By Hugh Martin
Hale, March 2012
Saddle tramps Cephas Dannehar and Slim Oskin drifted into the Vinegar Peak country of Arizona Territory, helped an old colleague out of trouble, were taken for hired gunmen and bucked the interest of the Black Eagle copper mine and scheming Nate Sturgis, the self-styled Boss of Vinegar Peak.
In a lead-peppered struggle between their horse ranching friends and Sturgis’s toughs, known as the Peace Commission, bullets were soon flying and fires of destruction were lit. All part of the growing pains of a raw western territory, moulding its post-Civil War destiny.
Dannehar and Oskin were no angels but, throwing their guns in on the side of right, they faced a war which could see Vinegar Peak become respectable or its violent citizenry, prodded by grasping ambitions, might make it an outlaw town ruled by thuggery and the lawless gun.
This is Hugh Martin’s fourth Black Horse Western and the first I’ve read. I found the book to be extremely readable and filled with gunplay. Right from the start when Dannehar and Oskin save their friend, which leads to them being mistakenly taken for hired guns, the action never lets up, from a violent raid on a ranch to a gripping battle in a canyon, and then to the final exciting showdown in a confined space.
Hugh Martin’s landscapes are visually described and his characters are as equally well drawn. Dialogue crackles and you can almost smell the smoke of the gunfights. The story is superbly paced and builds well to that final showdown.
The end leaves a couple of characters with an unwanted hero status, men who will become known for something they did, which could lead them into more danger. Hopefully Hugh Martin with write a follow-up book as I for one would like to know what happens to them further down the trail. In the meantime I’ll be checking out Hugh Martin’s previous books whilst eagerly awaiting his next.