Friday, 17 June 2016

Wanted: A Western Story Collection

By The Western Writers Group
Solstice Publishing, April 2016

Seven bestselling western authors join forces in the time-honored tradition of the old West to deliver a collection of short stories featuring their most popular and beloved characters. Read about the adventures of Steve Dancy, Gideon Johann, Shad Cain, Lee Mattingly, the McCabes, Hunt-U.S. Marshal, and Jess Williams.

These seven authors are all having a lot of success with their various western series. This collection is the perfect way to introduce yourself to some of their heroes in a set of short stories that haven’t been published elsewhere.

I’ve read a couple of these writers before, most notably Tell Cotten and it was the inclusion of his story about Lee Mattingly, from his excellent Landon Saga series, that made this collection a must read for me and for readers of that series you really need to read this as we discover something about one of the main characters that may be returned to in the series.

It is also quite amazing when you realize just how many books some of these writers have put out, for instance there are around forty Jess Williams stories by Robert J. Thomas.

At least one of the stories seems to continue quiet closely to events in the main series but the author in question gives just enough explanation so a new reader isn’t confused by events mentioned.

I’ve always believed this kind of short story collection is a great way to find new and exciting authors and this group of writers doesn’t disappoint in any way. There’s plenty of action, suspense and humour to be found within the pages and that makes for a winning combination in my opinion. I’m pretty sure most western readers will find some, if not all, these stories to be worthwhile reads and who knows, may also find themselves a new series or two to catch up on like I intend doing.

Contents: 
The Grizzly by Brad Dennison
Cain Finds a Princess by Lou Bradshaw
The Mirror by Tell Cotten
The Shepherd by Robert J. Thomas
The Vigilante by W.L. Cox
Snake in the Grass by James D. Best
A Step Ahead by Duane Boehm



Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Forgiveness Trail

By Brent Larssen
The Crowood Press, May 2016

After spending forty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Ezekiel Cartwright has just one thing on his mind: he sets out to track down the men who set him up and then tell them, before he dies, that he has forgiven them.

So begins one of the strangest stories of the old West; the tale of a man who set out on the forgiveness trail. Cartwright finds that forgiving the men proves a lot harder than he could have guessed and, before it is all over, he has been compelled to take up a gun again and deal with the sons of the men who so cruelly wronged him all those years ago.

This is the first Black Horse Western I have read that carries the author name Brent Larssen but it is not the first I have read by Simon Webb who writes behind the Larssen pseudonym and a number of others. That I have read other westerns by this writer and still read one when I can confirms the fact that I find his work entertaining and this book is perhaps the best so far.

The idea of such a badly wronged man riding to forgive those who set him up is an interesting hook by itself but the author soon has you wondering just what the sons of the men Cartwright is seeking are up to which adds another intriguing story thread to this fast moving tale.

We find out just how Cartwright ended up in prison through a series of flashbacks told through not only Cartwright but the outlaws too during which we witness double-cross and some vicious killings.

Cartwright’s trail doesn’t quite follow the path he expects and offers a couple of surprises, not least one about Cartwright himself.

All the story threads come together in one final bloody gunfight that resolves everything neatly and perhaps not how every reader would expect and that can only add strength to this excellent tale.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Stories Along...The Hungry Trail

By Christine Matthews
Western Fictioneers, February 2016

A frontier con man who claims he can raise the dead...a prisoner desperate to escape from the hellhole of Yuma Prison...a legendary Texas Ranger...a famous gunfighter and peace officer turned newspaperman...a family that's both dangerous and strange...

Stories Along…The Hungry Trail is a collection of eight short stories, all of which have previously been published in a variety of western anthologies. Now these tales have all been brought together in one excellent collection with a change of author name – real to pseudonym. I’d read two or three of these stories before and on the strength of those I was looking forward to reading the others.

Whilst reading these extremely well written tales it soon became evident that most of these stories revolved around graves – raising the dead from them, witnessing burials and remembering how the dead came to be in them, digging into them to steal from the remains and offering an idea on how the dead filling the many graves marking endless trails came to be there.

Filled with fascinating characters these stories provide gripping reading and even though I’m not normally a fan of cross-genre tales I really enjoyed the two that combined western and supernatural elements, one of which was possibly my favourite in the whole collection.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the cross on the front cover inscribed with the name Tanner Moody, and for those who have read the book The Funeral of Tanner Moody (written by a variety of different authors) you might like to know that two of the stories in this collection feature him.

Contents
The Resurrection Man – previously published in Best of the Midwest 1993
The Tailor of Yuma – previously published in Tin Star 2002
Planting Lizzie Palmer – previously published in Boot Hill 2002
Don’t Never Fall in Love with No Whore – previously published in Guns of the West 2002
The Last of the Ranger Chieftains – previously published in Texas Rangers 2003
Poor Ole Moody – previously published in The Funeral of Tanner Moody 2004
The Hungry Trail – previously published in Six-Guns and Slay Bells 2013
Odds on a Lawman – previously published in Livin’ on Jacks and Queens 2014


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Terror in Tombstone

By Paul Bedford
Crowood Press, May 2016

Former lawman Rance Toller and his lover Angie Sutter foil a stagecoach robbery just outside the frontier settlement of Tombstone, Arizona, and in the process capture the notorious gunfighter Johnny Ringo.

As a result, Rance is persuaded to accept the vacant position of town marshal, formerly held by one of the famous Earp brothers. Unfortunately, he soon falls foul of the Big Silver mining operators led by E.B. Gage, who want the law on their own terms.

With the dubious help of his new friend, Doc Holliday, Rance has to fight for his life against Gage’s ruthless enforcers, as well as take on a band of murderous cattle rustlers and the vengeful Ringo, who has escaped a jail cell with mysterious ease. It is not long before brutal bloody violence explodes on the streets of Tombstone.

Paul Bedford combines both real and fictional characters in this, the third, book of his to feature Rance Toller and Angie Sutter, the others being The Devil’s Work and The Outlaw Trail. The inclusion of people who really lived is not something new in Paul Bedford’s work as most, if not all, of his seven Black Horse Westerns have also had roles for them too. What I like about this one, is that Rance has no idea who Ringo, the Earps, or Doc Holliday are and is certainly not in awe of their reputations.

Ringo’s attempt at getting revenge for being captured and jailed by Rance sees an escalation in violence as Toller’s life becomes a mission to bring Ringo down. The town of Tombstone will erupt as dynamite and bullets fly almost non-stop making this an action-packed story.

Terror in Tombstone is a fast-paced read that thoroughly entertains and leaves me looking forward to Paul Bedford’s next book, The Deadly Shadow, due out in August.


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Warpath

THE LANDON SAGA #8
By Tell Cotten
Solstice Publishing, April 2016

When Rondo Landon discovers his wife has been taken captive during a daring Indian raid, he’s determined to find her. April Gibson is also taken, and the Landons, Lee Mattingly, and others take out after them. 

Along the way, they encounter someone from the Landon’s past, a war chief out for blood, a thunderstorm, relationships, and tough decisions.

Once again Tell Cotten has written a very difficult to put down book. Split into a number of different parts and told in the third person Tell Cotten often switches between the various characters, more often than not leaving them in a dangerous situation that will ensure you keep reading.

The previous books have always had very strong female roles and this continues that tradition with Rachel Landon and April Gibson having to find hidden strengths to survive being kidnapped by the Apaches. The why is something the Landon men will have to struggle to understand but of course this is less important than getting their women back.

Lee Mattingly will also have to fight another battle, that of admitting his love for April and having to compete with another posse member, Jeremiah Wisdom, for her heart – if they succeed in getting her back alive.

Tell Cotten fills the book with action, be it gunplay or a deadly storm that produces some life-threatening flooding. Dialogue is believable and often laced with humour. There’s also a couple of neat twists, not least the introduction of a new Landon family member – but can he be trusted?

Like the earlier stories this one can be read as a stand-alone novel as the author includes enough information on what has gone before to fill new readers in on the events that continue those begun in previous books. To really appreciate all the relationships and past struggles I would very much suggest you read the whole series in order.

In my opinion Tell Cotten is right up there with the very best western authors writing today, or in the past, and I am really looking forward to book nine in the series.


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Tell Slash B Hell's A'Comin'

By Elliot Long
Crowood Press, April 2016

Mort Basset – the powerful owner of the Slash B ranch – thinks he and his men have got away with the killing of the Cadman family, when the corrupt Broken Mesa court finds them not guilty. But Basset and his men sound find that this is not to be. The men involved in the murders begin to be hanged or shot dead by an unseen avenger, and they soon find that the man they are after is a deal cleverer then they anticipated, and the killings continue. Where will it end?

I’ve only read a handful of Elliot Long’s thirty plus Black Horse Westerns and I’ve enjoyed them all. Tell Slash B Hell’s A’Comin’ certainly enforces my thoughts that Elliot Long is a writer worth taking the time to read.

The story begins with the Slash B dealing out what they see as range justice, even though their foreman, Jim Alston, tries to stop the killing and also fails to stop the murder of the rest of the Cadman family. Elliot Long then introduces a handful of other characters, all of whom are sickened by the fact that the court finds the Slash B crew not guilty of murder, and you’ll soon be wondering if one of them is the person avenging the Cadman’s deaths.

Elliot Long sure knows how to pace a story and I soon found myself unable to put the book down because of my desire to find out who the mystery killer was. The story is mainly told through Jim Alston but does occasionally switch to one or two of the other characters, such a lawman Talbot Dixon who’s doing his best to stop the assassination of the Slash B crew yet also seems to think, and support the fact, that they are getting nothing more than they deserve. Of course this line of thinking causes friction amongst the posse members which is a mix of townsfolk and Slash B riders.

As you read the story you might think you’ve worked out how the tale is going to end and it’s there that Elliot Long springs the biggest surprise of the tale that left me cursing and grinning and nodding in satisfaction that the book just couldn’t end any other way could it?

If you get the opportunity to read this book then don’t hesitate to do so and once you’ve finished it, like me, I'm sure you’ll be left eager to read more of Elliot Long’s work.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Fury at Bent Fork

By B.S. Dunn
Crowood Press, April 2016

It has become known as the Stone Creek Valley War, and for a time the land ran red with the blood of the innocents and killers alike. In the middle of it all stands a young man, Chad Hunter, against the murderous bunch called the Committee, trying to halt their takeover of his once peaceful home.

The Committee are the four biggest ranchers in the area, and to help them achieve what they want, they hire Slade Johnson and his cohorts to deal with those who refuse to bow to their demands. Then there’s ‘Killer Creel’, a cold-blooded murderer who has escaped from prison, and whose ultimate goal is to reap revenge upon Hunter.

The Committee had lynched his brother and shot his father down, so Hunter loads his guns and prepares to deal out his own brand of justice. With killers to his front and one closing in from behind, it may just be a war that Hunter can’t win.

From the opening chapter that sees Chad Hunter framed for cattle rustling this book held my attention as I had to see how, if at all, Hunter could succeed in his quest to destroy the Committee.

B.S. Dunn has created a great set of characters that will face-off with each other a number of times before the reason the Committee want to take control of the valley is revealed. This then leads to some desperate bluffs to bring them down.

‘Killer Creel’ makes for a terrific additional problem for Hunter and their showdown is as gripping as you’d hope it would be. But it’s the final confrontation between Hunter, the Committee and their hired killers that brings forth a shocking surprise that I certainly didn’t see coming that will make the ending stick in my mind for some time to come.

This is the first Black Horse Western by B.S. Dunn, a pseudonym used by Brent Towns, and what a superb introduction to his writing it is. I’ll certainly be looking out for his next book.