Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Shoestringers

By C.J. Sommers
Hale, August 2014

Benedict Trout, long-time foreman of the big K/K Ranch, has been cut loose for being old, and Eddie Guest, a new hire, has been fired for being too young. So with nowhere to go, Trout and Guest are riding west.

When they reach the RU Crooked Ranch they discover a place in terrible shape: run by a widow and her young daughter, the women are broke and without expectations. Standing at a crossroads, the ranch is coveted by the boss of a nearby town, Cyrus Sullivan, who is keen to investigate reports of a gold mine on the land.

The four unlikely allies are in this for the long haul, and must sit tight and fight long and hard to defend their shoestring operation against outlaws, thieves, and the greedy gold hunters.

This tale deals with how rumours can get out-of-hand; whispers of gold becoming truth without proof. As the believers gather to take the mine away by force so the tension rises. Just how can two men and two women defend the ranch against such strong opposition?

The story is told mainly through Trout, a man who just wants to ride on, but keeps finding an excuse to stay on the RU for just another couple of days no matter who much he says he wants to leave. This adds a gentle touch of humour to balance the coming threat of violence.

C.J. Sommers is a pseudonym used by Paul Lederer, and he has created some very likeable characters that you hope will all survive, and if they do, will hopefully return in another book. The story builds well, at an ever increasing pace to where Trout decides to take the war to Sullivan single-handedly.

Does Trout survive? Do his allies? Is there a gold mine on the RU? I can’t answer any of those questions here, but I’m sure you’ll be as entertained as I was finding out the answers.  

Monday, 1 September 2014

Vengeance at Sundown

By Larry D. Sweazy
Berkley, August 2014

Lucas Fume has had plenty of fights in his life: spying for the Confederate Army, standing up to the railroad company when it tried to take his land, then getting framed for the murder of his business partner – only to lose his land as well as the love of his life. But Lucas isn’t finished fighting yet…

With help from Ezekiel “Zeke” Henry, a fellow inmate and former slave, Lucas manages to escape prison. Riding with Zeke to St. Louis, he soon discovers that his former partner is still alive, using a different name, and doing big business with the railroads – and he has Lucas’s lost love with him. On the run from the law and up against a rich and influential enemy, Lucas is about to take on the most dangerous fight of his life.

Beginning his story with a desperate jailbreak Larry D. Sweazy throws a number of questions at his hero that will ensure you keep reading the book, such as who orchestrated the breakout and why?

Sweazy has created a superb set of characters for this tale, not least the totally unhinged supposed dead man who will do anything to keep his true identity a secret. And Charlotte, Fume’s lost love, just what part does she have to play in the deadly situations Fume finds himself in?

Switching regularly between his characters Sweazy often leaves them in cliff-hanger predicaments thus keeping the reader turning the pages. He also includes a number of plot twists that will have you wondering how Fume can possible triumph in the end, and even though all the major plotlines are resolved a few threads are left dangling for continuation in the next book of the series.

If you’ve never read any of Larry D. Sweazy’s books then this is a terrific place to start. Vengeance at Sundown is a gritty, raw, fast moving, action-packed read that I’m sure, like me, will leave you eagerly anticipating the next Lucas Fume book.

Thursday, 28 August 2014


By Jake Douglas
Hale, August 2014

When they find him he doesn’t even know his own name – or where he is, or how he got there. He sure doesn’t know who shot him in the head and left him in the badlands to die.

So he does the only thing a man like him can do: strap on his guns and get back in the saddle. He hunts and trains, working to improve his strength before time runs out and he is left with no land, and no future. But perhaps that is part of the plan all along, and perhaps someone is hoping his run of luck is coming to an end….

Opening the book with the discovery of a man who doesn’t recall anything about his past allows Jake Douglas to throw all kinds of questions at the reader ensuring they will become easily hooked by this tale of mystery and…..well you didn’t really think I’d reveal the plot here did you?

Hood makes for an engaging lead character, a tough man who soon finds himself dealing with all kinds of problems as well as trying to discover who shot him and why. He is helped by Doc Hammond who is experimenting with new types of medicine. Then there’s the sheriff who seems to want nothing more than to lock Hood up. And what part will Stevens and his sister play? They thought Hood was dead and have moved into his home. Just when answers seem to be on the verge of being revealed in rides a US Marshal to further complicate matters.

Jake Douglas keeps the story moving forward at a tremendous pace, throwing plenty of twists and turns into the tale. Violence erupts regularly and there’s a tremendous, frantic, final showdown. Douglas also includes some laugh out-loud moments of humour and took me completely by surprise by killing off someone I thought would survive.

Jake Douglas is a pseudonym used by Keith Hetherington, one of my favourite western authors, and this book proves once again why I enjoy his work so much.

For some reason I can't get Amazon UK links to work so please use the search box to the right if you'd like to buy a copy in the UK.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Eagle Talons

By Robert Lee Murphy
Five Star, October 2014

Will Braddock doesn’t want some old judge dictating his future. The newly orphaned fourteen-year-old embarks upon a quest to determine his own destiny. He needs to convince his uncle to not sign the judge’s papers sentencing him to a life as a blacksmith’s apprentice. His uncle is a surveyor on the first transcontinental railroad and Will wants to be a part of the excitement of building the Union Pacific Railroad.

Will must prove to his uncle he possesses the gumption to make his own way in the dangerous west. Soon Will finds himself the target of a young Irish thug, who harbors a vendetta against his family and is determined to kill him. He also saves a mixed-blood Cheyenne youth from quicksand and receives two eagle talons in thanks and is convinced they bring luck to him.

When a feisty girl is kidnapped and the Army refuses to send troops to rescue the young lady, Will decides to disobey his uncle and risk his future in an effort to free her.

Set in 1867 this story seamlessly blends fiction with true historical events and features a number of real people.

Will Braddock is a very likeable youngster and a number of those he’ll become involved with fall into the same age group. So, in some ways, this is a coming of age tale, but Will has to grow up fast if he’s to achieve his goals.

Robert Lee Murphy mixes a number of sub-plots in with the real timeline of the building of the railroad and all provide twists and turns that held my attention well. His characters are engaging and I soon found hooked into their lives and found the book difficult to put down as I wanted to see what troubles would befall them next.

Murphy’s descriptions paint vivid pictures in the mind, place you right in the thick of the various exciting action scenes. Most of the story follows Braddock but Murphy occasionally switches to one or two of his other characters so the reader will begin to wonder how Braddock will deal with the troubles that are heading his way.

With such young leads this book should appeal to a wide age range of readers and should be enjoyed by all who love westerns.

This book is the first in a trilogy and I am already looking forward to the next.

Eagle Talons is to be published on October 22nd but can be pre-ordered now from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Dry Gulch Revenge

By Clay More
Hale, August 2014

Fate hands Hank Hawkins the opportunity of achieving his ambition of buying a ranch, and all he has to do to make it happen is to make it easy for a gang to rob the stage in Devil’s Bones Canyon.

Hank soon realizes, however, that the robbers never had an intention of leaving anyone alive and had planned a dry gulching.

He survives but regains consciousness back in Hastings Fork, and vows to track down the murderers who betrayed him and have his revenge. But, when he sets off, he finds he has a companion – Helen Curtis, the fiancée of the messenger whose death lies on his conscience.

Hank has many things to figure out, such as why there was one body missing and things are about to get even more complicated with the threat of death for both of them never far away.

This is a very fast moving story that begins with the savage slaughter of the stagecoach passengers and crew, and then the questions come thick and fast ensuring you won’t want to put the book down until you’ve reached the end.

Hank Hawkins’ relationship with Helen Curtis also asks questions, such as can he keep it a secret that he was involved in the death of her fiancée? What will happen if she finds out?

Clay More also includes a tense ‘how are they going to get out of that alive?’ problem that leads to some startling discoveries regarding certain people including an unforeseen double-cross.

Clay More is a pseudonym used by Keith Souter and in Dry Gulch Revenge he has written an easy to read, gripping, and extremely entertaining tale that has me looking forward to his next book and hunting for his back catalogue.

Dry Gulch Revenge at

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Hannie Caulder

By William Terry
NEL, September 1971

Fleeing the scene of a botched bank robbery, the Clemens brothers come across an isolated homestead. Attempting to steal fresh horses, the trigger-happy youngest brother murders Caulder, the landowner. His wife Hannie is unable to fend off the three Clemens alone. They rape her, steal her horses and burn her home to the ground. Determined to seek revenge Hannie teams up with Thomas Price a ruthless bounty hunter. She implores him to teach her how to kill. Reluctantly he agrees and together they set off in pursuit of the outlaws.

This is the book of the film rather than a book that became a film. The author, William Terry, based the book on the screenplay which in turn was adapted from an original story by Peter Cooper.

William Terry is a pseudonym used by Terry Harknett, who would become much better known the following year as George G. Gilman when the first in the best-selling Edge western series was released, a series that would run for seventeen years.

Terry tells me he wrote the book from the final draft of the script the director would be using to make the film. He knew who was to star in the film and was sent some black and white stills of key scenes which is why his descriptions of characters is spot on. Dialogue was taken from the script and it’s intriguing to discover this contains a lot of gallows humour which would become a trademark of Terry’s own books, something he freely admits he was influenced by along with many other TV and film westerns he watched and was ‘enthusiastically encouraged by the editorial team at New English Library!’ to continue using this in his own westerns.

The story is a straight-forward revenge tale and mixes the dark theme of Caulder’s rape and subsequent quest for vengeance with lighter comic moments mainly through the antics of the Clemens brothers. Terry’s writing perfectly captures the spirit of the film and its changing tones.

The book was published around the time the movie was released and is a must read for fans of both the film and Terry Harknett’s work as well as those who enjoy fast-moving westerns that mix violence and humour.

The film is a British production directed by Burt Kennedy and starred Raquel Welch as Hannie Caulder. It also stars Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, Jack Elam, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, and Stephen Boyd.

Monday, 11 August 2014

One-Eyed Death

By James W. Marvin
Piccadilly Publishing, July 2014

Originally published by Corgi, 1982

Time was when Crow found himself in Rosa Cruz, Arizona. Down on his luck – sick and stony broke. A time when the most menial of tasks would be welcome if it enabled him to eat. So when Ben Ford and the Spangel family ask Crow to guide them out West, he gladly agrees. He soon regrets his rashness, for the Reverend Spangel is a fiery, bible-thumping puritan, while his wife is half-witted. And almost all Crow’s charges are blind…

James W. Marvin is a pseudonym used by Laurence James and in Crow he surely managed to create the ultimate anti-hero. There’s not a lot about the man called Crow to like but that is what makes him so fascinating, what keeps me coming back for more.

James also seemed to enjoy creating characters that border on craziness, and this book contains a fistful of them, in name the Spangel family. Yet Crow just cannot bring himself to leave them to fend for themselves. Forms some kind of bond with the Spangel’s guide, Ben Ford, who is crippled.

The story isn’t complicated. The Spangel’s are searching for a place to settle down and during their travels are set upon by various groups of people who see them as easy pickings. Crow stops them the only way he knows how, unafraid of taking on massive odds alone. The action is described in all its graphic savagery.

There are plenty of killings and as expected not all of Crow’s group survive. One of their deaths being a surprise in how it happens. The trail will also bring out the best and worse in the Spangel family and some shocking revelations soon surface but Crow takes it all in his stride.

Overall this is a decent entry in the Crow series and at the price Piccadilly Publishing sells it for how can you not afford to give it a try?