Sunday 3 January 2016

Death School

By John J. McLagen
Piccadilly Publishing, January 2016

Originally published by Corgi, 1980

Herne had been reluctant to ride along with Sheriff Abernathy in a fool-hardy search for Senator Jackson’s daughter, who’d been captured by a ruthless Mescalero raiding party. The $5000 reward helped to change his mind. But he hadn’t reckoned on meeting those five savage white children, fresh out of Death School, or that ghost from the past hell-bent on revenge…

Death School is one of my favourite entries in the Herne the Hunter series and it is a book everyone who is following the series should not miss as we find out more about Herne’s past, his father in particular, and then there’s one of those killer kids who just may be….nope, I can’t reveal that here as I don’t want to spoil that storyline for those yet to read the book.

The author hiding behind the John J. McLagen pseudonym this time around is Laurence James and as would be expected you’ll find many references to western films and people in the book industry at the time it was written, for instance two artists who painted many of the covers for the westerns from the group of writers to become known as The Piccadilly Cowboys, the artists being Chris Collingwood and Colin Backhouse. There’s also mention of two other western series heroes, Crow and Cuchillo Oro.

Death School is a brutal book. Filled with hard characters, graphic violence and strong language. The five children will certainly remain in your mind for a long, long time after the shocking truth about them has been revealed as they led Herne into a deadly trap.

The story has a very powerful and memorable dark ending, the type of conclusion that keeps me coming back to this series time and again.

‘Boys nowadays. No pride, no self-respect. Plenty of gall but no sand.’ 

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