Monday, 30 October 2017

Spanish Gold

BLAZE! #18
By Ben Boulden
Rough Edges Press, October 2017

The only thing Kate and J.D. Blaze had in mind when they rode into the settlement of Unity, Utah, was celebrating their wedding anniversary. But then J.D. is forced to kill a corrupt deputy in order to save a woman’s life, and suddenly the Old West’s only husband-and-wife gunfighters are plunged into a deadly mystery involving a sinister albino, missing men, and a lost treasure in Spanish gold.

This is Ben Boulden’s second entry in this fast moving series and it’s every bit as good as his first (#15: Red Rock Rampage).

The Blaze! books aren’t very long, this one coming in at 140 pages, but Ben Boulden still manages to pack a lot of action and intrigue into his story. His characters are well thought out and all have important parts to play during the search for Emma’s husband - Emma being the young woman J.D. saves from the unwanted advances of the deputy at the beginning.

Kate Blaze is just as tough as her husband and it’s often her that makes the major decisions as to just what trail they will follow in order to solve their current problems. She also has a tender side as we find out when they take a young boy under their wing.

The Blaze! books are marketed as being an adult western series but please don’t let that put you off trying this one if you don’t like explicit sex in your reading material. There is only one short chapter that deals with this aspect of the tale and that can easily be skipped without ruining the rest of the story.

Ben Boulden writes in a very readable style, never letting up on the rapid pace that leads to a gripping final gunfight that answers all the questions that have risen before this deadly confrontation. Once again I’m left looking forward to Ben Boulden’s next entry in this series.


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Remington 1894

By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, November 2017

As a teenager, John McMasters won the Medal of Honor as a sniper for the Union Army during the Civil War. Thirty years later, McMasters lives a peaceful life in the Arizona Territory, raising a family and running horses. These days, he needs eyeglasses to hit a distant target. But that doesn’t stop his wife and four children from buying him a special present for his fiftieth birthday: a beautiful new Remington shotgun. Turns out, he’s going to need it . . .

The Butcher gang has come to town. By the time McMasters learns of their arrival, they’ve invaded his ranch and slaughtered his family, hightailing it out of the country. McMasters wants revenge, using his new shotgun to hunt down those butchers like the animals they are, but he can’t do it alone. His friend, Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Kilpatrick, is hauling six of the deadliest criminals in the country to a prison in Yuma. They’re cutthroat killers, every bit as ruthless as the Butchers. But when McMasters points his Remington at their heads, they will become his killers . . .

A stand-alone novel from the Johnstone’s, which is a straight-forward tale of revenge. This story rattles along at a great pace, switching from one person to another regularly, as well as jumping back in time to fill in some of the backstory of a number of characters. These past events told in passages presented in italics.

The author has created a terrific bunch of characters on all sides. The change in McMasters is fascinating to read, as he goes from a man at peace with the world to one consumed by hatred and the lust for vengeance that will see him become a wanted man alongside those he frees to help him in his deadly mission.

His posse of prisoners include a broad mix of personalities, and more than one of these people would like nothing better than to kill one or two of their traveling companions, and of course most want to be free of McMasters too. How McMasters manages to keep himself awake so they don’t jump him during the night is both gruesome and ingenious. A neat touch is that one of these prisoners is a woman who seems to have a personal grudge against the Butchers too.

The book begins mid gunfight and then goes back to before the massacre of McMasters’ family and it takes nearly all the rest of the story to get back to that opening point. The pace is breathless, the action vicious and graphic. Part of the fun for me was wondering just who would be alive at the end, and that included McMasters. Of course I can’t answer that here but I will say that everyone who enjoys violent westerns full of brutal characters will find this to be a thoroughly entertaining read. This book certainly confirms why the Johnstone books are so popular with readers today and left me eager to pick up another as soon as I can.


Saturday, 21 October 2017

Days of Evil

MAGGIE O’BANNEN 1
By Joe Slade
Piccadilly Publishing, Nov. 2017

Kidnapped at the age of sixteen, Maggie has survived the fickle temper of notorious outlaw Mad Dog Frank O’Bannen for seven years. Now he is dead and she is about to find out that there are worse ways to live and die than as the wife of a wanted man.

Frank had prepared her as best he could for what would follow and when she leaves her prison in the hills. She has the blood of three men on her hands and knows the feel of hot lead. Soon her hard-won freedom is in doubt and she finds herself pursued by Frank’s old partner, a man with a vicious reputation and more than one score to settle.

Maggie has Frank’s gun, her keen wits and new friends to help her, but will they be enough to save her from the brutality of a maniac bent on revenge?

As well as bringing past western series back in the electronic format, Piccadilly Publishing also produces new works and Days of Evil is one of the latter. It is also the first to appear with the author name of Joe Slade.

It’s no secret that the name Joe Slade is a pseudonym and that the author behind it is Joanne Walpole who has had a number of excellent westerns published under another pen-name, that of Terry James and I’m sure that fans of those books will be eagerly looking forward to this one when it is released in a couple of weeks.

So is this new book similar to those put out under the Terry James name? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because it is told in the same gripping, easy to read, style that this author is known for, and that the story is well constructed and filled with excellent characters – both good and bad. No, due to the fact that this tale is much grittier than Jo’s previous works and contains hard hitting graphic violence.

Maggie O’Bannen is a fascinating character, a victim that has the chance to rise up and take control of her destiny. But this is no easy task for she will have to face some savage hardships to gain her freedom. The opening sequence of Maggie digging a grave really sets the tone of this book well and it isn’t long before Maggie finds herself confronting a killer who likes nothing better than murdering women with his bare hands.

Maggie isn’t alone in her fight as she soon finds herself sided with a terrific cast of misfits. Events escalate quickly to a final savage showdown and before the end the author certainly makes Maggie suffer. Maggie also has a tough decision to make regarding her past and future.

This book is definitely a page-turner that I couldn’t put down. Jo has created a superb new western heroine in Maggie O’Bannen and I’ve been left hungry for the second book in the series and can only hope it isn’t too long before it appears.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Holmbury County Seat War

By K.S. Stanley
The Crowood Press, September 2017

Who really was involved in the brutal massacre of a small village at the start of the American Civil War and what became of them? In this bitter tale, the truth doesn’t finally emerge until 1887 when good men turned bad fight ruthlessly to ensure that their town is elected as the Holmbury County Seat.

This is the second Black Horse Western to carry the author name of K.S. Stanley and the first I’ve read by this writer.

There’s a fair amount of action as people getting close to the truth of that long ago massacre end up with a bullet through their forehead, put there by an unknown assassin whose identity is one of the mysteries that make up this plot. Mostly this is a tale of political intrigue and hidden secrets that finally become a race against time to stop vote fixing through intimidation that sees some unusual items being used to halt the bullies crossing a river.

Lots of terrific characters, many seemingly not being completely truthful about who they really are or what they are really after, meant there were lots of plotlines to hold my attention in this well-crafted tale. There was one little mistake, when it was said that some messages would be sent via the pony express which wasn’t around at the time this story takes place, but this small slip-up didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book.

K.S. Stanley’s writing is extremely readable, the story being told in 19 chapters, each of which is broken down into many different scenes which in turn often sees a change in who is the featured character. 

The Holmbury County Seat War is one of the longer Black Horse Westerns so you certainly get value for your money.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Hell Hath No Fury

JOHN HAWK #1
By Charles G. West
Pinnacle, November 2017

To make a new life, Jamie Pratt and his young bride join a westward wagon train bound for the Rocky Mountains. They get as far as Helena when their unscrupulous wagon master deserts them, leaving them as good as dead in a godforsaken, blood-scorched land. Even still, the other settlers agree to set stakes where they are, but Jamie and his bride press on towards the Bitterroot Valley, deep into Sioux territory.

They never come out the other side.

Jamie’s brother Monroe enlists the legendary scout John Hawk to find them. A hardened veteran of the range, Hawk is living off the land in a little cabin on the Boulder River when Monroe comes begging for his help. To rescue Jamie and his bride, Hawk – and his guns – will come out fighting, riding fast and fierce into deadly odds. For any other man, it’s a suicide mission, for Hawk, delivering justice is what he was born to do… 

Charles G. West starts this first book in a new series by introducing his readers to Hawk and a number of other characters that will have major roles to play as the story develops. These people include another scout, some soldiers and some Lakota and Blackfoot warriors. It’s after this that Monroe arrives and the search for his missing brother and his bride begins.

The hunt for Jamie and Rachel is actually just a small part of this story but the author links all the events in this tale by more than just Hawk, to say more would have to include major spoilers so I won’t add anything else about this here.

Later, when Hawk finds himself trying to solve the mystery of some cattle rustling, we meet the character that I believe the title of the book comes from, and what a terrific adversary she proves to be. The action content of the story really picks up when her family enter the tale.

Fans of Charles G. West’s many other books should enjoy this, as I did, and like me be left looking forward to the second John Hawk novel, No Justice in Hell, which has a publication date of May. If you’ve never read any of Mr. West’s work then Hell Hath No Fury could be the ideal place to discover his excellent ability to write terrific westerns. 


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Widowmaker Jones

By Brett Cogburn
Pinnacle, August 2016

With a bag full of gold dust, Newt “Widowmaker” Jones is set for life. Then he makes his first mistake, trusting a cheerful stranger. By dawn the stranger – Javier Cortina, the son of the famous Texas border bandit Juan “Red” Cortina – is gone. So is the gold. So are Newt’s horse and even his fearsome Winchester rifle. It’s enough to make a man want vengeance. And vengeance will be Newt’s.

Newt chases Cortina into Mexico, where the man is legendary for the horses he’s stolen, the women he’s bedded, and the men he’s killed. As for Newt, he has a unique talent for choosing the wrong partners, from an angry, addled judge named Roy Bean to a brother and sister pair of circus Gypsies, Fonzo Grey and Buckshot Annie. The more Newt pursues the cunning and deadly Cortina, the angrier he gets, until somewhere on the border the whole crazy journey explodes into an all-out battle of bullets and blood….

This is the first book I have read by Brett Cogburn and it certainly left me eager to hunt out his previous works and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any future publications, especially in this series (the second book Buzzard Bait is already out and a third, Gunpowder Express, is listed for a February release).

Cogburn has created a wonderful set of characters for this book and switches between Newt and the Gypsies as misfortunes befall them, these hardships putting them on converging trails. Cogburn’s portrayal of Judge Roy Bean is top class, he’s a colourful character whose court hearings had me laughing out loud, and he certainly painted some vivid imagery in my mind’s eye, such as riding his horse with a cockerel perched behind him.

Newt is a great lead character who earned the name “Widowmaker” (a nickname he hates) as a fist-fighter and due to this he is recognized every now and again, usually at the most inappropriate moments.

Cogburn's prose is extremely readable, and he mixes plot twists, action and plenty of humour perfectly making this a very enjoyable read.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Legacy of a Gunfighter

By Terry James
The Crowood Press, September 2017

Following his release from prison, all gunfighter Luke Nicholls wants is revenge against William Grant, the man who almost killed him. Unfortunately, when the two meet, things don’t go the way Luke had imagined. Struck down by a mysterious malady, his confidence is shaken. More complications arise when Kate Portillo, a woman out to avenge the murder of her husband, tries to enlist his help. He refuses, determined not to lose sight of his own ambition, but Grant has other ideas. Dragged into a fight for survival, the odds are suddenly stacked even higher against Luke. As outside forces emerge and the game starts to take shape, Luke realizes that his part in it was never in doubt. This is the legacy of a gunfighter and he will have to dig deep to claim his reward.

Having read all of Terry James’ previous Black Horse Westerns I was looking forward to the publication of this one. Almost as soon as it arrived I began to read it and was soon swept up into the story, a tale filled with intrigue that had me wondering as to just what was going on. Not only to what Nicholls' illness was but as to just who was pulling the strings to the unfolding deadly events.

Even when the identity of the person behind the twisting storyline was revealed there were still many questions to be answered, especially what would happen if this mysterious figure managed to get everyone together to play out the lethal game. I can’t really say any more about the plot without including major spoilers so will conclude my thoughts on the plot here.

It’s no secret that Terry James is a pseudonym used by Joanne Walpole and once more she has come up with a gripping tale, fascinating characters of both sexes, well-crafted action scenes and believable dialogue. All written in very readable prose.

On finishing this book I was left hoping it won’t be too long before her next work hits the shelves.

Legacy of a Gunfighter is a book that should be enjoyed by all fans of the western genre.