Friday, 31 December 2010

Westerns read during 2010

Here's a list of the westerns I read during 2010, all 107 of them, that's seven more than last year. I've linked each to its review and will continue to add links to those I haven't yet reviewed here as and when I do.

JANUARY READS – 10 books

2. Morgan Kane #35: Revenging Angels by Louis Masterson
4. Rogue Lawman #5: Border Snakes by Peter Brandvold
5. To Die This Day by Clint Ryker
6. Dead Man’s Guns by Logan Winters
7. Liberty and a Law Badge by Chap O’Keefe
8. Sharpshooter McClure by I.J. Parnham
9. Longarm and the Sand Pirates (#374) by Tabor Evans
10. Border Fury by Corba Sunman


11. A Fistful of Legends edited by Nik Morton
12. The Littlest Wrangler by J.R. Sanders
13. Crucifixion River by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini
14. Apache by Jere D. James
16. Confederate Paydirt by Robert Anderson
17. Not a Rustler by John D. Nesbitt
18. The Tombstone Vendetta by Ralph Hayes
19. Wilderness #63: Venom by David Thompson

MARCH READS - 8 books

20. The Judas Metal by Gillian F. Taylor
22. Herne the Hunter #17: The Hanging by John J. McLaglen
24. The Devil’s Gold by M. Duggan
25. Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin
26. The Outlaw Josey Wales by Forrest Carter
27. Rough Justice by Jackson Davis

APRIL READS – 8 books

29. Rattler by Barry Andrew Chambers
30. Unsigned Avenger by John Davage
31. Outlaw Train by Cameron Judd
32. Wind Rider by Thomas McNulty
33. Murdering Wells by Greg Mitchell
34. By the Gun They Died by Matt James

MAY READS – 9 books

36. Storm in Paradise Valley by Charles G. West
38. Guns of Ponderosa by Chuck Tyrell
39. Ransom by Owen G. Irons
40. A Bullet for Ben McCabe by Peter Wilson
41. Big Trouble at Flat Rock by Elliot Long
42. The Legacy by Logan Winters
44. Wilderness #64: Devil Moon by David Thompson

JUNE READS – 7 books

45. The Killers of Cimarron by Frank Leslie
46. The Rattlesnake Season by Larry D. Sweazy
47. Creeback by A. Dorman Leishman
48. The Treasure of Santa Maria by J. William Allen
49. The Hunting of Lope Gamboa by Jack Sheriff
50. Gideon’s Guns by Jake Douglas
51. Longarm and the Deadly Flood (#379) by Tabor Evans

JULY READS – 8 books

52. The Judge #7: Bad Blood by Hank Edwards
53. The Broken Horseshoe by Billy Hall
54. Ghost Towns edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis
55. Loner with a Gun by Ryan Bodie
56. Hideout at Mender’s Crossing by John Glasby
57. The Bodacious Kid by Stan Lynde
58. Rangeland Justice by Rob Hill

AUGUST READS – 7 books

61. Dead Man Riding by Lance Howard
63. Renegade’s Legacy by Rick Dalmas
64. Railroad to Redemption by I.J. Parnham
65. Death Rider by Boyd Cassidy
66. The Adventures of Hood & Fudd by J. Bradford Lawler


67. Peacemaker #5: Blood Run by William S. Brady
68. Diamondback by Pike Bishop
69. Long Rider #19: Chisholm Trail by Clay Dawson
71. Wilderness #65: Seed of Evil by David Thompson
72. Wade’s War by Chet Cunningham
73. Smuggler’s Gulch by Logan Winters
74. Apache Rifles by Ethan Flagg
75. Across the Rio Grande by Edwin Derek

OCTOBER READS – 11 books

77. Beat to a Pulp: Round One edited by David Cranmer and Elaine Ash
78. Longarm and the Railroad War by Tabor Evans
79. Blood Feud by David Robbins
81. Strongheart by Don Bendell
82. Echoes of a Dead Man by Terry James
83. Coltaine’s Revenge by Scott Connor
84. The Black Mountain Dutchman by Steve Ritchie
85. Twin Rivers by John Nesbitt
86. Long Ride into Hell by Daniel Rockfern


88. Law of the Gun edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis
90. Hombre’s Vengeance by Toots J. Johnson
91. The Fighting Man by Alan Irwin
92. Blood on the Sand by Lee Lejeune
93. Iron Eyes is Dead by Rory Black
94. Casey Tibbs: Born to Ride by Rusty Richards
96. Edge #28: Eve of Evil by George G. Gilman


97. The Mystery of Table Mountain by William Post
98. The Loner #3: Dead Man’s Gold by J.A. Johnstone
101. The Killing Kind by Lance Howard
102. Bleached Bones in the Dust by I.J. Parnham
103. Fool’s Play by Carl Williams
104. Renegades Rule This Land by Dempsey Clay
105. The Masked Gun by Barry Cord
106. Gringos #5: Easy Money by J.D. Sandon

Thursday, 30 December 2010

A New Year Western

By Barry Cord
Chivers Press, 2001

Originally published 1963

Sheriff Mido Peters tensed himself readying for a lawless New Year’s Eve in Labelle. Rich Jake Grady had promised drinks on the house to any man that night, and this, the sheriff knew, would mean nothing but drunkenness and riot.

But the sheriff got even more than he bargained for. He had not expected gunplay, and when the bullets were exchanged between two strangers in town causing death to mark the holiday, it was plain that trouble was brewing – bad trouble.

These strangers would not have been in town alone, the lawman figured, and the shooting looked like the beginning of a night of gun-thunder and violence.

Barry Cord tells this fast moving tale from the viewpoints of several characters thus enabling him to develop their very different personalities. It soon becomes apparent that each character is going to have an important part to play in the outcome of the story, particularly one of the outlaws who has most people believing he’s a U.S. Marshal, and, of course, the main character, Ben Codine, a well known bounty hunter who has been set up as an outlaw.

The plot is fairly complex and the main reason for the outlaws to be in Labelle is kept a secret for quite a while, and this is where the fact that the story mainly takes place on New Years Eve becomes an important factor to the plot.

It wasn’t long before I was wondering how the story would be resolved, due to Barry Cord’s superb ability to lead the reader – and his characters – into believing one thing and then adding a twist to completely throw you off track.

Barry Cord is the pseudonym Peter Germano preferred to write his westerns under and here he again proves he’s an author worth reading.  

Monday, 27 December 2010

Fool's Play

By Carl Williams
A Black Horse Western from Hale, December 2010

Royce rides into Jawbone looking for a doctor and finds nothing but trouble. But then how can he expect anything else when he lives by the gun?

Royce signs on with the land baron Yale Jamerson, hoping for a job that will give his conscience a rest, but Jamerson’s plans to dam the river and charge tolls on the road lead the townspeople to revolt.

Now Royce is forced to choose between his livelihood and his conscience. Will he choose the right path, especially if it means a showdown with his closet friend?

As far as I can tell Fool’s Play is the first Black Horse Western by Carl Williams. It is also a longer book than most of the BHW I have read recently – it has the same number of pages but much smaller print.

Jamerson is a hard man attempting to control and hold back progress. He’s not an evil man but his methods of trying to hold onto a way of life he knows are not welcomed by the people who live in the nearby town, people who want to see their town grow. This leads to all kinds of tense confrontations, particularly when the town brings in some lawmen that are nothing more than hired guns.

Royce makes for an excellent hero. He’s a man who can see the problems facing each side in this power struggle. Of course it soon becomes apparent Royce will have to quite working for Jamerson and side with the town and the woman who is showing an interest in him. This leads to a spectacular showdown on the dam.

Carl Williams definitely knows how to build a story and hook a reader, making this a book that I found very difficult to put down until I found out how everything was resolved. The climax to the story bringing about some surprising endings for a few of the characters; which in a couple of cases was not how I expected things to finish.

On the strength of this book I’m definitely looking forward to more from Carl Williams. Fool’s Play is available to buy now from the usual Internet sources although it isn’t officially released until the end of the month.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Renegades Rule This Land

By Dempsey Clay
A Black Horse Western from Hale, December 2010

When four pretty brides-to-be are in need of an escort to guide them across the dusty desert where they are to wed a group of miners, everyone tells them that Jackson Blake is the only man for the job.

He has proven he can handle rustlers, bad men and border-jumpers. But can he master four pretty women, a band of deadly gunmen and a sun-blasted desert, all at once? Blake thinks so…but the Badlands figure otherwise.

This book really grabbed my interest from the opening paragraph that introduces the reader to Jackson Blake. Has him ready to ambush some unaware riders. Dempsey Clay soon explains the circumstances behind this and reveals there’s a posse somewhere in the area too.

Blake then finds himself reluctantly agreeing to escort the brides-to-be, their methods of persuading him to help making for some humorous reading. Along with a couple of friends, the small party head out into the desert. Dempsey Clay then adds more intriguing threads to the plot in the way of outlaws known as the Raiders, and a band of Apaches out for blood. Most of these characters are named and a number have their back-stories outlined. The four brides-to-be tell of their pasts too, of why they decided to answer the miners’ call for wives. Carissa’s tale leading to suspicion as to her real reasons for being a part of this group.

So plenty of plot threads that hooked my attention quickly and, along with Dempsey Clay’s easy to read writing style, ensured I’d find this book hard to put down. Once the group is out in the desert the action comes thick and fast, and at times is quite violent and graphic.

As the pages began to run out I started to wonder how all these story threads would tie-up, and that’s when I became disappointed in the book. After promising so much in the first two-thirds of the tale it then seemed like the author had forgotten some of the characters, some of those he took time to introduce where never mentioned again, and the mystery behind Carissa’s motives was never revealed, seemed forgotten. Her sudden change from a man hater to falling for Blake being a somewhat unbelievable surprise – seemingly done to provide a happy ending for Blake.

Having read a number of Paul Wheelahan’s books, written under his Dempsey Clay pseudonym, and others, I did feel a little let down by this one, not enough to not want to read anymore of his work though as I do generally enjoy his work and I’m sure I’ll definitely read another somewhere in the near future.

Renegades Rule This Land is available to buy now through the usual Internet bookstores.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

A Christmas Western

EDGE #28:
By George G. Gilman
NEL, September 1978

To the townspeople of Rayne, Wyoming, the coming Christmas was going to be very special. They reckoned they were about to witness the birth of the new messiah.

Edge did not. There were the shepherds, the three wise men and one or two miracles sure enough, but there was also the Lassiter gang, the robbery and the killings. And to Edge, once again fighting for his life, that did not add up to a nativity.

I first read this book when it was published all those years ago and it left a lasting impression on me then. It’s probably not the best Edge book but it sure falls into the category of those with the strangest plots, and it’s this storyline that makes it so memorable. In fact I can’t remember ever reading any other western with a similar plot either.

The whole story takes place over two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The book contains all the elements you’d expect from an Edge story: fast pace, lots of violence often graphic in its description, and loads of gallows humour.

Even the sceptical Edge begins to wonder about the chain of events that sees him become involved with Joseph and Maria – who is about to give birth at any moment - a group of shepherds, a dead man named Starr lying to the east, and a priest and his woman named Angel. But it’s the three Oriental wise men who are the source of some of the best lines in the book. For instance these, when it’s realised they haven’t arrived with gifts:

‘They was supposed to bring gifts,’ Basset growled.
‘Frig the heathen bastards!’ the deputy named Frank snarled. ‘We don’t need ‘em. I got my gold watch I can give the baby. Sheriff?’
Karnes delved into a pants pocket and brought out some loose change. ‘I didn’t count on takin’ no trip today. I just got a dollar, Frank. In cents.’

And does this tale finish with the rebirth of Jesus Christ? Well that is something I can’t reveal here other than say the birth of the baby provides a great finale to the story.

If you want a Christmas themed western to read at this time of the year I’d say Eve of Evil should definitely be one you should consider, I’m sure you’ll find it just as entertaining as I did.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Loner #3

By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, October 2009

With his wife’s killers dead and buried, Conrad Morgan – known as The Loner – is on his way to Mexico for some peace and quiet. But on the way he’s sidetracked by some intriguing travelers who are hunting down a valuable golden artifact. They’re not the only ones who want to get hold of the treasure. A running gun battle with some killers lands The Loner and his cohorts in the Jornada del Muerto – a hellish, waterless wasteland in New Mexico Territory. And now it’s up to The Loner to get himself and his new friends out of this arid stretch of land before they perish from thirst…or lead poisoning…

This book begins with a prologue set in Spain 1668, and the events it contains lead to the treasure hunt mentioned above, 229 years later.

Conrad Browning has virtually stopped referring to himself by this name and now calls himself Kid Morgan. Even though he tries to keep away, not get involved, he soon finds himself caught up in the quest for the treasure, and this leads to many deadly encounters, enough to satisfy any reader who likes an action packed story.

The book moves forward at tremendous pace and is filled with great supporting characters, such as Father Jardine and Count Eduardo Fortunato. Even though the reader knows what the treasure is they’re all searching for, the author also adds mystery by not revealing what the secret of the Twelve Pearls is until near the books conclusion. The answer providing a neat sting in the tale which is further developed in the epilogue, and for me made for a great ending.

Like the previous two novels in the series this one really hooked me from the start, and I found it extremely difficult to put down until I’d read the last word. And, once again, I find myself eager to read the next book in The Loner series: The Big Gundown.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Bleached Bones in the Dust

By I.J. Parnham
A Black Horse Western from Hale, December 2010

For twenty years, bounty hunter Montgomery Drake searched for Lomax Rhinehart, desperate to make him pay for an atrocity he committed during the dying days of the war.

So when Drake’s friend, Wallace Sheckley, told him that he had found Lomax, Drake followed him to Sunrise, but Arnold Hays and his gunslingers were holding the town in the grip of fear. Nobody would help him and worse Wallace had gone missing and Lomax was nowhere to be found.

With Arnold Hays the key to Drake finding out what has happened to both his friend and his enemy, he must turn to his gun to get the answers he needs….

Ian Parnham sure packs a lot of action into this book and fills it with great characters. There are a couple of surprises for Drake too that lead him to question his twenty year quest for vengeance, such as has he been wrong about Rhinehart all along? Before he finds the answer to that question Drake will find himself fighting alongside his target.

The bleached bones of the title become a gruesome yet pivotal aspect to the story, which moves swiftly, all the time building towards a lengthy shootout in the old abandoned fort that outlaw Arnold Hays has made his headquarters. His method of keeping the townspeople in line shows what kind of a savage man he is. Unfortunately for Drake, the townspeople’s fear of Hays means they turn against the bounty hunter too.

Although this story didn’t have quite as many plot twists as I’ve come to expect from Ian Parnham I still found this book to be a fast, gripping, and entertaining read that has left me eagerly awaiting his next book.

Bleached Bones in the Dust is officially released at the end of December but should be available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Killing Kind

By Lance Howard
A Black Horse Western from Hale, December 2010

Jim Bartlett thought he could put his former life behind him and forge a new one as a small Texas ranch owner but he was wrong…dead wrong. Someone from his past has followed him and is systematically and permanently trying to destroy his new life, piece by piece.

With his friends and the woman his loves being threatened by a man who knows no remorse and no boundaries, Jim finds himself in a desperate struggle – not only to escape his past, but also to hold onto his life….

Lance Howard is a pseudonym used by author Howard Hopkins and under his own name he writes horror stories, and this book, like many of his other westerns, often have horror elements within them. Here we find a dead man who is destroying Bartlett’s life. Howard is an expert at creating an air of terror, of writing about a man slowly losing a grip on self-control as his friends are killed one by one. As Bartlett begins to succumb to fear he often breaks down in tears – something you don’t often find a western hero doing, and this, perhaps, makes him more human, helps the reader share the terror he’s experiencing.

The book contains plenty of vivid imagery, Howard’s descriptions painting living pictures within my mind. There’s also a lot of death, as the seemingly unstoppable killer murders Bartlett’s friends at will.

Of course the past that Bartlett has tried so hard to keep a secret eventually comes out and this brings more emotional hurt to Jim as it threatens to destroy his relationship with his girl. But Bartlett isn’t the only one with a dark past…

The Killing Kind grabbed my attention from the very beginning and I found myself reading it in one sitting as I just had to find out how a supposedly dead man could return to terrorise Bartlett. I was also very eager to see how Bartlett could possibly survive and how many of his friends would too.

If you’d like a copy of this very entertaining book then I suggest you put your order in quickly, as, although it isn’t officially released until the end of the month, it is available to order now…and from past experience I know Lance Howard westerns tend to sell-out very quickly.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Trailsman #350

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, December 2010

Arizona Territory, 1863 – where death comes in the dark of night, and worse in the bright light of day.

Over the past year, young women have gone missing from the town of Haven. They’ve been taken by a hunter who strikes at will and leaves no trace. And when a search party mistakes the Trailsman for the culprit, he ends up not just fighting for his life, but hunting a predator who needs to be put down like the bloody beast he is….

This is a book full of mystery. A mystery that will keep you guessing until the author decides to reveal the answers. I had my suspects as to the identity of “The Ghoul”, and my choice kept changing as the story developed, each chapter heightening my suspicions, making it harder and harder for me to stop reading until I’d discovered the horror of the title and just who was behind it.

Not only does Fargo want to find the person who has been attempting to kill him, and caused him to barely escape from being hung when he first arrived in the vicinity of the town called Haven, but he has to keep dealing with three townsmen who are determined to beat him to death. The fights with these three happening at regular intervals.

The book also has a number of memorable characters, in particular Marshal Marion Tibbit and the old prospector, Badger. Yet it’s the discovery of the horror of the missing girls that reveals the true savagery of this tale that is certain to leave a lasting memory with the reader.

The story is told at a very fast pace with action in virtually every chapter. The book ends with a couple of very brutal and bloody gunfights, and I was surprised at how many of the characters, who had survived to this point, died.

Once again Jon Sharpe (in this case David Robbins) has come up with another gripping entry into the Trailsman series. 

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ghost Towns

Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis
Pinnacle, July 2010

The sound of a crowed saloon… The cry of a train coming through the night… The pounding of horses ridden by friends or foe… From the searing sun to snow-steeped winters, towns called Sentinel, Iron Mountain and St. Elmo stood strong and fierce – before they finally died.

From a soldier on the run from the fires of war… From a gambler who has long since played his last hand to a solitary, singing rifle man protecting a besieged town… With dreamers and schemers, with men and women of courage, conscience and faith – here is a collection of adventures that see these ghost towns return to life.

The Water Indian by Steve Hockensmith
The Ghosts of Duster by William W. Johnstone, with J.A. Johnstone
St. Elmo in Winter by Margaret Coel
Mr. Kennedy’s Bones by Johnny D. Boggs
Gunfight at Los Muretos by Bill Brooks
Iron Mountain by Candy Moulton
The Defense of Sentinel by Louis L’Amour
Paradise Springs by Sandy Whiting
Silent Hill by Larry D. Sweazy
End of the Line by Lori Van Pelt
The Town That Wouldn’t Quit by Deborah Morgan
Now We Are Seven by Loren D. Estleman
Contention City, 1951 by Jeff Mariotte
The Ghost of Two Forks by Elmer Kelton
Kiowa Canyon by James A. Fischer

This anthology brings together a fine selection of tales that are all extremely well written; all offering elements of the supernatural thus blending the western with ghost stories. Like any collection I have my favourites and there are a couple I wasn’t sure about – in fact there was one I gave up on. Not all the stories are set in the Old West, some are set right up to the present day, although these do have links to the past.

Most of the authors above will be familiar to western readers and fans of the Johnstone books should be pleased to discover that the story The Ghosts of Duster features Bo Creel and Scratch Morton from the Sidewinders series. Similarly fans of Steve Hockensmith’s two would be detectives, Big Red and Old Red from his excellent Holmes on the Range series should be equally pleased to find another story about them here.

I’ve always found it disappointing that the editors and/or publishers of anthologies like this feel the need to include yet another, already widely published, story by Louis L’Amour. The only reason I can see for doing this is hoping his name will help sell more copies of the book. L’Amour’s story, as expected, is well told and is in fact one of my favourites in the collection, but it is the tale that doesn’t quite fit in with the theme of ghost towns as well, if at all, as the others.

Other than wanting to read all the work I can by authors I enjoy, the main reason I read anthologies is to try writers that are new to me, or those I’ve been meaning to try for some time. And, as should be the case, I know have a longer list of authors I want to explore further.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Mystery of Table Mountain

By William Post
AuthorHouse, March 2010

When young college man, James Raymond, is framed for murder by his uncle, aunt and her brother, he heads west to elude lawmen. It is here he sees the inaccessible Table Mountain and is taken with its beauty and security. Through his ingenuity James finds a way to the top of the mountain and discovers a paradise.

The day after he discovers access to the mountain top he manages to rescue a young woman from Indians and shares his “Garden of Eden” with her in a clandestine relationship.

This book is billed as an action packed western and that is a comment that could be argued with. Yes the book does contain action of the kind a reader of westerns would expect, range war, Indian attacks, a jailbreak and the struggle to stay alive through heavy snow. But this all takes part in the last third of the book and most of the battles are over quickly and mainly told in retrospect rather than as they are happening.

What the book is, to me anyway, is a romance. During James’ travels he meets a number of beautiful women, all of whom seem to fall in love with him, and this book is really about his relationships with them.

William Post wrote this story in the first person and his prose is easy to read. He sure packs a lot into the 239 pages of this novel in which the years pass rapidly. Having so much in the book makes for an extremely fast paced read. In fact certain elements of the storyline would prove an entire book plot for other authors, such as the range war, or the final chapter that sees the downfall of the man who framed James for murder.

The book also contains a strong religious overtone.

The Mystery of Table Mountain is the first in a trilogy, the following books being The Miracle and A Call to Duty in which the lives of many of the characters introduced here are continued. Having said that this book is a self-contained story and doesn’t leave any story threads hanging at its conclusion.

Overall the book is a satisfying read; just don’t expect a tough western of the type I usually review here.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Casey Tibbs: Born to Ride

By Rusty Richards
Moonlight Mesa Associates, 2010

Rodeo superstar Casey Tibbs lives again in Rusty Richards’ authorized biography of the memorable, charismatic cowboy from South Dakota. Richards spent over twenty years meticulously researching, interviewing, and capturing vibrant memories and recollections of the six-time world champion saddle bronc rider.

The book also covers the Roberts’ family, including rodeo greats Ken, Gerald, and E.C., along with Jim Shoulders, Deb Copenhaveer, Carl Olson, Ben Johnson, Gene Pruett, Bill Linderman, and so many more talented rodeo stars. In addition, Richards recounts Casey’s phenomenal success in Hollywood and his friendship with Audie Murphy.

Something a little different for Western Fiction Review, as this isn’t a book of fiction. Being English and living in the UK, I have never really had much knowledge of rodeo’s and the people who worked them other than what I’ve seen on television, so I wondered if this book would hold my interest?

Rusty Richards has put together a very readable book, his way with words really bring Casey Tibbs to life, and the book definitely held my interest, in fact I found it very difficult to put down. There are laugh-out-loud moments, tales of wonder – such as the man Tibbs hired to fly his aeroplane, and sadder moments too; seeing Tibbs become addicted to gambling and drinking for instance. The final hours of Tibbs life are beautiful told and extremely moving.

One thing that comes across very strongly is Casey Tibbs love of practical jokes, and many of them are told here. I was also amazed at how many stars of western movies he worked alongside and became friends with. One of the funniest moments for me was when Tibbs becomes lost and asks for directions, something that happens in the same place sometime later. The old-timers’ comments to him are priceless.

Moonlight Mesa are also to be congratulated on the production of this book, for the inclusion of some terrific black and white photographs, many of which show Casey Tibbs in action, and for the colour choice of the cover; a colour that is very significant to Tibbs.

For anyone with an interest in Casey Tibbs, or rodeo, this is a book you must not miss.  

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Western Models

During my travels around various websites I came across Andrea Miniatures and thought some of you might be interested in seeing these superbly crafted models. They are a mixture of fictional figures, historical figures, and those from films. Maybe Santa will bring you one if you ask nicely? There's many more than I'm showing here.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Trailsman #349

by Jon Sharpe
Signet, November 2010

After infuriating some hotheads in Santa Fe, Skye Fargo aims to shuck out of town at a gallop. His plans are thwarted when a local nun begs him to guide two young women through the mountains to join her order. But to do the Lord’s work, the Trailsman is going to have to face down the bandito Fermin Terreros – a man who could terrify the devil himself….

The odds sure stack up against Skye Fargo getting out of this one alive when his weakness for helping women sees him taking on twenty plus bandits alone, not to mention a handful of Apaches too. And then there’s the women he’s protecting, one who seems intent on getting them all killed in her quest to become a nun.

The book is filled with wonderful characters: Sister Angelina, who has a surprising past and some hidden motives for bringing The Trailsman and the two young women together. Dalila, who doesn’t want to be a nun. Terreros, who will stop at nothing to kill them all - to name just a few.

Tough opposition brings out some of the more brutal traits within The Trailsman, which means there’s some savage action to be found within this books pages. The author also includes some lighter moments of humour, mostly in the dialogue spoken by Fargo.

Settings are well described, as are the characters. The fight sequences are savage at times and are depicted well, and with the number of people trying to stop The Trailsman the violence comes regularly and should offer more than enough for any fan of action-packed books.

And just when you think you know how the story will turn out the author (in this case David Robbins writing as Jon Sharpe) throws in another twist to throw you off track.

If you’re a fan of the Trailsman series this is a book you shouldn’t miss. If you’ve never read a Trailsman book, then this would be an excellent place to start.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Hombre's Vengeance

By Toots J. Johnson
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

Fifteen-year old Zachariah Smith has been growing up fast ever since he witnessed the murder of his father at the hands of brutal cattle baron, Dale Bryant. At first, avenging his father’s death isn’t at the forefront of his mind as he struggles with the harsh reality of surviving alone…but then he meets two of Bryant’s other victims and he realizes that he must join the fight for justice.

Although Zac knows that lead will fly and he will probably die trying to stop Bryant, he is determined. Zac is back, no longer a wronged boy, but a man. Now is the time for the hombre’s vengeance!

This story takes place over a number of years that sees the young Zach go into hiding, changing his appearance and taking on a new name. The book is filled with strong characters of both sexes. Zac’s desire for vengeance becoming complicated when he discovers the girl he’s fallen for is the daughter of the man he intends to kill. This leads to soul-searching and heartbreaking discoveries.

Hombre’s Vengeance is the first book from Toots J. Johnson and I found it to be a well-written tale that was perfectly paced. Johnson includes a number of cliff-hanger scene and chapter endings that made the book difficult to put down before reaching the final page. The ending tying up all the story threads neatly, including finding out what had happened to a character I thought had been forgotten about.

On the strength of this book I’m sure I’ll be reading the next book from Johnson, whenever that may appear.

Hombre’s Vengeance can be ordered from all the usual Internet bookstores now, but you’ll have to be quick as it seems to be selling out fast.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Blood on the Sand

by Lee Lejeune
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

Mav is on his way west from Tennessee when he encounters a gang of desperadoes about to kill a young Apache brave. When he intervenes to save the victim, he stirs up a lot of bad blood – but he also forges an unusual partnership when a band of Comanche comes to his aid.

He rides on to the small town of Cimarron where he hopes to find some rest … but he soon discovers that there are a few surprises left in store for him yet….

Lee Lejeune creates an intriguing hero in Mav. Seems his name is made up and he just may be a man with a murderous past. The desire to find out if this was true, and just how it would effect the outcome of the book, would have been enough to keep me turning the pages. But, Lejeune includes more hooks than just that, and the plots twists and turns make for an entertaining and fast moving read.

Like many BHWs, Lejeune includes some female interest for the hero, but not just one woman, here we have three, all very strong characters. Will he become romantically involved with any of them? That’s another question that needed an answer and one I’m not going to reveal here.

There’s plenty of action including bank robberies, kidnapping, revenge, overcoming fear of Indians, running fights, and exciting shootouts. More than enough to keep any western fan happy I’d say.

Blood on the Sand is available now from the usual sources.

Oh yeah, and there isn’t a prize for working out which actor has been used for the cover painting.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


By Don Bendell
Berkley, September 2010

A son of both the Sioux and the white worlds, Joshua Strongheart has two prized possessions – his father’s bowie knife and his stepfather’s Colt .45 Peacemaker – entrusted to him by his dying mother, who made Joshua promise to use them with honor and respect.

In the Colorado Rockies, Joshua falls prey to the cold-blooded McMahon brothers. When they take his pistol and knife, they have no idea what’s hidden inside the money belt – crucial War Department documents, signed by the president, ordering a fair trial for Captain Jack, captured chief of the Modoc tribe. Now Joshua must recover both his birthrights and the secret papers – before violence erupts across the West…

The blurb above, taken from the back of the book, covers only a small part of this well written story. When Joshua is robbed so is a female passenger, Annabelle, and it’s a promise to her, to get back her stolen antique ring, that sees Joshua tracking down the outlaws, and it’s this that is the main theme of the book.

Strongheart makes for an excellent hero. Don Bendell fills his background in well, and presents Joshua as a somewhat reckless man. Just witness how Strongheart stands in the open, or walks straight at his enemy, as gunfire is directed towards at him, to see what I mean. It’s no wonder he suffers from so many wounds. The action sequences are very well described, as are the descriptions of the landscapes Strongheart finds himself in.

This is the first book I’ve read by Don Bendell – in fact this is his first western in ten years – and I was surprised at how much detail he goes into in describing the trails, towns, and locations, his story is set in. He not only gives the background to places, and origins of their names, but also tells you what they’ve become today. This usually takes a couple of pages, and even though it doesn’t do anything to move the story forward, does provide some fascinating reading. It's not just places that are described in such detail; the bloodline of a horse is also covered in similar detail. For my tastes, though, I did feel this was a little overdone and I found myself speed-reading these sections as I wanted to get back to the action. Having said that these parts didn’t really dampen my enjoyment of the story and I’m sure I shall read the next one in the series, Blood Feather, when it appears sometime next year, as Pinkerton agent Joshua Strongheart is a memorable hero. 

Monday, 22 November 2010

Iron Eyes is Dead

by Rory Black
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

The town of Desert Springs lay on the edge of a vast ocean of sand – an oasis which had started to draw the dregs of Texas down into its profitable boundaries. Yet none of the ruthless characters who had been gathering there was anything when judged against the infamous bounty hunter, Iron Eyes, who had trailed a dangerous outlaw into the midst of the remote settlement.

But Iron Eyes was wounded. He had battled his way through a band of Apaches in his quest to reach this place. With an arrow through his chest and a bullet hole in his leg, he had lost more blood than most men could afford to lose. As the town’s doctor fought to save his life a call went out: “Iron Eyes is Dead!”

But is this truly the end for the legend known as Iron Eyes?

Seriously wounding his hero near the beginning of this fast moving book allows author Rory Black to develop his plot and other characters whilst Iron Eyes is fighting for his life, lost to the world in a coma. The doctor who attempts to save the bounty hunter, Doc Hardy, being very memorable as are the two lawmen, Marshal Bale and his deputy Joshua. In fact Iron Eyes isn’t in the book that much, but when he is does he leave a lasting impact.

There’s plenty of action as the owner of the new casino plots to double cross an outlaw, an opportunistic thief tries for a better life, the lawmen struggle to find who is behind a string of murders, and others try to finish Iron Eyes off whilst he can’t defend himself.

Rory Black is one of the pseudonyms used by Michael D. George, and he definitely knows how to pace a book and build his story to an exciting and bloody finale, which sees all the plot threads tied up neatly.

Iron Eyes is Dead is the thirteenth book in the Iron Eyes series and is available now from the usual Internet stores. The fourteenth book, The Skull of Iron Eyes, is set too be published in March 2011 and I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Western Fiction News


Many new books have been announced, including new series, and a new book in a series I thought long passed by. There hasn’t been a new book in the Town Called Fury series since 2007 but July 2011 will see the publication of the fourth titled Redemption.

New books will be appearing in all the main series as well as J.A. Johnstone’s Loner series. New series include MacAllister: The Eagles Legacy and Savage Texas.


For the past few months Hale have upped the number of Black Horse Westerns they publish each month from seven to eight.

So with this increase and the Johnstone family putting out new series does this mean the western might be becoming a little more popular?


The latest edition of Black Horse Extra can be found here. As usual it contains an excellent mix of articles, observations and chat.

The main theme of BHE#20 is what books writers read and there are some great thoughts and reflections from Keith Hetherington. Three other writers also comment on their reading material, these authors being Nik Morton, Matthew P. Mayo, and Gary Dobbs.

There’s also a fascinating article by Greg Mitchell on the history of the telegraph.


Seems Dorchester has a new CEO who is, apparently, making big changes to solve the problems within the company that has stated it’s not on the verge of bankruptcy.

It’s said that Dorchester will now begin to sell paperback’s starting in January 2011, possibly fuelled by the many complaints of readers not being able to get paper books by their favourite authors. Whether these will be regular mass-market paperbacks or trade paperbacks only time will reveal. These will be available through normal retail outlets such as B&N and Amazon. They will still be producing ebooks in a big way.

Let’s all hope the above comments turn out to be true.


It would seem that the interviews I do are some of the most viewed items I post on this blog. There’s almost always six of them in the top ten slots of the all-time posts with cover artist Ken Laager usually claiming top place. Ralph Cotton can be found in second place regularly too – is this because both of these people have links to WFR on their own sites? The only other artist I’ve interviewed, Tony Masero, has never been lower than fourth place.

At one time there was only one book in the top ten, and this often claims second spot, this being The Outlaw Josey Wales. I reckon this gets many hits from people searching for the film as much as the book. Since reviewing Beat to a Pulp, this has claimed sixth place as it’s own. The only other book in the top ten is Larry D. Sweazy’s The Rattlesnake Season.

And just where do the majority of my blogs readers come from? Yeap, America. Over three times the number of visitors to second placed UK. Filling out the rest of the top ten are: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Australia, Denmark, France, and finally Brazil.

By far the majority of people searching for the blog use either google com or UK and the site that many people link to WFR from is James Reasoner’s Rough Edges – thanks for adding the link James.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Andersonville Vengeance

as by J.R. Roberts
Jove, November 2010

Giant edition #15

Commandant Henry Wirz put Clint through hell as a prisoner of war, and when the Union won, Wirz paid for his crimes with a public hanging. Or did he? Word is, the low-down scum is living in Frisco as a U.S. Senator. Now a fellow Andersonville inmate intends to get the job done right this time.

There’s no way Senator Winston is actually Wirz, but because Clint didn’t actually see him hang, he needs to discover the truth – a truth that will have the Gunsmith risking his life for an innocent man, or seeing justice done once and for all.

As to be expected from a Gunsmith book, this story moves forwards at a tremendous pace and is told in short chapters, many of which are dialogue driven.

The author, Robert Randisi, introduces the reader to many terrific characters and spends some of the story following their movements, and plans – although not all is revealed which keeps the reader guessing as to just what is going on, and whether more people than just Senator Winston may not be telling the truth as to just who they are. All these questions make for a very difficult book to put down before the reader discovers the answers in a race against time and an exciting final showdown.

Long time readers of the Gunsmith series will be pleased to discover that this story provides a little more information about Clint Adams' background, of the time he was a prisoner in Andersonville.

As always, once I’ve read one Gunsmith book I find myself wanting to pick up another straight away, and with so many in my collection yet unread, the only question I have is which one to read next?

And does Senator Winston turn out to be Henry Wirz? Sorry, that’s a question I’m not going to answer here, so I guess you’ll just have to pick up a copy of the book and find out for yourselves.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Fighting Man

by Alan Irwin
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

Young Rob Sinclair, the son of a homesteader in the Wyoming Territory, has never handled a pistol, rifle or shotgun in his life, but when his parents are killed by the Nolan gang, he is determined to bring the culprits to justice.

Everyone knows that only a real fighting man would stand a chance of defeating the Nolan gang but Rob doesn’t give up that easily. He persuades a retired bounty hunter to pass on some of his own fighting skills and then he sets out on his search for the killers. His journey takes him all the way to the Texas Panhandle but what awaits him there? And can he complete such a perilous mission alone?

Alan Irwin has been having westerns published by Hale since 1990 and between then and now he has notched up thirty titles, with more to come. A few of his books can be found in my collection but I’ve never got around to reading any of them until now.

The Fighting Man is written in a fairly simple style, which is very readable. The book moves swiftly from one burst of action to another as Sinclair tracks his prey. Along the way he’ll find love and a new life. In fact I found it quite refreshing to see that Sinclair gets married during the story – rather than left as a will happen at the end of the book as many BHW’s seem to finish – and the hunt for his parents killers continues after this happy event.

Alan Irwin doesn’t take time to describe settings and people in much detail, if at all, something I felt I’d like a little more of as it would have helped me envision the locations and created atmosphere.

If you enjoy books with a straightforward traditional storyline, with uncomplicated plots, that offer a couple of hours of pure escapism, then this book should be added to your reading list.

The Fighting Man is officially released at the end of the month, but is available to order now.