Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Man Who Burned Hell!

By Sam Clancy
The Crowood Press, February 2018

The little town was Serenity: in name and nature. Then the railroad and miners came, dragging violence and death behind them. Renamed Hell, the sleepy town changed under the rule of Ike Cordis.

Known as The Devil, Cordis controlled The Three Horsemen, the fastest guns in town.

Long forgotten was the fourth horseman – a man riding a blue roan. A man determined to make The Devil burn in Hell!

The third book from Sam Clancy once more features United States Deputy Marshal Josh Ford, son of Bass Reeves. You don’t need to have read either of the previous novels as this is pretty much a stand-alone story. 

Sam Clancy is a pseudonym used by Brent Towns and he starts this book with a prologue that lasts a couple of pages and ends with the line, ‘What the hell have you done?’ Combined with the fiery scene that Bass finds himself riding in to, which leads to him uttering those quoted words, how can any reader not want to find out too?

The author knows how to pace a story well, has created a terrific cast of characters of both sexes and has come up with a hard-hitting plot that demands you keep reading. There is also a further complication for Ford as he finds his former lover in town. Action comes thick and fast, meaning there is never a dull moment in this excellent tale before it ends in a dramatic and superbly told final showdown.

I never got around to reading the earlier Josh Ford books, Valley of Thunder and Even Marshals Hang! but on the strength of this entry into the series I must rectify that oversight as soon as possible.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Hot Lead - issue one

Issue one of Hot Lead, a new hardcopy western fanzine is now available via Amazon.

This first issue contains 60 pages and all about the books written by a group of writers known today as The Piccadilly Cowboys. Inside you will find an interview with Terry Harknett, who wrote mostly as George G. Gilman and under this pseudonym put out the following three series, Edge, Adam Steele and The Undertaker.

You’ll also find detailed looks at both Herne the Hunter and Crow, along with a review of one book from every Piccadilly Cowboy series.

Hot Lead has been put together by editor Justin Marriott, ghost editor Paul Bishop with contributions from myself, Steve Myall.

Issue two is almost ready to go and will feature the Art of the Western and issue three will be about the American Adult Westerns.

So, please grab a copy and help make this fanzine a success.

Monday, 12 March 2018

West of Fort Laramie

By Steve Ritchie
September 2017

Zach Fugate came home from the war to the mountains of Kentucky, only to be greeted with hostility, because he had fought for the North. So, to avoid drawing his family into a shooting feud, he loaded a canoe with trade-goods and his few belongings and headed west for the Black Hills of the Dakotas.

He left Ball Creek to avoid difficulties, but no matter where his travels take him or how hard he tries to avoid it, trouble seems to always be waiting for Ball Creek Zach. Nevertheless, romance blooms and new friendships are made as gunsmoke hangs in the air and blood covers the ground from St. Joseph to Fort Laramie and back.

A book of adventure and discovery. A tale that tells of Ball Creek Zach finding a place to set up a new home that also contains riches of more than one kind. Steve Ritchie’s descriptions of this hidden valley paint vivid imagery that place the reader right there, experiencing the wonders and grandeur of nature as if you were standing right beside Fugate.

Ritchie also has the ability to create believable characters and many of these will become new friends for Zach, one he hopes to settle down with.

Along the way Zach comes across those who want what he has, those who just like to push others around, and these are dealt with expertly and swiftly. Ritchie’s action sequences being well told and filled with tension.

I’ve purposely been a bit vague in revealing too much about the story as I don’t want to give anything away to those intending to read this book. 

The author also plants the seeds for storylines that could be developed in the sequel, plots of not just hope and happiness but also of confrontation that could threaten Zach’s new life in the worst way possible. Hopefully I will get around to finding out soon as the sequel to this story Return to the Sweetwater, was also published in 2017.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Three Graves to a Showdown

By George G. Gilman
NEL, January 1982

Brought up with death, he learned to kill.

Suddenly there were a lot of folks wanting to meet up with Barnaby Gold.

The man on the Trans-Territorial Stage for a start. He got his meeting – a short one. One item only on the agenda and a final conclusion. Very final.

The woman, too. She wanted a meeting, though of a rather different sort. She was luckier. Got what she seemed to be looking for.

But the final meeting was the one that Gold himself wanted. One he’d been seeking for a very long time. No ordinary meeting. Not when the preparations included three new coffins and three freshly-dug graves.

Barnaby Gold, The Undertaker, is perhaps George G. Gilman’s coldest character, a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his aims, as he points out during this story, there are ‘just two kinds of men I kill. Those that are trying to kill me. And those that get in the way of me doing what I want to do.’

Gilman includes enough backstory to fill in those who haven’t read the previous books to explain why Gold has a ten-thousand-dollar bounty on his head, which in turn enlightens new readers as to what drives the man known as The Undertaker towards the final confrontation he engineers, and this is done in a macabre style that makes for a dramatic last showdown.

The Undertaker is, perhaps, Gilman’s least known western series, coming some years after Edge and Adam Steele. This, the fourth book was meant to be the last and the ending certainly reads like it could have been, and for me would have made for an excellent conclusion to the series, but the publisher persuaded the author to write two more.

Like Edge with the razor he carries behind his neck and Steele with his stick-pin and thugee scarf, Barnaby Gold has an unusual weapon, a swivel Peacemaker, and he also has another gimmick; his screw together shovel that he uses to bury all those he kills, in fact insists on doing so. 

Filled with tough-talking and acting characters this story races along at great pace, offering a couple of surprising revelations along the way. For those who have read the other Gilman series’, you’ll find less of the groan inducing puns, and the graphic violence somewhat toned down, but that is not a criticism in any way for this book is highly entertaining and a must read for all Gilman fans.

Friday, 23 February 2018


By Will Keen
The Crowood Press, February 2018

Deputy Marshal McClain is found in his home, kneeling over his dead wife’s body, holding the bloody knife that had killed her. Accused of her murder, he escapes from jail and stumbles across evidence pointing to her killers. So begins a long manhunt that takes him from Arizona to the Texas Gulf Coast and a town on the shores of Laguna Madre. There tangling with the Skeltons, a family of bootleggers, brings McClain more startling information that sees him heading back to Arizona. Tormented by guilt, he at lasts meets his wife’s killer, and deals with him in a way he would never have expected.

A tale that offers questions almost from the very first word that will sweep you up into the storyline with ease and keep you turning the pages as McClain tracks the Skeltons and the death toll mounts. Of course, you will have your own ideas as to who the killer is, but the author includes enough twists and turns to make you doubt your deductions. To say anymore about this aspect of the story would be a major spoiler so that’s all you’re getting from me about the killer’s identity.

McClain makes for a likable hero, one who isn’t above making mistakes which lead to him suffering both mentally and physically. The conclusion is both hard-hitting and apt, leaving me feeling extremely satisfied with how the author decided to end this story.

Will Keen is one of a number of pseudonyms used by John Paxton Sheriff, an author that I have read many times and one that I know will provide me with a very entertaining read. His expertly crafted plots, well-drawn characters, bloody violence and unforeseen surprises combine to make his books must reads. Each time I finish one I’m left looking forward to his next release, and that never comes fast enough for me. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

A Sidekick's Tale

By Elisabeth Grace Foley
Published, November 2017

Illustrations by Annie Grubb

Meredith Fayett needed to marry someone before the week was out or she would lose her ranch. It sounded simple, so ranch hand Chance Stevens agreed to take on the job, in spite of his friend Marty’s warnings that it could only lead to trouble. But even Marty, a loyal though opinionated sidekick, couldn’t have predicted the mayhem that ensues when his own eccentric relatives appear on the scene, dragging Chance, Marty, and Meredith into the latest skirmish in a long running family feud.

What follows is a hilarious tangle involving an emerald ring, a fearsome aunt, a scheming suitor, and a term of runaway mules – by the end of which Chance finds that even a marriage just on paper has its complications, and that it never hurts to have a good sidekick.

Elisabeth Grace Foley takes the age-old plot of a young, pretty, girl about to lose her ranch to the bank, and comes up with a fresh, and extremely enjoyable, approach to resolving this problem.

Elisabeth’s character studies are superbly portrayed and the story is beautifully told through Marty, and it’s his observations that offer most of the witty and laugh aloud moments that come thick and fast throughout this fun read.

Marty’s extended family and their polite generational feud provide the complications to what should have been a straightforward solution to retaining the ranch and I don’t think any reader will be able to forget Aunt Bertha for a long time. 

There are also a number of surprises that offer some great plot twists that will have you wondering how the lead characters are going to solve them satisfactory.

I’ve read a number of Elisabeth Grace Foley’s stories, and reviewed them on Western Fiction Review, and like those I found this one to be as thoroughly entertaining as any of them. In fact I’m even thinking it’s time I read her non-western books too.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Wanted: Dead

By Joe Slade
Piccadilly Publishing, April 2018 

‘Frank O’Bannen wanted five thousand dollars to let you go. I offered him ten thousand to kill you.’

Kidnapped at sixteen, Maggie O’Bannen returns home after seven years to be reunited with her father. No longer the idealistic girl she once was, her return is meant to help put her demons to rest. Instead, it sets in motion a series of events that will put her on a collision course with trouble, and this time, Maggie has no qualms about speeding towards it.

Discovering who was behind her abduction is just the beginning. Murder with no apparent motive and no suspect soon brings her under the scrutiny of the local sheriff. As the body count rises, Maggie fights for her life against a foe who will stop at nothing to win.

As events escalate, Maggie will need to rely on her friends more then ever before if she is to survive. But at what cost?

After the excellent first book I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the second entry into this series and the author has once again written a superb story that is, perhaps, even better than the pervious tale. I say perhaps because that will be down to individual taste as that opening story is a lot more graphic in its descriptions of violence and in this one it’s been toned down a little. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a criticism in any way, and there is certainly some very hard hitting bloody action to be found in this story, especially towards the end that will satisfy all readers who like this kind of content in their reading material. 

This time around Joe Slade includes a perfect blend of murder mystery into the story that never loses its western atmosphere and this very welcome element grabs hold of the reader urging you to keep turning the pages as you will want to discover who is poisoning Maggie’s father, and more importantly why. There are also numerous attempts on Maggie’s life and this brings forward additional questions of whether this is the same person who is slowly killing her father or is it someone else? All this makes for some gripping reading.

Like in the first book, Maggie must suffer some brutality, and not all her friends will escape unscathed. The final confrontation makes for an exciting and satisfying conclusion to this very fast paced tale and, once again, leaves me impatiently waiting for the third book to be released.