Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Hardest Ride

By Gordon L. Rottman
Taliesin Publishing, December 2013

Out of work cowpoke Bud Eugen comes across Marta, a mute sixteen-year old Mexican girl whose family has been killed by Indians. Bud reluctantly takes her along, even though he’s never had to accommodate another person in his simple life. He’s unable to find anyone willing to take her. In spite of his prejudices, Bud grows to like the spunky girl (and her excellent cooking). 

Eventually, they both find work on a border ranch. Here, the relationship between the girl and the young cowboy hesitantly grows. But banditos raid the ranch, kidnapping the rancher’s daughters and Marta. Bud, with twelve other men, pursue the banditos into the most desolate reaches of Mexico. Ambushes and battles with banditos, Rurales, and traitors are constant, and the brutal weather is as much a threat as the man-made perils. Life and death choices are made at every turn as one side gains the advantage, then the other. 

The rancher’s daughters are rescued, and the exhausted party turns back. But Bud presses on alone, against insurmountable odds – determined to fulfil an unspoken promise to Marta.

One of the strengths of this excellent story is the characterization of Bud, Marta, and others that will have you caring about them almost immediately you meet them. Marta is a superb case in point; you soon forget she is mute as she gets her feelings over so well through expression and actions.

The story is told in the first person through Bud and his growing attachment to Marta is beautifully told. When she’s kidnapped his feelings really become evident and he’ll do anything to get her back, even take on superior odds by himself if that’s what it’ll take to save her.

I saw somewhere that the author says this book is a western romance with a body count of around eighty; that sure sums the story up better than I ever could.

The action sequences are described well, not glorifying the brutality of them, but not holding any punches either. Marta’s skill with a shotgun is used to devastating effect too. The final frantic run to safety is filled with tension and brings the story to a memorable conclusion.

The Hardest Ride is Gordon Rottman’s first western and it’s not difficult to see why this book won Best Western Novel in the 2014 Peacemaker Awards, and I have no hesitation in recommending it as it’s right up there with the best westerns I’ve read this year.

 at Amazon.com                       at Amazon.co.uk

To be released as a paperback in late July and as an audio book later in the year.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Death River

CALEB THORN #5
By L. J. Coburn
Piccadilly Publishing, June 2014

Originally published by Sphere, 1978

By the bloody spring of 1862, the American Civil War had become one vast, cruel death machine. Men like Caleb Thorn and his licenced killers fuelled that machine – and enjoyed their violent work.

With the Union forces advancing down towards Memphis, Thorn’s Raiders’ assignment was to cut their way into enemy territory and destroy the two Confederate river-steamers that supplied the Reb garrisons along the Mississippi. Trouble was, one of the steamers was carrying a party of young Southern girls on a pleasure trip. But then, in Caleb Thorn’s brutal world of pillage and destruction, there were no such things as innocent bystanders…

This, the fifth book in the Caleb Thorn series turned out to be the last, and unlike many series that just stop being published without warning this story does bring some kind of conclusion to series.

Throughout the previous books Thorn has seen his trail cross with members of the Tyree family and being on opposite sides in the war things haven’t gone well for Thorn’s enemies. This tale sees those clashes continue as one of the girls is Christabel Tyree and with Thorn travelling under a pseudonym she doesn’t realise who he is and she falls for the dashing young man and this seems destined to end in tragic circumstances…but maybe, just maybe, Thorn’s hardness is about to crack…

It also seems relationships with one of his own Raiders is becoming strained which will lead to a brutal scene of carnage during a frantic river chase that is taught with tension and violent action.

The author writing behind the pen-name of L. J. Coburn this time is Laurence James and his exploration into the darker side of human nature which is often the theme of his books is pretty much held in check here. You do get great characters, tough talking, savage action, and a fast moving plot with a memorable sting-in-tale though which makes this book well worth taking the time to read.

 at Amazon.com             at Amazon.co.uk

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Colorado Carnage

THE TRAILSMAN #392
By Jon Sharpe
Signet, June 2014

The Rocky Mountains, 1861 – two towns wage war and Fargo is caught in the middle.

Fargo can’t say no when the oddball citizens of the near-dead boomtown of Lodestone offer him a small fortune to guide them on a two-day trip to a new home over the mountains. But when there are two separate attempts to gun him down, the Trailsman realizes that somebody doesn’t want the people of Lodestone going anywhere – except six feet under.

This book has a superb cast, many of whom the author has given wonderful names that produced some excellent out-loud laughs when the Trailsman is told them. But it isn’t long before Fargo begins to doubt their reasons for hiring him and his questions only add to the mysterious elements of the story that prove to be gripping hooks that made it impossible for me to put this book down until that truth was revealed.

Fargo also finds himself with an unwanted ‘pard’, Chester, whose non-stop babbling adds some chuckles too. These lighter toned moments contrasting well with the darker, more brutal, action scenes.

The author, this time David Robbins writing behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe, also has one or two surprises waiting to cause even more problems for the Trailsman, problems that could well be the death of him if he doesn’t react fast enough.

If you’re a fan of The Trailsman series or just like fast-moving action-packed westerns then make sure you don’t miss this one.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Incident at River Bend

By Lee Lejeune
Hale, June 2014

When Steve Carrington, the sheriff of River Bend, saves a young and desperate thief from a lynch mob, he is content to send the kid packing with his life intact. However when a mysterious army sergeant arrives, fresh out of jail for armed robbery, tension in the town builds.

Wesley Carradine is convinced the sergeant is sitting on a pile of loot the authorities never found and sends his private henchmen to investigate. All the while, however, with the help of a company of bandits, Carradine is organizing a more devious ploy that will really turn the town on its head.

Avarice, honour and the battle for supremacy fuel the saga that ensues, as the actions of a greedy few take a grip on the town.

I’ve read a couple of Lee Lejeune’s Black Horse Westerns before and they turned out to be thoroughly entertaining reads and Incident at River Bend is equally so.

Lee Lejeune includes many great characters in this twisting story that is filled with questions about their relationships, their true agendas, and the whereabouts of the missing loot – if this exists. All these, and more, prove to be powerful hooks that grabbed my attention and ensured I kept reading until I discovered the answers. For those who like action, there’s plenty of that too.

Like other Lejeune westerns this one contains a number of strong female roles and it would seem that events surrounding the sergeant and Carradine could just make or break Carrington’s relationship with one of them.

The story builds well to a showdown involving a stagecoach and a hotel standoff that brings everything to a satisfying and exciting end that left me looking forward to Lee Lejeune’s next book.

Incident at River Bend at Amazon.com

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Trapped!

BOWEN AND BAILE #4
By Frank Roderus
Western Trail Blazer, January 2014

An old friend from Cole’s past approaches the Bowen & Baile Detective Agency for help on an odd quest - to give back a stolen fortune. The only problem is, the man’s partners don’t want it to be given back…

The Bowen and Baile books are short and are therefore perfect for when you want a quick read, between those more lengthy novels perhaps.

This, the fourth in the series, has more of a straight western plot then the others that read like detective fiction set in the west, and why shouldn’t they? After all Bowen and Baile are partners in a Detective Agency.

Helping an old friend allows Frank Roderus the opportunity to fill the reader in on more of Cole’s past, something he tries to stop Johnny Adams from revealing, only thing is Adams is very eager to tell and doesn’t really need the prompting from Baile, which leads to some humorous exchanges.

The ride to retrieve the stolen fortune sees Bowen, Baile, and Adams being trailed by a number of riders. This adds an air of tension to the mission and, of course, leads to a brief but deadly exchange of gunfire that brings the story to its conclusion.

Like the previous three entries in the series, Trapped! proved to be an entertaining read and left me looking forward to Bowen and Bailes’ next assignment.

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Hangrope Posse

By Scott Connor
Hale, June 2014

When Sherwood Drake was accused of stealing the railroad payroll, The Hangrope Posse lynched him before anyone could prove his guilt – but the money remained missing.

Seven years later, his sons Braxton and Martin ride into Shady Grove looking for answers. They doubt they will find the missing money, or their father’s killers, but when the lynch mob unexpectedly returns to Shady Grove, the Drake boys face a force of mindless terror.

As more bodies swing and the boundaries of justice become blurred, Braxton and Martin Drake venture to find an answer to the important question: was their father’s death justified, or just another unlucky hand in a cruel game of fate?

Scott Connor once again gives his readers a fast moving tale that contains strong mystery elements. Who are/were the Hangrope Posse? Did their father steal the money? Where is the money now?

The two brothers find themselves taking on separate jobs, unbeknown to each other they both become entwined within the same plot. Both having many people on their suspect list as Scott Connor masterfully creates an air of suspicion over everyone.

Not just content with firing many questions at his heroes – and readers – Connor suddenly springs a terrific twist to the tale that proves to be the first of many. These surprises combined with some superb action scenes make this book a joy to read.

The Hangrope Posse at Amazon.com

Sunday, 29 June 2014

R.I.P. Jory Sherman




Jory Sherman, one of the great western writers, passed away yesterday. My condolences to his family.

I felt honoured when Jory agreed to be interviewed by me and you can read that here.




"Jory Sherman is a national treasure." - Loren D. Estleman