Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Gringos #5

By J.D. Sandon
Mayflower, 1979

Zacatecas was the stumbling block that barred Pancho Villa’s advance on Mexico City. The Federale garrison was fighting his bandit army to a standstill. But word came of howitzers stored in Tampico, and Villa called on the four men he trusted most to bring him guns – The Gringos.

What they didn’t know was that the whole deal was a trap – an elaborate plan to destroy them. And when the jaws swung shut, they were left to escape the way they knew best…by fighting clear!

Gringos is one of the series to come from the British group of writes known today as the Piccadilly Cowboys. In this case the pseudonym of J.D. Sandon being shared by Angus Wells and John Harvey, the former being the author behind this book. The series ran for ten books.

So just who are the Gringos?
Cade Onslow: US Army Major. Deserter, with nothing to gain but vengeance.
Jonas Strong: Top Sergeant, damned by his colour.
Yates McCloud: Rapist. Nowhere to go but hell.
Jamie Durham: The needle of morphine was the only answer to his ruined face.
Four men with nothing left to lose but their lives. And they didn’t count for much in the bloody fury of rebellion.

This entry into the series finally reveals the identity of the man who has been pursuing the Gringos throughout the series, making this a not to be missed book for followers of series.

Even though the Gringos begin to suspect all is not as it seems they still ride into the trap set for them. On their journey they gather a group of bandits together to help with their task of stealing the howitzers. Their trail to Tampico proves to be a dangerous and very bloody path. In fact almost from the word go this book seems to be one very violent struggle until its end.

Angus Wells includes a superbly written, and very visual, escape from Tampico aboard a train which doesn’t go quite according to plan and sees one of them fall into the hands of enemy. This allows Wells to add some brutal torture scenes to the story before the other Gringos fight their way in to free the captive, and then blast their way out again.

Wells also manages to further develop the relationship between the four men, especially that of Strong and McCloud, the latter being a Southerner who doesn’t particularly like riding alongside a man of colour.

Wells adds a neat twist to the end of the story that leaves a question mark over the worth of the mission and the cost in human life.

If you’ve enjoyed other series written by the Piccadilly Cowboys then I’d think you should enjoy this series too, even though it is set in a time period a little later than many might consider a true western.

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