Saturday, 4 October 2008

Gunslick - the complete series

GUNSLICK #1: A MAN PURSUED by J.G. White - Leisure, January 1990

Matt Sutton had a gun hand quicker than greased lightning and that’s what did him in. It sent him to prison for two years although the $50,000 he’d stolen was never found. Now he was out and intended to retrieve that missing money but first he’d reclaim Diana Logan who’d been patiently waiting for the release of her man. Their plans were to start a new life in California but there were plenty of people wanting to get their greedy hands on that money and see Matt Sutton dead.

GUNSLICK #2: THE RAWHIDERS by J.G. White - Leisure, March 1990

On the trail to California Matt Sutton and Diana Logan decided to stop for a while at Charlie Shute’s ranch. It seemed like a peaceful enough place until Charlie’s old gang decided to liven things up. Then the lead began to fly like mosquitoes in a swamp and the vilest bunch of cutthroats who ever slapped leather captured Diana. Now Sutton had been angry, now he was mad. He’d get Diana back because she was something special - something worth dying for...

GUNSLICK #3: LONG RIDE TO VENGEANCE by J.G. White - Leisure, December 1990

Riding the trail to California Matt Sutton’s past is about to catch up with him. Long before he met Diana, Sutton had gunned down a man to defend his old lover. Matt wanted to forget that part of his past but six of the orneriest bounty hunters in the Old West wouldn’t let him. They were after the price on Matt’s head and after one look at Diana they knew they had an unexpected bonus. Captured by the bounty hunters Sutton buys time by tricking them into believing there’s gold hidden in the town of Vengeance, now Sutton must act quick to free himself and Diana before he ends up on the wrong end of a hanging rope.

HANGING PARTY by James Gordon White - A Black Horse Western from Hale, 2006

Claiming to be wrongly accused of murder, drifter Rafe Lonis takes Diana Logan hostage and leaves Matt Sutton in his clothes to face a blood-mad hanging party. Now Matt must elude to posse if he’s to save Diana. It isn’t long before Sutton, Lonis and the posse must team up to fight their way through Indian country, a task that’s made all the harder knowing that one of the posse men is the real murderer. An iron-willed rancher and his gun-happy son add to the conflict before the murderer can be unmasked and brought to justice.

BARBARY COAST GUNDOWN by James Gordon White - A Black Horse Western from Hale, 2006

Finally Matt Sutton and Diana Logan arrive in California and a brush with outlaws leads to a chance meeting with Percy Wilberforce, a private detective from London. He recruits Matt and Diana to help him rescue an English countess abducted in the notorious Barbary Coast district and thought to be in the harem of a Chinese tong leader. A bloody riot in Chinatown, a vicious street gang, and a showdown with the tong leader and his hatchet men all lie in wait to turn the dreams of a new life in California into a deadly nightmare.

James Gordon White uses the technique of writing short chapters, or small groups of paragraphs, about one character before moving onto someone else superbly - often leaving them in a cliff-hanger situation - hooking the reader to keep them turning pages, making it almost impossible to put the books down.

Matt Sutton and Diana Logan are strong characters whose dreams for a better life will strike a chord in anyone, making them people you can easily relate to.

Reading all five books in succession makes it easier to pick out some of James G. White’s writing traits. In all the books Diana is there to be the damsel in distress, the heroine in need of rescue - although she isn’t the helpless female as this type of character is sometimes portrayed.

I got the impression White enjoys a bit of bondage, as Diana does seem to get tied up whilst scantily clad regularly.

Hale published the first three of these books as Black Horse Westerns too, after they’d been published by Leisure, with Hale dropping the Gunslick series title. For those who don’t enjoy explicit sex in their westerns then I’d suggest finding the Hale publications, as these scenes will have been cut from the first three stories.

White also seems to enjoy writing about fistfights as these are very prominent in the action in all the books. There’s also a lot of gunplay and the descriptions of all the violence is, at times, graphically told.

For me it came as a welcome surprise to discover that James Gordon White had written more stories about Matt Sutton and Diana Logan years after the first three had been published. I also got the impression that Long Ride to Vengeance was intended to end the Gunslick series as the final paragraph seemed to be a conclusion to the series and I wondered where the fourth book would fit in. White doesn’t explain this, perhaps hopes no-one will remember this paragraph as there’s such a big gap between the third and fourth books and he finishes Hanging Party with the same paragraph – with some very minor changes.

As Barbary Coast Gundown reads like it’ll be the last book starring Matt Sutton and Diana Logan I can’t help but feel a little disappointed, as I’d like to read more of their adventures. Perhaps they’ll return in another sixteen years? I can only hope so. Meanwhile I’ll just have to hunt down White's other Hale westerns.

James Gordon White is an author I’d recommend to all fans of the western genre.



This post was a great read. Love the multiple reviews. This blog is a must read.

Top man.

Steve M said...

Thanks for the kind comments. Glad you like the multiple review as I have another that I'm putting together at the moment.

Cheers, Steve

Joanne Walpole said...

Having recently discovered Hanging Party, I can't wait to read all the others. I'm glad you mentioned the graphic sex and recommended the BHW versions to avoid this. ;-)

Nik Morton said...

I particularly enjoyed JGW's DESERT PEARLS - an unusual western!

Steve M said...

Totally agree Nik, I reviewed it here