By Ralph Hayes
Hale, September 2015
Buffalo hunter O’Brien has made an effort to settle down to a more civilized life in Fort Revenge, in Indian Territory, helping his friend run a stage line there.
However, it isn’t long before trouble comes at O’Brien from two directions: first in the form of an outlaw gang from Tulsa who want to buy his friend’s stagecoach company and won’t take no for an answer, and second from a family of killers who are seeking revenge for the death of their kin at his hands.
O’Brien must respond to these challenges with his own brand of gunsmoke, while he wrestles with two life decisions: whether or not to return to the trail, and whether to take Sarah Carter, the girl he brought to Fort Revenge, with him when he leaves.
Ralph Hayes first wrote about O’Brien back in the early 1970s, bringing him back in 1992. 2011 saw the publication of a Black Horse Western in which O’Brien returned once more, and this is the third BHW to feature him.
The books do mention events from those very first O’Brien westerns, in fact the family gunning for him in this one tangled with him in the 1973 book The Secret of Sulphur Creek (later republished under the title Gunslammer). Hayes gives just enough backstory to understand why they want revenge but not enough to spoil that pervious book should you read it after this one.
O’Brien seems to take all the life and death situations in his stride, in fact provokes some of the gunplay himself and lets rage rule his actions when Sarah’s wellbeing is threatened. It’s Sarah who also provides the biggest battle for O’Brien as he struggles to understand his feelings for her and whether they can possibly compete with the lure of the wild.
Ralph Hayes does tie-up a number of loose threads that have been hanging throughout this series which makes me wonder if this will finally be the last we’ve seen of O’Brien. I certainly hope not as he makes for a great western hero.
For fans of the O’Brien books this is a must read. As a stand-alone novel it proves to be a very entertaining and action packed story that should satisfy most western readers and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t make you want to check out more of Ralph Hayes work.