Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Boot Hill Breed

By Ned Oaks
The Crowood Press, November 2016

Upon learning his mother is seriously ill, Jack Marric leaves his carefree life in California to return home to the tiny village of Jasper, Oregon. He is a quiet man, slow to anger but good with a pistol, who minds his own business and doesn’t look for trouble. But before he reaches Jasper, he is forced into a shootout in a saloon, leaving two of the notorious Harper brothers dead.

Back home, Marric reunites with his family, and he is particularly happy when he learns his sister is engaged to the town marshal. Then some local ranch hands kill the marshal, reigniting an old feud between Marric and their boss, Chance Elson.

As Marric takes over as lawman, he is determined to bring the murderers to justice. Little does he know that one of the surviving Harper brothers is stalking him, just waiting for the opportunity to take vengeance on Jack Marric… and his family.

Ned Oaks doesn’t give his hero Jack Marric an easy time as he has to endure physical and mental pain in a story that revolves around different characters desires for revenge, which will eventually include Marric being driven by the need for vengeance whilst hunting for his sister’s kidnapper.

This book starts with gunplay, then dips slightly in the action stakes as the author paints a picture of happy family life that will be ripped apart violently and that is when the pace picks up again and it becomes an action-packed tale again and by the bloody end all the story threads will be tied up neatly.

Ned Oaks writing is extremely readable, he has created a great set of characters that will keep you turning the pages as you’ll want to find out what happens to them. The Boot Hill Breed is a western that I believe should be enjoyed by all fans of the genre. 


Monday, 11 September 2017

The Old Wolves

RUSTY SPURR #2
By Peter Brandvold
Berkley, August 2013

Deputy United States Marshal Spurr Morgan’s ticker isn’t what it used to be. After Spurr suffers a heart attack on the job, the chief marshal convinces him it’s time to step down. Unwilling to go out on a sour note, Spurr asks for one last assignment.

The chief sends him to bring a prisoner back to Denver from the Medicine Bow Mountains. The mission seems routine for an old hand like Spurr, until he discovers that the criminal in question is his old nemesis, Boomer Drago – the former lawman turned train robber that Spurr’s been trying to run down for years. Now, with Drago’s gang on his trail and a young girl named Greta needing help out of the mountains, Spurr is ready to face his dangerous final job and prove that even old wolves still have a mean bite…

There might only be two books dedicated solely to Spurr Morgan, but followers of Peter Brandvold’s work will know that this likeable old lawman has also appeared in a number of the authors other books under his own name and his pseudonym Frank Leslie. I for one am glad that Peter managed to write a book that brings an end to Spurr’s career before Berkley stopped publishing westerns so that Spurr didn’t become another hero that just vanished as a publisher cancelled a series without giving the author a chance to bring about a satisfying conclusion to his characters escapades.

This book offers everything Brandvold’s followers could ask for; a fast paced plot, tough characters – both male and female, some explicit sex, plenty of brutal action and occasional moments of humour. In fact there are some great one-liners to be found in this book, mainly coming from Morgan or Drago as they reflect on old age.

So does Spurr survive this assignment or does he meet his end by bullet or heart attack? I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out, and hopefully enjoy this excellent story as much as I did. 


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Bearer of the Pipe

THE SPANISH BIT SAGA #24
By Don Coldsmith
Paperback edition, Bantam, March 1996

From his auspicious birth, Wolf Pup has demonstrated an instinct for the ways of the wild. Yet it is in the lodge of his grandfather Singing Wolf that he seeks his true calling: medicine man and future bearer of the story skins, the pipe, and the sacred Spanish bit. But before he can claim his destiny Wolf Pup must undertake a perilous vision quest. He must learn to see through the eyes of the deer, soar with the red-tailed hawk, sit coiled with the snake in the grass. Then a whirlwind of terror, an instant of destruction, will leave his village in ruins and chase the life-giving herds of buffalo across the horizon and beyond the People’s reach. Suddenly Wolf Pup discovers the burden of being Pipe Bearer may require the most profound and painful sacrifice of all.

As this is a generational saga it comes as no surprise that Don Coldsmith has to return to similar themes in some of the entries to this superb series. Here it’s the vision quests and the calling of a medicine man. Coldsmith tells this kind of tale so well, confusing both his characters and readers with the true meaning of these vision quests and only revealing the truth when he is good and ready.

Wolf Pup has a distraction though, a girl he hoped to marry someday is courting another, so jealously is an emotion to cope with, something that Pup struggles with. These feelings beautifully written and make Wolf Pup so very human.

Don Coldsmith also describes events in such a way that you’ll feel you are sharing the dangers, excitement and wonders with his characters. The whirlwind build up and destructive force being one of the highlights.

As I said the story may revisit certain themes we’ve read about in this series before, but Coldsmith combines them with new elements that makes the tale seem fresh and new making this a worthy entry into what has to be one of the best, if not the best, series written about the native Americans.


Friday, 25 August 2017

A Short Ride to Hell

By Paul Green
The Crowood Press, July 2017

When a Wells Fargo stage is robbed and all the passengers murdered, Sheriff Luke Callaghan is suspicious of Jackson Tate’s claim that this was the work of Apaches. He sets off in pursuit of Tate and his gang only to find himself battling a gun running Mexican bandit, Hector Salinas. Things go from bad to worse, and Callaghan is forced to defend his beloved town of Maxwell against attack, attempt to prove the innocence of his friend Matt Carver who is suspected of involvement in the robbery and rescue his sweetheart Christiana from kidnapping.

Black Horse Westerns aren’t long books, coming in at 160 pages, so all the elements of the story outlined above, and a few others, mean this fast moving tale is packed with action. In fact no sooner does one deadly encounter come to a conclusion than another starts. Amidst all this gunplay the author also manages to include a mystery element, as to who exactly informed Tate and his gang that the stage was carrying a valuable cargo.

Paul Green mixes a great cast of characters of bandits, Apaches, soldiers, lawmen, townsfolk and a very strong female role in the case of Christiana, that all may be who they say they are, or may not. The latter adding some surprises as truths are revealed as the story progresses. Green also has a neat twist waiting too, one that I didn’t see coming.

Having read a couple of Paul Green’s westerns previously, and enjoyed them, I had high hopes that this one would prove to be just as entertaining and it more than matched those earlier books, leaving me looking forward to reading another of his Black Horse Westerns very soon.



You'll notice a big difference in price in the two adds above, that's because one is for the hardback version and one for the ebook. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Death's-Head Trail

GUNN #3
By Jory Sherman
Zebra, 1980

After getting a gold claim on Grasshopper Creek, Gunn heads towards Bannock City to stake out his claim. There, he finds plenty of gold, girls and a ruthless, gunslingin’ outlaw called “Bull” Roumal who wants it all for himself.

When Gunn’s life is threatened by a band of Bull’s gunnies, he realizes he’ll have to find Roumal and set him straight. Both hands to his holster, Gunn begins his search in the local saloon. There, he meets the sumptuous Angela Larkin who offers him pleasure, passion and a few wise words that send him off hot … on Bull Roumal’s trail…

The title of this book refers to notes sent to miners threatening their lives if they don’t leave, each marked with a Death’s Head. As expected it isn’t long before Gunn gets one of these messages too but, of course, that isn’t going to set Gunn running scared, just makes him more determined to stay and fight for what’s his.

It’s the death of two girls that really sets Gunn on the warpath in this story that is full of action, be that gunplay or sexual (Gunn is an adult western series), both of which are often described in detail. Knowing that some readers don’t like explicit sex or bad language in their books I feel I must also point out that there is plenty of the latter too.

For those who don’t mind graphic violence, sex and profanities then this book is a terrific read. Jory Sherman has long been a writer whose work is held in high regard and you are pretty much guaranteed a gripping read from him. At times the story presents a dark, bleak take on life and the ending will leave Gunn mentally scared.

I’ve only read the first three Gunn books and on the strength of this, and the two before it, I really do need to find time to read more of this series.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Ponderosa War

THE GUNSMITH #30
By J.R. Roberts
Charter Books, July 1984

They called it Battles Mountain, but it belonged more to the bank than to the Battles family. Now, they have to get their timber down the mountain fast enough to stop the bank from reclaiming the land.

Clint Adams is just passing through North Dakota, but when the Battles brothers help him out in a fight, the Gunsmith feels obliged to return the favour – especially since they have a big, good-looking sister. Helping to fend off the unscrupulous “banker,” Clint comes head to head with a gunslinger out to make his reputation – over Clint’s dead body!

Like all Gunsmith books this is a fast paced tale that is dialogue driven. There’s plenty of action but it’s the showdown between Adams and the gunslinger, Wallmann, that provides the tension and anticipation that kept me turning the pages.

The author also manages to include a lot of information about the timber business and the various jobs that have to be done to get the trees down the mountain. None of this comes over as if you’re reading a how-to manual but as a natural part of the story that provides knowledge to the inquisitive Clint Adams.

With this book being part of an adult series there are a few explicit sexual encounters, but these are easily skipped if you don’t like to read this kind of thing and doing so won’t ruin the story. And this is certainly a very enjoyable tale that finishes with a neat ending as Wallmann and Adams come face-to-face.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Gunpowder Empire

By Matt Cole
The Crowood Press, July 2017

Raw hatred ravaged the range land!

Luke Bragg – a man with a dark past – has come to claim the sheep ranch his uncle left for him. Only once he arrives in Preston Gulch, Bragg soon finds himself in the middle of a range war with the valley’s two biggest cattle ranchers. This clash of interests, which Bragg tries to avoid, just escalates and he is the one the town thinks is the reason why. The cattlemen try to bolster their position by claiming that his sheep kill the grass by nibbling it too close and trampling the roots with their sharp hoofs. Then when the daughter of another rancher comes to town after the murder of her father, the truth about his murder sends the valley into chaos and threatens the empires that they had established with gunpowder.

This is Matt Cole’s third Black Horse Western and the first I have read. It is also the first BHW that I have read that begins with two poems. These are both about sheep and written by Arthur Chapman (June 25, 1873 – December 4, 1935). They set the mood for the book perfectly.

Matt Cole has created a great set of characters and surrounds them with mystery, the main one being who killed the rancher Flynn and why. There is also some mystery as to Luke Bragg’s past. All this grabbed my attention and encouraged me to read more.

There is plenty of action, and Bragg soon proves he’s a capable man when it comes to gunplay. Slowly the truth behind the murder is revealed and desperate men take drastic measures to keep their part in the killing hidden. Bragg has to be silenced, permanently, and a hired gun is brought in to do this which leads to an interesting proposition.

The story builds well to its violent final showdown where the truths are exposed and western justice is served, and all the story threads are tied up neatly. The final lines leaving me grinning and thinking it’s about time I caught up with Matt Cole’s two previous books.