Friday, 22 March 2019

Where the Bullets Fly

By Terrence McCauley
Pinnacle, October 2018

If anyone can smell an investment opportunity, it’s railroad men and big city bankers. They’re not the kind of folks that Sheriff Mackey is used to dealing with. But greed is greed, and if anyone knows how money can drive men to murder, it’s the sheriff of a boomtown like Dover Station. But when Mackey is forced to gun down a pair of saloon rats, it brings a powderkeg of trouble – with a quick-burning fuse of vengeance named Alexander Duramont. This bloodthirsty psychopath wants to kill the sheriff for killing his buddies. And he plans to get his revenge using a highly combustible mix of fire, fear, and dynamite…

Mackey’s not sure how he’s going to stop this blood-crazed lunatic. But it’s going to be one heck of an explosive and very violent showdown…

This is Terrence McCauley’s first western and it's also billed as the first in a new series featuring Sheriff Aaron Mackey. 

When we meet Mackey he is suffering from pneumonia and this ailment sees him struggling to do his job and this somehow made him seem more real than some western heroes – how often do we read of heroes being struck down by common illnesses? This sickness doesn’t just go away and it plays an important part in Mackey’s mood as he takes on outlaws and businessmen alike.

Mackey is also part of a love-triangle. Trapped in a marriage he refuses to break-up, but tormented by his true love, Katherine, living in the same town. It’s when Katherine’s life is threatened by the superbly drawn outlaw Duramont and her fate is unknown, that Mackey allows his feelings for her to override everything else and he sets out on a mission to find out what happened to her and to kill Duramont.

Duramont is beautifully evil, the perfect adversary for Mackey. But can Mackey bring the outlaw leader to justice as he always seems to be one step-ahead of the lawman? 

The book is tough, dark in tone, has plenty of violent scenes and moves forwards at a relentless pace. With an excellent cast of colourful characters in both the main storyline and subplots I soon found myself totally immersed in the tale. The ending was savage and not quite what I expected. McCauley also left a few openings for the next book in the series, Dark Territory, which will be published in March 2019, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.


Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Easy Company and the Blood Feud

By John Wesley Howard
Jove, March 1983

The Wilsons and the Blantons fled the Texas drought together, the best of friends. But they arrived in Wyoming as warring enemies – and now, Seth Wilson and Maybelle Blanton must hide their passionate love in the night’s darkness.

To make matters worse, the Sioux are attacking the night patrols and a buffalo hunter is shooting Indian cattle in their pens. It’s up to Lt. Matt Kincaid and Easy Co. to stop all the shooting and bring peace to Thunder Basin – before there’s nobody left!

Book 26 in this excellent series involves a number of separate incidents, all taking place at the same time, that are only linked by Easy Company having to resolve them all with as little bloodshed as they possibly can. Frustration, deadly confrontations, and a medicine show complete with an enticing young lady, means there isn’t a moments peace for the men of Easy Company.

By having so many problems to deal with, the author is able to utilize most of the soldiers who make up Easy Company, along with scout Windy Mandalian, so if you have any favourites you’re sure to find them having a role to play in this book.

The author behind the pseudonym of John Wesley Howard this time is Paul Lederer, and he sure knows how to write a fast-moving tale that holds interest from the first page to the last. Action scenes are tough, frantic and exciting, dialogue is snappy and believable, and everything is tied up neatly.

The more deadly situations are nicely balanced by the girl from the medicine show who soon has a number of soldiers believing she wants to marry them, this leads to some very funny moments and also allows the book to end on a comical note. 

Overall, this is a very satisfying and entertaining read that has left me eager to discover just what problems Easy Company will have to face in the next book as soon as I can.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

STRAIGHT SHOOTER

A Ralph Compton Novel by Marcus Galloway
Signet, June 2013

Outlaw Wes Cavanaugh knows that crime doesn’t always pay – at least not that much. That’s why he and his partner, Mose, are willing to buy information from Jimmy Stock on a job that’s guaranteed to pay off big.

Jimmy’s made a career of selling tips to bandits, but the job he sells Wes – a payroll train about to leave Omaha – requires more than information. It requires a straight shooter who can hit targets from a long distance away…and in the outlaw business, even a straight shooter can’t be trusted.

With the passing of Ralph Compton, Signet decided to keep his name alive by continuing to put out books under his name written by other writers, eleven of them I believe. Signet also decided to print the name of the real authors on the books too making it easy for readers to identify who had written each new book. Marcus Galloway’s name appearing on ten of them, placing him only behind David Robbins and Joseph A. West in numbers of books written under the Ralph Compton brand.

The above blurb is perhaps a little mis-leading as to the contents of this book. Sure, Wes and Mose buy information from Stock but this takes up only a short part of the novel, as does the train robbery. Wes and Mose don’t have enough money to give to Stock so steal it from a traveling gunsmith. Most of the story follows the fortunes of said gunsmith, Zeke Hayes and his helper, ex-boxer, Aldus Bricker. The central character is Aldus, and it’s his need to discover why the tone of the letters he gets from his childhood sweetheart, Bethany, has changed, that sees them cross paths once again with Wes and Mose.

During the journey to Bethany’s hometown, Zeke and Aldus find themselves in a deadly fight for control of a town and this is resolved in an exciting battle that is one of the highlights of the book.

There’s also a neat outcome to the train robbery that brings that part of the story to an almost underplayed and perfect ending.

I’ve only read a handful of Marcus Galloways’ westerns and so far I’ve enjoyed them all. They haven’t contained quite as much gunplay as a lot of the books I read, but that isn’t a criticism as Galloway certainly knows how to grab the readers attention and build his plots in gripping prose that makes you want to keep reading. 


Sunday, 10 March 2019

WEBB'S POSSE

By Ralph Cotton
Signet, July 2003

When the Peltry Gang swoops into Rileyville, the attack is sudden and merciless. Before the townsfolk know what hit them, one of their own lies dead in the dirt street, Deputy Abner Webb is caught with his pants down, and just for good measure, the desperadoes shoot the sheriff and leave him for dead as they head out.

Webb knows he must capture the outlaws for what they’ve done, but that won’t be easy for the inexperienced lawman. Yet with the help of a shady horse trader and an ornery schoolmaster, Webb just might bring the gunslingers in on their feet – or slung over their saddles.

Ralph Cotton has created a superb bunch of characters for this extremely fast-moving story that barely takes a breath between each savage bout of gunplay. As well as having to deal with the outlaws, soldiers, gunrunners, scalphunters and Federales, the posse has its own internal conflicts for Webb to tackle – he himself being one of the problems for one of the posse members which sees hate and jealousy rise viciously.

Then there’s the suspicions about the horse trader, Will Summers, just what is his angle? And what of the schoolteacher, Sherman Dahl, just why would a schoolmaster be so proficient with a gun and cool under fire? Can either of them be trusted? As the posse begins to face the brutal reality of their task some die, some leave and other people join them, including some who won’t think twice about double-crossing the posse.

As the chase takes all sides into Mexico, all these groups find themselves fighting for possession of a Gatling Gun and no one is safe from death. That’s one of the traits I like about Ralph Cotton’s writing, the fact that you can never be sure who he’ll kill off, and when.

If you like hard-hitting, action-packed westerns that offer surprises, twists and engaging characters then Webb’s Posse is a book you should consider tracking down. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything by adding that this book saw five sequels featuring two of the survivors of the hunt to bring the Peltry gang to justice, and I’m certainly going to be reading them very soon.


Monday, 18 February 2019

DAKOTA MASSACRE

THE SCOUT #2
By Buck Gentry
Zebra, 1981

The cry is “massacre!” when a town is brutally stormed by a band of rampaging Indians. Before anyone can retaliate the surprise attack, Eli Holten sets out for Sioux territory. Since he spent six years of his life learning the ways of the Plains, the Scout knows the tribe and the territory like the back of his hand. And his instincts tell him that someone’s been playing a dirty trick.

Holten soon learns that army deserters have been masquerading as deadly Indians. They have been killing and scalping their victims – and now they’ve kidnapped his girl. Holten won’t take things lying down, not when his lady is held hostage, and not when his name is at stake – 

Emblazoned on the cover and spine of this book are the words adult western and this book is part of a number of series launched around this time by Zebra and other publishers under this banner. The opening scenes of Dakota Massacre fitting this theme perfectly, lasting a number of pages and described in explicit detail. But once Holten and Rebecca go their separate ways this story moves quickly into an all-out action-packed battle between Holten, the deserters, and the Sioux. Of course, there are a few more adult sessions but the vast majority of the book concerns the desperate fights to survive.

The author certainly doesn’t give Holten much time to catch his breath between adult or violent encounters. Most of the deadly bouts begin only a few lines after the previous bloody fight. At the rate Holten was eliminating Sioux warriors I did begin to wonder if he’d wipe out the entire nation in this one story. Holten doesn’t get it all his own way though, but he does seem to be able to shrug off wounds in minutes and continue with his mission as if he was never hit.

The battles are described in gory detail, spurting blood, shattered bone and spilled body contents vividly defined. At one-point Holten is tortured and what he has to endure is painfully detailed. The torture sequence leads to a truly nail-biting how is he going to get out of that alive scene acted out in the aptly named Canyon of Death.

Buck Gentry is a pseudonym behind which a number of different authors wrote, and this one was probably written by Steve Clark and I believe he wrote most of the early entries in this series. 

If you enjoy violent westerns that contain almost non-stop savage action and don’t mind some explicit sex scenes then this a book, and series, that should be on your reading list. Dakota Massacre left me looking forward to reading the next one very soon.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Rebel of Bodie

THE DERBY MAN #8
By Gary McCarthy
Bantam, June 1982

When Rebel Morgan was the law, Bodie, California had been a town of hope and promise. Bodie was “the Wildest Town in the West” now, and ex-sheriff Rebel was the whiskey-soaked town joke. A broken and bitter man since his wife’s brutal murder, Rebel had been unwilling to stem the rising bloody tide of violence and corruption that now threatened to destroy Bodie. But Darby Buckingham hits Bodie with both fists swinging, fiercely determined to whip Rebel back up to his former strength and to lend his muscle to wipe out the town’s savage criminals. Every low-life in Bodie rises to Darby’s challenge, unleashing a relentless onslaught of terror and killing. But the hard-hitting, quick-witted Derby Man would give Bodie the roughest judgement day the West had ever seen.

Gary McCarthy’s Derby Man has got to be one of the most unusual western heroes ever. He’s a large ex-circus strongman and prize-fighter who is now a dime novel author roaming the west searching out real people to write about in his books and he feels Rebel Morgan could be the star of his next pulp.

Darby’s quest for the truth about Rebel’s fall from grace will unearth some heart-breaking truths, truths that have been suspected but purposely ignored. As friendships are tested the death toll rises and Buckingham soon has a number of people looking to bury him as fast as possible.

McCarthy has brought together a great cast of characters for this tale, both male and female, good and bad. The story is told from various people’s viewpoints and later on its mainly from characters other than Buckingham. Connor O’Grady, who was introduced in the previous book, North Chase, has a large part to play in this tale, and as well as getting in some deadly situations that seem to offer no avenue of escape, he provides most of the more light-hearted moments in the story too.

For me, this is another great entry into a series that offers a western hero who is a little bit different from the norm. 


Long out of print, this series is now available as ebooks.


Monday, 11 February 2019

Iron Road

THE JUDGE #11
By Hank Edwards
Harper, December 1993

First there’s fire on the tracks a few miles short of Whiskey Flat, then cannon shots turn the Great Western’s locomotive into a mass of twisted steel. Tempers flare and the stakes are high as two rival railroads race to drive a spur through Wolf Creek Pass – a line that will make a fortune freighting gold and silver from the rich Colorado mines.

Suddenly Clay Torn stands alone against vicious saboteurs led by men who think their powerful political connections put them above the law. But Judge Torn is going to make sure Great Western gets a fair shake – even if it means giving Coastal & Northern a righteous run for the money.

A storyline that has turned up in many western books but I can’t remember reading another where one railroad company employs a band of ex-confederate soldiers who refused to surrender using a cannon to destroy the oppositions locomotives. This alone adds a neat twist to this tale. Torn’s method for dealing with this is nicely done too but does lead to complications later on.

The story mainly follows Torn but some chapters and scenes are told from other characters viewpoints so the reader knows who is doing what and for what reason. Having said that there is one person who I thought wasn’t quite who they said they were and I was proven correct but not as I expected and this revelation and the violent act it leads to came as a complete surprise adding a welcome twist to the tale.

Hank Edwards is a pseudonym for Jason Manning who wrote ten out of the twelve books in this series, and he keeps the story moving forwards at a fast pace as Judge Torn tries to discover who are the spies and saboteurs and then work out a way to stop their deadly tactics. In doing so Torn will have to face a lethal adversary who he first met in the previous book, Death Warrant, and this time there isn’t any way to escape a face-off Torn knows he can’t win.

Like all the other books in this series I found this one to be a quick and entertaining read and I’m sure it won’t be long before I pick up the final book to see if the series comes to an end and Torn finds the woman he’s been searching for since it began.