a fast read that is packed with gunplay then this is certainly worth adding to your ‘want to read’ list. 


  

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Pirates of the Desert

By C.J. Sommers
Hale, December 2015

The locals call the sand dunes of the Arizona Territory south-land a white ocean. One man, Barney Shivers, carries the comparison a little further when he decides to monopolize the shipping industry. Ordering his men to attack any freight shipping that he does not control, goods are stolen and held to ransom on the high seas.

No one dares to fight back until one little old lady Lolly Amos, stands up to the bully. When the local law refuses to help, Lolly contacts her nephew, Captain Parthenon Downs of the Arizona Rangers. Restless to leave his desk duty behind, Captain Downs eagerly takes on the challenge. Little does he realize that his decision will draw him into a war between two bands of pirates, and a young woman with a Winchester rifle….

C.J. Sommers has created a wonderful cast of characters that will find themselves taking part in a lethal game, all due to the price of a bag of sugar.

Good, bad, male or female, the author soon has you rooting for or against them. The plot moves forward at an extremely fast pace and there are a few twists to the tale waiting to surprise the reader with the revelations they bring, not least as to the real identity of some of these characters.

It’s fascinating to see how Parth will bring down these land pirates, even though he knows, or believes he knows, who they are, getting the proof to arrest them is the hard part. Proving their guilt leads to plenty of gunplay as this tale weaves its way to its deadly conclusion.

I’ve read quite a few books by the author behind the C.J. Sommers pseudonym, that person being Paul Lederer who also wrote other Black Horse Westerns as Owen G. Irons and Logan Winters, and I’ve yet to come across one that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve yet to try anything by this author then this book would certainly be a great place to introduce yourself to his writing, and I’m sure after you’ve read it you’ll be hunting for his other books too.


Monday, 30 October 2017

Spanish Gold

BLAZE! #18
By Ben Boulden
Rough Edges Press, October 2017

The only thing Kate and J.D. Blaze had in mind when they rode into the settlement of Unity, Utah, was celebrating their wedding anniversary. But then J.D. is forced to kill a corrupt deputy in order to save a woman’s life, and suddenly the Old West’s only husband-and-wife gunfighters are plunged into a deadly mystery involving a sinister albino, missing men, and a lost treasure in Spanish gold.

This is Ben Boulden’s second entry in this fast moving series and it’s every bit as good as his first (#15: Red Rock Rampage).

The Blaze! books aren’t very long, this one coming in at 140 pages, but Ben Boulden still manages to pack a lot of action and intrigue into his story. His characters are well thought out and all have important parts to play during the search for Emma’s husband - Emma being the young woman J.D. saves from the unwanted advances of the deputy at the beginning.

Kate Blaze is just as tough as her husband and it’s often her that makes the major decisions as to just what trail they will follow in order to solve their current problems. She also has a tender side as we find out when they take a young boy under their wing.

The Blaze! books are marketed as being an adult western series but please don’t let that put you off trying this one if you don’t like explicit sex in your reading material. There is only one short chapter that deals with this aspect of the tale and that can easily be skipped without ruining the rest of the story.

Ben Boulden writes in a very readable style, never letting up on the rapid pace that leads to a gripping final gunfight that answers all the questions that have risen before this deadly confrontation. Once again I’m left looking forward to Ben Boulden’s next entry in this series.


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Remington 1894

By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, November 2017

As a teenager, John McMasters won the Medal of Honor as a sniper for the Union Army during the Civil War. Thirty years later, McMasters lives a peaceful life in the Arizona Territory, raising a family and running horses. These days, he needs eyeglasses to hit a distant target. But that doesn’t stop his wife and four children from buying him a special present for his fiftieth birthday: a beautiful new Remington shotgun. Turns out, he’s going to need it . . .

The Butcher gang has come to town. By the time McMasters learns of their arrival, they’ve invaded his ranch and slaughtered his family, hightailing it out of the country. McMasters wants revenge, using his new shotgun to hunt down those butchers like the animals they are, but he can’t do it alone. His friend, Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Kilpatrick, is hauling six of the deadliest criminals in the country to a prison in Yuma. They’re cutthroat killers, every bit as ruthless as the Butchers. But when McMasters points his Remington at their heads, they will become his killers . . .

A stand-alone novel from the Johnstone’s, which is a straight-forward tale of revenge. This story rattles along at a great pace, switching from one person to another regularly, as well as jumping back in time to fill in some of the backstory of a number of characters. These past events told in passages presented in italics.

The author has created a terrific bunch of characters on all sides. The change in McMasters is fascinating to read, as he goes from a man at peace with the world to one consumed by hatred and the lust for vengeance that will see him become a wanted man alongside those he frees to help him in his deadly mission.

His posse of prisoners include a broad mix of personalities, and more than one of these people would like nothing better than to kill one or two of their traveling companions, and of course most want to be free of McMasters too. How McMasters manages to keep himself awake so they don’t jump him during the night is both gruesome and ingenious. A neat touch is that one of these prisoners is a woman who seems to have a personal grudge against the Butchers too.

The book begins mid gunfight and then goes back to before the massacre of McMasters’ family and it takes nearly all the rest of the story to get back to that opening point. The pace is breathless, the action vicious and graphic. Part of the fun for me was wondering just who would be alive at the end, and that included McMasters. Of course I can’t answer that here but I will say that everyone who enjoys violent westerns full of brutal characters will find this to be a thoroughly entertaining read. This book certainly confirms why the Johnstone books are so popular with readers today and left me eager to pick up another as soon as I can.


Saturday, 21 October 2017

Days of Evil

MAGGIE O’BANNEN 1
By Joe Slade
Piccadilly Publishing, Nov. 2017

Kidnapped at the age of sixteen, Maggie has survived the fickle temper of notorious outlaw Mad Dog Frank O’Bannen for seven years. Now he is dead and she is about to find out that there are worse ways to live and die than as the wife of a wanted man.

Frank had prepared her as best he could for what would follow and when she leaves her prison in the hills. She has the blood of three men on her hands and knows the feel of hot lead. Soon her hard-won freedom is in doubt and she finds herself pursued by Frank’s old partner, a man with a vicious reputation and more than one score to settle.

Maggie has Frank’s gun, her keen wits and new friends to help her, but will they be enough to save her from the brutality of a maniac bent on revenge?

As well as bringing past western series back in the electronic format, Piccadilly Publishing also produces new works and Days of Evil is one of the latter. It is also the first to appear with the author name of Joe Slade.

It’s no secret that the name Joe Slade is a pseudonym and that the author behind it is Joanne Walpole who has had a number of excellent westerns published under another pen-name, that of Terry James and I’m sure that fans of those books will be eagerly looking forward to this one when it is released in a couple of weeks.

So is this new book similar to those put out under the Terry James name? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because it is told in the same gripping, easy to read, style that this author is known for, and that the story is well constructed and filled with excellent characters – both good and bad. No, due to the fact that this tale is much grittier than Jo’s previous works and contains hard hitting graphic violence.

Maggie O’Bannen is a fascinating character, a victim that has the chance to rise up and take control of her destiny. But this is no easy task for she will have to face some savage hardships to gain her freedom. The opening sequence of Maggie digging a grave really sets the tone of this book well and it isn’t long before Maggie finds herself confronting a killer who likes nothing better than murdering women with his bare hands.

Maggie isn’t alone in her fight as she soon finds herself sided with a terrific cast of misfits. Events escalate quickly to a final savage showdown and before the end the author certainly makes Maggie suffer. Maggie also has a tough decision to make regarding her past and future.

This book is definitely a page-turner that I couldn’t put down. Jo has created a superb new western heroine in Maggie O’Bannen and I’ve been left hungry for the second book in the series and can only hope it isn’t too long before it appears.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Holmbury County Seat War

By K.S. Stanley
The Crowood Press, September 2017

Who really was involved in the brutal massacre of a small village at the start of the American Civil War and what became of them? In this bitter tale, the truth doesn’t finally emerge until 1887 when good men turned bad fight ruthlessly to ensure that their town is elected as the Holmbury County Seat.

This is the second Black Horse Western to carry the author name of K.S. Stanley and the first I’ve read by this writer.

There’s a fair amount of action as people getting close to the truth of that long ago massacre end up with a bullet through their forehead, put there by an unknown assassin whose identity is one of the mysteries that make up this plot. Mostly this is a tale of political intrigue and hidden secrets that finally become a race against time to stop vote fixing through intimidation that sees some unusual items being used to halt the bullies crossing a river.

Lots of terrific characters, many seemingly not being completely truthful about who they really are or what they are really after, meant there were lots of plotlines to hold my attention in this well-crafted tale. There was one little mistake, when it was said that some messages would be sent via the pony express which wasn’t around at the time this story takes place, but this small slip-up didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book.

K.S. Stanley’s writing is extremely readable, the story being told in 19 chapters, each of which is broken down into many different scenes which in turn often sees a change in who is the featured character. 

The Holmbury County Seat War is one of the longer Black Horse Westerns so you certainly get value for your money.


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.


Friday, 25 August 2017

A Short Ride to Hell

By Paul Green
The Crowood Press, July 2017

When a Wells Fargo stage is robbed and all the passengers murdered, Sheriff Luke Callaghan is suspicious of Jackson Tate’s claim that this was the work of Apaches. He sets off in pursuit of Tate and his gang only to find himself battling a gun running Mexican bandit, Hector Salinas. Things go from bad to worse, and Callaghan is forced to defend his beloved town of Maxwell against attack, attempt to prove the innocence of his friend Matt Carver who is suspected of involvement in the robbery and rescue his sweetheart Christiana from kidnapping.

Black Horse Westerns aren’t long books, coming in at 160 pages, so all the elements of the story outlined above, and a few others, mean this fast moving tale is packed with action. In fact no sooner does one deadly encounter come to a conclusion than another starts. Amidst all this gunplay the author also manages to include a mystery element, as to who exactly informed Tate and his gang that the stage was carrying a valuable cargo.

Paul Green mixes a great cast of characters of bandits, Apaches, soldiers, lawmen, townsfolk and a very strong female role in the case of Christiana, that all may be who they say they are, or may not. The latter adding some surprises as truths are revealed as the story progresses. Green also has a neat twist waiting too, one that I didn’t see coming.

Having read a couple of Paul Green’s westerns previously, and enjoyed them, I had high hopes that this one would prove to be just as entertaining and it more than matched those earlier books, leaving me looking forward to reading another of his Black Horse Westerns very soon.



You'll notice a big difference in price in the two adds above, that's because one is for the hardback version and one for the ebook. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Death's-Head Trail

GUNN #3
By Jory Sherman
Zebra, 1980

After getting a gold claim on Grasshopper Creek, Gunn heads towards Bannock City to stake out his claim. There, he finds plenty of gold, girls and a ruthless, gunslingin’ outlaw called “Bull” Roumal who wants it all for himself.

When Gunn’s life is threatened by a band of Bull’s gunnies, he realizes he’ll have to find Roumal and set him straight. Both hands to his holster, Gunn begins his search in the local saloon. There, he meets the sumptuous Angela Larkin who offers him pleasure, passion and a few wise words that send him off hot … on Bull Roumal’s trail…

The title of this book refers to notes sent to miners threatening their lives if they don’t leave, each marked with a Death’s Head. As expected it isn’t long before Gunn gets one of these messages too but, of course, that isn’t going to set Gunn running scared, just makes him more determined to stay and fight for what’s his.

It’s the death of two girls that really sets Gunn on the warpath in this story that is full of action, be that gunplay or sexual (Gunn is an adult western series), both of which are often described in detail. Knowing that some readers don’t like explicit sex or bad language in their books I feel I must also point out that there is plenty of the latter too.

For those who don’t mind graphic violence, sex and profanities then this book is a terrific read. Jory Sherman has long been a writer whose work is held in high regard and you are pretty much guaranteed a gripping read from him. At times the story presents a dark, bleak take on life and the ending will leave Gunn mentally scared.

I’ve only read the first three Gunn books and on the strength of this, and the two before it, I really do need to find time to read more of this series.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Ponderosa War

THE GUNSMITH #30
By J.R. Roberts
Charter Books, July 1984

They called it Battles Mountain, but it belonged more to the bank than to the Battles family. Now, they have to get their timber down the mountain fast enough to stop the bank from reclaiming the land.

Clint Adams is just passing through North Dakota, but when the Battles brothers help him out in a fight, the Gunsmith feels obliged to return the favour – especially since they have a big, good-looking sister. Helping to fend off the unscrupulous “banker,” Clint comes head to head with a gunslinger out to make his reputation – over Clint’s dead body!

Like all Gunsmith books this is a fast paced tale that is dialogue driven. There’s plenty of action but it’s the showdown between Adams and the gunslinger, Wallmann, that provides the tension and anticipation that kept me turning the pages.

The author also manages to include a lot of information about the timber business and the various jobs that have to be done to get the trees down the mountain. None of this comes over as if you’re reading a how-to manual but as a natural part of the story that provides knowledge to the inquisitive Clint Adams.

With this book being part of an adult series there are a few explicit sexual encounters, but these are easily skipped if you don’t like to read this kind of thing and doing so won’t ruin the story. And this is certainly a very enjoyable tale that finishes with a neat ending as Wallmann and Adams come face-to-face.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Gunpowder Empire

By Matt Cole
The Crowood Press, July 2017

Raw hatred ravaged the range land!

Luke Bragg – a man with a dark past – has come to claim the sheep ranch his uncle left for him. Only once he arrives in Preston Gulch, Bragg soon finds himself in the middle of a range war with the valley’s two biggest cattle ranchers. This clash of interests, which Bragg tries to avoid, just escalates and he is the one the town thinks is the reason why. The cattlemen try to bolster their position by claiming that his sheep kill the grass by nibbling it too close and trampling the roots with their sharp hoofs. Then when the daughter of another rancher comes to town after the murder of her father, the truth about his murder sends the valley into chaos and threatens the empires that they had established with gunpowder.

This is Matt Cole’s third Black Horse Western and the first I have read. It is also the first BHW that I have read that begins with two poems. These are both about sheep and written by Arthur Chapman (June 25, 1873 – December 4, 1935). They set the mood for the book perfectly.

Matt Cole has created a great set of characters and surrounds them with mystery, the main one being who killed the rancher Flynn and why. There is also some mystery as to Luke Bragg’s past. All this grabbed my attention and encouraged me to read more.

There is plenty of action, and Bragg soon proves he’s a capable man when it comes to gunplay. Slowly the truth behind the murder is revealed and desperate men take drastic measures to keep their part in the killing hidden. Bragg has to be silenced, permanently, and a hired gun is brought in to do this which leads to an interesting proposition.

The story builds well to its violent final showdown where the truths are exposed and western justice is served, and all the story threads are tied up neatly. The final lines leaving me grinning and thinking it’s about time I caught up with Matt Cole’s two previous books.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Coyote Creek

BROCK CLEMONS #2
By Scott Harris
June, 2017

Brock Clemons leaves Dry Springs – and the people he’s grown to love – in search of his father, but his plans are altered when a brutal and shocking discovery in a creek bed leads him to new adventures, new friends and more than one near-death experience. As Brock navigates a series of eventful encounters with Indians, gunfighters and wealthy landowners, it leads him to evaluate where his heart truly lies. What did Brock find in Coyote Creek, and will he survive where it leads him?

This story is told mainly in the first person, through Brock Clemons, but every so often the author switches to the third person when telling his readers what other people, or animals, are doing. This allows him to introduce new characters to the series, some of whom have major parts to play in this tale, and others, I presume, that will have more significant roles in the third Brock Clemons adventure.

I mentioned animals in the previous paragraph, and as readers of the first book will know Clemons has a wild companion in the form of a Wolf and it’s great to see that this creature is still with him.

There is plenty of action and some tense scenes such as when the captive Clemons is taken into a Ute camp. Author Scott Harris isn’t above killing off some of his main characters either and there is one surprising and shocking death for Clemons and his new friends to deal with.

There is also a lot of soul searching for Clemons to do regarding his quest to find his father and his loyalties to those he’s left behind in Dry Springs and Scott Harris writes these mental battles as well as his action passages.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but in doing so new challenges are set, thus leaving the way open for the third book in the series, one I am certainly looking forward to reading.


Friday, 4 August 2017

Midway

THE LANDON SAGA #10
By Tell Cotten
Solstice Publishing, July 2017

All Yancy Landon wants is to get married. However, there’s always somebody eager to ruin a good day, and several misfortunes occur before the big event. Throughout the day, Yancy and Cooper get tangled up with a drunk, a rebellious youth, someone looking for revenge, a shy wife, a disgruntled cowman, and a disgraceful husband.

Told in the first person through Cooper Landon this book contains the usual mix of excitement and humour, the later mainly appearing during conversation in witty one-liners, that I’ve come to expect from Tell Cotten. Combined with his well-crafted characters and excellent plot-lines makes this a must read series. If you’ve yet to try the Landon Saga books may I suggest you start with the first one and read them in order as story-threads often continue from book to book.

I also find Tell Cotten’s writing very visual, and had a great big grin on my face as I imagined Yancy’s appearance when he arrives at the church for his wedding.

There are some excellent action scenes too, including a tense and violent showdown with the person looking for revenge.

We also get to meet a few new characters, a couple of which I hope there will be more about in future books.

The Landon Saga books aren’t long, meaning they don’t outstay their welcome. In fact I find them hard to put down tales that I usually read in one or two sittings. On finishing this one, like those that have gone before it, I find myself hoping Tell Cotten won’t take too long in writing and publishing the next one.

Tell Cotten is definitely one of the best western writers working today.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Six Bullets Left

By Barry Cord
Consul Books, 1961
Originally published in 1959

Something was wrong, dead wrong! The Texas Ranger called Solitary felt it before he was ten seconds inside town. Minutes later he knew it for sure – when the honest sheriff who’d sent for him tried to gun him down on sight.

And within the hour Solitary found that almost to a man the whole town hated him, sight unseen . . . even though he was their only chance to survive the terror.

Something was wrong indeed.

And Solitary Jackson was going to find out what it was!

I’ve read quite a few books by Barry Cord and this one was just as enjoyable as any of them. Told in a tough style the story really grabbed my attention from the opening sequence in which a man is killed by a strange arrow that is unrecognized by the townsfolk. So where did this arrow come from? Why was this man killed, after all he was just a tenderfoot Easterner dish washer in the local hotel wasn’t he? What was the note he threw into the Sheriff’s office just before his death? And as the story unfolds these aren’t the only questions that will need answering.

Barry Cord, a pseudonym used by Peter Germano, is a master at writing tense scenes, you share the frustrations, fear, anger and joy of his well-drawn characters who are often hiding their real identities. His pacing is superb as his plots twist their way to their satisfying conclusions. Six Bullets Left contains all these elements and left me wondering if there are any more Barry Cord books featuring Solitary Jackson.

One disappointing thing to note about this particular publication of Six Bullets Left is the amount of typos and the book even has a couple of lines missing in a gunfight that was a little frustrating – although it was possible to work out what had happened by what came next. Of course this isn’t the authors fault but that of the publisher, so you may prefer to find a different pressing to the one shown above and hope it doesn’t contain the typos this one does.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Half-Breed

ABILENE #5
By Justin Ladd
Pocket Books, December 1988

White Elk, a famous Indian Scout, is searching for his father on the bullet-strewn streets of Abilene. A half-breed, he runs into trouble when a band of Kiowa braves tracks him down, vowing vengeance on the man they call traitor.

The U.S. Cavalry arrives to keep the peace, but it’s up to Marshal Luke Travis and Deputy Cody Fisher to safeguard their hair-trigger town. One cavalry sergeant vows to settle his own score with White Elk – any dirty way he can. Forced to fight for his life, the half-breed becomes a lightning rod for slaughter. As Indians attack the Kansas boomtown, it’s a war to the bloody end!

Although many of the people who have appeared in the previous Abilene books have parts to play in this one too, they become secondary characters to White Elk and those directly involved in his quest to make peace with his father and those who are out to kill the half-breed.

Justin Ladd builds the suspense as to just when the Kiowa will hit town and also includes a secret that could explode at any time – something White Elks father is hiding from his son. And what of the seemingly growing attraction between the half-breed and his father’s new wife? That is something else that can only end in disaster surely? Sergeant Drake and Rita Nevins further complicate matters, the latter’s jealously perhaps about to lead to more deadly trouble for White Elk. So, as you’ll realize, there is plenty to keep the readers interest and to make you want to discover how it will all turn out.

The violence is hard-hitting and brutal at times, leading to a sad death for one of the characters. The final showdown with the Kiowa is a desperate struggle for White-Elk but as to why this is I can’t reveal here without spoiling that part of the story, so I guess you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.

If you enjoy series westerns, particularly those that revolve around a town and the people who make up its population then I can’t recommend this book, and the series, enough. Of course the fact that the man behind the pseudonym of Justin Ladd is James Reasoner should also tell you that you’ll be in for an excellent read if you can find a copy of this book.


Sunday, 2 July 2017

LeRoy U.S. Marshal

By Neil Hunter
Piccadilly Publishing, May 2017

No matter the odds, U.S. Marshal Alvin LeRoy always completed his assignments. That’s why they sent him after the Reno bunch. LeRoy was single-minded once he was on the trail. He wouldn’t back down and had a fearsome reputation for always finishing what he started.

His pursuit took him across southwest Texas, where he faced up to bushwhackers and the aftermath of a massacre as he relentlessly tracked down and dealt with the worst bunch he had come across in quite a while.

Following a trail of deception and danger, he eventually ended up in New York. Here he faced the menacing top man of the crime syndicate who was behind the whole affair, and didn’t stop until there wasn’t a man left standing.

Neil Hunter has been writing westerns for many years, most notably his Bodie the Stalker series and the Brand series. This, LeRoy U.S. Marshal, is the first in a new series, although readers of the book ten in the Bodie series will have already met LeRoy. Hunter also links Bodie and LeRoy in another way in this story but I can’t reveal the why and how here without spoiling the tale for those who’ve yet to read it.

As expected Neil Hunter has written a gripping story that is filled with action, tough characters and descriptive prose that paints vivid imagery within the mind’s eye. Hunter also includes a little of LeRoy’s backstory to explain what motivates him.

Neil Hunter has also chosen to present this fast paced tale without chapters, instead just relying on scene breaks when changing location or from one character to another.

On the strength of this book I’m hoping LeRoy will return in many more stories and that I won’t have to wait too long between books.