as by Charles R. Pike
Winter in the Indian Territories can be meaner than a pack of starving wolves, and the Farrin spread is just about the isolated place in whole, frozen land.
Cade the man of medicine helps the Farrins with his healing gift, but soon it will be his skill with a gun that is tested, and the pure white snow will bloom scarlet with blood before Jubal Cade rides on.
The Jubal Cade series was created by Terry Harknett – perhaps better known as George G. Gilman – but he only wrote the first three before handing the series over to Angus Wells, who wrote all but one of the other books, that odd book being written by Ken Bulmer. In total the series ran for 22 books, first appearing in 1974 with the final book being published in 1983.
In my mind the Jubal Cade books had one of the best tag lines ever used to sell a western series, if not the best ever: A man trained to heal – but born to kill.
Bloody Christmas begins with Cade still searching for the man who killed his wife and it’s hearing that the Farrin’s offer a safe haven to outlaws that brings Cade to them to see if they’ve heard of the man he is hunting, Lee Kincaid.
The Farrin’s offer to help Cade find Kincaid if he first uses his medical skills to deliver Alice Farrin’s baby. The fact that the mother insists they need a doctor present to deliver the child starts the alarm bells ringing. This isn’t the only mystery surrounding this birth. The Farrin’s refuse to tell Cade who the father is. And why is one end of the large homestead kept locked and in darkness, even though the fire is kept burning?
At first Cade wants nothing more than to leave the Farrin’s but the winter weather closes all trails out and soon Cade’s curiosity gets the better of him and he wants answers to his questions.
The truth is slowly revealed and it’s here that Angus Wells adds themes one would expect to find in a horror book more than in a western. The Farrin’s secret leading to some extremely detailed killings that at times are described over more than one page per death. Of course this kind of attention to violent death is to be expected from a book from the Piccadilly Cowboy’s stable – and Angus Wells’ work in particular.
This a well told story, with most of the action taking place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, that seamlessly combines elements of horror with the western to provide the reader with a gripping and savage read.
I’d also like to comment on the cover art. All of the Cade books showcase the superb work of the late Richard Clifton-Dey and this one really does show his understanding of the use of light, shade and colour, so not only do you get a great read you also get a terrific cover too.