Thursday, 18 December 2014

Is this the end of the Trailsman?

THE TRAILSMAN #398:
ARIZONA AMBUSHERS
By Jon Sharpe
Signet, December 2014

Skye Fargo comes across a massacred army unit in the Arizona wild, and everyone immediately assumes it was the Apaches. But when he investigates, he finds something even more frightening – a savage pack of feminine felons out for blood and money. But he isn’t about to let any of these wild women get away – not without the Trailsman putting them flat on their backs….

Jon Sharpe sure has come up with a terrific group of adversaries for the Trailsman, and they aren’t the only great characters to be found in this story for there’s another woman who is out for revenge, and there’s a half-blood who seems to want to help Fargo but may have another agenda. And shadowing them all is a small band of Apaches set to strike at any moment.

There are many tense moments to be found in this extremely fast paced tale. Action explodes across the pages regularly and there is a neat twist that took me completely by surprise. Combine this with believable dialogue that is often laced with humour and you have a book that demands to be read.

Once more this tale finds David Robbins writing behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe and again it’s his gift of storytelling that makes this book such a joy to read, and for me, and many, many other fans of Skye Fargo it really is a shame that this could well be last time we’ll read a new Trailsman adventure for the series has been cancelled. There is a vague glimmer of hope that Fargo could ride again as a reliable source has said the publishers have stated the series has been put on hiatus. 

In case this does turn out to be the last Trailsman book I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the authors who have written behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe and made this a must read series for me.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Outlaws of Salty's Notch

By Will Keen
Hale, November 2014

The elderly derelicts in the sleepy Louisiana settlement of La Belle Commune are leading the good life, lazing in the hot sun. Until Bushwhack Jack Breaker rides in from Texas with his outlaw band, and everything changes. Ex-bounty-hunter Paladin awakes to find eccentric marshal, Brad Corrigan, has been forcibly taken, along with saloonist Rik Paulson and storekeeper Alec Mackie – but where, and why? The elegant widow Emma Bowman-Laing knows where, but Paladin and crippled wrangler Shorty Long fail in their rescue bid and Bowman-Laing’s crumbling antebellum mansion goes up in flames.

With rumours of a horde of gold coming across the sea by ketch, and flashy Mexican killer Guillermo Rodriguez brandishing his six-gun, Paladin slips reluctantly into his old bounty-hunting ways. His search for truth and justice takes him deep into Texas, but it is in La Belle Commune that everything is resolved in a bloody fight in the saloon, and brought to a fatal close in the waters of Petit Creek.

Will Keen brings together an excellent cast of characters whose personalities grab your attention as strongly as the terrific twisting plotline. At no time is it obvious how this fast moving tale will develop and who will be alive at its conclusion.

The story outline might seem to leave nothing out but believe me it doesn’t hint at the double-crosses and motivations that leave one person in unsuspected grave danger and the frantic race to save them and the hard-hitting ending this leads to.

Will Keen is a pseudonym used by John Paxton Sheriff and I’ve always found his stories to be hard-to-put-down reads with well thought out plots that are never predictable, and this book enforces that statement. If you’ve never tried his work then this is certainly a worthy place to start.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Dead Man Draw

By Walt Keene
Hale, November 2014

Legendary Will Bill Hickok and his close friends, retired lawman Dan Shaw and veteran gunfighter Tom Dix, have no idea what they are facing upon arrival in the sprawling town of Dead Man Draw. But it doesn’t take long to discover that the place is crawling with hired killers.

The intrepid trio are soon face to face with more deadly guns than they have ever encountered, each one trained on the fearless men as they move through the settlement. The tension is about to break. Shaw and Dix are angry but Hickok is more than angry – he’s dangerous.

Dead Man Draw is, I believe, the ninth book in Walt Keene’s series featuring Dix, Shaw and Hickok, and it’s only the second I’ve read. As in Gun Fury Hickok doesn’t have a major role until some way into the story. He appears in the prologue and it’s during this that a couple of major questions are voiced that kept me reading to find out their answers.

Dix and Shaw, virtually penniless, take on roles as lawmen in Dead Man Draw, without really wondering why they’ve been offered the jobs. It soon becomes obvious that the men who’ve hired them, and those who oppose them, don’t give a damn about the real law and it seem all are motivated by greed.

With Hickok’s arrival in town the three team up and take on the bad guys in a bloody showdown that includes a couple of twists and also brings forth the answers to the questions set at the beginning of the story.

Walt Keene is a pseudonym used by Michael D. George, a writer whose Black Horse Westerns written under a variety of pen-names are very popular. A couple of his other series are perhaps better known than this one, but on the strength of this very entertaining book maybe Dix, Shaw and Hickok should be up there with the likes of Iron Eyes (as by Rory Black) and the Bar 10 series (as by Boyd Cassidy).


Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Lawman and the Songbird

By Chap O’Keefe
Black Horse Extra Books, November 2014

Originally published by Hale, November 2005

Pinkerton detective Joshua Dillard went undercover to a lawless Montana boom-town peopled by avaricious gold prospectors, ruthless bandits, fancy-pants rogues, and scheming dance-hall girls. In Cox City, he set his sights on arrogant, skull-faced Blackie Dukes and his bunch. But Alvin "Aces" Axford's safe at the Magnet saloon was robbed right under Joshua's nose. Who had spirited away Axford's haul of gold? Joshua had to buy that plucky songstress Kate Thompson had double-crossed the dangerous Dukes gang, luring him into a futile dance in a raging blizzard across the Bitterroot Mountains. It was one of luckless Joshua's most conspicuous failures. Not until seven years later did he return to Cox City, as town marshal. The time had come to solve the mysteries ... and to lay the ghosts of failure with a blazing six-shooter!

I think I’m right in saying this is the fifth book in Chap O’Keefe’s nine book series about Joshua Dillard, but you don’t have to have read any of the previous tales to fully enjoy this one.

In this story it seems Dillard has more than met his match in Kate Thompson, who makes for a very strong female lead character who seems to be one step ahead of everyone else. Having said that the robbery she masterminds doesn’t quite go according to plan and the chase is on.

Chap O’Keefe once more presents the reader with a fast paced book that is filled with action and a twisting storyline. Never was it obvious how this tale would end and the conclusion does come as a fitting surprise.

As with all of Chap O’Keefe’s books I’ve read this one left me eager for more. If you’ve not read one of his books yet then may I suggest this as an excellent introduction to his extremely readable writing.




If you'd like to find out more about Keith Chapman - the man behind the pseudonym of Chap O'Keefe - then a great interview can be found in two parts here: Part 1 Part 2


Monday, 24 November 2014

Reaper

By Lee Clinton
Hale, November 2014

1870 and Indian Territory is a hellhole of lawlessness. Federal lawmen are being gunned down in cold blood and outlaws are trading arms to renegade Indians. The lawmakers in Washington fear that order has been lost and insurrection may spread to the peaceful tribes.

In desperation, a bold and secret plan is devised by two senior marshals to recruit a new and unknown deputy – one who can operate independently to hunt down and kill three notorious outlaws in reprisal. But has the right man been selected for this dirty, difficult and dangerous assignment? Walter Garfield’s background is more than a little shady, and he seems to have his own agenda. Why does he keep asking after a fourth man by the name of Jason Taylor who is travelling with a Mexican woman? And why will people call him Reaper?

For this, Lee Clinton’s fourth Black Horse Western, the author returns to his hero from his third book, The Proclaimers, but this isn’t a sequel, instead it tells of how the ex-marshal of that previous book became a lawman in the first place.

As he has done with all his earlier books Lee Clinton presents the reader with one of the longer Black Horse Westerns. The story takes place in just over a month, each short chapter having a sub-heading telling just what day and/or time its events happen.

The story proves to be an enthralling read, filled with superb characters and includes a gripping mystery thread; that of why Garfield is hunting for Jason Taylor, the answer to which took me completely by surprise.

As the fast moving tale progresses it soon becomes clear that some hard decisions are going to have to be made as Garfield and his small band of allies find themselves facing a far superior force in numbers. This leads to a hard-hitting finale that’s filled with tension that strains nerves to breaking point.

That concluding showdown is one of the most memorable I’ve had the pleasure to read for some time and it left me looking forward to Lee Clinton’s next book, something that can’t come soon enough in my opinion.

Lee Clinton is a pseudonym used by Leigh Alver, and I must also add thanks for the excellent dedication.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Taps at Little Big Horn

SUNDANCE #5:
By John Benteen
Piccadilly Publishing, November 2014

First published by Leisure Books, 1973

It was the fall of 1875 and all the Plains tribes were at peace. The best Cheyenne hunting grounds were under Army control. But then General Custer found gold in the Black Hills and set out to stir up a war to save his prestige. 

Sundance got involved when Custer locked him into a filthy prison for four months, and when he got out, his hatred for Custer was like a burning flame. Sundance was all Cheyenne when the Indians faced Custer – he vowed to have his revenge, and if he did, Custer would never leave Little Big Horn alive. 

Like the majority of the early Sundance books this one is based on fact, mixing a fictional hero with historical fact and real people seamlessly. Most of the story deals with events leading up to the Battle of Little Big Horn.

You don’t need to have read the previous Sundance books to get full enjoyment from this one as John Benteen includes a fair amount of Sundance’s back story, in this case mostly told by George Crook, who is one of Sundance’s close friends, one he fears he may have to face over a gun before long.

Sundance also has some powerful and far reaching decisions to make. He’s offered a way to perhaps stop the coming Indian war, but this could mean giving up his woman, Barbara Colfax, whom he met in the first book of the series: Overkill.

Benteen’s descriptions are excellent, particularly a frantic struggle to travel through snow and trying to survive a blizzard that threatens to freeze to death those caught in it.

Of course we all know how the historical elements of this fast-paced tale have to end but it’s witnessing how Sundance finds himself facing Custer that made this story for me. There’s double-cross to deal with, lots of life or death situations, brutal action, and a tension filled jail-break. All told in Benteen’s griping, gritty prose that defies you to put the book down before the last word is reached.

John Benteen is a pseudonym used by Ben Haas and I’ve yet to come across a western by him that isn’t worth reading.



Saturday, 15 November 2014

Savage Hearts

WILDERNESS #68
By David Robbins
Mad Hornet Publishing, November 2014

Nate and Winona King thought they were doing the right thing when they ventured deep into the Rockies to return a little girl to her people.

Little did they imagine it would put Winona and the girl in peril for their lives and pit Nate against ruthless enemies.

At last, another Wilderness book, and one that adds a neat twist to the future of the King’s lives, one I didn’t see coming, but more of that later.

As many will have noticed this, and the previous book, The Gift, are being put out under the authors’ real name, David Robbins, instead of the pseudonym David Thompson that was used when the series was published by Leisure Books.

The book features a tribe unknown to me previously, the Tukadukas, and David Robbins ignited my interest with the unusual hunt that brings them together in this story for me to search for more information on them.

As fans of the series will already know, David Robbins often uses the strength of the family bond, their love for each other, that will see them risk everything to save each other, and this story is no different and that is what leads to the twist ending I mentioned earlier.

The book seems to have two storylines to begin with but you just know these seemingly separate threads will come together violently, and when the King’s get split up the tale gets more complicated and becomes a race against time.

With very strong male and female leads, terrific dialogue often spiced with humour, and savage action scenes, this story builds to a spectacular ending that will alter the King’s lives.

Due to the ending fans of the series will not want to miss this chapter in the King family story. If you’ve never read a Wilderness book before then this is an excellent place to start, to get to know Nate and Winona King and discover how much they are willing to sacrifice for each other.

All I can now hope is that David Robbins doesn’t make us wait quite so long before the next book is published.




Also available as an ebook.