Sunday, 26 March 2017

Incident at Pegasus Heights

By I.J. Parnham
Crowood Press, March 2017

When fossil-hunter Jim Dragon is on this way to Bear Creek to sell his latest discovery, he goes to the aid of a woman in distress, Elmina Fay. Unfortunately, Pierre Dulaine takes advantage of the situation and steals his fossils.

Jim vows to reclaim his property and Elmina offers to help him, but only if he’ll do something for her. She has heard a tale about the bones of a winged horse being found nearby and she wants Jim to find Pegasus for her.

At first, Jim is sceptical about embarking on such a mission, but before long he discovers that the truth behind the tale is even stranger than he could ever have imagined.

Ian Parnham has created a great set of characters for this story, people who all seem to have secrets, and these along with the mystery of the flying horse make this a hard-to-put-down read.

Even though no-one really seems to know what it is they are trying to find, all sides are determined to discover it first and will do anything to make sure it’s them. As all converge on an outcrop on which sits a wagon which defies all logic as to how it got there – unless a flying horse truly deposited it there – the author has great fun with explanations both true and false and includes plenty of fist fights, before everyone gets involved in a deadly gunfight that will eventually reveal the answers to all the puzzles.

So, once again for me, this author has come up with a very entertaining read that left me hoping one or two of the surviving characters may return another day. In the meantime I’m left looking forward to Ian Parnham’s next book. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Coyote Courage

By Scott Harris
December, 2016

Brock Clemons rides into the small town of Dry Springs simply looking for a place to grab a cigar and a good night’s sleep. Instead, he finds a town being strangled by a band of hardened outlaws, a young boy named Huck who is bravely facing challenges far beyond his years, and Sophie, a woman of captivating strength and beauty. Brock decides to stay beyond the one night he had planned, but will his intelligence, courage and unmatched skill with a gun be enough to save the town, help Huck and win Sophie’s heart?

When beginning this book you’d be forgiven for thinking the story is being told in the first person, for it isn’t until fifty-five pages in, and the start of chapter ten, that the author switches to the third person, and from then on alternates between the two.

Scott Harris includes a few mystery elements to hook his readers, such as what is Brock Clemons' backstory and what has really happened to Huck’s father.

Clemons also has an interesting pet, a wolf that has a major role to play when its human companion is wounded and in need of protection.

Well-developed characters, vivid action scenes, visual descriptions and a fast-moving plot, all told in an extremely easy to read style, offer everything a western reader could want from this genre right down to a tense and dramatic final showdown in the streets of Dry Springs.

The cover states that Coyote Courage is a Brock Clemons Western, so I can only assume that there will be more to come, and I for one am looking forward to the next in the series. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Red Rock Rampage

BLAZE! #15
By Ben Boulden
Rough Edges Press, February 2017

J.D. and Kate Blaze ride into the settlement of Small Basin, Utah, on the trail of train robbers but soon discover that the town and the surrounding area are ruled by the iron fist of a renegade Mormon patriarch—and he has his eye on two beautiful young women he intends to make unwilling brides. Hired killers, corrupt lawmen, and brutal kidnappers mean a heap of trouble for the Old West's only husband-and-wife gunfighters. Forced to split up, Kate and J.D. have to battle their way back to each other to survive!

This is Ben Boulden’s first entry into this multi-authored series and what a terrific addition it is. Filled with action from the word go the author weaves a twisting plot that sees both J.D. and Kate facing many deadly situations. J.D. in particular when he finds himself captive with little hope of escape, making this part of the story a race against time as Kate attempts to find him.

Ben Boulden’s descriptive writing puts you right there in the thick of the action and his characterization of both good and bad is very well drawn, enabling you to share their emotions.  

The Blaze! series is billed as adult reading but Ben Boulden doesn’t include much of this, just the one detailed scene and he only devotes a few paragraphs to this too, meaning it is very easy to miss this section out and enjoy reading the rest of this fast moving tale that ought to please all fans of westerns.

Hopefully this won’t be the only entry into the series from Ben Boulden.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Taggart's Crossing

By Paul Bedford
Crowood Press, February 2017

John Taggart and Jacob Stuckey are Civil War veterans who operate a ferry on the mighty Arkansas River. When two drifters pick on Jacob, Taggart ruthlessly disarms them and sends them on their way vowing revenge. But there is more trouble to come. Russ Decker and his gang steal a fortune in gold ‘Double Eagles’ from a bank in Wichita. Their escape route into the Indian Territories takes them by way of the ferry crossing. With a posse of Pinkerton Agents on their trail, he decides to stop the pursuit by putting John and Jacob out of business…permanently.

Unknown to Decker and his men, a Deputy US Marshal also has his sights on them, but the lawman first has to deliver a particularly unpleasant prisoner to Fort Smith. In addition to all of this, fate decrees that a keelboat full of stolen silver ore will arrive at Taggart’s Crossing just at the right moment to create maximum havoc.

This is Paul Bedford’s eleventh Black Horse Western and what a superb read it is, further strengthening my belief that he is one of the best writers producing books for the BHW line today, perhaps ever.

The story is told at break-neck speed, switching between the many characters regularly as they all converge on the ferry crossing for a showdown between multi-sides none of whom have much of an idea as to the identity of anyone else or why they are shooting at each other.

One thing that quickly becomes apparent is that there is no guarantee as to who will be left alive at the end, if anyone. 

Packed with how are they going to get out of that situations, vivid descriptions of both scenes and action – the latter of which is quite brutal at times and should satisfy the most bloodthirsty of readers – this book should be on every western fans to read list.

After finishing this book I’m already eagerly looking forward to Paul Bedford’s next book, A Hell of a Place to Die which is due out in May.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Better Off Dead

By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, March 2016

On the West Texas border a behemoth is bellowing smoke, fire, and death. This monster is the infamous Abaddon Cannon Foundry, whose weapons of war have spread death and destruction around the world – and made a few men in Big Buck, Texas, incredibly rich. Now, a Mexican-born teenager has disappeared into this fortress factory, where men work and sweat as slaves. This boy’s sister wants to learn her brother’s fate, and she happens to know a man named Shawn O’Brien, the Town Tamer.

Shawn rides to Texas to find the missing boy. What he discovers in Big Buck will spark a ferocious, bloody battle with the greatest evil the West has ever known: masters of war who laugh in the face of anyone who defies them. Until Shawn O’Brien raises his six-gun. Then the laughing stops.

The Shawn O’Brien books are a spin-off series from The Brother’s O’Brien series and one of the other brothers will have a major part to play in this book, this being Jacob O’Brien.

Jacob goes undercover into the Foundry and will witness some horrific scenes that illustrate what many imagine Hell to be like. These very descriptive and visual passages bringing to mind the art of painters such as Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburgh and Pieter Bruegel.

The book also seems to borrow from the steampunk genre too in the clothing that those who support the Foundry wear and the weapons that they are developing. I don’t really want to say any more about those weapons so as not to spoil the story for anyone aiming to read it, but these weapons are of interest to leaders of European countries as it seems conflict there is becoming inevitable.

With the Foundry run by a seemingly madman with an army behind him, never mind weapons of the like the West has never seen before, the odds against the two O’Brien brothers and their small band of allies being able to succeed in their mission is extremely doubtful from the start.

If you want a violent, action packed read where human life is seen as disposable on a madman’s whim, then this very fast paced story should be right at the top of your reading list.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Badman's Daughter

By Terry James
The Crowood Press, November 2016

When mysterious stranger Daniel Cliff arrives in Ranch Town, he has no shortage of job offers. But the town is caught in the stranglehold of a brutal tyrant, and Daniel refuses to take sides. That is until the spirited Charlotte 'Charlie' Wells, heir to the Crooked-W ranch, crosses his path. 

When she offers him the chance to help her right the wrongs being rained down on the town, Daniel doesn't have to think twice. After all, she's the reason he's there and he has no qualms about using her troubles to further his own ambitions. 

However, Charlie is no pawn in a man's game. She is the badman's daughter and nobody is going to stand in her way when it comes to delivering revenge on those who have wronged her.

It’s been five years since the last Terry James Black Horse Western appeared, so the question is has it been worth the wait?

The story is told in short chapters, the majority ending in such a way that you’ll have to keep reading to find out what happens next. There is also some mystery elements to the plot, such as who Daniel Cliff is and what it is he really wants.

The pace of the tale is excellent, building towards its action packed final showdown which answers all the questions Terry James has hooked the reader with throughout.

So, to answer my question of has the wait been worth it, then the answer is it certainly has. Terry James (a pseudonym used by Joanne Walpole) still has her excellent ability to craft and gripping tale that holds the readers’ attention from beginning to end. Her writing style making this book a joy to read and one that should satisfy western fans everywhere. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait a further five years for the next Terry James to appear. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Avenger

By David Robbins
Mad Hornet Publishing, December 2016

Zach King has given up the ways of the warrior. The woman he loves is about to give birth, and he intends to be the best father he can be.

Little does he know that he is being stalked. From out of his recent past comes an avenger. A man who has vowed to make Zach pay for killing his brother.

A new birth should be a time of joy. Instead, Zach and his family find themselves ensnared in a web of deception and peril.

The avenger lives by one rule. ‘Eyes for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.’ EXODUS 21:24

It’s been a while coming, but at last David Robbins has given us a new Wilderness book. Over the last few entries of this long running series Louisa, Zach’s wife, has been pregnant and now is the time for her to give birth. The Avenger isn’t the only deadly problem facing Zach at this time, there is also a female grizzly with cubs, and it’s the bear that will create some of the most breath-taking scenes in the book.

Like in many of David Robbins’ books the more horrific scenes are balanced with humour and that is certainly the case with this story. Shakespeare as usual having most of the best lines, indeed his comments making me laugh out loud at times. Seeing Zach trying to adapt from the ways of the warrior to being a father also bringing a smile to my face.

David Robbins lets us in on the Avengers plans and it’s the anticipation of discovering how Zach will deal with him once this vengeance driven man plays his hand that makes this book such a difficult to put down read. You don’t need to have read any of the earlier books to understand why The Avenger is set on killing Zach as David Robbins includes enough background information to explain this.

The Avenger is a book that should be enjoyed by all fans of this genre and it is definitely a must read for all followers of the Wilderness series.

Some people seem a little confused that the Wilderness series is now coming out with a new author name, rather than David Thompson, so I’d just like to add that Thompson and David Robbins are one and the same, the former being a pseudonym used by the latter.