Monday, 26 July 2021

COVER GALLERY: SHILOH

SHILOH by Dalton Walker
Cover art by Guy Deel

A series of eight books published by Charter/Diamond Books from October 1990 until July 1992

The West made him a man. The War made him Shiloh . . . named for the bloody battle that twisted his soul. And when the fighting ended, he became a bounty hunter. Because for him, death is a way of life.

Lawrence Callahan was a heatless killer who deserved to die. And Shiloh reckons he deserves the $1,000 reward for bringing him in. There’s just one or two things standing in his way. Like a little dustball called Splendid, Nevada. Like a man named Merriweather who’s got the town – and the sheriff – under his thumb. Like Merriweather’s two sadistic sons . . . 

Shiloh’s not in town one day before he’s on the wrong side of trouble. But the fine citizens of Splendid are about to discover that Shiloh’s only got one side – his fighting side!



First they killed a man in cold blood. And then they shot Shiloh’s horse. The vicious gang of outlaws, led by a crazed butcher named Follard, didn’t realize they were dealing with the deadliest manhunter alive. But they’d find out – the hard way . . . 

Shiloh’s coming after them. There’s no bounty at stake – this time it’s personal. But the body count is rising, the desert sand is red with blood, and Follard ain’t running scared – he’s gunning for Shiloh.

Who is the hunter . . . and who is the prey?



Every man has his price, and tycoon J.W. Bannerman has Shiloh’s figured out just right. The old coot is desperate to win back the only thing he’s ever lost: his daughter. And the mighty chunk of change he’s throwing Shiloh’s way has the bounty hunter thinking he’s the right man for the job.

But before Shiloh can get his nose to the trail, he’s sniffed out by a fearsome rival. A man of his own breed – a bounty hunter. Now the hunter is the hunted . . . and only one can survive.



Pinkerton lawman Christian Brady was a good man. Now he’s a dead man – and Shiloh hits the trail vowing revenge against the low-down vermin who slaughtered his old war pal. Then some fool of a badge tosses Shiloh in jail . . . for Brady’s murder.

Breaking out’s the easy part. It’s the crazy lynch mob and cold-blooded posse hot on his heels that’s got Shiloh worried. And when a bounty hunter like Shiloh becomes the hunted . . . there’s no defense quite like bullets and blood.



Frank Haven has the evil heart of a dictator, the twisted mind of a madman, and fifty kill-crazy desperados to do his fighting. He holds a small border town in a reign of terror, governing a labor camp where no one finds mercy. Above and below the Rio Grande, every lawman wants him stopped. But only one man has the guts.

Shiloh infiltrates the camp’s inner circle posing as one of Haven’s gun-toting gang. Now the only way out of hell is straight through it – as Shiloh tries to battle Haven with blood and bullets.



First he killed a man in cold blood. Then the crooked gambler named Ratlin set off across the mining country of northern California, leaving blood and bodies everywhere he hung his hat . . . 

What Ratlin doesn’t know is that the deadliest manhunter alive is hot on his trail. And when Ratlin tries to backshoot Shiloh, it’s his first big mistake. Now gunning down Ratlin isn’t enough . . . the bounty hunter won’t stop until he sees this killer swing from the gallows. 



In the midst of a harsh Nevada blizzard, Shiloh takes refuge in an abandoned barn – and finds himself held captive by three low-down ranch hands from the Lazy B. In a blaze of bullets, Shiloh busts out of their trap. But wealthy rancher Horatio Ballock will see to it that Shiloh stays in trouble – and plenty of it.

At a high-stakes card game, Shiloh calls Ballock’s son a cheat. Now he’s got the rest of the Lazy B after his hide, along with a slick gun named Falcon. Suddenly the bounty hunter is on the wrong side of the chase – and he’s running for his life.



Cephas Beck was a mean old man – a mean, rich old man. When Shiloh trades blows with Beck’s lowlife son Elias, he’s quick to discover that Cephas Beck can pay any price for revenge on anyone who messes with his boy.

But faster than Shiloh can count his new enemies, fate steps in – and Elias meets a cruel death under the hooves of a ferocious stallion. Now Cephas’s greedy dreams of racing the magnificent beast come crashing down in a madman’s rage for vengeance – and Shiloh is hired to track a mount fit for the Devil himself!

Thursday, 22 July 2021

TOMAHAWK JUSTICE


THE TRAILSMAN
Book 141 of 398 + 7 giant editions
By Jon Sharpe
Cover art by Jerome Podwil
Signet, September 1993

1860, Yellowstone country . . . where raw wilderness, natural wonders, and human bloodlust made for a killer combination

The two young Shoshone women seemed too good-looking to be real when Skye Fargo met them in the virgin wilderness. But they were real – real dangerous, as he soon found out. Their father was a chief looking for a vision in the Yellowstone, and looking for Fargo to cover his tail while the chief lifted his eyes to the heavens. For the sacred valley was swarming with the most bloodthirsty redskins in the West – and Fargo was in the middle of a tug-of-want between sisters who gave him no rest, and in the line of fire of Indians who gave no quarter and took no prisoners.

This book doesn’t have a big cast. Fargo is the only white man, then there’s the Shoshone and a band of Bloods. All of this tale unfolds in the wilderness and the author adds some terrific descriptions of the magnificent landscape to give the reader a great sense of place. Amid all the mayhem, Fargo gets a moment to reflect on the advancement of the white man and what it will mean for this wild yet beautiful country. Wildlife also has a part to play, and these creatures add some tense scenes to the story. 

Character studies are well crafted, and dialogue often has humorous undertones adding light-hearted moments to balance the more vicious elements. The many action scenes are at times brutally savage in their descriptions. Let’s not forget that The Trailsman is an adult western series so there are also a number of graphic sex scenes, not as many as in the early books, but a few more than in those towards the end of the series.

Jon Sharpe is a pseudonym shared by a variety of authors. This time it’s David Robbins writing behind that alias, and he has written a fast-moving, action-packed tale that surprised me with its twist ending and proved to be a very entertaining read throughout.

If you’re think of trying to find this book remember the number too, as it shares its title with an earlier entry in the series, book 39.


Monday, 12 July 2021

MAN ON THE BUCKSKIN


By Peter Dawson
Cover art by Carl Hantman
Bantam Books, March 1979
Originally published by Dodd, Mead & Co., January 1957

Frank Rivers spent four agonizing years in the filth and terror of the territorial prison – framed for the killing of his own father. When he came out, there was nothing left in Rivers but raw, bitter vengeance. He was going to track down the killers who murdered his father and execute justice with his own hands. But Kate Bond, the one human being who believed in Rivers, was in desperate trouble – trouble that got in the way of River’s scheme of revenge…

This book proved to be a gritty read. Filled with tough men, and one woman, who are determined to get what they want, whatever the cost. Rivers’ first problem is the Ute Springs lawman, sheriff Jim Echols who detests Rivers and hates the idea he’s been pardoned so does everything he can to drive Rivers out of the area. Then there’s Lute Pleasants, he’s trying to drive Kate Bond and her brother off their land and his methods involve the use of barbed-wire fences, building dams and killing his own half-brother. The story involves plenty of hard talk, beatings and fast gunplay.

The author, Jonathan H. Glidden writing as Peter Dawson, lets the reader know near the beginning of the tale who is who and that Rivers is an innocent man. Following Rivers’ struggles to decide whether he should leave Ute Springs, stand-up to the sheriff, or stay and help the Bonds in their fight with Pleasants, makes for some gripping reading. Pleasants’ changes from anger to calm provide some tense scenes that are all the more enthralling when the reader knows who he really is and you have to wonder how Rivers, the Bonds and Echols can beat his schemes.

What of Rivers’ quest to find the killers of his father? Will he be successful as he hasn’t got any clues as to where they are? Will helping the Bonds put him on the right trail? You'll have to read the book to find out the answers to those questions.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and even though the plot didn’t standout from countless other westerns, the writing style gave it an enjoyable edge that’ll have me on the lookout for more books by Jonathan H. Glidden. 


Wednesday, 30 June 2021

HIGH COUNTRY JUSTICE



CALEB MARLOWE 1
By Nik James
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2021

Caleb Marlowe carved out his own legend as a frontier scout and lawman before arriving in the Colorado boomtown of Elkhorn. Famous for a lightning-quick draw and nerves of steel, he is mysterious, guarded, and unpredictable. Now, he wants to leave the past behind. But the past has a way of dogging a man…

When Doc Burnett, Caleb’s only friend in town, goes missing, his daughter, Sheila, comes seeking Caleb’s help. Newly arrived from the East, she hotly condemns the bloody frontier justice of the rifle and the six-gun.

Murderous road agents have Doc trapped in their mountain hideaway. To free him, Marlowe tracks Doc’s kidnappers through wild, uncharted territory, battling animals and bushwhackers. But when Sheila is captured by the ruthless gunhawks with a score to settle, Marlowe will have to take them down one by one, until no outlaw remains standing.

Nik James is a pseudonym for authors Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick. More well known for their thrillers and British-set historical novels, they’ve now ventured into the world of fictional westerns.

After an opening scene that shows how proficient Marlowe is in the art of killing as he takes down six rustlers, the reader is quickly introduced to the other lead characters, Shelia and the Doc. Burnett has already been kidnapped when we first met him and his situation is dire to say the least. He’s been taken for his medical skills, so the story becomes a race against time, both for Marlowe as he tries to find the Doc and for Burnett to save his patient and his own life.

Nik James often switches between the well-drawn characters, often leaving them in dangerous situations that makes sure the reader will keep turning the pages. There is a lot of mystery surrounding Marlowe, but this is slowly unravelled as the authors reveal some of his background through memories. 

There’s plenty of action, tense situations and twists to the plot. Relationships between the lead characters are nicely developed. Early on, the authors throw some questions into the storyline, such as why a band of outlaws have suddenly started killing their victims? There are some surprising revelations about some of the main characters too. 

High Country Justice proved to be an entertaining read; one I think all western fans will enjoy. I was left looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Bullets and Silver, that is set to appear at the beginning of 2022. A third book, Silver Trail Christmas, has also been announced. 

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

BLUECOAT PATROL



THE BOZEMAN TRAIL WAR 1
By Alfred Wallon
Blitz-Verlag, January 2021 

News of the gold discoveries in Montana have spread like wildfire. The Alder Gulch near Virginia City attracts adventurous pioneers, prospectors and scoundrels from all directions.

The shortest way to Montana leads from Laramie along the Bozeman Trail, through the middle of the land of the Sioux and Cheyenne on the Powder River and through the Black Hills. The first bloody clashes have already begun.

When the Oglala chief Red Cloud learns that the soldiers are building a fort to protect the prospectors on their way to Montana, the situation escalates. A trek accompanied by an army patrol is ambushed on their way to Virginia City. The Sioux and Cheyenne want to defend their country against the white invaders by all means. A bloody war will start very soon!

Alfred Wallon is one Germany’s leading western writers. His many books are published in his home country, but now a few have been translated to English and released as ebooks. Bluecoat Patrol is the first in a new series dealing with the resentment the Sioux and Cheyenne felt towards the invasion of white settlers passing through their land. This leads to violent clashes as the U.S. Army tries to protect the pioneers.

The author has certainly done his research and his story sees chapters and scenes headed by the dates that the events he describes happened. Of course, historical fiction such as this include many real people and Wallon does a good job in bringing them to life and we get to witness the views of characters on both sides of the conflict. There is a lot of action as the opposing sides meet in fast and furious skirmishes. A good portion of the story deals with the Battle of the Tongue River. Some of the storylines come to an end, but a number are left open to be continued in the following books of the series.

It would be wrong of me not to mention the translation. This English version is very readable, at times it did wobble a little, but once I got used to it, I found myself enjoying the tale.


Saturday, 12 June 2021

THE LOST BAND

THE SPANISH BIT SAGA
Book 26 of 29 + three special editions
By Don Coldsmith
Cover art by Tom Hall
Bantam, April 2001

For the Forest Band of the People, summer is a peaceful time of hunting and gathering. But when a band of Shaved-heads brutally attack, the People’s women and children are carried off into slavery. Most accept their fate, but one of the captives, the courageous widow White Moon, vows to keep the traditions of the band alive until the day the survivors can be reunited with the People. Her dream will inspire many of her tribe as they struggle to preserve their culture: a young hunter and his loyal wife, a troubled warrior on a vision quest, an aged storyteller, a wily trader – until at last the special child is born who is destined to lead the Forest Band back to its rightful place in the Great Council of the People.

A sweeping story that covers generations, even reaching further back into the past than before the first book in the series began as Don Coldsmith finally reveals what happened to the band that should occupy the empty place at the Council fire.

Coldsmith divides the book into four parts, each following a different person as the survivors of the Forest Band’s ancestors try to keep traditions alive, in secret as they often don’t know who they can trust, especially those originally taken by the Shaved-heads. Even though many want to find the People themselves there are a variety of reasons they cannot do so; the birth of children and not knowing where to find the People being a couple of those problems.

The lives of the four main characters, White Moon, Striker, Stumbling Bear and Story Keeper, are fascinating to read. Each is very different to the others but linked by the desire to keep their bloodline hidden and to be reunited with the People. I always thought Coldsmith was extremely good at character studies and they are as strong in this tale as they are in any other book in this tremendous series. Hope, expectation, wonder, happiness, love, fear, anguish, hate and sadness, mould the lead characters as they grow. As a reader I often found myself sharing their emotions as I was captured by the magic of their decades long quest.

Right at the beginning of the book Coldsmith lets the reader know that the Forest Band will return to the People, and the scenes of amazement when Story Keeper arrives at the Sun Dance and announces who he is captured my imagination immediately and I was hooked. I just had to discover what had happened to the Forest Band and the story proved to be just as good as I hoped it would be.

Monday, 31 May 2021

INFERNO


THE LONER 12
By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, January 2012

Drifting into New Mexico Territory, Conrad Morgan, The Loner is turning his back on the past. Then he rides up on a wagon train of pioneers – and straight into an inferno of death and revenge…

Led by a charismatic fool, a group of pioneers are crossing Apache territory, blind to the danger around them. The Loner would ignore the passing pilgrims of it weren’t for a beautiful woman. Then, when he turns his back, the Apache strike. The night is lit with an unholy fire. Mutilated bodies are left behind. And four women are taken prisoner across the Rio Grande…

To go where no man should go alone, The Loner joins a brutal band of scalp hunters. His plan to strike before a notorious Mexican slaver gets a hold of the captive women. But the first shots The Loner fires might be the easy ones. Getting out of Mexico alive – with the two bands of enemies behind him and miles of desert straight ahead – will be the fight of The Loner’s life…

You’ll see on the book cover that this entry in The Loner series is announced as number eleven. Pinnacle dropped a clanger here, as the previous novel is also book eleven, which is why I have called this one book twelve. The next book in the series is correctly billed as number thirteen.

After a superb opening chapter, that sees The Loner telling a group of gunmen who are about to attack a saloon full of other men to wait an hour or so until he has left town as he doesn’t want his horse catching a stray bullet, in a tense, amusing scene that reminded me of something you’d see in a spaghetti western, I was hooked and didn’t want to put the book down.

The Loner spends a little time reflecting on past events that have him wanting to dispose of his former life completely. He is determined to banish Conrad Browning into the dark depths of history and become Kid Morgan permanently, as he drifts aimlessly across the West. It’s whilst doing this, that he rides to intercept the wagon train out of curiosity. He then accepts a job to help guide them through Apache territory. Once they safely reach their destination, the Loner parts company from them. It’s now that the action really mounts and the book becomes one long, violent, chase, or should that be two chases? One to try and free the women from the Apache and then another as Kid Morgan attempts to get the ladies back to America.

The story is filled will great characters, especially the scalp hunters, men that may turn on The Loner at any moment. They don’t straight away as they need his gun as even with The Kid riding with them, they are massively outnumbered by the Apache, the odds being about ten to one. If you want a book with a high death toll, then this one surely fits the bill.

Getting the women away from their captors makes for some dramatic reading as does the race for the border as the Rurales give chase, leading to an excellent bloody final showdown that brings the story to a terrific end.

This was an extremely enjoyable book that left me wanting to read the next one as soon as possible.