Sunday, 28 February 2021

THE RUNNING IRON SAMARITANS


By Barry Cord
Ace, May 1973

Wandering cowmen, Long Jim and Windy befriend troubled cripple Lincoln Fervans and his wife at the V Bar Ranch. Lincoln has received warning notes telling him to leave his spread. Fearful for his and his wife’s life Fervans sells the ranch to Long Jim and Windy and now they become involved in the mystery of "Miguel" whose name is on the note. The men must soon draw on every reserve they have to track down a killer - to save their lives and see the ranch is returned to its rightful owners.

Barry Cord packs a lot into the pages of this story. There’s an excellent mix of characters, all of whom may have hidden agendas, even the Sheriff. And what of the Englishman known as Tally Ho, does he know what his ranch hands are doing and are they working under his orders? Then there’s the ghost of Miguel who seems to have come back from the dead to reclaim the V Bar Ranch, and is pretty handy with a rifle. 

I’ve read many books by Barry Cord and have enjoyed them all and this story is as equally entertaining, perhaps not up there with his best, but very good nonetheless. The story is a little more straightforward than a lot of Cord’s work. It doesn’t contain as much mystery as others or that many twists to the plot. In fact, the reader knows just about everything that is going on throughout, although Cord does spring one or two surprises later in the tale.

This is also the third story I’ve read about Long Jim and Windy and I don’t believe there are any more. It certainly doesn’t matter what order they are read in. In fact, I’m not even sure in what order they were originally published. This one is part of an Ace Double and is backed with another Long Jim and Windy tale, Desert Knights, that has the same publishing date. The other book, The Coffin Fillers, I’ve seen listed as being first published both in 1972, 1973 and 1974. I do think it’s a shame Cord didn’t write anymore books about Long Jim and Windy as they are a couple of likeable rogues. 

Barry Cord is a pseudonym used by Peter Germano and for me he is certainly an author worth checking out.

Monday, 22 February 2021

THE COMSTOCK CAMELS


THE DERBY MAN 11
By Gary McCarthy
Doubleday, April 1993

Darby Buckingham, the famous writer known to his legions of dime novel fans as the Derby Man, and his fiancée, Dolly Beavers, run into a pack of unusual beasts on a dangerous road mountain road heading towards Lake Tahoe. Their horses are terrified by the exotic animals, and Darby and Dolly’s carriage plunges into a raging river. Though they escape with their lives, their future fortune, which lay in the profitable pages of Darby’s latest Western manuscript, is now irretrievably washed away in the currents of white water.

Determined to make the owner of the camels pay for his ruin, the Derby Man becomes the unwilling owner of a herd of twelve spitting, dirty and disagreeable camels. Along with all his possessions and his manuscript, Darby has also lost the will to write, so the only answer to his dilemma lies in competing for a freight contract to the Consolidated Mining Company’s most inaccessible mine, the Gold Peak.

Unfriendly Paiutes, scorching desert and steep, impassable trails are not the worst of the problems that now plague Darby. The horrors contrived by the murderous band of another competitor make the unyielding tortures of nature pale in comparison. It will be up to the Derby Man, camels trailing behind him, to create the kind of happy ending for this real-life adventure that he does for his novels.

It’s a well-known fact, that Darby doesn’t like horses, now he may have found another type of animal he hates more. The camels also prove to be the source for many of the humorous scenes that come at regular intervals throughout this fast-moving tale.

Gary McCarthy has also created a terrific set of characters for this story, Big Bert Jasper, the former camel owner and leader of a gang of cutthroats. Then there’s Emil El Babba, the Arab camel handler who will not let anyone harm his beloved camels, even the Derby Man. It’s also great to see the return of Bear and Zack. All these and more come together to take part in the race to win the contract from the mining company.

There’s plenty of action, be that brutal fist-fights or exchanges of lead. There’s the mystery of who is killing off the other competitors, although this isn’t kept a secret. The final confrontation between Darby’s band and the killers takes another twist as the Paiutes arrive ready to wipe out everyone. Can Darby use the camels to save the day?

For me, it is a great shame that this book is the last of the Derby Man novels. I’ve enjoyed every one of them. Gary McCarthy surely came up with one of the most unusual western heroes in his portly, ex-circus strongman, prizefighter and novelist Darby Buckingham. All the books have been hugely entertaining, mixing both nail-biting action, superb characters and comical situations. The majority of the stories also revolve around real events adding historical interest too. The Derby Man series gets a high recommendation from me.

Friday, 19 February 2021

THE LAWMAN


By Lyle Brandt
Berkley, 2007

Jack Slade pulled up roots a long time ago to take life one day at a time, risking his livelihood, and his neck, at gambling tables across the West. A disappointment to his family, he’s been estranged from them for years. Then he receives word of his brother’s death – under mysterious circumstances – in Lawton, Oklahoma.

It’s been four years since Jack saw Jim, who had firmly planted his roots to become a successful rancher. In addition to acres of land and herds of cattle, Jim left behind a fiancée who has been fending off offers on her property – and cattle rustlers.

The mysterious circumstances behind Jim’s death are starting to become clear. And when fate pins a badge of Jack, he finds himself walking the line between justice and revenge…

This is the first in a series that ran to eleven books. Lyle Brandt is a pseudonym used by Michael Newton.

As expected there is plenty of background information as to why Slade left his family and headed out West. We also discover that Jack and Jim are twins. The reactions of some of the inhabitants of Lawton and some outlaws are excellent as they believe they are seeing a ghost when Slade arrives in town. A lot of the tale explores Slade’s thoughts as he reflects on the past and his future and quite often goes over the same ground, which got a little repetitive. 

Slade’s need to find and punish Jim’s killers sees him at odds with the marshal, Harmon Ford, who needs evidence before he can arrest anyone. Once Slade becomes a lawman himself, he also has to follow rules which restrict how he can deal out his own brand of justice. These aren’t the only problems Slade has to deal with, there’s his growing attraction to his dead brother’s fiancée, Faith Connover.

Full of interesting characters, and a twisting plot, the book moves along at a steady pace with bursts of well described violence. The ending is satisfactory and leaves you wondering what the future holds for the survivors, something I’m hoping to find out soon as I don’t think it will be long before I read the second book in the series.


Monday, 8 February 2021

ARIZONA FANCY LADY


SPUR 2
By Dirk Fletcher
Leisure, 1982

Spur McCoy was an Easterner, but when it came to justice he was as shrewd and savvy as any gun-seasoned marshal in the West. As top man in the government’s new Secret Service Agency, he was assigned to investigate reports of a rebel colonel out to capture the Arizona Territory and set up his own nation.

The mountains were towering and the cold was unbearable. The only relief from the low winter sun was a farm fire and as many shots of whisky as a man could stand. Then, along the trail of the outlaw colonel, Spur met up with a feisty beauty who showed him another way to get his mind off the cold.

This is the original book two in the Spur series. For some reason I’ve never been able to find out, after book three, Leisure changed the cover style and began numbering the series from number one again. This means there are two books one, two and three. 

Spur finds himself looking for a missing photographer, whose sister is one of the many women he enjoys the company of. This series is billed as an adult western so these sexual encounters are very explicit in their depiction. For at least the first half of this book Spur seems to find himself pleasuring a woman in every chapter and after a while I did find this to be tedious and I wanted the mission to stop the rebel colonel to begin. Unfortunately, I did have to read these sex scenes as some of the story plot was revealed during these sections of the book. 

As well as being an expert lover, Spur is a tough and capable fellow in the pursuit of his mission. He’s also capable of recovering from a gunshot wound to the shoulder very quickly. Good job, as he soon finds he will be taking on two hundred outlaws with just the help of one man and the photographers sister. Their attack on the outlaw stronghold is exciting, violent and lasts for quite a good portion of the book. In fact, the sexual content drops off to virtually none when Spur sets off to destroy the colonel in an explosive showdown that results in a high body count. 

If you don’t like lots graphic sex, which includes rape, then this book probably isn’t for you. If you don’t mind it, and like hero against massive odds action stories then you’ll certainly enjoy reading this tale.

Dirk Fletcher is a pseudonym used by Chester Cunningham.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

LUKE SUTTON: LAWMAN


LUKE SUTTON: LAWMAN
By Leo P. Kelley
A Black Horse Western from Hale, published June 1992
Originally published by Doubleday, 1989

Luke Sutton faces a tough job when he is hired by lawyer William Smythe to find three eyewitnesses to a murder. All of them – Dennis Rutledge, Hank Tully, and Etta Spode – have already testified that Jimmy Lee Cranston committed the killing. Jimmy swears he’s innocent, and it is up to Luke to save him by finding out what the witnesses really saw.

For a man like Luke, who makes his living tracking down people who don’t want to be found, finding a runaway husband, a slippery card shark, and a very popular dance hall girl should be no more than a few days’ work. The problem is keeping them alive after he finds them.

It seems someone else is just as interested in their whereabouts. Someone who’s determined that Rutledge, Tully and Spode stick to their original stories – right to the grave!

Lawman is the eighth book of a nine-book series. It’s certainly the first book I’ve read by Leo P. Kelley that I know of. This could easily be a stand-alone novel as there is very little mention of Sutton’s history and you certainly don’t need to have read any of the earlier books to enjoy this one. 

The story starts with a scene that outlines the type of man Sutton is and features a lengthy fist-fight that lands Sutton the job of tracking down the three missing witnesses. Sutton is also given a lawman’s badge to make his hunt legal.

Sutton finds each of the three one by one, but the first two are killed before they can tell him the truth. Will the third live long enough to reveal what really happened and the identity of the real killer? The answers are kept secret until the final gunfight that includes a neat twist to the ending.

There was never any doubt that Sutton would find the witnesses and save Cranston from the hangman’s noose. Sutton solved everything with ease and never had much opposition in completing his mission. The book was a quick read that proved entertaining enough and someday I’ll probably read the other Sutton book I have. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

WILD BILL'S GHOST



THE GUNSMITH 46
By J.R. Roberts
Charter Books, November 1985

The rumours are flying in Leadville – Hickok is still alive! The way the story goes, somebody else, and not Wild Bill, was killed by Jack McCall in Deadwood.

Clint Adams isn’t one to put much in rumours…but he’s never actually seen Bill’s body and he can’t swear that Hickok is dead. Besides, the Gunsmith and Wild Bill were great friends and if there’s a chance that Hickok is alive, it’s worth the trip down to Mexico to find out. Will the Gunsmith find Wild Bill alive, will he find an imposter – or will he find Wild Bill’s ghost?

This fast paced tale sees Clint Adams become involved in a Mexican revolution, or at least a planned uprising. The story goes that Wild Bill has been hired as a mercenary by the revolutionaries. Turns out those plotting to overthrow the Government are nothing more than bandits, but this doesn’t stop Adams making it known his gun is for hire too as a way to joining the mercenaries and discovering whether it really is Bill or not.

There’s a great selection of well-drawn characters for Adams to deal with. Gunrunners, bandits, Federal troops and an assortment of other toughs. Wild Bill isn’t the only real person that features in this tale, Luke Short has a part to play at the beginning. Then there’s the women, and there’s plenty of them in this story, all eager to jump into bed with The Gunsmith. As this is an adult western series the sex scenes are explicit. 

The story builds well to its final showdown that involves all the different groups of people during which Adams discovers the truth about whether Wild Bill is alive, is an imposter or a ghost. Of course, I can’t answer that here, but I will say anyone reading this book is sure to have fun finding out.


Saturday, 23 January 2021

CROSSFIRE


THE LONER
Number 11 of 15
By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, October 2011

Conrad Browning is The Loner, a man on a mission, crossing the country – and crossing a lot of bad men – to rescue his kidnapped young twins. The trail has led him all the way to San Francisco’s perilous red light-district, where a crime lord is the proud father of newly adopted twins. The Loner knows his children when he sees them. But they’re hostage to a brutal, violent mob feud. Then, just when he needs it most, The Loner is no longer alone: he is joined by his own father, Frank Morgan – the most notorious gunman in the West.

A family’s pain. A woman’s betrayal. A city exploding in violence… The Loner has come to the right place to save his children. But will they get out of Frisco alive?

It was at the end of book seven that The Loner found out he was the father of twins, and all the following books have featured Conrad’s search for them. Now that search comes to an end.

During this tale we witness Conrad let his heart rule his head. Driven by anger he endangers himself and those helping him. All through his hunt for his children there have been attempts on his life and these continue in this story. There’s a lot of action involving Tongs and criminals. Conrad is shanghaied which leads to a desperate escape bid from a ship. People get used so others may gain, this includes The Loner.

This is an excellent story that pulls you in, makes you share the anguish, the hatred and pain of The Loner. He, and his father, certainly take some punishment before the terrific, twist ending.

Top class entertainment that left me looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Just in case anyone doesn’t know, Frank Morgan stars in his own 23 book series; The Last Gunfighter put out under the William W. Johnstone name and both Frank and Conrad have appeared in another William W. Johnston book that was published in 2018; The Morgans.