Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Flashflood

By Gil Martin
New English Library, April 1976

Seth Vance was the sheriff who could not be shaken. Hard, tough, firm but fair. Until the time of the two Mexicans. They shot up the stage but for one the only reward was the gallows. Then in a night of searing violence Seth’s sister was brutally slain. And the sheriff’s composure cracked.

Hell-bent on vengeance, Seth sought out the killer, mercilessly handling anyone who crossed his path, treating deputies and the woman he loved with callous cruelty.

And amid the raging elements of a river in torrential flood, Seth came face to face with the truth – a truth that was almost too much to bear.

According to the copyright page of my NEL edition this book was originally published by Robert Hale in Great Britain in 1968 (long before they put their westerns out under the Black Horse Western banner). I’ve also seen Berkley copies dated 1968.

I’ve owned all seven of Gil Martin’s westerns for a long time but have only just got around to reading one. Martin’s style could easily be called hard-boiled, it’s certainly dark at times and the violent scenes are fairly graphic in description. Emotions are well written, especially the confused feelings of attraction between Vance and Dolores. Fear and hate come across strongly too. 

Although the twist ending was easy to work out way before the author reveals it (the who anyway, not the why), the story proved to be a great read and grabbed my imagination from the opening scene to the last savage gunfight. Flashflood is only 104 pages long making this a fast read and it proved to be a very entertaining book indeed. It certainly left me eager to read another of Gil Martin’s westerns very soon.

I must also mention the cover painting done by W. Francis Phillips who’s captured a scene from the story extremely well.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Mojave Massacre

By Scott Harris
Dusty Saddle Publishing, July 2018

Brock, Sophie and Huck are living with the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But their lives are threatened by the murderous and vengeful Paiute, and Brock and Huck, seeing no alternative, race one hundred miles to a small trading outpost, hoping to buy the rifles that will give them a chance against the much larger Paiute forces.

Stumbling across four slaughtered Hopi Indians, Brock and Huck track down the murderers, and find help in very unexpected places from friends – new and old. 

This is the second book in the Grand Canyon trilogy and the fifth Brock Clemons western. 

Continuing a number of storylines from the previous book, Battle on the Plateau, makes this a must read for those who read that earlier entry into the Brock Clemons series. If you haven’t read the other book then you might prefer to start there but it isn’t essential as Scott Harris includes enough information in this one to explain what happened before.

As with his other books Scott Harris often switches from character to character with each new chapter, telling his story from many different viewpoints, and not all of them are human either. This tale mainly features Brock, Huck and Huck’s Havasupai friend, Kentaki, but Harris does include chapters or passages that keep the reader up to date with what the other main characters in the series are doing.

Scott Harris writes in an easy to read style that sweeps you up into the storyline effortlessly. Characterization is one of his strong points and his battle scenes are vivid, engrossing and at times brutally violent. This tale is very well paced and builds to its exciting conclusion that delivers everything you’ve been hoping for. Like in his previous books though, Harris has introduced new characters and hints of possible new plotlines that will ensure you’ll want to read the next book in the series, all we can hope is that he doesn’t keep us waiting too long before it appears.



Available as both paperback and ebook

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Nowhere to Run

Maggie O'Bannen 3
By Joe Slade
Piccadilly Publishing, October 2018

After surviving a series of traumatic events, Maggie O’Bannen is at last starting to heal and the scars of the past are fading. Not to mention that things with her close friend Doc John Simpkins could be about to get interesting. However, the depiction of her exploits in a series of dime novels mean her reputation reaches far and wide and when a couple of down on their luck gunmen believe what they read, they hatch a plan to make Maggie their quarry in a deadly hunt.

A bungled bank robbery, a kidnapping and the arrival of an old friend bearing bad news are only the beginning as Maggie is drawn into a fight for her life. Armed with a short temper, outlaw Frank O’Bannen’s Schofield and the resolve to use both, she refuses to let anyone stand in her way. Outnumbered and outgunned, she might be. What her enemies don’t realize, is that her biggest weakness is also her greatest strength and when there’s nowhere to run, they’ll be the ones looking for a place to hide.

The third Maggie O’Bannen tale offers everything we’ve come to expect from the previous two stories; strong characterization, a very fast-moving plot, plenty of hard-hitting violence that is fairly graphic in its depiction and a number of twists.

As Maggie’s relationship with Doc Simpkins gets stronger, she discovers she’s about to become the prey in a scheme to make a couple of people rich. This is a neat plot that becomes further complicated by the reason one of the hunters has entered the game. Not only does this particular person make for an interesting character then so does Lorelei who makes for a great addition to the cast.

Joe Slade, a pseudonym for Joanne Walpole, has come up with another hard-to-put-down read that will satisfy everyone who likes their westerns action-packed. The ending offers a further surprise that could well be setting up the plot for the next book and for me and the many fans of Maggie O’Bannen I hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out.




Available to pre-order now, this title will be released on October 1st.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Bounty by Chance

By J.L. Guin
The Crowood Press, May 2018

Jeremiah Hackett is a young man searching for a future. On his quest, he teams up with huckster George Finimin, a tonic salesman. When Finimin is murdered, Jeremiah dedicates himself to finding the killer.

But things do not prove straightforward for Jeremiah, and he needs to mature and learn some harsh lessons before he can finally achieve his aim.

I have a few short stories by this author but this is the first full-length book I have read by him. This is not his first for the Black Horse Western line, and titles for this publisher have appeared under two variations of his name; J.L. Guin and Jerry Guin.

The first chapter tells of Finimin’s killing and the next couple go back in time to explain why Hackett left home and how he teamed up with Finimin. The rest of the book follows Hackett’s attempts to track down Emil Croft (the man who killed Finimin) and it’s during this part of the story that the books’ title becomes clear as Hackett takes out two men by chance and learns of a bounty on their heads. Can Hackett take up bounty hunting whilst still selling tonic to finance his hunt for Croft?

Hackett’s quest for vengeance takes a number of years and it’s during this time that his life changes somewhat and he takes a youngster under his wing and the parallels to his life with Finimin become apparent. It’s then you begin to wonder if the story will end in a similar fashion too, especially as since Crowood took over publishing the Black Horse Western line from Hale they seem to be more open to stories that are harder hitting, that are darker in tone and don’t always have a happy ending. Is this one of them? I’ll leave you to find that out for yourself.

Guin writes in a very easy to read manner, his words urging you not to put the book down. Character studies are excellent and the action scenes are vivid, killings quite graphically described. All the story threads are tied-up neatly after a final bloody gunfight bringing the book to a satisfying conclusion.



Available as both ebook and hardback

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Hawk

By Bret Sanders
Award Books, 1973

A man of steel, a brutal man who knew how to kill without pity. He came out of prison, escaping the hangman’s noose in return for helping the law get a renegade killer. Hate welded him into a savage hunter who always got his prey.

This hunt led him on the trail of a man he’d sworn to kill for years – the sadist who’d once branded him with a hot iron, then tortured and killed the woman he loved.

No lawman’s badge could keep him from the revenge he sought – or the bloody carnage that followed in his wake!

This is the first in a series that lasted for four books. The author behind the pseudonym of Bret Sanders being Dudley Dean McGaughy I believe.

Web Steele aka Hawk is freed from jail to find and free a young newly-wed bride from kidnapper Keegan who is demanding $500,000 for her return. It just so happens that a man Hawk wants to kill, Colonel Spate has teamed up with Keegan in this ransom plot, so Hawk has two reasons to track the outlaws.

The book is fast moving and contains a lot of graphic violence, including rape and torture. Hawk himself takes some punishment, a whipping at the beginning for instance which doesn’t slow him down at all, even though the author describes chunks of Hawk’s flesh being ripped away and splattered across his cell. Not sure I believe Hawk could just shrug this off and carry on as normal but there have been many heroes before and after Hawk that keep going as if nothing has happened to them after being brutally wounded so why should he too?

Hawk and Colonel Spate’s back-story is told in a series of flashbacks, explaining why both have sworn to kill each other on sight and just what Spate branded on Hawk.

The author comes up with some vicious ways to kill man and woman and there’s a neat twist for Hawk to overcome when he finally battles his way through to the kidnapped girl, Amalie, and the passages dealing with her trauma at witnessing so much savage death are very well written.

Like many series the author leaves a storyline hanging to ensure you’ll read the next book and I for one will be doing so soon even though there were a couple of scenes that stretched my belief a little but not enough to stop me enjoying what is essentially a non-stop action tale containing a lot of blood-letting. Takes me back to when I first started reading westerns, those violent UK series from the group of writers known as the Piccadilly Cowboys in particular. 


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Crooked M Killings

By Frank Ellis Evans
The Crowood Press, May 2018

Marshal Reuben Kane is charged with finding the men who have spread terror and violence in an unprecedented bank robbing spree. It’s a routine, albeit dangerous, assignment. Routine, that is, until Reuben discovers Sal McIntyre, badly beaten and left to die by the men he is hunting. Near to her is the body of her murdered husband.

Reuben postpones his search in order to nurse the woman back to health, but from the moment she regains consciousness, vengeance is the only thing on her mind. Sal’s hatred is all-consuming and, against his better judgement, Reuben finds himself drawn to her ill-conceived plot to killing the men who murdered her husband.

Reuben sets out to bring them to justice. But Sal McIntyre wants revenge. At any cost.

A new author name on the front of a Black Horse Western and Crowood once again choosing their cover art with care so it reflects the content of the story. The young woman in the painting could easily be Sal McIntyre, right down to the confident way she’s shown using her pistol. Sal used to be a trick-shooter in a circus, so knows how to use firearms but can she use them against a human being instead of a target? This question provides one of the most gripping threads of the storyline.

Sal’s transformation from a happy ranchers’ wife to a cold, determined hunter of men makes for fascinating reading. Even when Reuben is wounded, she continues with her quest, totally out of her depth but will blind rage give her the edge when needed?

Frank Ellis Evans tells a hard-hitting story that doesn’t pull any punches. At times it’s shocking brutal but that’s what gives this well-told tale its power. Violent acts are described in all their savagery, but, as I’ve already hinted, it’s the emotional outbursts and changes to character that pulled me deeply in to the story, made me keep turning the pages.

Can a story like this have a happy ending? I can’t reveal that here as it would be a major spoiler, but I will say it has a fitting conclusion, one that ties the tale up neatly and certainly leaves me looking forward to Frank Ellis Evans’ next Black Horse Western.



Available as both ebook and hardback book.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Sins of Motherlode

By Gillian F. Taylor
The Crowood Press, April 2018

Sin was a profitable commodity in a mining town like Motherlode. Lust made money for the madam, wrath and avarice created targets for the manhunter, and the newspaperman was greedy for stories.

‘He had no right to take you against your will.’ When a prostitute is raped during the robbery of the Motherlode stage, Jonah Durrell seems to be the only man who cares. The handsome manhunter can never resist a damsel in distress. He is determined to get justice for Miss Jenny’s girl, and recruits Robinson, an enthusiastic newspaperman who witnessed the attack. The women are not meek and passive though. They are willing to take matters, and guns, into their own hands to survive in a tough world. Together with Durrell and Robinson, they begin to uncover the layers of lust, avarice and envy in town, bringing down the wrath of their enemies. Can the women of sin get the justice they deserve?

The Sins of Motherlode is Gillian F. Taylors’ seventeenth Black Horse Western and sees her revisit characters first introduced in Two-Gun Trouble, a story that also takes place in Motherlode. I haven’t read this particular book and there are brief mentions of some of the events that happened in that story in this sequel, but you certainly don’t need to have read that previous tale to enjoy this one.

Durrell is incredibly vain, and this leads to some amusing dialogue at times. But it’s when his good-looks are threatened by a knife that Taylor really shows her expertise in creating tension and making her readers share her heroes fear. Taylor also writes action scenes extremely well, and this book contains robbery, fistfights, and a lengthy gun battle that are as vivid as they are exciting.

The plot is fast-moving, and although the mastermind is easy to work out, it’s finding out who actually robbed the stage and raped Louise Waterford that adds mystery to the storyline. When everything is worked out by Durrell and Robinson there is the problem of finding evidence to pin the guilty to the crime. This all leads to that excellent gunfight towards the end of the book that shows just how capable the women of this story can be with a shotgun in their hands.

I’ve read a few of Gillian F. Taylors’ westerns and have enjoyed them all, and this one strengthens my belief that she is a writer worth reading.