Monday, 25 January 2016

Fire Canoe Finnegan

By Denis J. Harrington & Charlie Steel
Condor Publishing, Inc., December 2015

Captain Glazer of the steamboat, The Dakota Dawn, hires Clint Finnegan to become his second in command and to learn to pilot the dangerous snag-filled waters of the Missouri River. What Finnegan didn’t expect on his very first trip was to have the army payroll stolen and a beautiful woman kidnapped. Risking his life, he chases after the girl and the money, ultimately encountering angry plains Indians protecting their hunting grounds. 

From the blurb, and cover illustration, you’d be forgiven expecting a book set mainly on a riverboat. True a fairly lengthy first part of the tale is, and this contains some fascinating information about the workings of a riverboat, but once the payroll is stolen and the young woman kidnapped and the riverboat disabled the story becomes land-based and changes from a story of life on the river to a much more straight-forward western full of deadly, brutal action as Finnegan encounters Indians, deserters, and gunrunners in his quest to retrieve the stolen payroll and, more importantly for him, the abducted woman.

The authors tell their tale from the point of view of many of the large cast of people, and at times Finnegan seems to become a secondary character but you know he’s there, in the background, never giving up his relentless pursuit.

Sadly Denis J. Harrington passed away in July 2015, before the book he had drafted was published. Charlie Steel had already teamed up with Denis to add polish and historical detail to the manuscript and I must say he has done a fine job.

Between them Harrington and Steel have come up with a very fast-paced tale that is extremely well-written making this a book all fans of westerns, and riverboats, will enjoy.


Sunday, 3 January 2016

Death School

HERNE THE HUNTER #14
By John J. McLagen
Piccadilly Publishing, January 2016

Originally published by Corgi, 1980

Herne had been reluctant to ride along with Sheriff Abernathy in a fool-hardy search for Senator Jackson’s daughter, who’d been captured by a ruthless Mescalero raiding party. The $5000 reward helped to change his mind. But he hadn’t reckoned on meeting those five savage white children, fresh out of Death School, or that ghost from the past hell-bent on revenge…

Death School is one of my favourite entries in the Herne the Hunter series and it is a book everyone who is following the series should not miss as we find out more about Herne’s past, his father in particular, and then there’s one of those killer kids who just may be….nope, I can’t reveal that here as I don’t want to spoil that storyline for those yet to read the book.

The author hiding behind the John J. McLagen pseudonym this time around is Laurence James and as would be expected you’ll find many references to western films and people in the book industry at the time it was written, for instance two artists who painted many of the covers for the westerns from the group of writers to become known as The Piccadilly Cowboys, the artists being Chris Collingwood and Colin Backhouse. There’s also mention of two other western series heroes, Crow and Cuchillo Oro.

Death School is a brutal book. Filled with hard characters, graphic violence and strong language. The five children will certainly remain in your mind for a long, long time after the shocking truth about them has been revealed as they led Herne into a deadly trap.

The story has a very powerful and memorable dark ending, the type of conclusion that keeps me coming back to this series time and again.

‘Boys nowadays. No pride, no self-respect. Plenty of gall but no sand.’ 


Thursday, 31 December 2015

Westerns read during 2015

The amount of westerns read this year is much lower then previous years due to a rekindled interest in one of my other hobbies, photography. This has been taking up a lot of my time meaning the hours I have for reading has become much less. Clicking on a number will take you to the review.


JANUARY READS – 5 books

1. Broken Arrow by Dale Mike Rogers
2. The Revenant by Michael Punke
3. Misty Blue #1: The Last Mountain Man by Tony Masero
4. Death Comes Easy by Will Black
5. Dead Man River by Tyler Hatch


FEBRUARY READS – 5 books

6. The Evil Men Do a Ralph Compton novel by David Robbins
7. The Curly Wolf by M.R. Kayser
8. Wanderlust Creek and other stories by Elisabeth Grace Foley
9. Hanging Day by Rob Hill
10. The Gunsmith #399: Death in the Family by J.R. Roberts


MARCH READS – 6 books

11. Arkansas Bushwhackers by Will DuRey
12. Longarm #436: Longarm and the Model Prisoner by Tabor Evans
13. The Landon Saga #5: Yancy by Tell Cotten
14. All Must Die by I.J. Parnham
15. Rawhide Express by Jake Douglas
16. Sundance #6: The Bronco Trail by John Benteen


APRIL READS – 4 books

17. Lords of an Empty Land by Randy Denmon
18. Outlaw Ranger by James Reasoner
19. Crossroads by Logan Winters
20. The Lightning Kid by James Clay


MAY READS – 4 books

21. .45-Caliber Left to Die by Peter Brandvold
22. The Landon Saga #6: Lee by Tell Cotten
23. Reins of Satan by Lee Clinton
24. Emmett Strong #1: Strong Convictions by GP Hutchinson


JUNE READS – 6 books

25. I Am the Law! By Hank J. Kirby
26. Once More into the Breech by Peter Brandvold
27. The Gun Master by Rory Black
28. The Spanish Bit Saga #22: Track of the Bear by Don Coldsmith
29. Gila Monster by Colin Bainbridge
30. Morgan Kane #12: Storm over Sonora by Louis Masterson


JULY READS – 4 books

31. Shawn O’Brien #2: Manslaughter by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
32. Gunn #3: Death’s-Head Trail by Jory Sherman
33. Blind-Sided by Billy Hall
34. Buckshot Ridge by Jake Douglas


AUGUST READS – 3 books

35. The Law and the Lawless a Ralph Compton novel by David Robbins
36. The Iron Horse Chronicles #2: Bear Claws by Robert Lee Murphy
37. Bandit’s Gold by Alex Frew


SEPTEMBER READS – 3 books

38. Jefferson’s Saddle by Will DuRey
39. Desperate Straits by Janet Squires
40. Guns on the Prairie by David Robbins


OCTOBER READS – 4 books

41. The Gamblers of Wasteland by Jim Lawless
42. Bodie meets Brand: Two Guns North by Neil Hunter
43. Coyote Moon by Ralph Hayes
44. Shadow of the Hawk by Ron Honthaner


NOVEMBER READS – 4 books

45. The Smiling Hangman by Owen G. Irons
46. Misfit Lil Rides In by Chap O’Keefe
47. The Landon Saga #7: They Rode Together by Tell Cotten
48. Texas Hills a Ralph Compton novel by David Robbins


DECEMBER READS – 5 books

49. Scattergun Smith by Max Gunn
50. Abilene #5: The Half-Breed by Justin Ladd
51. The Badge #7: The Imposter by Bill Reno
52. Herne the Hunter #14: Death School by John J. McLagen
53. Fire Canoe Finnegan by Denis J. Harrington & Charlie Steel

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Misfit Lil Rides In

By Chap O’Keefe
Black Horse Extra Books, August 2015

Originally published by Hale, July 2006.

A band of Apache bucks led by a charismatic hothead abandons reservation life to go on a bloody rampage. In pursuit with Lieutenant Michael Covington’s cavalry detail is civilian scout Jackson Farraday. But a showdown looms between the pair when Jackson is misled by Lilian Goodnight, a harum-scarum youngster who boasts the handle “Misfit Lil, Princess of Pistoleers.” After a clash with the Apaches and the slaughter of an Army paymaster and his escort, Jackson is fired. But his troubles are only just beginning when he’s framed for murder by crooked Sheriff “Wheezer” Skene. Can Misfit Lil make amends by saving her reluctant hero? 

This is the first in the Misfit Lil series written by Keith Chapman under the pseudonym of Chap O’Keefe, and it introduces the reader to a number of characters that will return in later books.

Even though Misfit Lil is the main character of the series this one features, and follows, Jackson Farraday’s misfortunes as much as it does Lil’s. Her infatuation with Jackson is a joy to read as are his attempts to keep her at arms-length and out of harm’s way.

There’s plenty of action and one or two surprises as Lil attempts to prove Jackson’s innocence and you’ll certainly share her frustrations as Covington always sees the worst in her and would rather slap her in jail than believe anything she has to say.

Keith Chapman also includes moments of humour, particularly evident in the explanation of how Lil got her Misfit name.

Misfit Lil Rides In is a very entertaining read that will make you want to read the rest of the series – there are seven books in total.

Keith Chapman also includes a bonus feature, Heroines of the Wilder West, which makes for a great read too.


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Scattergun Smith

By Max Gunn
Hale, November 2015

Scattergun Smith is not in the habit of leaving unfinished business. When he sets out after the infamous outlaw Bradley Black, his search leads him across dangerous terrain, and every fibre of his being tells him that he is travelling headfirst into the jaws of trouble. But Smith is like a hunting dog and will not quit tracking his prey.

Black has not only wronged the youngster Smith, but has killed innocent people, and has to pay. Scattergun is determined to catch and end the life of the ruthless outlaw before Black claims fresh victims. It will take every ounce of his renowned expertise to stop Black, and prove why he is called Scattergun Smith.

Scattergun Smith is named after the twin scatterguns he carries, one holstered on each hip, and these weapons see plenty of action as Smith not only has to deal with Black and his companions but a handful of gunmen sent to take him out by a person unknown.

Smith is more than capable to take care of threats to his life in human form but it’s a deadly dust-storm that proves to be his deadliest foe. This storm being the backdrop against which most of this story is played out. The author describing the power and destruction of the storm extremely well.

The author also keeps the reason Smith is hunting Black a secret for much of the book, at times I wondered if this was to remain a mystery completely, but no, all is revealed eventually.

Max Gunn is a new author name to front a Black Horse Western but I reckon I could take an educated guess as to who the writer is behind the name due to how he describes his characters as much as anything else. Let’s just say if you like the Iron Eyes series of westerns by Rory Black you’re sure to enjoy this one.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Texas Hills

A Ralph Compton novel by David Robbins
Signet, November 2015

Owen Burnett’s needs are small. All he’s ever wanted is his wife’s affection, his children’s health, and a little plot of land to farm. Still, he’s no fool. So when his neighbour Gareth Kurst makes him a business proposition that could leave him richer than he’s ever dreamed, he can’t refuse giving the risky scheme a try.

Rounding up cattle in the Texas hill country is nothing to take lightly. Between the Comanches roaming the countryside and the horns of the beasts he’s hunting down, Owen knows every second he spends out in the wild puts his life in plenty of danger. But the greatest threat to his person is one he never expected: his ruthless and conniving business partner, who has no plans of ever sharing his bounty….

The mix of three very different families trying to work alongside each other without killing each other, an old mountain man, and a band of Comanches on the warpath, makes for many tense situations, especially when the Comanches begin to raid farms where the womenfolk have been left alone. These suspense filled raids being one of highlights of this excellent tale.

Like in much of David Robbins’ work the importance of family bonds plays a major part of the motivations of a lot of the characters. Greed drives some too. There is also a growing romance between an unlikely pair that provides a lot of the humorous moments within the story.

The book begins like a slow burning fuse, fizzing with anticipation, then burning faster with dangerous intent before exploding in a deadly race for life and violent gunplay. 

David Robbins writes in short chapters, ending many with someone in peril but then switches to other characters for the next chapter or so making it almost impossible to put the book down before you discover what happens next to them all.

In Texas Hills David Robbins has certainly written a book that should entertain all fans of westerns. 


Sunday, 29 November 2015

They Rode Together

THE LANDON SAGA #7
By Tell Cotten
Solstice Publishing, November 2015

When a violent attack leaves cowman J.T. Tussle in trouble, the Landons and Lee Mattingly are quick to come to his aid. Tussle must get his yearlings to market, and they embark on a cattle drive to Fort Worth. Along the way, they get caught up in herd cutters, a bounty hunter, relationships, thunderstorms, and each other.

Tell Cotten has once more come up with a very fast moving story in his Landon Saga series. This time the whole book is written in the third person rather than being part third and first as many of the previous books have been. Due to the fact that all the major characters from the series are in this, and the story switches regularly between them and no one person takes centre stage so to speak, I guess it was easier to make the story flow by sticking to the third person.

If you’ve never read one of the Landon books before I’m going to suggest that it might be wise to start from the beginning as this book continues and concludes a number of storylines carried over from the earlier books. Of course Tell Cotten leaves a couple more plot threads hanging for continuation in the next book of the series.

Much of the story is dialogue driven and there’s some great and often tense conversations laced with humour. Tell Cotten’s action scenes make for exciting reading and they come thick and fast throughout the story. During all this there is time for developing romance but I can’t say any more about that as I don’t want to spoil anything for those who are following the series and have yet to read this book.

Tell Cotten also includes a real historical person, John T, Lytle, into the mix.

Top class entertainment from a top class western author. A writer all fans of the western should be reading. Roll on book eight in the series: Warpath, it can’t come soon enough for me.