Thursday, 29 November 2018

A Bad Place to Die

By Easy Jackson
Pinnacle, November 2018

There aren’t many options for an eighteen-year-old girl in the Old West. Especially an orphan like Tennessee Smith. She can either sell her body in a seedy saloon or take her chances as a mail-order bride. Tennie chooses the latter. Joining a wagonload of women across Indian territory, she arrives in the God-forsaken town of Ring Bit, Texas. Her husband-to-be is surprisingly decent. But after tying the knot in a quick ceremony, he pops even more surprises on her. First, he introduces Tennie to his three young sons. Then he drops dead on their wedding night . . . 

Some women would hightail it out of there. Not Tennie. She’ll do whatever it takes to save the ranch and raise those boys. Rusty is thirteen, Lucas is ten, and Badger is six. They need a mother. Tennie needs a job. And the town needs a marshal. Sure, the local gamblers, outlaws, and thieves have no use for the law. Then again, they never met a lawman, or woman, like Tennessee Smith . . .

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this, the first book in a new series, that has a cover that would look more in place on a romance western than the action-packed westerns I usually read. But the back cover does state; ‘Meet Tennessee Smith: She shoots from the hip.’ So that, along with the above blurb makes this sound like it could be the kind of western I hoped it would be. Easy Jackson is a new name to front a western too, and yes, it’s a pseudonym, the real author being Vicky J. Rose.

The first thing that I’m going to point out is this is not the action-packed western I hoped for, in that it isn’t filled with gunplay and fist-fights. And so much for Tennie shooting from the hip, she doesn’t carry a gun – although she does use one in anger eventually. Having read a couple of romance westerns this book isn’t like them either, and it doesn’t contain scenes of explicit sex or contain loads of bad language.

So what do you get? The answer is a very good read. Not all westerns have to be filled with blood-thirsty action do they? Character studies a very well done and the author veils some of them in mystery. Tennie is a beautiful woman and I found myself amused by how she hardly battered an eyelid as just about every male in the book proposed marriage to her. She is prone to bursting into tears a bit too often for my taste though. The author soon had me swept up in the plot of just why the town council wanted an inexperienced girl to be marshal, and all the other subplots too added a lot of intrigue to the tale so I just had to keep reading to find out how everything panned out. Descriptions and dialogue are very well written too.

An ill-thought out scheme by one man to get rid of his mistress so he can hopefully talk Tennie into marrying him results in murder and the story really picks up here and some of the most memorable scenes take place in the jail as Tennie keeps the killer locked up. When transporting this prisoner to the next town for trial the story becomes much more action packed as gunplay takes centre-stage and does so until tales end.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable story that held my attention well and certainly left me looking forward to the second book, A Season in Hell, which is due to be published in April 2019. 


Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Trail to Devil's Canyon

By Cole Matthews
The Crowood Press, June 2018

Anton Kozlov, a mountain man who wanted no part of trouble, had escaped Russia and made a life for himself living on and near Battle Mountain in Nevada.

Anton is asked to do a ‘favour’ for a US Cavalry officer – to retrieve a mail-order bride from a stage station and return her to the cavalryman. It sounds easy enough until Anton learns that the stage has broken down near a notorious nest of outlaws. Anton manages to rescue Lucy, the cavalry officer’s bride, and they slowly make their way back to his cabin in Devil’s Canyon.

However, the journey is fraught with danger, and their arrival at the stockade spells future trouble when it becomes apparent that Lucy’s husband-to-be has endangered them all by committing atrocities against the local Paiute tribe.

Will this be the last chance or the end of the line for Anton Kozlov?

This is the first Black Horse Western to carry the author name of Cole Matthews but it is not the first western from this writer as he has had six published under the name of Matt Cole, one of which I have read and enjoyed. Like that book, this one also begins with a poem.

Once again the author has created a terrific cast of characters and a twisting storyline that will have you guessing as to the outcome, such as how anyone can possibly escape the stockade when it’s completely surrounded by vengeance seeking Paiutes. There’s plenty of action, some of which is quite brutal. The pace of the book is excellent and the ending ties everything up neatly.

There is one thing that I wondered about though, and that was that the author has Kozlov armed with a Hawken rifle – a single-shot weapon I believe – and Kozlov fires at will with this gun without pausing to reload. Still this error is easy to overlook and it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story and it hasn’t put me off wanting to read more by this author.


Saturday, 24 November 2018

Enemies

By Geo. W. Proctor
Piccadilly Publishing, Aug. 2018

Originally published by Doubleday, 1983

They had sworn to kill each other – an Army scout haunted by the brutal slaughter of his wife and child, and a fierce Comanche warrior who’d suffered his own tragic losses. But when Black Hand and his Quahadi band of the People were finally driven in defeat to a government reservation, Jess Younkin figured he could at last get on with his life. Instead, life passed them both by, as a new, more civilized West took hold, with no place for roughriding cowboys or hot-blooded braves.

But now Black Hand has broken free; Younkin has signed on for one last scouting mission to track him down. And it’s only a matter of time before these two enemies meet, alone on the battlefield – warrior to warrior – in a bloody showdown that can end only one way….

Having read a number of books written by George W. Proctor, all published under pseudonyms, all of which I enjoyed, I had high hopes for this one and it certainly lived up to my expectations and more.

Starting in 1875 we witness the sad ending of Black Hand’s freedom and the final exchange of words between him and Younkin. The story then leaps forward in time to the very early 1900’s and we see how the two main characters have aged and struggled to fit in to the changing world. Black Hand’s yearning to once again see the land he once roamed at will leading him to join three young Comanche in a breakout from the reservation. Black Hand’s vision telling him he will be fine as long as he doesn’t kill, but riding with others eager to prove their ability as warriors this will be a hard challenge to keep as they are forced to steal from whites in order to survive.

Proctor’s character studies are terrific, his dialogue snappy and often laced with humour. His descriptions of age and how the modern world makes many of the ways of the past redundant something we can all relate to. But new ways aren’t always the best, witness the attempt to pursue Black Hand by a posse riding in noisy automobiles to prove this point. Action scenes are well-written and hard-hitting and the pacing of the story is excellent too. 

Even though I’ve mentioned automobiles, it’s really only this short sequence that moves the story from being a tale set in the 1800’s into the turn of the century, the majority of the book could take place in those earlier years. Dust, the need for water, horses, weapons, the young know-it-all cavalry Lieutenant charged with bringing the Comanche back to the reservation, the grizzled scout and more will soon have you forgetting the book is mainly set in 1904. 

The ending is tense, moving and violent, finishing the tale in a fitting and memorable scene that will stay in my mind for a long time to come. Enemies is certainly a book worth reading and must rank right up there with the best of George W. Proctor’s storytelling. 


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Flashflood

By Gil Martin
New English Library, April 1976

Seth Vance was the sheriff who could not be shaken. Hard, tough, firm but fair. Until the time of the two Mexicans. They shot up the stage but for one the only reward was the gallows. Then in a night of searing violence Seth’s sister was brutally slain. And the sheriff’s composure cracked.

Hell-bent on vengeance, Seth sought out the killer, mercilessly handling anyone who crossed his path, treating deputies and the woman he loved with callous cruelty.

And amid the raging elements of a river in torrential flood, Seth came face to face with the truth – a truth that was almost too much to bear.

According to the copyright page of my NEL edition this book was originally published by Robert Hale in Great Britain in 1968 (long before they put their westerns out under the Black Horse Western banner). I’ve also seen Berkley copies dated 1968.

I’ve owned all seven of Gil Martin’s westerns for a long time but have only just got around to reading one. Martin’s style could easily be called hard-boiled, it’s certainly dark at times and the violent scenes are fairly graphic in description. Emotions are well written, especially the confused feelings of attraction between Vance and Dolores. Fear and hate come across strongly too. 

Although the twist ending was easy to work out way before the author reveals it (the who anyway, not the why), the story proved to be a great read and grabbed my imagination from the opening scene to the last savage gunfight. Flashflood is only 104 pages long making this a fast read and it proved to be a very entertaining book indeed. It certainly left me eager to read another of Gil Martin’s westerns very soon.

I must also mention the cover painting done by W. Francis Phillips who’s captured a scene from the story extremely well.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Mojave Massacre

By Scott Harris
Dusty Saddle Publishing, July 2018

Brock, Sophie and Huck are living with the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But their lives are threatened by the murderous and vengeful Paiute, and Brock and Huck, seeing no alternative, race one hundred miles to a small trading outpost, hoping to buy the rifles that will give them a chance against the much larger Paiute forces.

Stumbling across four slaughtered Hopi Indians, Brock and Huck track down the murderers, and find help in very unexpected places from friends – new and old. 

This is the second book in the Grand Canyon trilogy and the fifth Brock Clemons western. 

Continuing a number of storylines from the previous book, Battle on the Plateau, makes this a must read for those who read that earlier entry into the Brock Clemons series. If you haven’t read the other book then you might prefer to start there but it isn’t essential as Scott Harris includes enough information in this one to explain what happened before.

As with his other books Scott Harris often switches from character to character with each new chapter, telling his story from many different viewpoints, and not all of them are human either. This tale mainly features Brock, Huck and Huck’s Havasupai friend, Kentaki, but Harris does include chapters or passages that keep the reader up to date with what the other main characters in the series are doing.

Scott Harris writes in an easy to read style that sweeps you up into the storyline effortlessly. Characterization is one of his strong points and his battle scenes are vivid, engrossing and at times brutally violent. This tale is very well paced and builds to its exciting conclusion that delivers everything you’ve been hoping for. Like in his previous books though, Harris has introduced new characters and hints of possible new plotlines that will ensure you’ll want to read the next book in the series, all we can hope is that he doesn’t keep us waiting too long before it appears.



Available as both paperback and ebook

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Nowhere to Run

Maggie O'Bannen 3
By Joe Slade
Piccadilly Publishing, October 2018

After surviving a series of traumatic events, Maggie O’Bannen is at last starting to heal and the scars of the past are fading. Not to mention that things with her close friend Doc John Simpkins could be about to get interesting. However, the depiction of her exploits in a series of dime novels mean her reputation reaches far and wide and when a couple of down on their luck gunmen believe what they read, they hatch a plan to make Maggie their quarry in a deadly hunt.

A bungled bank robbery, a kidnapping and the arrival of an old friend bearing bad news are only the beginning as Maggie is drawn into a fight for her life. Armed with a short temper, outlaw Frank O’Bannen’s Schofield and the resolve to use both, she refuses to let anyone stand in her way. Outnumbered and outgunned, she might be. What her enemies don’t realize, is that her biggest weakness is also her greatest strength and when there’s nowhere to run, they’ll be the ones looking for a place to hide.

The third Maggie O’Bannen tale offers everything we’ve come to expect from the previous two stories; strong characterization, a very fast-moving plot, plenty of hard-hitting violence that is fairly graphic in its depiction and a number of twists.

As Maggie’s relationship with Doc Simpkins gets stronger, she discovers she’s about to become the prey in a scheme to make a couple of people rich. This is a neat plot that becomes further complicated by the reason one of the hunters has entered the game. Not only does this particular person make for an interesting character then so does Lorelei who makes for a great addition to the cast.

Joe Slade, a pseudonym for Joanne Walpole, has come up with another hard-to-put-down read that will satisfy everyone who likes their westerns action-packed. The ending offers a further surprise that could well be setting up the plot for the next book and for me and the many fans of Maggie O’Bannen I hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out.




Available to pre-order now, this title will be released on October 1st.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Bounty by Chance

By J.L. Guin
The Crowood Press, May 2018

Jeremiah Hackett is a young man searching for a future. On his quest, he teams up with huckster George Finimin, a tonic salesman. When Finimin is murdered, Jeremiah dedicates himself to finding the killer.

But things do not prove straightforward for Jeremiah, and he needs to mature and learn some harsh lessons before he can finally achieve his aim.

I have a few short stories by this author but this is the first full-length book I have read by him. This is not his first for the Black Horse Western line, and titles for this publisher have appeared under two variations of his name; J.L. Guin and Jerry Guin.

The first chapter tells of Finimin’s killing and the next couple go back in time to explain why Hackett left home and how he teamed up with Finimin. The rest of the book follows Hackett’s attempts to track down Emil Croft (the man who killed Finimin) and it’s during this part of the story that the books’ title becomes clear as Hackett takes out two men by chance and learns of a bounty on their heads. Can Hackett take up bounty hunting whilst still selling tonic to finance his hunt for Croft?

Hackett’s quest for vengeance takes a number of years and it’s during this time that his life changes somewhat and he takes a youngster under his wing and the parallels to his life with Finimin become apparent. It’s then you begin to wonder if the story will end in a similar fashion too, especially as since Crowood took over publishing the Black Horse Western line from Hale they seem to be more open to stories that are harder hitting, that are darker in tone and don’t always have a happy ending. Is this one of them? I’ll leave you to find that out for yourself.

Guin writes in a very easy to read manner, his words urging you not to put the book down. Character studies are excellent and the action scenes are vivid, killings quite graphically described. All the story threads are tied-up neatly after a final bloody gunfight bringing the book to a satisfying conclusion.



Available as both ebook and hardback

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Hawk

By Bret Sanders
Award Books, 1973

A man of steel, a brutal man who knew how to kill without pity. He came out of prison, escaping the hangman’s noose in return for helping the law get a renegade killer. Hate welded him into a savage hunter who always got his prey.

This hunt led him on the trail of a man he’d sworn to kill for years – the sadist who’d once branded him with a hot iron, then tortured and killed the woman he loved.

No lawman’s badge could keep him from the revenge he sought – or the bloody carnage that followed in his wake!

This is the first in a series that lasted for four books. The author behind the pseudonym of Bret Sanders being Dudley Dean McGaughy I believe.

Web Steele aka Hawk is freed from jail to find and free a young newly-wed bride from kidnapper Keegan who is demanding $500,000 for her return. It just so happens that a man Hawk wants to kill, Colonel Spate has teamed up with Keegan in this ransom plot, so Hawk has two reasons to track the outlaws.

The book is fast moving and contains a lot of graphic violence, including rape and torture. Hawk himself takes some punishment, a whipping at the beginning for instance which doesn’t slow him down at all, even though the author describes chunks of Hawk’s flesh being ripped away and splattered across his cell. Not sure I believe Hawk could just shrug this off and carry on as normal but there have been many heroes before and after Hawk that keep going as if nothing has happened to them after being brutally wounded so why should he too?

Hawk and Colonel Spate’s back-story is told in a series of flashbacks, explaining why both have sworn to kill each other on sight and just what Spate branded on Hawk.

The author comes up with some vicious ways to kill man and woman and there’s a neat twist for Hawk to overcome when he finally battles his way through to the kidnapped girl, Amalie, and the passages dealing with her trauma at witnessing so much savage death are very well written.

Like many series the author leaves a storyline hanging to ensure you’ll read the next book and I for one will be doing so soon even though there were a couple of scenes that stretched my belief a little but not enough to stop me enjoying what is essentially a non-stop action tale containing a lot of blood-letting. Takes me back to when I first started reading westerns, those violent UK series from the group of writers known as the Piccadilly Cowboys in particular. 


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The Crooked M Killings

By Frank Ellis Evans
The Crowood Press, May 2018

Marshal Reuben Kane is charged with finding the men who have spread terror and violence in an unprecedented bank robbing spree. It’s a routine, albeit dangerous, assignment. Routine, that is, until Reuben discovers Sal McIntyre, badly beaten and left to die by the men he is hunting. Near to her is the body of her murdered husband.

Reuben postpones his search in order to nurse the woman back to health, but from the moment she regains consciousness, vengeance is the only thing on her mind. Sal’s hatred is all-consuming and, against his better judgement, Reuben finds himself drawn to her ill-conceived plot to killing the men who murdered her husband.

Reuben sets out to bring them to justice. But Sal McIntyre wants revenge. At any cost.

A new author name on the front of a Black Horse Western and Crowood once again choosing their cover art with care so it reflects the content of the story. The young woman in the painting could easily be Sal McIntyre, right down to the confident way she’s shown using her pistol. Sal used to be a trick-shooter in a circus, so knows how to use firearms but can she use them against a human being instead of a target? This question provides one of the most gripping threads of the storyline.

Sal’s transformation from a happy ranchers’ wife to a cold, determined hunter of men makes for fascinating reading. Even when Reuben is wounded, she continues with her quest, totally out of her depth but will blind rage give her the edge when needed?

Frank Ellis Evans tells a hard-hitting story that doesn’t pull any punches. At times it’s shocking brutal but that’s what gives this well-told tale its power. Violent acts are described in all their savagery, but, as I’ve already hinted, it’s the emotional outbursts and changes to character that pulled me deeply in to the story, made me keep turning the pages.

Can a story like this have a happy ending? I can’t reveal that here as it would be a major spoiler, but I will say it has a fitting conclusion, one that ties the tale up neatly and certainly leaves me looking forward to Frank Ellis Evans’ next Black Horse Western.



Available as both ebook and hardback book.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Sins of Motherlode

By Gillian F. Taylor
The Crowood Press, April 2018

Sin was a profitable commodity in a mining town like Motherlode. Lust made money for the madam, wrath and avarice created targets for the manhunter, and the newspaperman was greedy for stories.

‘He had no right to take you against your will.’ When a prostitute is raped during the robbery of the Motherlode stage, Jonah Durrell seems to be the only man who cares. The handsome manhunter can never resist a damsel in distress. He is determined to get justice for Miss Jenny’s girl, and recruits Robinson, an enthusiastic newspaperman who witnessed the attack. The women are not meek and passive though. They are willing to take matters, and guns, into their own hands to survive in a tough world. Together with Durrell and Robinson, they begin to uncover the layers of lust, avarice and envy in town, bringing down the wrath of their enemies. Can the women of sin get the justice they deserve?

The Sins of Motherlode is Gillian F. Taylors’ seventeenth Black Horse Western and sees her revisit characters first introduced in Two-Gun Trouble, a story that also takes place in Motherlode. I haven’t read this particular book and there are brief mentions of some of the events that happened in that story in this sequel, but you certainly don’t need to have read that previous tale to enjoy this one.

Durrell is incredibly vain, and this leads to some amusing dialogue at times. But it’s when his good-looks are threatened by a knife that Taylor really shows her expertise in creating tension and making her readers share her heroes fear. Taylor also writes action scenes extremely well, and this book contains robbery, fistfights, and a lengthy gun battle that are as vivid as they are exciting.

The plot is fast-moving, and although the mastermind is easy to work out, it’s finding out who actually robbed the stage and raped Louise Waterford that adds mystery to the storyline. When everything is worked out by Durrell and Robinson there is the problem of finding evidence to pin the guilty to the crime. This all leads to that excellent gunfight towards the end of the book that shows just how capable the women of this story can be with a shotgun in their hands.

I’ve read a few of Gillian F. Taylors’ westerns and have enjoyed them all, and this one strengthens my belief that she is a writer worth reading. 


Saturday, 28 July 2018

No Justice in Hell

By Charles G. West
Pinnacle, May 2018

Three desperate women. One deranged killer. No way in hell is John Hawk going to sit back and let the innocent get slaughtered. He first meets the three lovely ladies as they’re fleeing in a wagon – alone – through Blackfoot country. What’s their rush? They’re being pursued by a wanted outlaw who wants them dead. Their only chance is to reach the Last Chance Saloon in Helena – and John Hawk is their last hope . . .

Hawk can track down a low-life like nobody’s business. But this time he has to stay two steps ahead, keeping the ladies safe and sound until they get to the saloon. There’s just one problem: the outlaw got there first. He’s the notorious Zach Dubose. He’s waiting for Hawk and his girls. And he’s ordering them a round vengeance with a bullet chaser – and death on arrival . . . 

This is the second book in Charles G. West’s new series featuring army scout John Hawk. It’s while on a mission for the army to try and persuade some Blackfoot to live on a reservation that he meets the three fleeing women. The Blackfoot assignment then becomes a sub-plot as saving the women becomes his main goal.

What is described in the blurb above takes place over the first 70 pages or so and Hawk soon sets himself a new task, hunting down Dubose and his two partners, but this isn’t an easy job as Dubose disappears leaving no trails as to his whereabouts, so Hawk finds himself working with the army again which leads to disaster.

I’ve read a few books written by Charles G. West and have enjoyed them all, and this one is as equally entertaining as any of them. West’s character studies are excellent, his plots move forward at pace and his action scenes put you right there amidst the flying lead and dust. Another of West’s strengths is making his readers share the emotions of his characters and this is done particularly well in this book, especially when describing the turmoil Hawk feels that sets him out on his self-imposed mission.

The book concludes with justice being served although not quite in the way I expected, but in a way that lets everyone get in on the act and that was the perfect ending to this story. Now I must keep my fingers crossed that there will be in a third John Hawk book in the not too distant future.


Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Coyote

By Lee Clinton
The Crowood Press, June 2018

A family is brutally murdered and their homestead burnt to the ground. The bodies are so badly disfigured that identity is difficult to determine, but one of the daughters is known to be missing. Is it eighteen-year-old Grace Mayfield or her younger sister, Chrissy?

The missing Mayfield girl must now be found and the killers brought to justice. Some say it was the work of renegade Cheyenne. Sheriff August ‘Gus’ Ward has his doubts, but evidence is scant.

When the mysterious shooting of a stock agent on the streets of Laramie is linked to those who may have been responsible, Gus is faced with the savage reality that justice may not be served unless he is willing to take matters into his own hands. If he does, is he still a man of the law or has he crossed the line to become an executioner, and no better than those he is willing to kill?

Lee Clinton creates superb atmosphere in the opening chapter that is both gripping and terrifying as the Mayfield family meet their pitiless destiny. This horrific mood continues as Gus searches the ravaged homestead for human remains.

Frustration is another well written emotion Lee Clinton excels at which Gus and his search party must deal with when hunting for the missing girl. Gus must also fight with these feelings whilst trying to prove who’s responsible for the savage murders of the Mayfield family and when trying to discover the motive for these killings. When finding the one survivor of this massacre there’s the challenge of trying to bring her out of her shell, a dark place she’s withdrawn to that seems to have robbed her of her ability to speak.

Lee Clinton is a pseudonym used by Australian author Leigh Alver and with his seventh Black Horse Western he once again proves he’s a writer to be reckoned with. His pacing is terrific, his characters well defined, dialogue and emotional content believable and his action scenes brutally real.

The book closes with Gus having to make the decision outlined at the end of the blurb and this makes for a dramatic and exciting ending that didn’t finish the story in quite the way I expected, adding a welcome concluding twist. 


Monday, 23 July 2018

The Last Red Cent

By David Fetter
HuBBuB Books, February 2018

He taught them to steal—they left him for dead. 

The War Between North and South is over—but the wounds are still raw. Now, the expanding country unites around the connection of East and West by the railroads. Fortunes travel by train daily and desperate men will stop at nothing to take, by force, what isn’t theirs. 

Three men who share a dark history clash over a fortune in U.S. Treasury money. One is a Pinkerton agent, and two are outlaws and brothers. One man is honor-bound, one is bound by blood, and the other knows no bounds. 

They all have one thing in common—they all want The Last Red Cent! 

This is David Fetter’s debut novel and he certainly proves he knows how to write a gripping, twisted tale that will hold the readers attention from the opening words.

Switching between a number of well-crafted characters, I started to wonder if the book was going to feature a hero, or anti-hero as everyone seemed to have dark secrets and would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. Slowly a central character does emerge as flashbacks create a violent past that explains motivations.

The action scenes are very well told, the violence being hard-hitting and brutal. As the death-toll mounts so do the twists and turns that make this book difficult to put down as you just have to know what happens next.

As the lead character strives to achieve his aims we see how his determination begins to become all consuming to the extent that nothing else matters to him. Surely this can only end in tragedy? 

The story also offers some interesting and thought-provoking insights into life and death, I particularly liked the offered reason as to why old people die.

As Fetter’s story reaches its conclusion and everything seems to be turning out as perhaps expected the author surprises the reader with another twist and swiftly follows this up with a superb sting-in-the-tail that I didn’t see coming that finishes the story in style.

This is definitely a first western novel worth reading, and I was left looking forward to David Fetter’s next.

Also included in the book is the short story Rattletrap. This isn’t a western but it's certainly worth taking the time to read if you like gritty noir tales.


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

10th Birthday Contest.



Western Fiction Review is celebrating its 10th birthday on the 13th of July and we've teamed up with Black Horse Westerns to celebrate. We are offering you a chance to win three Black Horse Westerns (see picture below); please go to our Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/groups/122368421144402/ and like the photo and fill in the caption.... "He stood, guns smoking, and...... 


Entries close at Midnight on Sunday 15th July. The winner will be announced on the 16th.




Saturday, 30 June 2018

Dead and Buried

By Tim Bryant
Pinnacle, June 2018

Wilkie John Liquorish may be a young man, but he’s no greenhorn. So far in his short, hard life, he’s dug graves, driven cattle, and nearly dangled from the end of a hangman’s noose – no thanks to his ungentlemanly enemy, Gentleman Jack Delaney. Now Wilkie’s been newly deputized as a Texas Ranger – and the real fun begins . . .

At Fort Concho, Wilkie John receives word that a bounty hunter is tracking the notorious outlaw known as Phantom Bill. Wilkie John has every reason to join the party: duty, honor, redemption, maybe even fortune and fame. But he has one reason to be wary: the bounty hunter is Gentleman Jack. He tried to kill Wilkie John once. This time, he might succeed . . . 

The opening chapter to this, the second Wilkie John western, starts with Wilkie discovering bones in the desert and it looks like Wilkie will soon be dead too. The second chapter goes back in time and most of the book is taken up with telling the story of how Wilkie gets into the situation we first find him in.

Told in the first person through Wilkie we share his thoughts behind his attempts to solve the mystery of the identity of Phantom Bill which soon become entwined with the destruction of a train in the middle of nowhere and the killing of a woman and her child. Is the same person behind it all or are there two killers at work and what is the motives behind the possible assassinations?

Wilkie’s relationship with Gentleman Jack is well written, you can almost feel the tension whenever they are together. At anytime you are expecting one to try and kill the other.

A couple of storylines are carried over from the previous book but Tim Bryant explains enough about them for readers who’ve yet to read A World of Hurt.

The book contains a lot of dark humour too, some which had me laughing out loud, such as the soup incident – I can’t say any more about that without spoiling it for those intending to read this book. 

Wilkie is still prone to shooting anyone who annoys him without warning making him a somewhat unpredictable character which is one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed reading both books so much.

Everything comes to a neat conclusion, but once more there is a plot thread left dangling which I hope means there will be a third book sometime soon.

Both Wilkie John westerns provide first class entertainment and should be on every western fans reading list.


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Battle on the Plateau

BROCK CLEMONS #4 The Grand Canyon Trilogy #1
By Scott Harris
Dusty Saddle Publishing, May 2018

Brock, Sophie and Huck leave Dry Springs and head towards the Grand Canyon, taking with them Sophie’s father, Ray, and the young girl, Annabelle who they’ve kidnapped from an orphanage. Guided by a man called Fieldy, the small group will have to face the natural dangers of the trail and those from vicious and vengeful Paiutes.

Scott Harris continues the adventures of Brock Clemons and his family that first appeared in what is known as the Dry Springs trilogy. This fourth book is the first in the new Grand Canyon trilogy and is a must read for those who read the earlier books. You don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy this one as the author includes enough information to fill new readers in on what has gone before, in fact a few chapters tell of what is happening to the people left back in Dry Springs.

Told through many points of view the story moves at a swift pace towards its gripping finale. Action scenes are well described as are descriptions of landscapes. New friendships are formed, one in particular leading to heartbreak which is sensitively handled by the author and will probably have readers thinking back to similar events in their own lives.

Scott Harris doesn’t hold back in dishing out the hurt or killing off some of the main characters and also includes a couple of other surprises to ensure the reader keeps turning the pages. After the final words I’ve certainly been left wondering what will happen next to the survivors so am looking forward to the next book.


Sunday, 24 June 2018

Hot Lead - issue two



Issue two of Hot Lead, a hard-copy western fanzine is now available through Amazon. 

Inside you'll find 70 pages exploring the art of the western starting with Paul Bishop looking at the cover art, the novelization by Harry Whittington, and the film of Charro! (the latter of which starred Elvis Presley).

Next is an interview with cover artist Tony Masero by Steve Myall. Tony's work also graces the cover of this issue of Hot Lead. 

Jim O'Brien delves into the western comics of Frank Bellamy and this is followed by Andreas Decker's fascinating article about the German series Ronco. The magazine closes with a look at the history of the western comic strip by Paul Bishop.

Once again it's a beautifully designed magazine that features many illustrations reproduced in full colour. Justin Marriott has once again produced a fanzine that should be on every western fans reading list.


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Head West issue 1



Summer 2018 issue
Piccadilly Publishing

Way back in 1980 the first issue of a magazine appeared on the shelves of UK shops simply called Western Magazine. Sadly, it only lasted for four issues. The consultants for this being David Whitehead and Mike Stotter, the two men who today run Piccadilly Publishing and have now launched a new magazine.

Like the much-lamented Western Magazine Head West features a mix of articles, interviews and original fiction. Head West has a full glossy cover with everything inside being reproduced in black and white.

For me, the interviews make for superb reading as they feature two of my favourite all-time western authors, namely Keith Hetherington - who writes under a variety of pseudonyms including Kirk Hamilton and Brett Waring - and Peter Watts whose most well-known pen-name is Matt Chisholm.

Original stories come from D.M. McGowen, Jake Henry and new-comer M. James Earl. Henry’s story features his character known as The Drifter and Earl’s being the first published tale about his heroine Barbary Dove. All three of these tales proved to be very entertaining reads.

With an article by Tony Masero on creating cover art, another looking at the making of the film Vermijo along with Linda Pendleton remembering her fathers love for the western, this is a magazine that deserves to be successful.

You can get your copy from https://www.lulu.com/ 

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Hard to Quit

By Mark Mitten
Milford House Press, September 2017

In a boom camp like Creede, most people want to get rich either mining silver or playing cards. LG and Davis have a different plan -- sell beef. Fighting the bitter temperatures and the winter storms of the Colorado high country, they string wire and bring in cattle. But there are things more dangerous than the weather. Having run out of luck and out of Denver, con man Soapy Smith brings his gang up to Creede to start over. His vision of success if different than anyone else's, and it involves rigging the odds in his favour. No matter who it affects, or how far he must reach.

Bringing back a couple of characters from his previous western, Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave, Mark Mitten once again tangles their storyline with a number of others that are all seemingly unconnected to begin with. Mitten also includes flashbacks to tell of Horace Tabor’s rise to fortune. Nearly all chapter’s switch between the various characters, this technique urging you to continue reading to find out what happens next to these people.

I’ve already mentioned Horace Tabor, aka The Silver King, and he isn’t the only real-life person Mitten brings into this fast-paced story for his fictional characters to deal with, there is also Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and includes his prize package soap racket that earnt him is nickname of Soapy. Bat Masterson and Bob Ford have major roles to play and Mitten tells of the factual events involving their lives in Creede truthfully and entertainingly. 

Another storyline follows Kahopi, a Hopi native, searching for his father and the trail leading to the discovery of the man he believes to be this man is a fascinating as any other story-thread the book contains.

Although this book does contain some gun-play it is more about greed and the political or bullying tactics the various characters try to use for financial game and these are the elements of the tale that really grabbed my attention and pulled me into the story, gripping material indeed.

Mark Mitten thoughtfully includes a basic character list at the beginning of the book and a much more complete one at the end.

This book has been shortlisted as a finalist for Best Western Novel in the 8th annual Peacemaker Awards.


Thursday, 24 May 2018

Mad River

By Donald Hamilton
First published in 1956

Boyd Cohoon – cowman, jailbird, knife fighter – cam home to Mad River.

Waiting for him was a girl. As her father paid him to stay away, Cohoon saw the relief in her eyes.

There was her brother, who had done the crime for which Cohoon had gone to prison. Cohoon saw the fear in his eyes.

The mine owner who’d gotten rich off Cohoon’s land gave him a smile and slapped him on the back. Cohoon saw the deceit in his eyes.

There was the sheriff. They had been boys together. Cohoon saw the suspicion in his eyes.

So there was no home welcome for Boyd Cohoon. And Mad River saw the hatred in his eyes.

Donald Hamilton is perhaps better known for his Malt Helm spy series than his westerns which is a shame going by the strengths of this twisting tale of secrets and revenge. The latter storyline adding mystery to this tale as Cohoon attempts to find out who really killed his father and brother whilst he was in prison, and why. There’s more mystery too as to the identity of ‘The General’ and who is feeding him information from inside the town. And then there’s the woman who rides into Mad River on the same stage as Cohoon, what’s her story?

Character studies are excellent and dialogue snaps off the page with a hard edge. Action scenes are well described, particularly the ride down the river depicted on the cover shown. I really liked how Cohoon’s preferred weapon is a knife rather than a firearm making him a little different from the usual fast gun heroes of the majority of westerns. 

Ok, some of the plot twists are easy to predict but you can never be quite sure which direction the tale will take you next. Hamilton’s writing is strong and riveting making this a very difficult book not to read in one sitting.

In my opinion Mad River is certainly a book worth tracking down. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Strong Ambitions

EMMETT STRONG 3
By GP Hutchinson
January, 2018

Tiny, yet prospering Benficklin, Texas, wants a clean, respectable town marshal to safeguard their pristine community from the kind of riffraff that turned neighboring Santa Angela into a raucous string of blood-spattered saloons and bawdy sporting houses. Former Texas Ranger Emmett Strong seems to be just the man Benficklin’s town fathers are looking for, once they’re satisfied that his Chinese wife, Li, is “sufficiently civilized.”

Reputations aside, Benficklin—not Santa Angela—is the town with the next scandal on its hands, when the ravaged body of a young, murdered Mexican girl is found lying in the middle of Main Street.

Initial signs suggest hard-drinking cowboy Quirt Langdon may have done the deed. Emmett, however, senses that things aren’t exactly as they appear. Nearby Fort Concho’s Captain Roderick Prentiss seems peculiarly interested in what is clearly a civilian case. And Santa Angela’s most eccentric resident gambler, Nate Chaffin, gives the impression he knows things he’s not telling. To top it all off, two of Benficklin’s leading citizens end up assassinated in their own backyard.

While local officials pressure Emmett to hastily hang either a suspect or a scapegoat, honor drives the former Ranger to seek true justice for the poor murdered girl, as well as for the two prominent citizens. Ill-tempered townsfolk, pilfered evidence, and somebody taking potshots at him and his wife make Emmett wonder whether he’ll live to unravel the mystery or become the next corpse folks find in the dusty streets of Benficklin.

Like the first two excellent books in this series, this one also sees racial prejudices playing an important part in the story, something the author handles sensitively, yet still reflects the biases of the time the story is set without pulling any punches.

GP Hutchinson has come up with a terrific set of characters and once the murdered Mexican girl is discovered the author manages to place an air of suspicion over the majority making me wonder as to just who did the killing and why. So, this novel is a murder mystery set in the West, yet it never loses the feel of being a western.

The pacing is superb, as Strong has to deal with a series of set-backs and attempts on his life before the story reaches its shocking culmination. There’s plenty of brutal action and plot twists that made this a page-turner. 

You don’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy this one, as like the other two each stands well on its own. I do feel, though, that once you’ve read one of them you’ll be wanting to read the others. 

When the first book came out it was announced there would be two more. Now they have been published I hope it doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Emmett Strong as I for one would like to read more, so let’s hope GP Hutchinson has plans for another.


Saturday, 5 May 2018

Return to Vengeance Creek

THE SONS OF DANIEL SHAYE #4
By Robert J. Randisi
Five Star Publishing, June 2018

Career lawman Daniel Shaye has returned to the town of Vengeance Creek, Arizona with his two sons, Thomas and James, to take on the jobs of sheriff and deputies. Before long, they find themselves embroiled in cases of murder and revenge. When Red Fleming and his gang come to town to break brother, Harry Fleming, out of jail, they kill a jailer in the process. Since it was Thomas who arrested Harry, Sheriff Shaye sends his sons out to bring the Fleming brothers back. It’s the first time the Shaye brothers have gone on a manhunt without their father. Meanwhile Sheriff Daniel Shaye can’t leave town because Cole Doucette has been released from prison and is rumoured to be on his way to Vengeance Creek to gain revenge on the man who sent him to jail – Mayor Snow, formerly a district attorney. With the Shaye brothers trailing one gang, and their father, Daniel, waiting for another to arrive in town, the tension is high for the Shaye men, risking their lives to stand behind the symbol of the law they wear on their chests, the badge.

In 2004, 2005 and 2006 HarperCollins published the first three Sons of Daniel Shaye books and now, through Five Star, Robert Randisi has brought the Shaye’s back. Having only read the first book I did wonder if it would have been beneficial to have read books two and three before starting this new story to fully comprehend their backstory, to understand their reasons for returning to Vengeance Creek. The answer is no, you don’t need to have read those earlier books to fully enjoy the fourth entry into the series as the author includes any information you need to know, and to be honest, that is very little, as this book stands on its own.

Many western readers will be aware that a lot of Robert Randisi’s novels fall into the adult western category but this book doesn’t delve into that area at all, meaning it is a book that all western fans can enjoy.

The story is very fast moving and full of great characters, some of whom will have you wondering just what their role in this tale will be, Tate Kingdom for instance. 

In many ways this book is a combination of two tales, Daniel Shaye’s waiting game for Doucette and his men, and the story of his sons tracking down the Fleming brothers. Robert Randisi regularly switches from one set of characters to another, often leaving them in life or death situations, which will have you eager to keep reading. Deadly action erupts frequently and this sometimes happens off-screen so-to-speak, making you wonder just what the outcome has been, bringing tension to the tale as you share the emotions of those struggling to find out the answers.

There are a number of surprises too, mainly to be found in the storyline revolving around Doucette’s return to Vengeance Creek. I found it very entertaining discovering the different ways Daniel Shaye goes about whittling Doucette’s gang down. I was also intrigued to find out why Doucette didn’t seem to mind losing his men, the answer to which I can’t reveal here.

The book ends very satisfactorily and left me wondering if Robert Randisi will write a fifth book as I would definitely be wanting to read it. In the meantime, I’ll be digging out books two and three to get fully up to date on the adventures of Daniel Shaye and his sons.


Monday, 30 April 2018

The Ramseys

By Will McLennan
Jove, May 1989

Kyle and Matt Ramsey were lucky to return home alive from The War Between the States – Kyle wore his empty left sleeve as a badge of honor. Crossing the Texas border, the fearless brothers expected a heroes’ welcome. Instead, they found that their fight for freedom had only just begun.

War profiteers had taken over the town and plundered the Ramsey homestead. As the family’s future lay in jeopardy, Kyle and Matt squared off for a shoot-out the carpetbaggers would never forget…

Having read a few of the later entries in this eighteen-book series I’ve been keen to go back to the beginning and discover how it all began. The first three entries were written by Gary Clifton Wisler, an author I don’t remember reading anything by before. Three other authors would then write behind the Will McLennan pseudonym, these being, I believe, Ed Gorman, Robert J. Conley and John Legg, the latter writing the lions share.

When Matt and Kyle return home I was surprised to discover how young their younger brothers were but as the book progressed it covered a couple of years so I could see how the brothers would grow if each book continued at this pace.

Like most of those I’ve read Matt is the center character, a man who hoped to find peace when returning home from the horrors of the Civil War. Yet a combination of carpetbaggers, family tragedy and white hooded riders calling themselves the Knights of the Silver Circle soon wipe away happiness and replace it with bitterness. An anger that can only be satisfied by hitting back but will this be enough to cleanse that resentment?

Gary Clifton Wisler has written a very readable book, his study of changing emotions as equally gripping as his action scenes, and some of the latter paint very vivid images in the minds-eye and are extremely hard-hitting. 

The close of the story promises new adventures for the surviving Ramsey’s and on the strength of this opening tale I’d certainly be wanting to read more.