Saturday, 31 December 2011

Macklin's Women - audio book

By J.R. Roberts
Speaking Volumes, December 2011

Ex-lawman Clint Adams makes his living as a travelling gun trader, a job which takes him all over the West. In a sleepy Missouri town he finds a trio of beautiful women who will do anything – pay any price – to be reunited with their former “protector,” Con Macklin.

The Gunsmith agrees to take them to him and rides out on the dirty and dangerous trail to Mexico. He delivers the women but faces an army of hardcases led by Macklin – who wants his women back and The Gunsmith dead.

This story first appeared as a paperback book way back in January 1982 and has now become available as an ebook, a paperback, and an audio book produced by Speaking Volumes, and it’s the latter I’m looking at here.

Mackin’s Women is presented on 5 discs (it can also be bought as MP3s) and has a running time of approximately 6 hours. Each disc is divided into a number of short tracks so if you have to stop listening part way through it is very easy to find your place again. After hearing a few of these tracks there is a brief interlude of music that I presume signals chapter ends – I didn’t have my copy of the original book handy to check if my assumption is correct.

The story is read by Barry Campbell in clear and easy to hear speech; he alters his tone for dialogue and often lowers or raises his voice to differentiate between characters.

As many readers will already know The Gunsmith books are billed as an adult western series and the difference between the amount of sex in this story and those being published today is dramatic. Gunplay is a regular occurrence too, with Clint Adams often finding himself outnumbered, his superb ability with a gun keeping him alive as he kills an impressive number of hardcases. Along the way Clint finds himself backed by his old friend Wild Bill Hickok and meets a man called Earp. There’s also a few puzzles for Clint to ponder on, such as trying to discover just what Macklin’s treasure is and where it’s hidden, along with what Macklin is planning to do with his small army of outlaws, and who is sending gunmen to kill Macklin’s women.

Listening to this story proved to be a pleasurable experience and I’m now looking forward to hearing the second book very soon.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Gunsmoke Over New Mexico

By Dale Graham
Hale, December 2011

Nobody in the town of Tularosa is aware of the secret harboured by the proprietor of the local firearms store. The truth is that Sol Henshaw has never fired a gun in his life. All that changes when the infamous Clanton Gang rob the bank in the sleepy New Mexico town.

Instinctively, Sol grabs the nearest revolver and runs into the street. A lucky shot kills the gang leader thus foiling the theft. Revered as a hero, Sol’s picture is splashed across the front page of the Tularosa Tribune. The hot-headed younger brother of Rafe Clanton also sees it and wants revenge.

But all does not go according to plan and innocent victims are placed in the firing line. How can Sol Henshaw save his family and bring the gang to justice? Much blood will be spilled before the final denouement.

Dale Graham, who also writes under the pseudonym of Ethan Flagg, has written another fast paced and exciting story in this, his nineteenth book. The tale really shows how the press can be as much of a problem as the events it reports on.

Character studies are excellent, particularly those of Sol and his family. The gambler, Iron Mike Steel, hired to be Tularosa’s new lawman, is another memorable character, as are the various gang members.

There’s plenty of gun action before the final showdown that sees Sol Henshaw deciding to make the ultimate sacrifice, whether he dies or lives is something I’m not going to reveal here, I’ll just say that I think most western fans will enjoy reading this book and be thoroughly entertained whilst finding out.

This book is officially released today, and if you want a copy I’d suggest you grab one quickly as BHW tend to sell out fast.

Westerns read during 2011

Here’s a list of the Westerns I’ve read this year (or listened to in one case). I’ve linked each to its review and will continue to update the links to those that I haven’t reviewed yet. 

JANUARY READS – 12 books

1. Morgan Kane #37: Dead Man’s Shadow by Louis Masterson
2. Texas Horse Trading Co. #4: Devil’s Deathbed by Gene Shelton
3. Ambush at Lakota Crossing by Terrell L. Bowers
4. The Trailsman #351: Terror Town by Jon Sharpe
5. Bear Creek by Jack Edwardes
6. The Highwaymen by Owen G. Irons
7. The Spanish Bit Saga #18: Return of the Spanish by Don Coldsmith
8. Duel at Del Norte by Ethan Flagg
9. The Judge #8: River Raid by Hank Edwards
10. Angel Eyes #3: Wolf Pass by W.B. Longley
11. Sundance #5: The Pistoleros by John Benteen
12. Ride to Valor by David Robbins


13. The Trailsman #352: Texas Tangle by Jon Sharpe
14. Longarm and the Panamint Panic (#387) by Tabor Evans
15. Outlaw Canyon by Jack Sheriff
16. Coyote Falls by Colin Bainbridge
17. Award-Winning Tales compiled by R.L. Coffield
18. The Snake River Bounty by Bill Shields
19. Matt Jensen: Dakota Ambush by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
20. Raking Hell by Lee Clinton
21. The Rimfire Riders by John Robb
23. Shannon: U.S. Marshal by Charles E. Friend
24. Pinkerton #1: The Babcock Boys by Desmond Reid

MARCH READS – 11 books

25. Redemption, Kansas by James Reasoner
26. The Trailsman #353: Bitterroot Bullets by Jon Sharpe
27. The Storm Family Saga #2: Hard Texas Trail by Matt Chisholm
28. Down the Long Hills by Louis L’Amour
29. Two Graves for a Gunman by Barry Cord
30. .45-Caliber Widow Maker by Peter Brandvold
31. The Skull of Iron Eyes by Rory Black
32. Killer Chase by John Davage
33. Hard Road to Holford by Greg Mitchell
35. The Gunsmith #352: Unbound by Law by J.R. Roberts

APRIL READS – 9 books

36. The Derby Man #5: Silver Shot by Gary McCarthy
37. Cannon for Hire by Doug Thorne
38. Dakota Rage by Jake Douglas
39. Dear Mr. Holmes by Steve Hockensmith
40. Paytime for a Good Man by Joseph John McGraw
41. The Rifleman by Tony Masero
42. The Secret of Devil’s Canyon by I.J. Parnham
43. A Way in the Wilderness by Paula L. Silici
44. Rogue Lawman #6: Gallows Express by Peter Brandvold

MAY READS – 10 books

45. The Trailsman #355: Texas Gunrunners by Jon Sharpe
46. Longarm and the Bloody Relic (#390) by Tabor Evans
49. Rancho Diablo #1: Shooter’s Cross by Colby Jackson
50. Jacob’s Road by Richard Wyler
51. The Lost Trail by Logan Winters
52. The Scattergun Gang by Hank J. Kirby
53. Bloodshed at the Broken Spur by Steven Gray
54. Blind Justice at Wedlock by Ross Morton

JUNE READS – 9 books

55. Lust of the Lawless by Robert Leslie Bellem
57. The Trailsman #356: Grizzly Fury by Jon Sharpe
58. Nomad’s Trail by E. Hoffmann Price
59. Cotton’s Law by Phil Dunlap
60. Ace High in Wilderness by Rob Hill
61. Shotgun Messenger by Colin Bainbridge
62. Lonesome Range by Tyler Hatch
63. Wyoming Double-Cross by J.D. Kincaid

JULY READS – 11 books

64. Caleb Thorn #4: Bloody Shiloh by L.J. Coburn
65. Jake Silver #3: Canyon of Death by Jere D. James
66. The Trailsman #357: Stagecoach Sidewinders by Jon Sharpe
67. The Loner #4: The Big Gundown by J.A. Johnstone
68. Crooked Foot’s Gold by Greg Mitchell
69. Revenge for a Hanging by Richard Smith
70. No Quarter at Devil’s Fork by Terrell L. Bowers
71. The Ballad of Delta Rose by Jack Martin
72. Trapp’s Mountain by Robert J. Randisi
73. The Gunsmith #356: Hunt for the White Wolf by J.R. Roberts
74. The Crack in the Lens by Steve Hockensmith

AUGUST READS – 10 books

75. The Sheriff and the Widow by Chap O’Keefe
76. .45-Caliber Firebrand by Peter Brandvold
77. The Gallows Land by Bill Pronzini
78. The Snake Den by Chuck Tyrell
79. The Prairie Man by I.J. Parnham
80. Kato’s Army by D.M. Harrison
81. In Need of Hanging by Billy Hall
82. Colorado Clean-Up by Corba Sunman
83. Wind River by James Reasoner
84. Walk Proud, Stand Tall by Johnny D. Boggs


85. The Spanish Bit Sage #19: Bride of the Morning Star by Don Coldsmith
86. The Traditional West by The Western Fictioneers
87. The Rainbow Trail by Zane Grey – Comic book version
88. Silvertip’s Roundup by Max Brand – Comic book version
89. The Trailsman #359: Platte River Gauntlet by Jon Sharpe
90. .45-Caliber Desperado by Peter Brandvold
91. Riding the Pulp Trail by Paul S. Powers
92. Doomsday Mesa by Chap O’Keefe
93. The Shopkeeper by James D. West

OCTOBER READS – 10 books

95. Savage Texas by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
96. The Way Station by Owen G. Irons
97. Wilderness #66: Garden of Eden by David Thompson
98. Siege at Hope Wells by Scott Connor
99. The Trailsman #360: Texas Lead Slingers by Jon Sharpe
100. The Last Mann by Hank J. Kirby
101. Encounter at Salvation Creek by Paxton Johns
102. Ghosts of Bluewater Creek by Terry James
103. Morgan Kane: El Gringo by Louis Masterson


104. Morgan Kane: El Gringo’s Revenge by Louis Masterson
105. Fort Revenge by Ralph Hayes
106. Cut-Price Lawman by Tyler Hatch
107. Let the Guns Decide by Shane Archer
108. Morgan Kane: Without Mercy by Louis Masterson
110. Trail of the Snake by Norvell Page
111. Jake Rains by Tony Masero
112. In the High Bitterroots by Will DuRey
113. A Man Called Breed by Chuck Tyrell
114. Travelin’ Money by Logan Winters
115. Morgan Kane: The Claw of the Dragon by Louis Masterson


116. Slocum and the Fool’s Errand (#394) by Jake Logan
117. The Gunsmith #360: The Mad Scientist of the West by J.R. Roberts
118. The Devil’s Payroll by Paul Green
120. Sheriff Without a Star by I.J. Parnham
121. The Trailsman #362: Range War by Jon Sharpe
122. Showdown in Jeopardy by John Davage
123. Longarm and the Doomed Beauty (#397) by Tabor Evans
124. Gunsmoke Over New Mexico by Dale Graham
125. Three for the Trail by Ben Bridges
126. Rancho Diablo #2: Hangrope Law by Colby Jackson
127. The Gunsmith #1: Macklin’s Women by J.R. Roberts (audio version)
128. Angelo and the Strongbox by Cody Wells

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Longarm and the Doomed Beauty

By Tabor Evans
Jove, December 2011

#397 in the series.

Babe Younger – cousin to the infamous Cole Younger – has shot his last bank manager. Thanks to the testimony of eyewitness Josephine Pritchard, the outlaw has been duly executed at the end of a hangman’s rope. But in a touching display of loyalty to their leader, the gang has vowed vengeance against the beautiful Miss Pritchard.

Now it’s up to Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long to ‘thwart the gang’s ill intentions towards the lovely lady. If Longarm has his way, every one of them will be reunited with their leader – in a special ring of hell reserved for cutthroats and cowards. Of course it is a single man against an entire gang – and if Custis doesn’t watch his back, he might be the one not getting any older…

The first part of this story sees Longarm getting re-acquainted with Miss Cynthia Larimer – whom he first met in the Lunatic Mountains (see book #386 in the series) – then being sent to make sure Josephine Pritchard is kept safe, during the journey to her he meets up with the amusing Anderson family. Arriving at his destination in time to save Miss Pritchard from an attempt on her life the book then becomes a chase story, which is filled with almost constant action.

Descriptions of the landscape are vivid as are the action sequences. Characters are well crafted and memorable – I enjoyed seeing Josephine change from being a scared girl into a tough woman ready to take on all the dangers thrown at her. The number of bad guys means there’s a large death toll and their killings are quite graphically described at times.

All the above means that I found this to be a very entertaining read, everything I’d expect from a Longarm book really, although I doubt it was ever going to fail in my opinion considering the author hiding behind the pseudonym of Tabor Evans this time around is one of my favourite western writers: Peter Brandvold.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Showdown in Jeopardy

By John Davage
Hale, December 2011

In the depths of a winter’s night, a train is sent off its tracks near Cutler’s Pass and raided for the $80,000 gold shipment it’s carrying. Just after midnight, five years later in the town of Jeopardy, ex-Bostonian Clyde Pascoe is puzzling over the anonymous arrival of a newspaper cutting. Minutes later, he is shot and killed by an unknown assassin.

Sheriff Cyrus Yapp and local newspaper editor, Will Bullard, are soon making the connection between Pascoe’s death and the five-year-old train raid and wondering if newcomer to Jeopardy, Luke Frey, is mixed up in the murders that suddenly occur in this once peaceful town. Luke, however, is more interested in discovering the identity of the train’s mysterious fifth raider. But why?

John Davage’s third Black Horse Western is as enjoyable as his first two. Starting with the train robbery, the story quickly moves forward five years and it’s then that the reader becomes hooked by all the puzzles that make this tale so intriguing. Who is Luke Frey? Are the train robbers living in Jeopardy, and if so who are they? Some characters seem to be living under alias, so who are they really? How can a whore know so much? What secrets is the bank manager hiding? Who’s behind the killings? Who sent the newspaper cutting? As each question is answered so more seem to present themselves.

John Davage writes in very readable prose. His chapters are short, and he uses them to follow various characters as they all attempt to work out why the killings are happening and who is responsible for what. If there is a main character then it’s Luke Frey, but is he hero or villain?

There’s plenty of action as guilty parties try to have those they see as a threat assassinated or framed. By the end all the story threads are neatly tied up and I was left with the feeling of having been well entertained, and once more I find myself looking forward to John Davage’s next book.

Showdown in Jeopardy is officially published on December 30th but is available now from the usual Internet sources.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles Vol. 2

By Edward A. Grainger
Beat to a Pulp Ebook, October 2011

Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles is a western noir, short story collection spotlighting the thrilling tales of two deputy U.S. Marshals working in 1880s Wyoming Territory. Cash Laramie, raised by Native Americans, is known as the outlaw marshal for his unorthodox way of dealing with criminals and his cavalier approach to life. Gideon Miles is one of the first African American marshals in the service and has skills with guns, knives, and tracking that are unrivalled.

Like the first collection of short stories about Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles this volume contains a mix of new tales and a few that have already been published elsewhere. The first collection had a story co-written by Sandra Seamans, and this one follows that tradition by having not one but two tales co-authored by Chuck Tyrell.

Origin of White Deer (with Chuck Tyrell)
Maggie’s Promise
Miles in Between
Cash Laramie and the Painted Ladies
Gun Justice (with Chuck Tyrell)
Cash Laramie and the Masked Devil
Reflections in a Glass of Maryland Rye

The first story takes up nearly half the book, and tells us about Cash Laramie’s early years – including how he got the name. Along the way it tackles the problems of racial hatred between white people and Native Americans.

I must admit that overall I felt this collection of stories has a darker tone than those in the first volume. Just read Maggie’s Promise to see what I mean, this probably being my favourite tale, although the last story comes very close to taking that accolade.

If you’ve read my review of the first volume (which can be found here) then you’ll know I thought it to be excellent. This second volume I feel surpasses that. Why? I just felt that the stories presented here are harder hitting, more memorable due to the themes they cover – particularly that of the last story. 

Once finished I found myself wanting more, so any book that leaves me feeling that way just has to be tagged as highly recommended. At just over a dollar (less than a pound in the UK) this ebook offers exceptional value for money.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Range War

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, December 2011

All Skye Fargo wants is to get to Dallas and reunite with a lovely lady. But when he rides through Hermanos Valley, he heads into a war zone. For generations, sheepherders have raised their flocks on the fertile land. Now powerful cattle drivers are staking out the valley as their own – and they’ve got the guns to back up their claims. But they’re not about to pull the wool over the Trailsman’s eyes.

The Guadalupes, New Mexico, 1859 – where lonely summits loom over a forbidding land of the lawless.

Reading the above blurb, taken from the back of the book, you might think this is going to be your typical range war type novel, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes there is a range war brewing but that is just the backbone to the story…

Something is indiscriminately tearing the throats out of sheep, cattle, and human beings. It’s this creature that Fargo agrees to hunt down and exterminate, and in the process manages to make enemies on both sides.

It’s during the many attempts to trail the creature that becomes known as The Hound, that the author piles on the suspense, as the hunters become the hunted. Fleeting glimpses of The Hound and the tracks it leaves paint an image of an animal unlike any other Fargo has come across.

The author – in this case David Robbins writing as Jon Sharpe – really builds up the tension in nail-biting scenes that kept me glued to the pages, making this a very difficult book to put down. Not just my need to discover what The Hound really was kept me reading, but my wanting to know whether the sheepherders or cattlemen would eventually claim the valley – if any of them were left alive to do so by the end.

The book is peopled with great characters, such as Carlos. The dialogue crackles, and at times is superbly sarcastic, which makes for some very humorous comments. Descriptions are vivid and at times quite brutal, and the action comes thick and fast. All this makes for a Trailsman book not to miss.

Range War also introduces readers to a new cover design. 

Friday, 16 December 2011

Sheriff Without a Star

By I.J. Parnham
Hale, December 2011

Despite his four years of distinguished service Sheriff Cassidy Yates lost the confidence of Monotony’s townsfolk because his error of judgement led to the death of Leland Matlock’s son. But when the star Cassidy had worn with pride was removed from his chest, Leland claimed he knew something that would shed new light on the sheriff’s downfall.

Before Leland could reveal what he knew he was shot, but Cassidy still had the instincts of a lawman. He believed Leland’s shooting was connected to the death of his son and that if he could uncover the link it would restore the townsfolk’s confidence in him. So Cassidy embarked on his greatest challenge: to get the star pinned back on his chest where it belonged.

Ian Parnham presents the reader with another story about Sheriff Cassidy Yates. You don’t have to have read the others in this series to fully enjoy this novel, as it’s a stand-alone story. And what a tale it is, full of twists and turns that enthral, peopled with a great set of characters, and expertly paced.

My favourite character has to be hired assassin Rockwell Trent. Hired to kill a number of people Rockwell is slowly becoming unhinged as he finds each of his intended victims dead moments before he’s about to take them out. The question of why this is happening, and who is killing them, is just one of the many puzzles that hook the reader and won’t let go until the reason is discovered.

The story is mainly told through Cassidy but does follow other characters too, such as Rockwell Trent. Quite how the different storylines are entwined isn’t obvious, nor is the reasons behind the various plot threads. Everything comes to a head in a fast moving and violent shootout that ties everything up neatly.

If you’ve never read a Sheriff Cassidy Yates story then this book is an excellent place to start, and I’m sure that after you’ve read it you’ll be eager to hunt out his past adventures.

Sheriff Without a Star is officially released on December 30th but is available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Morgan Kane: The Claw of the Dragon

By Louis Masterson
WR Films Entertainment Group, Inc.
eBook, December 2011

Plunder from the ancient shrines of Mexico!

Major Monroe of the 4th Mounted, Texas, wasn’t smiling. Someone had found a new and profitable source of income – stealing holy Mexican treasures and shipping them across the Rio Grande. The Mexican authorities were angry. Monroe had to act quickly. So Morgan Kane, the ranger with eyes of slate and nerves of steel, was sent to investigate. His search was to end in Cuervo del Drache – the Dragon’s Lair….

The first part of this book introduces the reader to Racewick Dragolech, who will soon become known as Race Drago. We follow his trail to a life of crime and his education in how to become a fast gun – the final lessons being to lure other quick draw artists to a secluded spot and face off to them. We also discover how the Dragon’s Lair was found.

As Morgan Kane’s investigation unfolds Louis Masterson fills the reader in on a lot of Aztec history including information on spotting Aztec treasures. The story also delves into the politics of keeping peace between Mexico and America. All this provides some fascinating reading.

When the action sequences come they are fast and brutal. The final showdown between Kane and Drago is extremely well written and very visual.

This book also introduces Zarco Palacio, a beautiful woman who will leave Kane with a lasting memory, a woman not to be forgotten, who will return later in the series to again throw Kane’s emotions into turmoil, therefore making this book one not to miss for those who are following the series.

The Morgan Kane ebooks are also available from itunes.

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Devil's Payroll

By Paul Green
Hale, December 2011

John Harrison, a lawyer turned bounty hunter, finds himself entangled in a web of intrigue after capturing fugitive outlaw Clay Barton. He is persuaded by the beautiful Maggie Sloane to allow Barton to lead them to the loot robbed from an army payroll. But things get complicated when Barton double-crosses them and Maggie is kidnapped by the mysterious Leo Gabriel.

With the veteran buffalo soldier, Sergeant Eli Johnson, at his side, Harrison battles ruthless vaqueros and a Comanche war party to recover the money, re-capture Barton and rescue Maggie. However, a further surprise awaits him when he finally catches up with his enemies.

This is the first Black Horse Western from Paul Green, and if it’s action you want he’s an author worth trying out. This book is filled with gunfights as Harrison encounters people wanting to kill him in every chapter, be they bandits, Comanche’s or outlaw Clay Barton. All these deadly battles means the book has a high death count and after seeing early on that Paul Green has no problem killing off some of the main players, the reader can never be sure who will be alive by the end.

Maggie Sloane is not only included for the love interest, she is a strong and able character in her own right, who doesn’t flinch in the face of danger or when she has to kill. She is also an able tracker, better than most of the men who she rides alongside.

Paul Green is a very readable writer who manages to cram a lot into his story. The plot develops well and the pace is fast and furious throughout. He also includes a fair amount of background on his character  Harrison that explains why he became a bounty hunter.

The Devil’s Payroll is officially released on December 30th but should be available for pre-order now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Mad Scientist of the West

By J.R. Roberts
Jove, December 2011

When Clint Adams receives a summons to appear before Grover Cleveland, he makes his way to Washington post-haste. After all, the Gunsmith is a man loyal to his leader and his country. At the White House, the president asks Clint to take on a job: bodyguard for famed scientist Nikola Tesla.

Tesla’s revolutionary research in electricity has caused some to call him a mad scientist, and it seems someone wants to put an end to his experiments. Clint heads to Colorado to meet up with Tesla, but it soon becomes clear that keeping the eccentric scientist out of trouble will be no easier than harnessing a bolt of lightning…

Right from the very beginning of this series the Gunsmith books have regularly featured real people. I’ve always enjoyed this and have often waited for each new book wondering if another would appear in it, and who it would be. Of course there have been many appearances by people who have guest starred in a variety of western books but it’s the less expected people that for me makes this one of the best series around that uses real historical characters, like Tesla in this one (another that has always stood out to me is #183: The Flying Machine – which sees The Gunsmith getting involved with the young Wright brothers).

The story moves fast and is told from a variety of viewpoints, even that of a mountain lion – this animal being just one of those hunting Adams and Tesla - this big cat being used effectively as misdirection at one point.

There’s plenty of action, of more than one kind – remember this is an adult series – lots of great dialogue, and a humorous scene near the beginning involving Tesla and a girl.

I’ve always found The Gunsmith books to be very easy to read and read this one in two sittings, finishing it with a feeling of having been well entertained, and wanting to start another straight away. Fans of The Gunsmith should make sure they don’t miss this one, as should readers who enjoy fictional books containing real people.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Slocum and the Fool's Errand

By Jake Logan
Jove, December 2011

#394 in the series

After collecting the reward for capturing Oklahoma Bill and his gang, Slocum’s ready to hightail out of Rocas Rojas, New Mexico. But before he can pack his saddlebags, Jack Halsey comes tearing into town – minus some fingers, the result of a run-in with a pack of wolves.

Jack wants Slocum’s help tracking down the wolves because they ate something more valuable than his fingers. But Jack’s tales keep changing, and Slocum doesn’t know what to believe. And when Apache warriors and Oklahoma Bill’s former associates join the chase, Slocum must uncover whatever it is Jack is really hiding – and whatever Jack believes is in the belly of the beasts…

One of the first things I noticed about this book is that the author very rarely shares his characters thoughts with his readers, this makes some of their actions come as a surprise and gives them a hard edge and also helps add a sense of mystery to Halsey’s mission. For most of the story we follow Slocum but the author does occasionally move away from him to explain what those hunting for Halsey are doing.

Jack Halsey is a great character, his constant griping, changing story, and urgency to find the wolves make him very memorable. I must also admit to not guessing what it actual was that the wolves ate along with Halsey’s fingers.

Slocum and Halsey join forces with a band of Apache warriors and this leads to a well-written and exciting battle with the wolf pack, this bloody fight being the highlight of the book for me.

Everything is neatly resolved in a low-key ending that finished the story more or less as I expected. Getting to this ending was an entertaining and fun read.

Also available as an eBook

Friday, 2 December 2011

Travelin' Money

By Logan Winters
Hale, November 2011

At the end of a long cattle drive, Joe Sample runs into a little bad luck. A cantankerous steer pins him against a fence post, breaking his leg. So, Joe is laid up in the infamous Dog Stain Hotel next to Yuma pen. His money and the management’s patience has run out when the door of the hotel restaurant burst open and a wild-eyed man named Pierce Malloy walks in, his boot leaking blood. Malloy wants Joe to find a buried cache of money and give it to Tess Malloy whose husband had been hanged that morning. What choice does Joe have, being broke and about to be evicted?

He had accepted a little travelling money minutes before prison guards arrive and gun Malloy down. With the money and a map to the treasure, Joe starts out to fulfil his promise to a dying man. Things do not turn out as planned however; the map leads him in to a nest of thieves and an earthly hell.

Logan Winters really puts his hero through a tough time in this book. Bad luck piled upon back luck. Stolen from, knocked unconscious, lied to, tricked, all these many times over and more. Much of this seems befall him because Joe Sample is a nice guy, a gullible and far too trusting man. He’s also an admirable man due to his determination to see his promise through to the end, no matter how many problems this throws up, it’s no wonder Sample begins to believe the money is cursed.

There’s plenty of action, great supporting characters, and a fast moving plot that contains more than one twist. There are also some great moments of humour, particularly in the story of how the hotel got its name Dog Stain.

As I’ve come to expect, Logan Winters – this being one of Paul Lederer’s pseudonyms – has once more come up with a great, entertaining read, and I’m again left looking forward to his next book.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

In the High Bitterroots

By Will DuRey
Hale, November 2011

They rode out as the snow began to fall, a party of seven. Their purpose is to rescue a band of travellers trapped by an avalanche in the high Bitterroot Mountains. But once clear of the Montana township of Wicker it is soon apparent that the on-coming winter blizzards are not the only threat to success. The swiftly assembled group have brought with them their own grievances and evil.

Moreover, the mountain holds an unexpected threat for young Jess Clarke and ‘Doc’ Hames.

Starting with a bank robbery that introduces the reader to a family of outlaws that have an important role to play in the outcome of this very fast moving tale, the story never lets up in the action stakes. Will DuRey has created some wonderful people, all of which have their own personalities, that soon have the reader hoping they succeed, or not, in their personal agendas. The book contains strong characters in both sexes.

Descriptions are visual, and the dialogue believable. There are a number of ‘edge-of-the-seat’ situations that provide gripping and tense reading. The story is paced beautifully, and everything is resolved in a final series of exciting confrontations.

This is the third Black Horse Western from author Will DuRey* and the first I’ve read. Once finished I was left wishing I’d read his previous two books, and now I’m eagerly awaiting his next.

Great to see that Hale have used artwork that could easily illustrate a scene from the book.

In the High Bitterroots is officially released tomorrow but is available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

* As the eagle-eyed amoungst you will have already spotted, the cover fronting this review shows the authors’ name as William DuRey, the book I have has him named Will DuRey.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Rainbow Trail - in pictures

By Zane Grey
Comic Book Version

Like the Ace Doubles this contains two stories bound back-to-back. These are both comic adaptations of books by well-known authors. This Double Western Pictorial was published in Australia by the Junior Readers’ Press and distributed by Gordon and Gotch (A/sia) Ltd. I believe Dell originally published it in America. The comic isn’t dated so I can’t tell you when it was published. The comic measures 18.5cm X 13.5cm. It has a colour cover and a black and white interior.

I’ve never read the book of The Rainbow Trail, which was a sequel to Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, which is often said to be his best novel, so have no idea how much has been cut for this comic version, or how truthful it is to the original.

From comments in the dialogue it seems that many of the characters are from that previous novel, although none of them take centre stage for very long as we follow the fortunes of different people, all intent on rescuing Jane and Lassiter. The story has strong roles for both male and female leads, a fair amount of action and a lot of dialogue. The story takes place over a number of years, which allows little Fay Larkin to grow into an attractive young woman so she can become the love interest for John Shefford, who eventually finds Jane and Lassiter with the help of Indian guide Nas Ta Begay.

There isn’t any mention of who drew the comic but the drawings are clear with recognizable characters, and contain a fair amount of background detail.

Max Brand backs The Rainbow Trail with Silvertip’s Roundup.

Click on the scan of the first two pages below to see a readable version.

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Man Called Breed

By Chuck Tyrell
Hale, November 2011

Refused a drink and threatened with violence in a saloon because of his Indian heritage, Falan Wilder, the man called Breed, severely wounds Reed Fowley, and then takes refuge in the desert. Fowley’s father and brothers give chase, but are no match for Breed, who escapes and goes to his homestead in Lone Pine Canyon below the Mogollon Rim.

But the Fowleys will not give up. They hire man-hunter Dutch Regan to find him. Once found, Reed Fowley, and brother Bud, hire Robert Candless, a former major of the Colorado Volunteers, and a band of savage outlaws to storm Breed’s homestead and kill him. Breed, his wife-to-be Blessing, and his protégé, Sparrow, must fight for their lives, or die.

Unusually for a Black Horse Western, this story is told mainly in the first person, through Falan Wilder. I say mainly because Chuck Tyrell quite often moves the tale away from Breed so the reader can follow the movements of those who hunt him, these parts of the story being told in the third person.

A lot of the story involves memories, these flashbacks used to flesh out both Wilder’s past and that of the Fowleys. Chuck Tyrell also provides a lot of information regarding the landscape his characters find themselves in.

Chuck Tyrell includes many real people too, mostly just mentioned as someone Wilder has worked with or met in the past, such as Al Sieber.

The plot is expertly laid out and builds well to its final exciting showdown, which sees Wilder and Sparrow fighting against superior odds, the outcome of which left me wondering if Wilder will return in another story further down the line. Chuck Tyrell (this being a pseudonym for Charles T. Whipple) often has his heroes from one book guest starring in further books, so this could just happen.

A Man Called Breed has a release date of November 30th but should be available now.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Jake Rains

By Tony Masero
Hale, November 2011

1889 Cuba! When his best friend and fellow Rough Rider lies fatally wounded, Jake Rains swears to care for his widow. The trouble is Kitty Cartright already has a protector, Chris Leeward, owner of the double E ranch.

Things don’t look good when Jake arrives in Oakum. There is trouble at the Cartright place, but Jake and his new friend, Sam, are determined to put things right. Not only are they faced with Leeward’s cruel riders, a band of zealous mountain men lusting for vengeance, but also the advent of the most modern of inventions. The challenge calls for old-fashioned courage on the streets of Oakum where Jake Rains must fight for his life.

Before I began reading this I was struck by the different look to the cover of this book, in my opinion much more modern in its approach than the usual paintings fronting Black Horse Westerns, something I hope we see much more often. Some may recognize the author name of this book so it’ll come as no surprise to discover that he also painted and designed the cover.

The story is set much later than many Black Horse Westerns, again this makes a refreshing and welcome deviation.

The first thing that struck me about Tony Masero’s writing is that it is very visual, a trait that perhaps comes from his many years as an artist (you can find an interview I did with Tony about his cover art here). His pacing is excellent and his characters are well defined, as are his scene and action descriptions.

One of my favourite parts of the story is a horse verses automobile race, a contest that ends dramatically – to say more would be too much of a spoiler.

This book is Tony Masero’s first for the Black Horse line, and hopefully there will be many more to follow.

Jake Rains is officially released on November 30th, but should be available now from the usual Internet sources.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Trail of the Snake

By Norvell Page
Black Dog Books, 2011

For millions of readers, the name Norvell Page is synonymous with the pulse-pounding, red-hot adventures of The Spider. Years before he was guiding The Spider, Page was turning out dozens of short mysteries and Westerns.

Here, collected in paperback for the first time, are all of Norvell Page’s known Western works, including his first fiction sale, “Corralled.”

Trail of the Snake is another beautifully produced book from Black Dog Books. Sandwiched between an entertaining introduction by Bill Crider, and an informative look at Norvell Page’s history written by Tom Roberts we have five stories that originally appeared in the pulps during the 1930s, the last three tales being published under the pseudonym of N. Wooten Poge.

Trail of the Snake
Secret Guns
Brand of the Cougar
Hell’s Backtrail

Three of the stories are about lawmen bringing down outlaws and the other two have revenge as the main storyline. They are very fast moving and packed with action and colourful characters. Two of the stories are from Spicy Western Magazine, so have a number of attractive women in them that all seem to lose their clothes at some point. (The other three stories appeared in Masked Rider Western Magazine, Thrilling Western, and Western Trails) Some of the stories contain neat twists, a couple of which I didn’t anticipate, which in turn provide some neat outcomes to the tales.

Norvell Page’s writing stands-up well today and is very readable. Of course his use of words is of the times and his dialogue is of the period too, for instance horses are often referred to as “fuzz-tails” and characters speak thus: “Lift yore hands, yuh murderin’ kiyote! I’d jest admire a chance to drill yuh!”

If I haven’t convinced you that this book is worth reading then let me finish with Bill Crider’s quote from the back of the book: “Page’s Western tales are pure fun, filled with smoking guns, thundering hooves, and beautiful women…. If entertainment in the grand pulp style is what you’re looking for, you’ve surely come to the right place.”

Morgan Kane: Without Mercy

By Louis Masterson
WR Films Entertainment Group, Inc.
eBook, November 2011

Kane was a born gambler. When he was taken to the cleaners in a rigged game of cards in St. Louis, he didn’t realize it was part of a private vendetta. Three men and a woman were after Kane. The woman was the bait…

And when they thought they had finished Kane off in the dark, he was left for dead. The buzzards saved him. But, to match the Ranger’s star he carried, Kane had gained a star-shaped scar on his right hand – the hand that meant the difference between life and death to a ranger who lived by the speed of his draw.

Kane wanted revenge – and got it.

This book tells how Kane came by the scar on the back of his hand and why he has two fingers bound together. It is also a study in fear – fear that Kane won’t be able to use his gun-hand again, this fear keeping him from returning to his job as a Texas Ranger. It’s emotions like this that I feel is one of Louis Masterson’s strong points, something he writes so well, puts over in words that strike a lasting chord within the reader. 

Fear isn’t the only emotional theme Masterson puts Kane through. The events that trigger this lead to a strong need for revenge. Masterson also vividly describes animal magnetism, strong desires between Kane and a number of different women – desires that Kane struggles to keep in check. 

The book also introduces us to Charlie Katz, another Texas Ranger who often partners Kane, and through memories of his, and Kane’s, we discover little snippets about previous cases they worked on, assignments that helped shape Kane into the man he is in the opening scenes of this very fast moving story. 

The final, desperate gunfight closes the book extremely well, and leaves this reader hungry for more.

The Assassination of Governor Boggs

By Rod Miller
Bonneville Books, 2011

After an attempted assassination, Governor Lilburn Boggs couldn’t prove who’d taken a shot at him, leaving the identity of his assailant a mystery. Twenty-five years later and after the passing of Gov. Boggs, Detective Calvin Pogue has been hired by the Boggs family to open this cold case and find out the truth about the assassin.

From Missouri to California and into the heart of the Utah Territory, Detective Pogue relentlessly seeks clues that lead him to the legendary Mormon gunman Porter Rockwell – who still isn’t making things easy for anyone.

This book follows a fictional investigation by Pinkerton Agent Calvin Boggs into a true assassination attempt. It seems many people believe Porter Rockwell to be the man who pulled the trigger, and Boggs’ trail to discover the truth sees him meeting and interviewing many people who really lived, for instance Brigham Young, and, of course, Porter Rockwell.

Rod Miller’s novel is very readable, and mixes the western with detective thriller stylishly. The book is made up of a series of interviews that capture the unique voices of those being questioned well. The interview with Rockwell is broken up and appears at regular intervals throughout the book, nearly all the chapters end with these segments.

This is not an action western, rather it’s a fascinating look at this assassination attempt, and at the Mormon wars. Both sides are given voice so as not to colour the readers’ judgement. Yes, there isn’t a clear conclusion, as there never has been, but the facts are laid out clearly, and the reader is left to make his/her own mind up. Having said that the book ends with a surprising final chapter that makes for an unseen and dramatic twist ending, but also, perhaps, hints at the way Rod Miller wants the readers’ decision to sway.

Of course any novel based on historical facts that have never been proved one way or another leaves the reader with more questions. Questions that have me interested to learn more about Governor Boggs and Porter Rockwell.

The Assassination of Governor Boggs is an entertaining and educational book that should be essential reading for anyone interested in Boggs, Rockwell, and/or the Mormon wars, or those who enjoy novels based on fact.

Also available as an ebook.