Sunday 12 August 2012

Rattlesnake Valley

By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, April 2010

They came from the sea: a former ship captain named Owen Bird who inherited a Texas ranch from his brother… A former pirate named “Black Terrance” Malone, who has arrived in the once peaceful Rattlesnake Valley with a crew of sea dogs to do his dirty work. And dirty work it will be, as Black Terrance begins a campaign of thieving and threatening, even targeting Bird’s beautiful young niece. Into this storm rides the Loner – Conrad Morgan, son of legendary gunfighter Frank Morgan. The Loner sees what no one else does: a war born on the high seas and a third party is bidding his time – waiting to strike a death blow on solid, bloody ground…

Having the two sides come from a background of sailors and pirates, gives this book an unusual and welcome slant to what at first seems to be the classic range war plot. But it isn’t long before it’s discovered that there is much more at stake here, that a range war is how it seems only on the surface.

The author grabs the reader’s attention with great characters, not least Bird’s niece Diana and saloon owner Sophia, women who could find a way into The Loner’s heart.

The pace of the story is excellent, powering along through exciting gunplay, a sword fight and other tense scenes. Mentioned in the blurb is a third party and the author keeps the identity of this person a secret until they are ready to reveal all, this includes the reason they are interested in the fight in Rattlesnake Valley – and this was something I couldn’t have guessed at so came as a surprise that added another twist to the tale.

As one would hope the final showdown ties up all the loose ends and offers a new way of life for Conrad Morgan, a life with one of the lead women of the story. Does he choose to stay or ride on? That’s a question I’m not going to answer, just say I’m sure most western fans will really enjoy reading this book to find out and by the end feel as thoroughly entertained as I did.

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