Friday, 29 September 2023


By Hondo Wells
Cover art by John Hunt
Mews, March 1977
Original: Pyramid Books, 1955, as by Harry White

Clane was cornered by Dardac, the bounty hunter. Dardac wanted the money for his hide and would stop at nothing to get it.

It was no use trying to tell the bounty hunter that he is innocent. To him Jeff Clane was nothing but a wild animal, something to be killed and hung over his saddle, another bounty to be collected…

This is not an overly complicated plot, even though it combines two much used western storylines – that of a man accused of a murder he did not commit and the theme of a greedy rancher wanting to chase homesteaders out of a valley he wants to claim as his own. What raises the standard is how this tale is told. The author’s lean prose and noir feel make this a very readable book.

Clane is guilty of killing the man he is accused of murdering, but he did so in self-defence. No-one seems to care about that though, not least the vicious bounty hunter Dardac. The book starts with a wounded Clane being tended to by a homesteader family whose attractive daughter, Patience, sees Clane as a way to escape her current lifestyle. Clane sees her as the answer to what he has been searching for but refuses to acknowledge these feelings as he knows death is stalking him and will claim anyone around him too. It’s also great to read about a man who has been shot not getting over it within a few pages, suffering from his wound throughout the story.

It’ll be no surprise to see Clane become involved in the range war, standing up against the powerful rancher and his gun-hands even though he wants to go and lead Dardac away from the people who’ve helped him. Things get even more complicated when the bounty hunter falls for Patience too and he won’t take no for an answer which leads to a brutal scene between the girl and Dardac. Most of the characters have to deal with both physical and mental pain and it’s the latter agonies that give this book its strengths.

Hondo Wells and Harry White are both pseudonyms, the man behind them being Harry Whittington. Shadow at Noon is not the best western Whittington wrote, but it is certainly worth reading.

Monday, 18 September 2023


Book 15 of 24
By Stetson Cody
Panther Books, September 1963
Originally published by W.A. Allen, 1960

Cattleman, Dan Hollis, is tricked into an ambush by trigger-slammers in the main street of Baxter. It seems only a miracle could save him from an ugly death. To Hollis the intervention of Cactus Jim Clancy at that crisis in his unhappy life might well have been that miracle.

The Cactus Jim Clancy westerns were originally published in hardback, all by W.A. Allen except the last two. The second-last published by Jenkins, and the final book by Hale. W.A. Allen did put some out under their paperback imprint too. Panther Books began a run of five paperbacks starting with Colt Fever. The first Cactus Jim Clancy book appeared in 1949 and the last in 1973.

I guess it won’t be a surprise to anyone to discover that Stetson Cody is a pseudonym. The author behind the name being Leonard Gribble who also wrote westerns as Lee Denver, Landon Grant, Chuck Kelso, and Steve Shane.

Colt Fever is the first book by Gribble I’ve read. 

The story is very traditional. Clancy is a range detective looking out for his employers’ interests and arrives in Baxter to discover why Hollis hasn’t been paying back his loan. The plot is standard fare. It’s a range grab tale with a couple of twists and turns thrown in for good measure. Gribble’s prose is of its time, fairly hardboiled with a lot of western colloquialisms that come from the pulps. These add a neat flavour to the tale.

Gribble mixes the range grab plot with a subplot involving a con-artist and his sister, who are being pursued by an undercover detective. There is also a strong role for another woman, Clarice who is Hollis’ wife. She is sleeping with the Jud Allen, the man who wants to take over the Hollis ranch. Allen also has more problems in that one of his hired guns is attempting to horn in on his business. As various characters set up plans to double-cross each other, so the story becomes more complicated before all the plot threads combine to bring about a satisfactory ending.

I was surprised to find that Cactus Jim Clancy wasn’t in the book that much. Gribble mainly tells the story through the other characters and Clancy just pops up now-and-again to orchestrate the way to deal with problems. He does get involved in some of the gunplay too.

Overall, I found this to be an entertaining enough read to want to read another, but maybe not straightaway.

Thursday, 31 August 2023


Book 8 0f 22
By James A. Muir
Cover art by Colin Backhouse
Sphere Books, 1979

The Kiowas slaughtered Amos and Eliza Marker without pity. But they took young Jeb, raised him and taught him to be a warrior. To live like a Kiowa. Think like a Kiowa. Kill like a Kiowa.

When Matthew Gunn, known and feared as Breed, was called by rich businessman Ty Horn, he didn’t know that Horn was Eliza Marker’s brother. Or that Horn had some crazy sentimental idea about saving Jeb from the Indians after all this time. Even when he knew, he didn’t care. The rich white man was offering a whole heap of money for the ‘rescue’. And soon Breed had a debt of honour to be settled with the Kiowas – a debt to be paid strictly in torture, destruction and death . . .

I remember really liking this book when it was first published. I’ve read it a couple of times between then and now. Rereading it again, I found my enjoyment hadn’t diminished in any way. I particularly like how Horn is stubborn, or just doesn’t listen when Gunn explains how Jeb won’t want to return to the life of a white man, won’t even remember his uncle. This can only finish with an unhappy ending for some of the characters, can’t it?

Once the man known as Breed gives his word, he’ll put his life on the line to fulfil his promise. There’s plenty of times this will happen as he tracks down Jeb, now known as Mahka. The action scenes are described in gory detail, adding to the brutal harshness of the story.

James A. Muir is a pseudonym for British author Angus Wells and, like with the other novelists now known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, his books contain lots of references to people in the trade at that time and to western book and/or movie characters. Blood Debt is dedicated to Nick Tryhorn, so it’s obvious where the businessman’s name came from. Breed teams up with a man called John Havee – another of the Piccadilly Cowboys is author John Harvey. We also find characters called Hedges with thinly disguised references to another western hero who was born with that name, although he is mostly known as Edge. Breed also briefly meets a man called Ethan and his companion who seem to be searching for something or someone. Another of John Wayne’s movie characters also gets a mention, Nathan Brittles from the film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Whenever I read a Piccadilly Cowboy western, I look forward to seeing who will get mentioned during the story, real or fictional, as it always makes me grin.

I must also comment on the excellent cover art done by Colin Backhouse. He, and others who fronted the U.K.’s westerns at this time, must have worked closely with the authors as the paintings more often than not illustrate a scene from the story, as is the case here.

If you’re a fan of the Breed series, Angus Wells, the Piccadilly Cowboys, or just tough savage westerns, then this is a book you won’t want to miss. These old paperback series are not the easiest to find these days, and if you do, they are often priced ridiculously high, so you might be pleased to discover that Piccadilly Publishing are putting them out as ebooks at very good prices. Breed 8: Blood Debt was published in ebook form this month.

Tuesday, 29 August 2023


By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, June 2023

In the world of criminal lawbreakers in Laramie County, Lucian Clay was king. He terrorized the locals, robbed every business in the territory, and ruled the place with a merciless iron fist. Thankfully he’s behind bars now – along with a load of other prairie rats – thanks to Laramie’s new sheriff, Buck Trammel. Unfortunately, Trammel can only enforce the law while others specialize in working around it: namely lawyers. And no lawyer is more crooked or corrupt than the belly-crawling snake Clay hired to get him out. By any means possible . . . 

Their breakout plan is simple: The lawyer will wait until midnight. Then he’ll break in to the county jail to bust his client out. He’ll scale the walls, kill the guards, ambush the deputies, and release the prisoner. There’s just one catch: As soon as Clay is freed, the other convicts want out, too. Which sparks total chaos in the prison, creates a distraction for Clay – and unleashes the worst blood-soaked night of murderous mayhem Buck Trammel has ever witnessed. And will never forget. If he survives . . . 

The violent jailbreak is the opening part of this book, which leads to Trammel and two others riding in pursuit of the lawyer and Clay. Back in Laramie political wrangling takes place to have the lawman removed from his job. The lawyer, Bessler, has plans for Clay’s money, and neither of these two men trust the other. A stagecoach crew also get mixed up in this deadly chain of events ensuring there is never a dull moment in this fast-moving tale.

The author plots well, describes the action sequences in visual prose. His dialogue is believable. His characters tough and single-minded. Nothing will stop them achieving their aims. Trammel and his very small posse won’t have it all their own way either and will have to suffer greatly as they attempt to track their quarry down.

I’ve enjoyed the previous four books in this series, and this one was just as gripping as those. It’s hard to say more without including major spoilers, so I won’t, other than to add that this tale is a must read for western fans. You don’t need to have read any of the previous books to enjoy this one, for there’s enough backstory mentioned to explain what has gone before. In ways this is also a new beginning for Trammel, as sheriff of a new town. 

It’s also interesting to note that the stagecoach business is called The Frontier Overland Company and that is the title of a new series the Johnstone’s are launching later this year, presumably written by the same author of this book. So, for me, that means I have a new series to look forward to as well as another Buck Trammel book that should be out in December. 

Saturday, 12 August 2023

Slocum Bibliography

Over the last few of months, I’ve been helping Anders N. Nilsson compile a bibliography on Jake Logan’s Slocum series. 

The Slocum series began in 1975 and continued into 2014. There were 430 regular sized books, many of which we reprinted a number of times, and 17 giant editions. 

The bibliography names many of the authors who wrote behind the pseudonym of Jake Logan. It also details which books were reprinted and how many times, including foreign publications. There is other data about the books too.

If anyone can supply information that will help fill in the gaps, or provide us with corrections, then please comment below.

You can find the bibliography here: The Bibliography

Images of all the covers can be found here: Book Covers

Friday, 21 July 2023


Book 6 of 22
By Charles R. Pike
Cover art by Richard Clifton-Dey
Mayflower/Granada Publishing, 1976
ebook, Piccadilly Publishing, July 2023

The negro hung from the flaming cross and watched. In front of his burning cabin the white-robed figures of the Klu Klux Klan repeatedly raped his wife. Then came Jubal Cade to spit death from his .30 calibre Spencer . . . 

When they post the reward for the capture of the Klan’s Grand Dragon, the bounty-hunters flood into St Louis. But Jubal Cade is there before them. He has seen the Klan’s savagery first-hand. And Jubal is a man who knows all about vengeance.

Cade gets involved with the Klan whilst visiting Andy Prescott, the young blind boy Jubal has taken under his wing. Cade is constantly trying to raise money so Andy can have medical care and now there’s a chance an operation will restore Andy’s sight. The money Cade could secure by bringing in the Klan’s leader would pay for that operation, and when the Klan kidnap the head of the clinic, Cade has two reasons for destroying the Klan.

The author behind the pseudonym of Charles R. Pike is Angus Wells and he brings together a lot of the series threads for this tale. Being in St. Louis brings Cade face to face with the man who has sworn to have Jubal killed, Ben Agnew. Now they have a common enemy. Can they put the past behind them for a while to take on the Klan and unmasked the Grand Dragon?

Like in many of the books written by the group of authors now known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, there is lots of references to them and the western characters they wrote about. Many of the characters names in this story are made up from combinations of these authors names and other people in the book publishing business. For instance, a fair portion of this tale takes place on a sternwheeler and this boat is named the William M. James – the author name fronting the Apache series.

Although Angus Wells wrote most of the books in this series he didn’t write the first three or create the character of Jubal Cade. Terry Harknett started the series, an author probably better known to western fans as George G. Gilman whose hero Edge is a favourite of many readers. Edge appears in person in The Burning Man, stepping out of the shadows to shotgun a man to death, saving Cade’s life. Edge and Jubal have a conversation that references a very well-known spaghetti western character a couple of times, and this exchange of words is one of the highlights of the book for me. 

I once asked Terry if he had anything to do with Edge appearing in this book and he said he couldn’t remember much about how it came about but did entertain the possibility that he wrote this section, or co-wrote it with Angus. If he didn’t, Angus captured the character of Edge extremely well, not just in action but also in his speech and gallows humour. 

The Burning Man contains lots of violent bloody action, something that Well’s excels at in his gory descriptions. With Cade being a doctor Wells has opportunities to describe in detail Cade’s attempts to save lives too. Wells doesn’t give Cade an easy ride of it either, Jubal has to endure suffering, not due to physical wounds, but mentally – to say more would be a major spoiler so that’s all I’m going to reveal here. To add some light-relief to the more brutal scenes, Well’s includes lots of groan-worthy humours comments, mainly coming from Jubal, that had me laughing out loud at times.

The Burning Man is a very good entry into this excellent series. This book is a must read for anyone following the series due to its connections with earlier books plotlines and a character Cade met in book five have roles to play in this story too. The inclusion of Edge in this story makes this book essential reading for fans of George G. Gilman’s most famous character as well as those who enjoy Angus Wells’ work.

Friday, 14 July 2023


By Nate Morgan
Pinnacle Books, May 2023

The most wanted man in the West, Big Bob McGraw has earned his reputation as a thief and killer. With a gang of trigger-happy desperadoes willing to do his bidding, McGraw has robbed banks, stagecoaches, and railroads, raised hell ravaging towns, and left bodies littering the streets in his wake.

Carson Stone rode with McGraw’s gang exactly once, minding their horses during a bank robbery, before quitting. But with the marshal of El Paso, Texas, gunned down in cold blood as the bandits escaped, he’d been judged guilty by association. To clear his name, Carson teams up with bounty hunter Colby Tate to track down the outlaws – now scattered across the frontier – and bring them to justice. And Carson must convince his partner to bring McGraw in alive or he’ll never escape the shadow of the hangman’s noose.

Packed with a great set of characters, this book pulled me in from the opening scenes. Stone’s task seems almost impossible even when he teams up with a couple of bounty hunters as McGraw’s whereabouts is unknown. Will he be able to persuade the bounty hunters to bring McGraw in alive? These questions, and more, kept me turning the pages. 

Nate Morgan, a pseudonym for Victor Gischler, includes plenty of gunplay that is fairly graphic in its description. He doesn’t give Stone an easy ride either as he will soon have to face the reality of double-cross – this twist adding a neat unforeseen surprise element to the story as long as you haven’t read the first published Carson Stone book, Dead Man’s Trail.

Dead Man’s Trail was published in December 2022. I read and reviewed it here. I wondered then if Pinnacle had made a mistake in the order they put these two books out, and I’m convinced of it now. This is such a shame as Dead Man’s Trail has a lot of references to the storyline of A Short Rope for a Tall Man and reading them as published really spoilt the twists in A Short Rope for a Tall Man. If you have both these books but have yet to read them, may I suggest you read them in the wrong order to get the most enjoyment out of them, or just think of it as a prequel.

Having read them both, I can only hope that we haven’t heard the last of Carson Stone.