It was three years ago they’d run him out. Lou still bore the mark of Boothill on his chest – the brand he’d carry till he died. And the old man had waited for him to scream as they did it, and looked somehow disappointed when he didn’t.
“Come back here, Lou,” the old man had said meaningly, “And you die!”
They had thrown him off the ranch then. Without a horse, without his guns, with only what he stood up in. And Shane had stood and watched, her face expressionless.
He’s come back now. Come back to kill the old man, to kill Johnny Wena if he was still around, to humble the proud Shane and break her life for her as she had broken his.
Cougar books were part of Cleveland Publishing and like the majority of their publications they don’t carry a date, so it’s not easy to find out when they were published. This story is a re-issue, complete and unabridged, except for a title change from Danger Spread to Boothill Brand, which was originally put out under the Cleveland name. I’ve included the original below and I think the cover art of that first issue fits the story a lot better as it does illustrate a scene from the tale.
Lou Masters makes for an engaging lead character. He’s tough, quick with a gun, yet naïve, blinded by his love for Shane which leads him into many dangerous and life-threatening situations. Shane isn’t the only woman who will cause problems for him as he’s caught the eye of Lena Blair. There are some excellent twists and turns to the plot that sees both of these women get Lou on the wrong end of a gun.
The story never lets up in its fast pace as Lou is framed, struggles to recognize who is his enemy and who he can trust. Vicious gunmen arrive and it seems no-one is safe from their desire to take what they want and kill anyone who opposes them. There’s plenty of gunplay before everything leads to Lou having to face unbeatable odds which makes for a nail-biting climax.
Boothill Brand proved to be an excellent read, but then again, I thought it would having enjoyed many westerns by this author already. Kirk Hamilton is a pseudonym, one of a handful, used by Keith Hetherington, an Australian author who has had well over 600 stories published – probably closer to 1,000 – and he comes highly recommended by me.