Sunday, 29 March 2015

Rawhide Express

By Jake Douglas
Hale, March 2015

They called him ‘Hardluck’ Lacy and the name stuck. It sure followed him to his old stamping ground, where old friends have now become new enemies.

But three years in prison have hardened him and he’s now ready for anything.

He hopes….

Plenty of questions serve to hook the reader early on and more come before any are answered. Why would Lacy’s long-time friend want Lacy’s land as it’s nothing particularly special?

Jake Douglas weaves his tale expertly, his tale gathering momentum all the while as it races to its memorable conclusion. Why memorable? Most westerns see a final shootout between good-guy and bad as justice is served. And, yes, the bad-guy does get his comeuppance but it isn’t dealt out as expected, in fact the book has a refreshing way of bringing about the bad-guys’ downfall, one that will stick in my mind for a good long time.

Of course I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed by this book as Jake Douglas is one of a fistful of pseudonyms used by one of my favourite western writers, Keith Hetherington. If you’ve yet to try his work then this book would serve as a perfect introduction to his excellent storytelling.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Longarm's last assignment

LONGARM #436:
LONGARM AND THE MODEL PRISONER
By Tabor Evans
Jove, March 2015

Mild-mannered postal thief Brian Henry is not about to give Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long any trouble on the ride back to Denver for trail. After being double-crossed by a tantalizing temptress who took his money, Brian is good and licked.

In fact, when Longarm is pistol-whipped by highwaymen, it’s his polite prisoner who comes to his aid and makes no attempt to escape as the lawman rides off to rescue a beautiful woman kidnapped by the desperadoes.

But when the gunsmoke clears, will this be Longarm’s last showdown?

Sadly this is the last Longarm book. The series first appeared on the bookshelves way back in 1978 and a new book has been published monthly ever since. Alongside the regular books there are 29 giant editions too. Longarm also made it into film.

So does Longarm go out in style? Checking my records I was shocked to discover it’s been a couple of years since I last read a Longarm book, so this one came as a bit of a surprise when I discovered just how much sex it contained. Maybe this was an intentional inclusion to echo the amount that featured in the series when it first came out?

The blurb above pretty much outlines the story completely. It’s a straight-forward fast paced read that does bring about an end to Long’s career as a lawman. Personally I’d have thought Vail would have fought harder to keep Longarm on the payroll but still the reason for Custis handing in his badge is how I imagined it would end.

There’s none of Longarm’s trademark sayings included and he does speak a little differently to how I’m used to reading his dialogue but different writers have always put their style into the books making it very easy to work out that Tabor Evans is a pseudonym behind which more than ten authors have written over the years, including some of the biggest names in western fiction.

So, perhaps not as strong a finish to the series as I would have liked, but the story was entertaining and I enjoyed reading it. 


Sunday, 22 March 2015

All Must Die

By I.J. Parnham
Hale, March 2015

A spree of unexplained murders shocked Monotony’s townsfolk, but when bank raider Sykes Caine was caught the killings stopped. Although Sykes pleaded his innocence, he got ten years.

When Sykes is freed from jail, he returns to Monotony where Sheriff Cassidy Yates has to deal with another perplexing case. Two men are killed in what appears to be an act of revenge, but Cassidy notices similarities with the deaths ten years ago. Before long, other people are gunned down and the evidence points to Sykes again being responsible.

With time running out before someone takes the law into their own hands and Sykes receives summary justice, Cassidy must uncover the truth and ensure only the guilty are punished.

I.J. Parnham sure has created a twisting mystery for his series character Sheriff Cassidy Yates to solve. With strange new electrical medical equipment, people who know more than they are willing to divulge, others who aren’t who they say, a mounting body count, and words written in the dirt beside the dead that make no sense, Yates seems faced with an impossible task.

At first this story seems to be a fairly straightforward whodunit, but it soon takes a much darker tone, including a couple of themes you might expect to find in a horror novel more than a western. Having said that it all works extremely well in this fast moving tale where no-one is safe, be they walking the streets or locked away in a cell; death seems to find a way of claiming them all.

Even when Parnham reveals who is behind the killings there is still a number of whys to answer and the reason for a girls’ death is shocking to say the least.

So, once again, Ian Parnham has written a thoroughly entertaining western that leaves me looking forward to his next.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Yancy

THE LANDON SAGA #5
By Tell Cotten
Solstice Publishing, January 2015

Yancy Landon was a simple man who lived by a lawman’s code of ethics. He always did the right thing, no matter the cost. When Cooper Landon vows to find a boy captured by Apache Indians, Yancy doesn’t hesitate to aid his brother. Along the way they get caught up in survival, revenge, relationships, and the code of honour.

Told in the first person, this fast moving tale contains a skilled mix of dialogue, often laced with humour, and quick-fire action that is a joy to read. Unlike other books in the series this one doesn’t move between characters but sticks with Yancy.

The story does contain many references to the previous books and involves a few of the people from those tales, so you may prefer to read those first but it isn’t essential for you to enjoy this entry into the Landon Saga as it reads perfectly as a stand-alone story.

The plan for freeing the boy seems straightforward enough until a neat twist sees Yancy and Cooper having to concoct a new way with little time to consider if it is possible or not.

Yancy is also considering his relationship with Jessica, is there a possibility of it going further or does she have eyes for someone else? This story-thread, and a couple of others, are left dangling, to be developed in the next entry in the series, Lee, which can’t be published soon enough for me.


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Arkansas Bushwhackers

By Will DuRey
Hale, February 2015

Wandering ex-Union soldier Charlie Jefferson strikes up a friendship with Henry and Dave Willis in Pottersville, Arkansas. The brothers are planning to drive cattle from Texas to the logging camps in the Arkansas timberland and invite Charlie to join them. But the plan falls foul of a gang of bushwhackers called Red Masks who are terrorizing that area.

To bring the gang to justice, Charlie becomes a government agent, a role which requires all his bravery and fighting skills, and an ability to deceive people – even those he likes.

Set just after the Civil War this book deals with ex-Confederates waging war on carpetbaggers. A time when being an ex-Union soldier looking for work isn’t good for your health in this part of America.

Jefferson is looking to earn some money to take home where he hopes to be reunited with the woman he left behind when he went to war. But the Red Masks pose a massive threat to this. 

Will DuRey creates an excellent atmosphere of distrust as his action packed story races through a number of twists and turns which includes elements of mystery as to just who the Red Masks are, and once Jefferson believes he has those answers he then has to prove it.

How Jefferson brings about the demise of the Red Masks makes for some gripping reading that thoroughly entertains. After finishing the book I was left eager to read more of Will DuRey’s work, something I hope to do very soon.


Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Gunsmith's last ride for Jove

THE GUNSMITH #399:
DEATH IN THE FAMILY
By J.R. Roberts
Jove, March 2015

Clint Adams has always tried to do the right thing. But when he finds a toddler roaming a trail in Wyoming, he makes a choice that leads him down a path towards his toughest challenge yet – and possibly his last.

With the child in one hand and his gun near the other, Clint rides into a nearby town, where he finds a mysterious mayor, a sheriff who’s had one hard night too many, and a madam who’d be happy to start a home with the Gunsmith and his precious cargo. But a greedy rancher and his wife are curious about the child as well – and they’re ready to ensure he and Clint take a long dirt nap…

The last Gunsmith book from Jove (see below) has all the elements that have endeared this series to many, many readers, myself included. Short chapters broken into even shorter scenes that stick mainly with Clint Adams, but also tell what others are planning and doing, make it so easy to say to yourself I'll just read one more chapter and before you know it you’ll be swept up in the fast moving plot and then it’ll be impossible to put the book down before the end is reached.

The story is dialogue driven and includes plenty of exciting action, such as the Gunsmith taking on seven adversaries single-handed. Adam’s knack for second-guessing his enemies moves often see him one step ahead and able to deal with anything that is thrown at him. Why the toddler is wandering alone, and what happened to his family is soon discovered, as is the who put the child in this perilous position. But it is the why that demands you read on, and this comes as a shocking revelation, one I didn’t guess, that makes this such a hard-hitting tale and makes this a book that fans of the series should not miss, as is the fact that, as I already mentioned, this is the last Gunsmith book from Jove.

Like with many other western series Berkley have decided to cease publishing The Gunsmith series, but fans need not despair because J.R. Roberts (Robert J. Randisi) and Clint Adams are not yet ready to ride off into the sunset just yet. To explain more I’ll now hand you over to Mr. Randisi himself….


OUR MAN CLINT
The Gunsmith Continues
By Robert J. Randisi, aka J.R. Roberts

It was a bloodbath, probably fitting, given how long adult westerns and mens adventure paperbacks have been spilling blood within their pages.  But in one fell swoop publishers, with seeming disregard for the readers—or the readers that were left, anyway—cancelled all the Adult Western series—notably the long running Longarm and Gunsmith series—and mens adventure series—most notably, the Mack Bolan series.  This move, as of April of 2015, will not only rob loyal readers of the adventures of Custis Longarm and Mack Bolan, but will also put entire stables of writers out of work. Both series, along with many others, were written by multiple writers, having supplied work for many working writers for a good 40 years.  In fact, the Adult Western genre not only invigorated the western genre and kept it alive, but provided income for dozens of writers over the years. And now it’s the end of an era for all of them . . .
. . . except The Gunsmith.

Why?

Very simple answer. For the most part, the Gunsmith was created and written by one man. When Charter Books contacted me in 1981 and asked me if I could create an Adult Western series for them, I jumped at the chance.  I created a bible and, when it was approved, signed a two book contract.

 Then a contract for a third.  And then they called me and said they wanted to go into the genre whole-heartedly, and could I write a book a month.  I was 30 years old, had no idea if I could write a book a month, but I said “Yes!”

I started writing under the pseudonym J.R. Roberts.  When I attended my first Western convention I discovered what anomaly the Gunsmith and I were. There were several other monthly adult westerns running at the time, and they were being written by three or four writers under a single house name. A “house name” is a name used by many authors on one series.  My “J.R. Roberts” nom de-plume was a pseudonym used by one person, not a house name. (It was only after Berkley Books purchased Charter Books and wanted to keep the Gunsmith going that they asked if they could hire two more writers, just to build up an inventory. The writers were to be approved by me, and I was to own even those books which I did not write, and receive a royalty. It made me even more of an anomaly in the genre. Once we had built up a one year inventory, I went back to writing all the books.).

And I have done so since then, for over 32 years.  Gunsmith #1: Macklin’s Women came out in January of 1982, and there has been a Gunsmith every month since then.  Berkley Books decided to end of the run in March of 2015 with #399, and I was given enough warning so that I was able to place the series elsewhere and assure that Gunsmith #400 would appear in April of 2015, with no break in the action.  They will appear with a new cover design in ebook for from Piccadilly Publishing, and in paperback from Western Trailblazers.   And Our Man Clint will go on appearing in a book a month for as long as my flying fingers can flex. 

So to those loyal Gunsmith readers who pick up each and every month, you may continue to do so, with heartfelt thanks from me, and from Our Man Clint Adams. 

I should also thank Charter Books, where it all started, and then Berkley Books, which has kept the series going all these years, as we all move on to the next bend in the road. 

 




Saturday, 28 February 2015

Hanging Day

By Rob Hill
Hale, February 2015

Wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder, Josh Tillman busts out of jail the night before he is due to hang. Rather than go on the run, he heads home determined to prove his innocence and track down his wife’s killer. He has no evidence and no witnesses to back up his story. His father-in-law, cattle baron Stover Meckets, wants him dead and a corrupt prison guard is chasing him, determined to claim the price on his head.

A hanging posse has trailed him from prison and is closing in. When the preacher who conducted his wedding ceremony turns up out of nowhere and has the nerve to stand up for Tillman, he is shot in cold blood.

With no one to help him, can Tillman figure out who the killer is and find enough evidence to prove it before the posse arrives and strings him up from a tree in his own backyard?

In a story that takes place over a very short period of time, Rob Hill perfectly captures the senses of frustration and hopelessness in not just Tillman’s quest but also in Stover Meckets as he is accused of killing his own daughter, something he denies with just as much passion as Tillman does in saying he didn’t kill his wife. In fact a lot of this tale revolves around the struggle to convince others that they weren’t involved in the death of June Meckets.

As the posse closes in the story becomes much more tense and the arrival of the preacher and a group of cowboys further complicates matters and it isn’t long before Tillman feels the bite of a rope around his neck leading to a superb ‘how is he going to get out of that’ moment.

I’ve read a few of Rob Hill’s other Black Horse Westerns and each one has left me eager to try more of his work, Hanging Day equally does that too. If you’ve not read Rob Hill yet then now might be just the time to rectify that.