Friday, 25 November 2022

THE KILLING SHOT


By Johnny D. Boggs
Pinnacle Books, October 2010

Deputy U.S. Marshal Reilly McGilvern is hauling criminals to Yuma when his prison wagon is attacked. Three guards die violently in a hail of gunfire and McGilvern is left locked inside to die. When another outlaw gang comes upon the scene, Reilly McGilvern thinks he’s lived to see another day . . . but his problems are just beginning.

Bloody Jim Pardo wants to avenge the Civil War – and to steal the kind of weapons that will let him do it. Riding with his mother, his trusted killers and two hostages, Pardo thinks McGilvern is a fearsome criminal. Now, to stop Jim Pardo’s bloody madness, McGilvern needs to play his part perfectly. And when the time comes, make every shot a killing shot . . .

Johnny D. Boggs has created a wonderful set of characters for this all-action tale. Pardo, his mother and other members of his gang. Pardo’s hostages, especially ten-year-old Blanche, who at times provides some comic relief and McGilvern. Boggs certainly doesn’t believe in giving his lead character an easy time of it. Once rescued by Pardo, McGilvern’s nerves are stretched taught as he plots to free himself and the hostages. At anytime he, and the reader, expect his cover to blown and there are many instances when I was thinking this is it, this is when Pardo finds out who he really is. This makes for a lot of tense scenes and when they are added to the threat of death in the many exchanges of gunplay, a train robbery that goes wrong, an Apache attack, freeing an imprisoned explosive expert from an unusual prison, transporting nitro-glycerine over very uneven ground, and more, everything combines to make for a gripping read.

Boggs also includes a rifle that I haven’t come across very often, the Evans. This is McGilvern’s gun and it causes its own problems for the marshal, in that it is unreliable and ammunition is hard to find. Will it let him down at the wrong moment?

With all the twists and turns this story takes, I just couldn’t predict how it would end and who would be left alive, if anyone, when I reached the final page. What I do know is that I want to read another book by Johnny D. Boggs as soon as I can. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

KNIFE IN THE NIGHT


APACHE
Number 2 of 27
By William M. James
Cover art by Colin Andrew
NEL Books, March 1978

Cuchillo Oro, Apache warrior, continues his bloody bid for revenge on the man who removed two of his fingers joint by joint, destroyed the peace of his tribal settlement, and murdered his squaw and son.

Lieutenant Pinner is a marked man – a ruthless and sadistic Indian-hater who finally met his match. Luck seems to be with him for the moment but sooner or later his time will come, and when it does, he knows he can expect no mercy.

Apache was one of the best series to come from the group of British authors known today as the Piccadilly Cowboys. The series idea came from Laurence James, who wrote this book, and he shared writing duties on the series with Terry Harknett. When Harknett stepped away from the series, he was replaced by John B. Harvey. What makes this series unusual, is that it was first published in America by Pinnacle whereas all the other Piccadilly Cowboy series first appeared in the UK. 

Knife in the Night was first published in America in 1974. It was a few years later that English publisher Sphere began publishing the series but they only put out the first four books. NEL then relaunched the series in the UK and published the first 12. You can see the cover art for both Pinnacle’s and Sphere’s editions below.


Knife in the Night begins a couple of days after the end of the first book, The First Death. Cuchillo is consumed with hatred, but needs to recover from the attack on Fort Davidson. Laurence James gives enough information to fill new readers to the series in on what has gone before so that reading the first book isn’t necessary, but I’d suggest doing so as it will greatly enhance your enjoyment of this book. 

Cuchillo’s quest for revenge is interrupted when he witnesses the massacre of a complete village. The bandits make it look like Apache’s are the culprits. Cuchillo will not allow this, so aims to set things right by taking on all 14 bandits alone. This makes for an exciting and tense section of the book. Cuchillo then teams up with some other Apache’s to once again attack Fort Davidson in the hope of finding and killing Pinner. Cuchillo’s only white friend, John Hedges, is at the fort and their friendship will be severely tested when Cuchillo orders his friend to be tortured in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of Pinner which sets up another confrontation with the hated soldier. Will Cuchillo be successful in quenching his thirst for vengeance this time?

Laurence James probably wrote the more sadistic books out of the group of authors who make up the Piccadilly Cowboys, and this one certainly has some of that in it. James is good at exploring the darker side of the human race and this he does regularly in this tale. Whist James’ descriptions of violence aren’t as graphic as that written by Angus Wells, he certainly creates some vicious acts for this story, yet for all its horror it works, emphasising the harsh world that Cuchillo finds himself inhabiting. 

Like in many of his books, James’ name drops, and one of the ways he does this in this story is by calling one of the characters Andrew Ettinger – Ettinger was the editor at Pinnacle. Ettinger is an actor who appears in the opening and final scenes and through him James adds some dark humour to the story. 

Maybe not as good as the first book, but certainly a worthy follow-up that continues to develop the character of Cuchillo and the series theme extremely well and I was left eager to read the third book as soon as I can.

If you have trouble finding a copy of this paperback, you’ll be pleased to know that Piccadilly Publishing have started to put out the whole series as ebooks.

Friday, 18 November 2022

THE GALLOWS


THE BADGE
Number 14 of 24
By Bill Reno
Cover art by Shannon Stirnweis
Bantam Books, December 1989

The desert town of Raton, New Mexico, metes out justice swift and severe. When respected Marshal Dan Washburn is gunned down in cold blood, the townsfolk exact their own brand of revenge with a hangman’s rope. But U.S. Marshal Ben Bryce thinks they hanged the wrong man, and he’s the one lawman bold enough to stand up to the town and tough enough to go after the real killer – someone who has a score to settle with the whole Washburn clan. Bryce has only one weakness: he’s fallen in love with Dan Washburn’s pretty young daughter. And now, as the buzzards circle, he alone stands between her and the bloodlust of a crazed killer.

Each book in this series is a stand-alone novel, all that links them is that the main character wears a badge of some kind. The Gallows is one of the best books in the series as far as I’m concerned.

The book starts with a hanging that doesn’t quite go as planned. This leads to the people of Raton deciding they need purpose-built gallows rather than using a horse and a tree. Soon after the this, the incident depicted on the book cover takes place and U.S. Marshal Ben Bryce rescues the daughter of Dan Washburn from three outlaws. Bryce is wounded during this and remains in town to recover, and it’s whilst being tended to by Washburn’s daughter, Lisa, that they begin to fall in love, much to the disgust of Washburn’s deputy, Ned Mills, who believes Lisa is going to marry him.

The author introduces many characters, fleshing them out well, making the reader care about their futures, their hopes, their dreams. Not everyone is quite as likeable though, and some of these make threats against Washburn. Others smoulder with their own hatred and this could explode into violence at any time. The author increases tensions extremely well and when Washburn is gunned down by a killer unknown the reader will have many suspicions as to who might have done it and why, and this is where the problems lie, as there are many possible culprits. Bryce tries to work out who the killer is, yet clues are thin on the ground. Then the bodies really begin to pile up as more of the Washburn’s meet violent ends. Trying to work out who the killer was, is what really hooked me, drew me deep into this gripping tale.

Bill Reno is pseudonym used by Lew A. Lacy and I’ve yet to read a book by him I haven’t enjoyed. His tales often contain many twists and turns, and that is the case in this story. I’ve found you can never be sure who will survive, be they main characters or secondary and that certainly applies to this book. The ending was both shocking and surprising and produced an ending I shall remember for a long time and left me looking forward to reading the next book in the series as soon as I can. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

CHINATOWN JUSTICE


ANGEL EYES
Number 4 of 9
By W.B. Longley
Cover art by Don Besco
PaperJacks, October 1985

After Liz Archer wakes up next to a corpse in a Frisco whorehouse, she’s arrested for murder. Innocent of the crime, she escapes from jail desperate to uncover the truth.

With help from an oriental “lady of the evening,” Liz learns more than the identity of the killer. She learns her way around the brutal nocturnal world of a Chinatown bordello!

Although the reader knows who killed the man Liz Archer wakes up next to, the author keeps the identity of the person who hired the killers a secret as he does the reasons behind the murder. This adds a couple of elements of mystery to the story. Even when Liz discovers who this person is it leads to even more problems, and I can’t reveal anymore about that here without adding a major spoiler. 

Angel Eyes is an adult series and this story has much more explicit sex scenes than I can remember reading in the earlier books, or in fact other adult westerns. Liz beds the vast majority of the male cast and one of the women too. She even witnesses’ others enjoying each other but is sickened by the incest she sees. If that wasn’t enough sex, then other characters indulge too, out of sight of Liz. In fact, there seemed to be more sex than anything else in this story and I soon found myself speed-reading these pages to get back to the murder plot.

W.B. Longley is a pseudonym used by Robert J. Randisi, perhaps known best as J.R. Roberts, author of long running The Gunsmith series. At times, I found myself thinking how easily this book could have been an entry in that series, although there is much more sex in this one as I’ve already said.

If you’re a fan of Mr. Randisi’s writing, then you’ll probably enjoy this one, although you will have to like an extreme amount of sex in your westerns too. 

I’m not sure how easy it is to find the original Angel Eyes paperbacks these days, but the series has since been made available by Speaking Volumes in both paperback and ebook form under the authors’ real name.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

THE BIG SHOWDOWN


CALEB YORK
Number 2 of 6
By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Kensington hardback, May 2016
Pinnacle paperback, April 2017

Times are changing. Caleb York is saddling up to try his hand as a Pinkerton man out California way. But before he can leave Trinidad, New Mexico, a peaceful morning erupts in a barrage of gunfire. When the dust settles, Caleb has gunned down two bad men, with another just dodging a ticket to hell . . . but leaving one very good man lying dead in the street.

Lightning quick, Caleb rides after the fleeing gunman, only to be swept up in an evil wind blowing back through the sleepy town, threatening its very existence. Caleb’s only chance to restore justice is to load his guns, dig in his spurs, and take on a ruthless killer. In a town drowning in blood, riddled with bullets, and hoping for a hero, Caleb York is the right man at the right time – ready to face the vengeful outlaws in a chilling storm-swept showdown.

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long getting around to reading the second book in this series after enjoying the first one a lot. Like the earlier book, this one falls into the traditional category of westerns, so it should be a pleasurable read for all fans of the genre. There are a lot of links, both in characters and plotlines, between both books, so new readers to the series may find it worthwhile reading The Legend of Caleb York first, although this is not essential.

The author spins an entertaining yarn on many levels. The situations that York has to deal with, both facing outlaws and the two women that have central roles in this tale caught my imagination from the opening scenes. York does seem to place his needs before those of anyone else, which causes some interesting developments in his personal life. The story also contains strong mystery elements. Who’s behind the bank robbery and where has the money disappeared to? Then there’s a series of murders to solve. On top of all this, five gunmen are heading to Trinidad to avenge the death of their brother. Amid all the killings, the author includes some touches of humour, in both his descriptive observations and conversations that had me laughing out loud a couple of times. 

Even though the author kept the identity of the person behind the problems York finds himself facing, I didn’t find it difficult to work out who that character was before it was revealed. Having said that, in no way did it dampen my enjoyment of this story and I look forward to reading the third book in the series very soon. 

Monday, 31 October 2022

HANG McALLISTER


By Matt Chisholm
Cover art by Gino D’Achille
Panther Books, 1970
Piccadilly Publishing, March 2022

Rem McAllister was on one of the toughest missions of his violent career. He rode into Mexico – and found a whole heap of trouble brewing. For one thing, he discovered that there were some mean hombres bent on invading Texas. For another, he found himself mixed up in a vicious war. And soon enough his outsize talent for trouble got him into a situation where two different leaders and a whole army were bent on hunting him down. Even for McAllister, these were fearsome odds . . . 

This book is a must read for fans of Matt Chisholm’s McAllister. His father, Chad McAllister, was always vague about the identity of Rem’s mother, stating she was either a Mexican lady of high birth or a Cheyenne princess, depending on how drunk he was at the time of telling. Rem has never met his mother and now he might just discover who she really is when he meets an old lady named McAllister. That isn’t the only shock for McAllister regarding family as he also finds himself fighting alongside a man who claims he is Rem’s brother. At first McAllister is suspicious of both, even though they know enough about Chad McAllister to make their stories ring true. Could it be that Rem has finally found his mother and at the same time a sibling he was unaware of?

For both McAllister fans and those who just enjoy a good western read, then this book should satisfy all. From the opening scenes this book grabs the imagination, hooks the reader with questions, and creates tension with plenty of how is he going to get out of that situations. The action is almost nonstop, as McAllister battles vastly superior odds. The author doesn’t give his hero an easy time of it either as McAllister is viciously beaten a couple of times and imprisoned. 

Matt Chisholm is a pseudonym used by author Peter Watts, and yet again he’s written a book that is thoroughly entertaining. The story is packed with great characters and has a terrific plot revolving around an invasion of America. Profanity is minimal, and the violence is hard-hitting but not overly graphic. The author also has a neat twist at the end that clears up McAllister’s questions about his new found family members.

The McAllister series ran for 39 books and they can take some finding these days in paper form. If you don’t mind reading ebooks, then you are in luck as Hang McAllister and many others are available electronically.  

Monday, 24 October 2022

CUTTHROATS


SLASH AND PECOS
Number 1 of 5 to date
By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Kensington hardback, February 2019
Pinnacle paperback, July 2019

Not every Western hero wears a white hat or a tin star. Most of them are just fighting to survive. Some of them can be liars, cheaters, and thieves. And then there’s a couple of old-time robbers named Slash and Pecos . . . 

After a lifetime of robbing banks and holding up trains, Jimmy “Slash” Braddock and Melvin “Pecos Kid” Baker are ready to call it quits – though not completely by choice. Sold out by their gang, Slash and Pecos have to bust out of jail and pull one last job to finance their early retirement . . . 

The target is a rancher’s payroll train. Catch is: the train is carrying a Gatling gun manned by deputy U.S. marshals who know they’re coming. Caught and quickly sentenced to hang, their old enemy – the wheelchair-bound, bucket of mean, Marshal L.C. Bledsoe – shows up at the last minute to spare their lives. For a price. He’ll let them live if they hunt down their own gang, the Snake River Marauders. And kill those prairie rats – with extreme prejudice . . . 

Slash and Pecos are a couple of bickering old outlaws who’ve never killed anyone unless it was whilst defending themselves. Both are very likeable characters whose reflections on their past and observations on their now and future often had me grinning or laughing out loud. I will quickly add that this isn’t a comedy western, far from it.

After a lengthy gunfight with bounty hunters the story swiftly moves on to the ill-fated train robbery. This leads to them being sentenced to death by hanging. Saved in the nick-of-time, Slash and Pecos now have to face up to the realization that they have been double-crossed and have no choice but to track down and kill their old gang. Fittingly the final showdown revolves around another train robbery which contains many edge-of-the-seat moments.

There are many other terrific characters in this book too; Marshal “Bleed-‘Em-So” Bledsoe and the beautiful statuesque blonde, Abigail Langdon, who pushes the Marshal around in his wheelchair. Then there’s Jaycee Breckenridge, a long-time friend who it seems set them up to be captured, which is a revelation that Slash and Pecos struggle to comprehend. 

Descriptions of characters, landscape, architecture, trains and the many action scenes are superb, painting vivid imagery that played out in my minds-eye in a very visual, gripping tale that made this book difficult to put down. On reaching the end, I was left wanting to read the next book in the series as soon as possible.