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


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.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Gunsmoke Serenade

By Thomas McNulty
Crowood Press, April 2016

While passing through Cherrywood Crossing, US Marshal Maxfield Knight is confronted by a gang of hired guns who tell him to ride the other way, or be shot down. With no choice but to ride into the high country, Knight soon learns he is being hunted by a man named Silas Manchester, but why, he has no idea. Determined to survive this dangerous game that he’s been forced to play, Knight is destined to become the hunter rather than the hunted.

Aided by a mountain man named Lacroix, Knight decides to bring the fight to Manchester and get answers. Meanwhile, Knight’s partner, Deputy US Marshal Cole Tibbs, sets out looking for his missing friend. Tibbs will discover that he, like his friend, has also become part of a dangerous game that turns into a serenade of violence.

Thomas McNulty returns to a couple of characters from previous books, namely Knight and Tibbs – another couple of his early book leads get a mention too – making this a must read for anyone who has been following McNulty’s publications.

This tale doesn’t have a very complicated plot, the mystery of why Knight is being hunted comes to light fairly early on, which enables McNulty to have great fun with the fight for survival. Knight and his two companions against fifty guns! Nearly all of this book deals with that confrontation making the story read like one long gunfight and that is fine by this reader. McNulty really does know how to write exciting action sequences and even manages to inject a little humour into this deadly situation.

When Knight decides to take the fight directly to Manchester by killing all those that stand in his way the book becomes impossible to put down.

If you’re looking for a western that really is action-packed then grab a copy of this as soon as possible.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Times of Wichita

By Bruce H. Thorstad
Pocket Books, April 1992

“You need more than a shotgun to ride the Chisholm Trail…” So said a grizzled, foul-smelling buffalo hunter in Newton, Kansas. But Wade Aubrey thought the man was just trying to scare him into buying a big Springfield rifle, and Wade had seen his fill of rifles in the war. He and his younger brother were going to Wichita to start a newspaper – and get ink on their hands, not blood.

But on the Chisholm Trail they began to learn: about a gunman named Harlow Taft who might be a friend; about an upstanding citizen named Bristol who might be an enemy; about a frontier town with laws of its own. Soon the Aubreys were in a fight that forced them onto the plains – on a wild, bloody buffalo hunt to raise some money for a new press. And before the Times of Wichita would see the light of day again, one of the brothers would be dead, the other on a hard trail of revenge…

Filled with excellent characters this gripping tale offers gunplay, political skulduggery, love and a touch of mystery. Wade Aubrey’s attempts to change things through the use of words, both spoken and written, seem doomed to failure almost from the start. Will he be able to resist resorting to the way of the gun?

Bruce H. Thorstad writes extremely well, his attention to detail adding many memorable observations to this story. He also effortlessly combines information about printing newspapers and buffalo hunting so smoothly they seem like a natural part of the story rather than a ‘how-to’ manual. Everything builds towards a tense and emotion driven final showdown that will have the reader guessing as to the outcome.

This is the first book I’ve read by Bruce H. Thorstad and it certainly won’t be the last.

Monday, 18 April 2016

North Chase

The Derby Man #7
By Gary McCarthy
Bantam Books, February 1982

He is the most cruelly dangerous opponent the Derby Man has ever challenged, Wesley Bryant, now crime lord of San Francisco. Darby smashes through the sword-wielding Chinese Tong warriors who protect Bryant’s vicious web of vice but Bryant escapes to launch his most ruthless scheme – stealing the vast wealth of Alaska for his own empire of evil. 

The Derby Man hurls himself into a desperate chase through deadly traps and across Alaska’s brutal tundra until he stands alone in the icy savagery of a wilderness blizzard in his ultimate showdown with a deadly madman.

Following on closely from the previous book in the series, Explosion at Donner Pass, Darby is horrified to discover Bryant is still alive, and this isn’t the only shock for the Derby Man for he is to meet Connor O’Grady, a young man of ambition who will bring his own set of problems for Darby, but to say any more about that will spoil the surprise of just who O’Grady is.

As before the book presents the reader with a mix of real events and people perfectly combined with fiction. The fast pace of the story never slows down as the tale becomes a frantic race against time that sees Darby pursuing his quarry by ship and dog-sledge. Even among all the violence Gary McCarthy still manages to insert moments of humour and you’ll find yourself wondering if The Derby Man and Dolly Beavers will ever find time for themselves or if they even have a future together?

The Derby Man books are certainly worth taking the time to search out in those used book stores as they are now long out of print as paperbacks but if you don’t mind reading ebooks then they are now available in this form and can also be found as audio books. Whatever your preferred method then this series is one that should appeal to all fans of the western genre.