By Caleb Rand
Hale, October 2014
Looking to start a new life, away from the futility of working an exhausted gold mine, Will Stearn and his partner ride into Ragland. But the town is tough and it isn’t long before Will’s old friend is fatally wounded in a back street brawl. Will considers moving on, until a brush with Connie Boe leads him to accept an attractive and profitable business offer.
So, when hard-nosed gunman Newton Boe returns to claim his wife and a share of the newly opened Rojo Pluma, Will is advised by the sheriff to cut his losses and leave town. But Stearn knows better than to avoid this fight, and must stand firm in the face of terrible trouble.
Caleb Rand is a pseudonym used by Carl Bernard, and under this name and another, Abe Dancer, he’s had around forty westerns published. Quite a few of these reside in my collection but this is only the second one I’ve read.
The plot is fairly straight-forward and doesn’t happen is quite the order the blurb above would have you believe. For instance Stearn’s partner, Clem Tapper, isn’t killed until near the end of the book. My favourite character was the sheriff, a man struggling to keep everyone alive whilst keeping his daughter out of trouble.
The pace of the book is excellent, ever increasing towards Tapper’s death, and this in turn sets the story up for a deadly final showdown between Stearn and Newton Boe.
On the strength of this story I think it’s time I dug out some of Carl Bernard’s other books.