Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Guns on the Praire

By David Robbins
Signet, September 2015

Alonzo Pratt, alias Robert Grant has always survived by his wits, working his way up from petty pickpocket to polished con artist. Saddlebags bulging with disguises, he is a master impersonator, whether limping in Civil War uniform or toting a Bible and dressed in black. On occasion, a tin star pinned to his vest is just the ticket to winning the trust of his innocent marks.

When Federal Marshal Jacob Stone happens to come across another lawman while taking in a wounded prisoner, he’s grateful for some assistance. And when he hears tell that Cal Grissom’s gang is roaming these parts, he enlists Deputy Grant to help him track down the thieves. But he does wonder why his new partner seems so…reluctant.

Alonzo never planned to join a manhunt. But now he’s shooting Sioux and rescuing an outlaw’s gorgeous daughter. His disguise may have fooled the marshal, but it won’t stop lead….

David Robbins has come up with a top class western with Guns on the Prairie. Excellent characters on both sides of the law will soon have you laughing with them, fearing for their well-being, hoping they survive or met their demise. Alonzo Pratt’s frustrations, confusions and despair at the situation he finds himself in is superbly described by David Robbins. Fleshing out of characters is to tell their backstories, all which will have a part to play in how they deal with the dangers that face them.

There’s plenty of action and cliff-hanger chapter endings making this a truly difficult to put down read. You will certainly be wanting to find out what happens next. The pacing is perfect as the tale races towards its gripping final standoff that could end in any one of a number of ways, and I doubt you’ll guess how the book does conclude, as one of the surviving characters says, “This didn’t end as you thought it would, did it?” No it certainly didn’t, but it does finish in fine style making for an extremely unforgettable ending.

If you only read one David Robbins western this year then make sure it’s this one. If you’ve yet to try his work then I urge you to grab a copy of this book, it really is a great read.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Desperate Straits

By Janet Squires
Whiskey Creek Press, December 2014

Sarah Ryan’s hope for a new life in the Arizona Territory is shattered in an instant by gunfire. Suddenly, she has to rebuild an uncertain future with her orphaned nephew, Will, and take on the challenges of a cattle ranch.

Just when order returns, veteran lawman, L.T. McAllister rides in. He’s a dangerous man determined to do what’s right regardless of the personal loss. L.T. believes himself ready for anything until he meets Sarah. Her ideas about the man he’s become soon pit his lifetime of duty against desire.

L.T.’s and Sarah’s loyalty to Will catapults them into a life for which neither one is prepared. And when L.T. and Sarah defy Sheriff Grant Simpson, they trigger a cataclysm of retaliation that escalates into kidnapping and murder. L.T. and Sarah are forced into a battle for justice…and their lives.

Janet Squires tells her story in visual prose, her descriptions of places make you believe you are right there viewing them first-hand. Her character studies are excellent too, you share their feelings be they happiness, sadness, frustration, anger and fears. Her words flow smoothly making this book a joy to read.

There aren’t that many characters in this story and Squires mainly switches between Sarah and L.T. as they become drawn to each other, yet fear acting on these feelings. But the growing love between them must take second place to the search for stolen gold and the running of the ranch.

The opening chapters deal with Sarah struggling to adjust to her new life in America, but her strong will sees her dealing easily with all the hardships thrown at her. It’s when L.T. arrives on the scene, and the anger he brings with him that attracts violence, that we see cracks appearing in her character.

Although the storyline follows the trail seasoned western readers would expect it does offer some neat surprises, not least what happens to Sarah and L.T. emotionally and physically making for a powerful ending in a tense and exciting final showdown with Sheriff Simpson.

If you like westerns filled with terrific character development and gripping action scenes, believable dialogue and touches of humour, then, like me, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading this book.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Jefferson's Saddle

By Will DuRey
Hale, August 2015

It is meant to be a day of celebration in Mortimer, Texas, but everything changes when Charlie Jefferson arrives in town. Left for dead after a brutal ambush and robbery, Charlie is intent on finding the man who did this to him.

En route to Mortimer from the wastelands where he was left to perish, Charlie stumbles upon a dying Texas Ranger. Unwittingly, he is drawn into a plot involving the town’s council.

By showing mercy, Charlie becomes part of the plot, whether it ties in with his plans or not. Charlie’s mission in Mortimer is no longer personal. The fate of the whole town rests with him.

Will DuRey returns to Charlie Jefferson who first appeared in his last book, Arkansas Bushwhackers. Charlie is heading for home, and to the girl who is waiting for him, his stake hidden in his saddle. Of course this saddle is one of the things stolen from him, so he must get it back as he needs the money it contains to start his new life. The saddle’s whereabouts is the mystery plotline in this very fast paced story.

DuRey lets the reader in on the con trick being played on the town and seeing how Charlie finds out about this, and deals with it, makes for some gripping reading. This and the missing saddle aren’t the only problems Charlie has to deal with, for there’s an attractive, unattached, girl who takes a shine to him. How can he let her down without hurting her especially after she risks her life to save him?

It’s no surprise that all these story threads become entangled and lead to an exciting final showdown that resolves everything neatly, leaving me hoping that we haven’t seen the last of Charlie Jefferson, because I for one would certainly read another tale about him.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Bandit's Gold

By Alex Frew
Hale, August 2015

When Joe Flint meets Matt Harper and Pete Brogan, he cannot help but be enticed by their tales of gold and mystery. They tell him of a legendary Mexican leader who reigned during the civil war, funding his leadership through a criminal network.

Drawn by the promise of fortune, he follows his two new friends who are determined to find out the truth about the fort where the Mexican leader lived. But, along the way, they are attacked. Flint learns too late he has put himself in the hands of a madman.

Will he find his fortune? Or has Flint got himself into a situation too dangerous to get out of alive?

This is the second Black Horse Western to be published under the author name of Alex Frew* and the first I’ve read. With fairly small print and chapters beginning a few lines down from the end of the previous one rather than on a new page, this is one of the longer BHWs I’ve read. In fact Hale seem to be publishing westerns of this length much more often these days.

Frew puts his hero into all kinds of danger from the outset. It isn’t long before Flint and his companions find themselves joining a rebel army under a superbly drawn bad-guy whose appearance would fit into any horror novel. Being part of an army that will turn on Flint if he gives his real reason for being there away means he and his two friends are up against far superior odds that they can’t hope to beat in a fight.

There are some tense scenes, not least when Flint finds himself flung into a pit containing a mad bear. How he escapes is probably the highlight of this story and makes for some very gripping reading.

Flint also finds himself having to deal with the advances of two women, both of whom he is attracted too, both having agendas of their own, so getting involved with either could have a deadly outcome.

Frew builds his story well, its conclusion seeing a violent battle taking place as Flint attempts to steal the stolen gold from the rebel leader and his army. Frew also has a surprise twist waiting for the end that I didn’t see coming that brings the story to a satisfying close.

*The book I have shows the author’s name as Alex Frew yet those on Amazon etc have the cover showing him as Alexander Frew and that is how he is listed too if you want to search for his books. He has another BHW out in December and that cover shows his name as Alex Frew.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Bear Claws

By Robert Lee Murphy
Five Star, 2015

Will Braddock, fifteen years old, continues as a hunter for his uncle’s survey team, as the transcontinental railroad builds across Wyoming in 1868. Paddy O’Hannigan, whose vendetta to kill Will, his uncle, and the former black slave Homer Garcon, grows more sinister and involves the theft of nitro-glycerine and an attempt to blow up presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant.

Will remains fascinated with Jenny McNabb but it’s her sister Elspeth who will cause the biggest trouble for him as she becomes a part of a plot to steal from a German aristocrat whom Will is guiding on a hunting expedition.

After a vicious bear attack Elspeth falls into the clutches of Paddy O’Hannigan and Will must attempt to free her. Can he save Elspeth and perhaps rid the world of O’Hannigan at the same time?

This story begins shortly after the events of the first book in this trilogy, Eagle Talons. All the characters that survived that first tale are back and Robert Lee Murphy introduces us to more, another neat mix of fictional and real people. Like the previous book, Murphy seamlessly blends historical fact and fiction into a fast paced read that will keep you wanting to turn the pages.

The book is a series of different adventures linked by the people and the quest to build the transcontinental railroad. As well as edge-of-seat action scenes there are also lighter moment too, such as the growing teenage romance between Will and Jenny. And it’s not just Will who could be finding love, his friend Lone Eagle succumbs too, bringing some happiness into his life after the heartache of losing his father, Bullfrog Charlie Munro.

The final part of the story, which sees Will guiding Count von Schroeder in a quest to kill a white buffalo presents a dangerous set of problems for Will, for the shooting of this animal will bring the wrath of the Shoshone down on them and creates some tense reading.

Robert Lee Murphy brings everything to an exciting conclusion that leaves some openings for certain storylines to be continued in the third book, one I am very much looking forward to reading in the future.

Bear Claws is set to be released in November but can be pre-ordered now. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Law and the Lawless

A Ralph Compton novel by David Robbins
Signet, August 2015

When a bunch of ruffians robs a bank in the sleepy town of Alpine, it’s only natural for the locals to be alarmed. But this gang and its leader, Cestus Calloway, are not common criminals. In fact, Cestus, known as the Robin Hood of the Rockies, distributes his loot to those less fortunate and rains stolen money down on the townsfolk. As if that isn’t too good to be true, this gang holds to one important rule: Steal but don’t kill….

All Alpine’s marshal, Boyd Cooper, wants is peace and quiet, not to get a posse together to track outlaws. However, when an altercation leads to the exchange of gunfire and the spilling of outlaw blood, he doesn’t have much of a choice. The outlaws fear their reputation might be at stake, so they declare revenge on the tin stars of Alpine. They’re mad enough to break their own no-kill rule, and Boyd Cooper knows things could end as bloody as they started….

David Robbins has created a bunch of memorable characters on both sides of the law in this extremely fast moving tale. In fact I hoped some of the lawless would escape death so they could return in another book, but in a David Robbins story it is not predictable as to who will be living by the end on either side.

With the killing of some of their own, Calloway has difficulty keeping control of his vengeance hungry gang members, and David Robbins creates some fine tension as they argue about the best way to take out the posse. And it’s not only Cestus who has problems keeping a tight rein on his band of outlaws, because Boyd Cooper has to struggle to keep his posse together, particularly when a turn of events makes it evident that Cooper no longer wants to bring the outlaws in for trial but wants to see them all dead.

The story is filled with twists and turns and lots of gripping action, and it isn’t long before the posse are played for fools and find themselves, unknowingly, being lead into a death-trap from which there can be no escape.

So who is victorious in the end? Of course I can’t reveal that here but I would suggest anyone who decides to read this book is going to enjoy finding out.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Buckshot Ridge

By Jake Douglas
Hale, July 2015

Clint’s only wish is to transform the Delta Ranch where he lives into a home, so that he can settle down peacefully with his wife-to-be, Belle Camden.

All is going smoothly until Clint witnesses a brutal murder. The killer tries to lie his way out of it, but Clint is not the lying type. When threats don’t work, the killer takes Belle hostage. All Clint must do is admit he’s made a mistake – forget what he’s seen, move on – and his fiancĂ©e will be returned to him unharmed.

In a situation that goes against Clint’s every moral code, in the end the choice can only be decided by gunsmoke – and blood.

Jake Douglas is one of a handful of pseudonyms used by Keith Hetherington for his Black Horse Westerns and this one confirms why he’s had such a long career writing for this line and other publishers, having around a thousand westerns published to date. You can read an interview I did with him here.

As for this book, it is a very fast moving read full of action – fistfights, gunfights, and duels of words. In fact the tense exchanges of dialogue provide most of the ‘how-can-they-get-out-of-that situations, as any plan Clint and lawman Si McLaren have seems to be bettered by the man they are attempting to bring to justice at every turn.

The taking of Belle hostage, a dangerous situation in itself is made even more deadly when there’s a disagreement between the killer, Forbes, and his right-hand man Hank, a man who wants nothing more than to kill both Clint and Belle, and it soon looks like he’s going to achieve his aim.

The story ends with a breath-taking struggle that brings everything to a neat and satisfying conclusion that left me eager to pick up another Keith Hetherington book straight-away.

Mention must also be made of the excellent cover Hale have selected to front this book.