Thursday, 27 August 2009

Gunhawk

as by John Long
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2009

Jeff Rand, a feared and vengeful gunslinger since his family were murdered, is persuaded by Jim Miller to give up his gunning and join him in peaceful gold mining. All goes well until one day Jeff returns to camp to find Miller murdered and the gold stolen.

Jeff rides off in a black mood of revenge. But after a saloon fracas, he is forced by gunmen to take part in a bank raid. Then the raiders are ambushed, and though Jeff escapes with half the gang, they accuse him of informing and beat him up.

Can Jeff extricate himself? Can he clear his name and can he bring the murderers to justice? Lead must fly before he can find the answers.

I’m not sure as to the real identity of John Long, is this his real name or a pseudonym? Was Gunhawk the book’s original title and who first published it? The copyright page states the book was first published in 1957. The book is longer than most Black Horse Westerns being written today; does have the usual number of pages but the print is much smaller resulting in more lines per page, the margins are narrower too.

The story is full of hard men, many taking another life just to prove they have the ability to draw and kill someone faster than others. The main character, Jeff Rand, fits this mould too, but we also get to share his fear of some of the faster gunmen in the outlaw gang he reluctantly finds himself riding with. The author creates an air of loneliness and despair in Rand extremely well, making the reader care about Rand, want him to succeed in his quest to find out who killed his friend, Jim Miller, and fulfil his need for revenge.

The outlaw gang is full of strong, and memorable, personalities, all seemingly waiting for the simmering mistrusts to explode in violent acts at any moment, which they frequently do, in fast brutal action.

Due to the story’s age some of the words used by the author would, perhaps, not be used so often today, for instance Rand has many ‘queer feelings’ about many things, and there’s some old-time cowboy language used too, but not as much as I was expecting. For a long time I also thought there wouldn’t be any female characters turning up in the tale, but a couple did, eventually, but only briefly.

I found Gunhawk to be an entertaining read, full of gritty action that sees much of its story examining the darker side of life, of human nature. So if you enjoy the more hardboiled approach to your reading then this could well be the ideal choice for you.

Gunhawk has an official release date of August 31st, but should be available from Internet booksellers now.

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