Friday, 30 July 2010

Rangeland Justice

by Rob Hill
A Black Horse Western from Hale, July 2010

When Jack Just, weary from long days on the trail, rides into an isolated cattle town on the Texas Panhandle, he discovers that the greedy and powerful Clovis Blacklake has the whole town in his pocket.

But when Jack discovers that Blacklake has cheated the town’s most downtrodden inhabitant out of his rightful property, he decides to make a stand.

It takes a real man to fight the ruthless Blacklake and when Jack does; the table finally begin to turn….

It seems as though this is the first Black Horse Western to appear under this author’s name, whether this is his real name or a pseudonym I have no idea.

The book begins at an almost gentle pace, even though the opening pages do include a vicious beating, and slowly builds towards its climax at ever increasing speed.

The author takes time introducing the various characters that are going to be the main players in the story, such as Jack Just, Clovis Blacklake and his sister Adela who is near blind, Sheriff Bull Brown and his part-time deputies, the crippled Indian Moses and more. There’s one, though, whom he doesn’t reveal much about: a Comanche who keeps appearing and watching events at the abandoned mission, thus adding a touch of mystery to the story. There’s other questions too, for instance is Blacklake really as bad as Just believes, as most of the townsfolk hold him in high regard.

Rob Hill doesn’t include any events that aren’t going to have a part to play later in the story, for instance the brutal beating at the beginning, which at first appears to be just showing how savage the deputies can be, sees the beaten man having an important role to play later that helps shape the outcome of the book, particularly during the showdown between Just and Blacklake during a prize fight challenge.

The story ends in a somewhat surprising way, considering the plot seems to be following a traditional western storyline for the most part, in that who lives and who dies, and what the future holds for those who survive, may not be how many might expect the book to finish.

Rangeland Justice should be available from Internet bookstores now, and I, for one, hope it isn’t too long before another book appears from this author.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Killers of Cimarron

as by Frank Leslie
Signet, June 2010

The second book in the Colter Farrow series.

Colter Farrow is on the run from bounty hunters sent by a sadistic sheriff who branded his face. He finds refuge in the remote Cheyenne Mountains, working on a small ranch run by Cimarron Padilla and his beautiful adopted Hunkpapa daughter, Pearl. Colter thinks he’s found sanctuary at last.

But after a savage group of ruthless killers steal a cache of gold, slays Cimarron, and takes Pearl hostage, Colter is back on the vengeance trail. Aided by an aging deputy U.S. marshal, Colter is determined to bring Pearl back alive and send the killers of Cimarron straight to hell.

Colter Farrow is, at the moment, quite a different character to the heroes of Peter Brandvold’s (here writing as Frank Leslie) other series, in as much as he’s not, yet, as tough as them. In fact, at times, he allows his emotions to get the better of him. Yes he is as proficient with a gun, and gets plenty of opportunity to use it, but he’s still learning the art of survival. Teaming him up with the old, and wanting to retire, deputy U.S. Marshal Spurr allows for some excellent contrasts in character to be portrayed.

In fact Marshal Spurr is the most memorable person in this book, perhaps due to him being in it more, as Peter Brandvold switches between the main players in the story often. Pearl also makes for a fascinating character and you have to wonder as to how Farrow’s relationship with her will develop as the book races toward the end.

Peter Brandvold is known for writing very violent and savage books and this one more than matches any of his previous work in its graphic brutality, although I felt there was less of it than in some of his more recent publications.

As expected, the story is extremely well written, gritty, violent, tense, and at times humorous. The book also offers a number of surprises, mainly to do with who lives and who dies and to what the future holds for Colter Farrow and others. The end definitely has me eager for the next book in the series; let’s just hope it’s not too long in coming….

Monday, 26 July 2010

Hideout at Mender's Crossing

as by John Glasby
A Black Horse Western from Hale, July 2010

The ghost town of Mender’s Crossing was the ideal base for a gang of outlaws to operate from without interference. Then, a group of soldiers are killed defending a gold-train and the army calls upon special operator Steve Landers to investigate.

Now, Landers must face not only the gang but land baron Hal Clegg, whose hired mercenaries are driving independent ranchers off their land. He will need nerves of steel if he is to succeed when he is so heavily outnumbered. Can he cheat the odds and win?

John Glasby is one of Hale’s most prolific Black Horse Western writers, having had books published under about fifty different pseudonyms. Hideout at Mender’s Crossing is only the fourth to appear with his own name as author I believe.

This book is superbly paced and full of well-drawn characters on either side of the law. The two story threads causing all sorts of problems for Landers, as does the beautiful Freya Morgan and her Apache sidekick. Even though the reader expects all these threads to be linked you’re never quite sure if that’s how things will turn out.

The action sequences are well described and full of excitement, from the spectacular train robbery near the beginning, to a stagecoach robbery and the final showdown. Mistrusts between various characters, who find themselves working together through need rather than wanting too, adds some well-crafted tensions to the story.

As you’ve probably gathered, I found this to be a very entertaining read that has me wanting to search through my collection of BHW to see if I have anymore by John Glasby.

Hideout at Mender’s Crossing is officially released at the end of this month but should be available now from the usual Internet sources.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

100 Recommendations

Some of you may find this listing of interest:
100 book recommendations to get you through the summer

It's been put together by Online College, which is an American site, and they've been good enough to choose The Ox-Bow Incident that I reviewed here to add to their recommendations complete with a link to WFR. It can be found in the section sub-titled "Books Turned Into Films" Hopefully this may get a few new readers to try a western.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Loner With a Gun

as by Ryan Bodie
A Black Horse Western from Hale, July 2010

Hank Masters was a good man, a gentle man who wouldn’t have hurt a fly, so when he was framed and then hanged for a crime he didn’t commit his son Flint swore revenge.

Now Flint Masters must leave his life as a gun-guard in Durango to travel to Jaramillo, where his father’s life was taken. He will avenge himself on the lying, cheating town of Jaramillo until he has done justice to his father’s memory. And woe betide anyone who stands in his way….

Ryan Bodie starts his story after the killing of Hank Masters and it isn’t long before Flint Masters is about to find out just what happened to his father by experiencing the same kind of death himself. But Flint is sprung from jail just in time and finds himself on the run and the hunt for him takes up a good portion of the book.

Even though the reader, and Masters, know who is behind the crimes in Jaramillo we don’t know the why. And it’s this question that keeps you turning the pages.

The book is filled with well-drawn characters, Jack Gatling – the bad guys right-hand man and gunman – being particularly memorable. It’s also interesting to see how his boss, Herrod, starts to fall to pieces as his empire begins to collapse around him.

Overall this a fairly traditional western that proves to be an entertaining read, as I expected from this author – Ryan Bodie being a name used by the very prolific writer Paul Wheelahan – and I look forward to his next book with anticipation.

Loner With a Gun is officially released at the end of this month but is available now from Internet bookstores.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Texas Horse Trading Co. #2

by Gene Shelton
Diamond, July 1994

Sometimes there’s only one place to find justice: on the wrong side of the law. And that’s exactly where the down-and-out duo of Willoughby and Brubs do their business…

One’s a Yankee, the other’s a Rebel – so you can’t expect these two unlikely partners to agree on much. But when it comes to horse-trading, Dave Willoughby and Brubs McCallan see eye-to-eye: If you can’t buy ‘em, steal ‘em. And better yet, steal from the lowlifes who deserve it. But now, the boys are a little worried. The Texas Rangers have come riding into town…

And they’re looking to string up some horse thieves.

Having enjoyed the first Texas Horse Trading Co. book I had high hopes for this one, would it measure up to my expectations? The quick answer is yes!

Like the first book Hangtree Pass contains a well-balanced mixture of action, suspense, humorous situations and lively dialogue. There are some excellent problems for Willoughby and McCallan to overcome, not least being chased by Texas Rangers, their bluff when trying to talk their way out of this confrontation makes for a great plot thread. Of course this isn’t the only sticky situation they try to talk their way out of; there’s trying to sell a stolen horse to it’s original owner – this ownership something Dave and Brubs are unaware of. And Brubs’ rules for picking weapons for a duel are both hilarious and memorable.

So Hangtree Pass more than stands up to the quality of the first book in this series. It’s packed with incident and exciting reading. Gene Shelton’s writing style is extremely readable, and difficult to put down – not least due to the inclusion of a number of cliff-hanger chapter, and scene, endings that just urge the reader to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Next for me, is the third book in the series, Skull Creek, a book I’m looking forward to reading immensely.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Celebration Time!

Western Fiction Review is 2 today!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Broken Horseshoe

by Billy Hall
A Black Horse Western from Hall, July 2010

Coleman Black is stumped by a string of murders and robberies near the boomtown of Deadwood. His best friend, hired to transport money from a cattle sale, is among the victims. Cole is desperate to find the answers but, with no clues to go by, the killer could be anyone.

When Cole decides to take some inspired advice from a new friend, he has no idea that he is being led directly into the line of fire. Meanwhile, the killer smiles as he silently waits in the cover of timber, his rifle already aimed at Cole’s heart…

Fistfight, gunfights, ambush, murder, chases – virtually every chapter of this book contains at least one of them, so if it’s an action packed read you are after then this could be just the book for you.

Billy Hall has been writing Black Horse Westerns for around twenty years and definitely knows how to write a fast moving, well paced, story. This one revolves around murder, and who is doing the killing, and why, remains a mystery until the author decides to reveal this persons identity, thus the reader shares the frustrations and suspicions of Coleman Black.

Black is teamed up with a Negro named White, which allows Billy Hall to inject some humorous dialogue around these characters names. Of course a coloured man riding a well-kept horse and carrying guns leads to problems for White, but this isn’t the only reason for including the Negro, as it’s his past experiences that lead to the method used to finally track down the killer.

Why it’s taken so long for me to discover the work of Billy Hall is another mystery – this being only the second book I’ve read by him – but what I can say is he’s now on the list of my favourite Black Horse Western authors.

The Broken Horseshoe is officially released at the end of this month but it should be available now from the usual Internet sources.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Wilderness #64

as by David Thompson
Leisure, June 2010

Nate King has tried to teach his daughter Evelyn all about the dangers of the wilderness. She is certainly no stranger to predators on the prowl. Even on what’s supposed to be a carefree picnic, she and her friend Dega need to be on their guard. Because something is stalking them, a relentless foe just waiting to pounce.

If Evelyn has learned the lessons of her father, she might just escape. But what about the things Nate neglected to warn her of? What about the enemy who disguises itself as a friend and sneaks in at the most vulnerable moment? Can anyone ever be truly prepared for that?

David Thompson (David Robbins) takes a slightly different approach to how this book is presented, choosing to divide it into three parts, two short sections that don’t involve the King’s, and then the final part, that covers most of the book, bringing all we’ve met during the earlier parts together – at least those still alive – that in turn leads to a nail-biting climax.

There are many suspenseful sequences throughout the story as the creature stalks, and takes out, its prey. Many of these scenes could be equally at home in a horror story as a western and will surely have you holding your breath when Evelyn becomes the target. How can she possibly survive?

The story also continues the growing love between Dega and Evelyn, Dega’s struggle to understand the meanings of the white peoples language leads to many humorous moments and others that could end their relationship permanently.

The second paragraph above mentions an “enemy who disguises itself as a friend” and this could prove to end all of Evelyn’s – and Dega’s – dreams, but I’m not going to say anything else here as I don’t want to spoil the who and why for those who’ve yet to read the book.

Full of action, great dialogue and well-written descriptions, Devil Moon proves to be another excellent entry into this long-running series.

Oh yeah, and something on the back of the book proved to be a great, and very welcome, surprise to me!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Western Fictioneers

Some of you may have seen the comment Frank Roderus left on the review of A Fistful of Legends, but as it may have passed others by I thought I’d make a post to bring this news to everyone’s attention.

Frank is the first president in a new organization called Western Fictioneers that is for writers of the American West.

Here’s a quote from Frank’s message:
“WESTERN FICTIONEERS is intended as a supplement to the Western Writer of America. It is exclusively for writers of fiction. Membership is open to anyone who has a published novel, novella or short story credit.”

Due to the amount of books I review by English publisher Hale (Black Horse Westerns), Frank also says:
“We expressly wish to invite your British authors. You are publishing some excellent work on your side of the pond and we hope you will join us.”

There is a website which can be found at this address:
Their blog is to be found here:

Thursday, 1 July 2010

A Fistful of Legends

21 New Stories of the Old West
Edited by Nik Morton
Express Westerns, December 2009

Revenge, retribution, and deceit. Damaged men and sinister night stalkers. Humour, irony, and tears. Bank robberies, showdowns, and lynchings. Tragic doves, plucky homemakers, and gun-toting belles. Birth and death, love and hate…

Dead Man Talking by Derek Rutherford
Billy by Lance Howard
Lonigan Must Die! by Ben Bridges
The Man Who Shot Garfield Delany by I.J. Parnham
Half a Pig by Matthew P. Mayo
Bloodhound by C. Courtney Joyner
More Than Meets the Eye by Gillian F. Taylor
Big Enough by Chuck Tyrell
One Day in Liberty by Jack Giles
Shadows on the Horizon by Bobby Nash
On the Run by Alfred Wallon
The Gimp by Jack Martin
Visitors by Ross Morton
The Nighthawk by Michael D. George
The Pride of the Crocketts by Evan Lewis
Darke Justice by Peter Avarillo
Angelo and the Strongbox by Cody Wells
Crib Girls by Kit Churchill
Man of Iron by Chuck Tyrell
Cash Laramie and the Masked Devil by Edward A. Grainger
Dead Man Walking by Lee Walker

This is the second collection of short stories to be published by Express Westerns, the first being Where Legends Ride, many of the same authors appear here as in the previous book as do a number of new writers, one in particular has to be mentioned: Peter Avarillo, who must be in the running for the youngest ever author to have a western story published. Peter Avarillo being a pseudonym for sixteen-year-old Chantel Foster.

This second anthology contains more stories than the first and in my opinion both books are excellent ways to try the work of authors new to you. This collection contains a wide spread of storylines and themes as indicated by the opening paragraph to this review, tales that will reach all the emotions as there are stories that deal with tragic situations – such as the terrific story from Lance Howard – and those that are more traditional in their theme. There are more light-hearted stories too and one that delves into the supernatural.

Mention must also be made of the story by Matthew P. Mayo, Half a Pig, that was a runner up in the 2010 Western Writers of America Spur Awards in the short fiction category.

Of course we’ll all have our favourites and those that perhaps don’t grab our imaginations as strongly as others, but one thing that can definitely be said about the whole collection is that they are all extremely well written and are a joy to read. With an excellent introduction by James Reasoner this is one anthology you should not miss.