DEAD MAN’S HAND
by Chet Cunningham
Leisure, November 1989
Johnny Williams was a gambler by nature, a hard drinking, hard playing man who never let another player get the best of him – except once, years before, when a cardshark with less integrity than a weasel cheated him out of $15,000. Now Johnny was a little bit older and a hell of a lot wiser, and he swore to beat Francis X. Delany at his own game, or die trying.
They were the youngest lawbreakers on the frontier, all six had a vendetta to settle, and they vowed to ride together until everyone of them had tasted revenge. Now they were heading to San Francisco to help Johnny even the score, but what they didn’t know was that the only thing faster than Delany’s dealing hand was his shooting hand – and Johnny’s life wasn’t worth a pair of deuces.
Chester Cunningham presents the reader with a fast moving book that’s an easy and quick read. There’s not much depth to the plot, Williams desire to beat Delany in one of the biggest card games ever being it. There is a small side story about one of the other Outlaws losing his virginity that produces some humorous moments but does seem to come across as padding.
The two major card games in this story could have offered a great opportunity for tense reading and I think Cunningham missed out here as there’s none. It’s all what each player holds in his hand and who wins or loses right upto the end.
There is a major surprise in this book though, and that’s that one of the Outlaws dies, which for me is a bit more realistic than six men surviving every life threatening scenario they encounter.
At the time this was written Chester Cunningham was having quite a few books published, many of them westerns, maybe this book is a victim of that, as the simple plot gives an impression of a book quickly written.