Tuesday 30 September 2008

The Gunsmith #26

as by J. R. Roberts
Charter March ’84

Bank robberies are common in the Idaho territory. But when the Wido bank is robbed, and a deputy found dead with a strange puncture wound, that is unusual. For once, Clint Adams vows not to get involved as he moves on with his traveling gunsmith shop.

But when the Gunsmith meets a beautiful young girl who is fleeing for her life, all his resolve vanishes. The girl has a bizarre tale to tell about a circus run by an Italian master criminal. And before he knows it, the Gunsmith is up against the strangest band of outlaws the West has ever seen!

An early entry into this long running series sees Clint Adams, The Gunsmith, portrayed as a much harder character than now days. Quick with his gun, and quick to use it, this book is filled with action, more or less non-stop and quite graphic in places.

Here the Gunsmith finds himself battling a circus full of criminals who have an ingenious way of carrying out robberies that leaves no tracks. The criminals are made up of a strange mix of people including an aborigine, complete with boomerang, lion tamer and Italian acrobats. The final chase and showdown takes place on modes of transport not often read about in westerns.

The book, like most of the series, is easy to read and moves along at great pace. If you’re a Gunsmith fan, or just have a passing interest in the series, you should enjoy this one.

Sunday 28 September 2008

The Ranger

as by Dan Mason
Harper, December 1990

A cryptic note sends ranger Lex Cranshaw deep into Texas on the trail of the brutal killer behind a series of horrific and unexplained hangings. The murderous trail leads him to a town choked with stark fear, dark secrets – and warnings in hot lead. Cranshaw has vowed to stop at nothing to exact justice for the victims, whose numbers are still growing…and the next number up could be his own.

Dan Mason sure believes in staking the odds against his hero. Nobody in this story has time for the Ranger, in fact most would rather see him gone – or better yet, dead.

The story is told in a hard-boiled style and has some memorable dialogue exchanges, particularly at the end of the opening chapter.

Mason also keeps the reader guessing as to who is carrying out the killings and why, although the mysterious start to the tale soon becomes a traditional western plotline.

Cranshaw is an interesting character, his failing perhaps being his driving need to see the job through, and to do this without any help; a need that gets him into all kinds of dangerous situations.

This is a fast moving, tough tale, that includes a couple of mysteries along the way, that proved to be a satisfying read, which means I will be picking up the next book in the series sometime soon.

Dan Mason is a pseudonym for Charley McDade.

Friday 26 September 2008

Adam Steele #20

as by George G. Gilman
NEL, April 1979

Adam Steele’s gun was still smoking as the Chinese girl uttered his name with her dying breath. The real killer had escaped and now Steele was on the run with a murder charge on his head.

Steele needed help. Martha Craig and the two Mexican outlaws could provide that if he agreed to assassinate a Mexican government official. To accept would make him a murderer. To refuse would put his neck in the noose for the Chinese girl’s killing. Either way he was in very deep trouble.

George G. Gilman (Terry Harknett) has written a terrific story in Wanted For Murder. His two plotlines twist together in what seems to be an impossible situation for Adam Steele to escape from a free man – or even with his life.

There is plenty of time for Steele to reflect upon his reasons for taking another’s life, as he can relate to the need for vengeance, even though he remains coldly indifferent to the agonizing story behind the assassination attempt. And it’s the fact he only kills to satisfy his own need for revenge, or if he’s in a life or death confrontation, that provides the fascination of this story, that keeps the reader turning the pages to see if Adam Steele can talk, or fight, his way out of having to pull the trigger.

George G. Gilman has a reputation for writing books filled with death and gruesome scenes of descriptive killing, and rightly so in many cases – particularly in his earlier work. The death toll isn’t high in this book, Steele only killing one person - although that’s not the only death within the story. The book is filled with a number of brutal scenes as the tough characters, of both sexes, engage in a gripping battle of wits and nerve. There are a couple of superbly written, tension filled, chase sequences, that’ll keep the reader turning the pages.

If you’re a fan of tough, gritty westerns then this is a book not to be missed.

I must also give credit to Tony Masero, for painting such a superb cover for this book, probably my favourite of the entire Adam Steele series.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Once A Renegade

by Peter Brandvold
Berkley, June 2002

Why half-breed Shambeau killed a couple of men and scalped another wasn’t important to some. Now Sheriff Ben Stillman has a murder case on his hands and as the law prescribes, he must hunt down and hang the renegade. But nobody knows the land better than Shambeau and bringing him in isn’t going to be easy. And with the Sheriff away from town tracking Shambeau, another group of outlaws sees it as the ideal opportunity to rob the bank.

This is the fifth book to feature Sheriff Stillman and Peter Brandvold gives the reader a twist to the posse hunting outlaw plot, by having the hero being part of the posse being killed off brutally one by one by the outlaw, and at anytime Stillman could become one of the victims. This adds some terrific suspense to the hunt.

Also Stillman, knowing he must do as the law says, sympathizes somewhat with the man he is tracking, as both he and Shambeau are relics from a west where revenge was accepted - and that was why Shambeau had killed wasn’t it?

Having Stillman away from town, Peter Brandvold inserts a great subplot with the bank robbery that allows him to bring the townspeople into the story, characters already familiar to readers of this series. But can they succeed in stopping the vicious band of outlaws from getting away with robbery?

This book once more proves that Peter Brandvold can tell a gripping story and I would urge all fans of westerns to check him out if you haven’t already done so.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

The Fourth Horseman

 as by Martin Bishop
A Black Horse Western from Hale, 1989

A mystery rider has appeared and like a phantom he doesn’t leave tracks. Then the killings begin. Sheriff Hall begins putting the pieces together and soon the jigsaw is almost complete. When Talbot is shot the sheriff has reason to believe his theory is correct but then a stranger hits town. A cowboy with his silver decorated saddle and an entourage of bodyguards; he makes quite an impression on the folk of Bannonville. He makes an impression on the sheriff too, but an altogether different one...

Martin Bishop is one of the many pseudonyms used by Lauran Paine and here he starts the book off well with the mystery of the phantom rider. Plenty of questions about this horseman and the ensuing killings pulled me into the story.

Unfortunately I didn’t think Paine kept the mysterious elements going long enough. Shortly into the book the sheriff, and the reader, begin to figure out the plot and this is all to readily revealed in the storyline and all to soon the book falls into a familiar western tale.

The book is written well enough and proves an entertaining read that builds well to its straight forward, no twists, ending. Unfortunately I couldn’t help feeling cheated somewhat as the beginning promised so much.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

The Spanish Bit Saga #12

by Don Coldsmith
Bantam, October 1989

Sky-Eyes was once a French soldier, now he lives with the People and has a wife, Pale Star. Because he speaks the language of the “hairfaces” he leads a small party on a trading mission, to exchange pelts for iron items with the Spanish at Santa Fe. Once there Sky-Eyes is accused of spying while Pale Star attracts the unwanted attention of a Hairface. To get out alive Sky-Eyes must combine his white man’s skills at political maneuvering and his newly learned ways of the people.

Another good entry in this excellent series that sees Don Coldsmith catch the reader’s attention early on with skilled telling of the Peoples way of life, and their beliefs - and Sky-Eyes acceptance of them, even though they go against his teachings.

The description of the journey to Santa Fe builds with tension that explodes with the accusations leveled at Sky-Eyes, leading to an exciting climax.

Maybe not the best entry in the series, but well worth a look as it tells of an interesting time, first trading, in the development of the People.

Monday 22 September 2008

The Trailsman #6

as by Jon Sharpe
Signet, May 1981

Hired by prim schoolteacher Karen Fisher to guide her two wagons of students through one of the most violent territories in the West, it wasn’t long before Fargo learned the truth about the twelve youngsters. Soon it wasn’t just them that posed problems as an army of vicious buffalo hunters saw them as easy pickings. And if they survived that there was a double-cross waiting at their destination...

For anyone wanting to find out about Fargo’s past then this book contains lots of information. It tells how Fargo came to be called Skye Fargo and of his quest for revenge.

Fargo is portrayed as a tough character who doesn’t pull the punches to spare anyone’s feelings. We also find out that Fargo has a mean streak in him as vicious as any of the badmen he comes up against. Surprisingly for an early entry into the series it’s sixty odd pages before Fargo indulges in any adult entertainment.

The book moves at a fast pace and offers all the action expected from a Trailsman book although the mystery elements, that many books in this series contain, are almost non-existent.

Somewhat predictable but still worth a look.

Longarm #353

as by Tabor Evans
Jove, April 2008

Longarm thinks the ten-year-old stealing food in the mercantile store is just a scared kid – until his knife and quick reflexes damn near send the deputy marshal to the happy hunting ground. And when a proper widow unexpectedly comes to the boy’s defense, Longarm finds himself blindsided in more ways than one. But when he learns the boy’s mother and sister have been kidnapped by outlaws planning a big score, Longarm will do anything to get the family back together – no matter who he has to plant on Boot Hill…

This entry into the Longarm series is well written, full of incident and has a puzzle for Long to solve near the end thus adding a touch of mystery to the story. Teaming Longarm up with a ten-year-old makes a change from his usual sidekicks and also allowed the author to create some heart-warming moments as well as add some urgency to the plot, as Longarm and the boy race to save his mother and sister.

Unfortunately it took awhile for the book to get going, after the boy stabs Longarm and is thrown in jail, I felt Longarm’s recovery period was a bit drawn out, although it did allow the author to include one of the obligatory sex scenes.

Overall, though, the story will satisfy most readers of the Longarm series, but for me I’d have liked a stronger plot – one that took up the whole story. For new readers to the series it may be wise to try a different book first. One for Longarm fans only.

Sunday 21 September 2008

Chance #11

as by Clay Tanner
Avon, May 1988

When Chance tracks his missing brother Wyatt to the wilds of West Texas, they stumble on an opportunity that’s just too “golden” to pass up. The key to a conquistador’s dream…an ancient Indian treasure mountain! All that stands between them and the legendary loot is an Apache war party, a crazed prospector, and a treacherous underground maze which could lead to a glittering kingdom of gold…or to Kingdom Come.

Whilst waiting for the Wild Card to be repaired – see the previous book in the series – Chance uses the time to find his brother and gets involved in the events described above.

As usual George W. Proctor (Clay Tanner) writes a fast moving and involving tale that made it difficult for me to put this book down as it races to it’s spectacular ending.

Proctor gives the reader some great secondary characters such as the Anasazi Don-Ha-Ta and the prospector Jess Richardson. Having Chance seeking out his brother allows Proctor to flesh out the background to Chance’s character even more than has been done over the previous books.

Although the plot isn’t anything new in western fiction it is beautifully told and once more has me eager to read more in the series.

Under Outlaw Flags

This is the first in what I hope will be an occasional collection of reviews of books that are advertised as westerns or historical novels that don't really fit the time zone that most readers of westerns expect of their reading material. Books that I think maybe of interest due to their links with western fiction.

by James Reasoner
Berkley, May 1998

1917 and for most the Wild West was long gone. But out where the roads ended the Tacker Gang still managed to make a dishonest living. They knew how to ride, hide and were more than handy with their Colts. But eventually the law caught up with them and they were given a choice - serve your country or serve twenty years in jail.

So the Tacker Gang left the frontier and headed for the front and found the war in Europe was a whole new world, wilder than anything they’d encountered before.

James Reasoner has said this is one his favourite books he has written and it’s easy to see why. He merges the western novel with a war novel with effortless ease making for a gripping read.

His characters are well drawn and the plot moves along at breath taking speed. Some of the situations the Tacker Gang find themselves in allow them to use their experience as outlaws for health or wealth reasons.

I particularly liked the fact that James didn’t have the whole outlaw gang become soldiers, two become pilots thus adding an extra dimension to the story.

To pick out a favourite part of the story is almost impossible as the book is such and entertaining read - although the part when one of them is caught in no-mans-land has stuck in my memory.

Highly recommended.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Gunman's Song

by Ralph Cotton
Signet Jan. 04

This is the first in a series known as Gunman’s Reputation.

Lawrence Shaw once got a boost out of being the quickest gun alive. Now he’s partial to telling gunfighter stories rather than living them. But that doesn’t stop every ornery shootist with an itchy trigger finger from trying to pull iron on Fast Larry Shaw…or a group of gamblers from wagering five grand on who will kill him…or a gang of cutthroats from slaying his wife while in search of him. Racked with guilt for not saving his beloved Rosa, Shaw vows to shorten the life expectancy of her murderers…and any other hardcase who even thinks of sending hot lead his way.

Ralph Cotton writes a gritty story filled with action that holds a couple of surprising revelations, a book that builds smoothly to the final gunfight. His characters are well-drawn and fuelled my imagination, how can you not create a lasting image of an outlaw who paints his thumb nails blue?

Ralph Cotton also adds intrigue by having Shaw’s best friend, Cray Dawson ride with him on the vengeance trail. Dawson and Shaw grew up together and Dawson also loved Rosa, would have married her if she hadn’t taken Shaw for her husband.

Dawson also struggles to come to terms with the gunfighters’ lifestyle as everywhere they go men come out of the woodwork to challenge Shaw, to gain the reputation of being the man who killed Fast Larry Shaw. Other people, those that want to be near him yet are repulsed by him, those who admire and idolize him. Women too who find it a thrill to be in his company.

Dawson is no slouch with a pistol either and soon he gains an unwanted reputation of being a fast gun too.

The author also adds an extra element to the story with the betting, each time Shaw kills the pot gets bigger.

Ralph Cotton seem to enjoy giving his characters fancy names such as Fast Larry Shaw, Undertaker, Sammy Boy White and Blue Snake Terrill.

Well worth a look and I’ll be reading the follow up, Between Hell and Texas, very soon.

Friday 19 September 2008

Death at Dark Water

 by John D. Nesbitt
Leisure, February 2008

All Devon Frost was looking for was peace and quiet. An artist, he came to the remote town of Tinaja to draw the local buildings. He didn’t expect to get caught up in a web of lies, accusation…and murder.

The suitor of a ranch owner’s daughter has been found dead, and everyone seems very quick to put the blame on another suitor. But something doesn’t seem right to Devon. He can’t let an innocent man die. And he’s willing to fight the entire town in order to get to the truth.

If you’re expecting a story packed with gunfights and action filled scenes of danger, then this book may not be the right choice for you. If you enjoy well-told stories that build gently through increasing mystery as to the identity of a killer, and to the reasons for that killing, then this could well be the story for you.

John D. Nesbitt spends a lot of time describing the area Frost finds himself in, especially the buildings, depicting every nook and cranny they contain, thus adding great atmosphere to his story.

When not detailing the landscape, Nesbitt writes convincing exchanges of conversation, that along with beautifully observed body language, create the fascinating character studies that fill this well crafted tale of jealousy and murder.

The book is marketed as historical fiction and I think this is, perhaps, the best term for it, as the time period the book is set in is not clear, and it could be much later than that most western readers define as a “western”.

Death at Dark Water was the first book I’ve read by John D. Nesbitt, and it definitely won’t be the last.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Lone Star #16

as by Wesley Ellis
Jove Nov. 1983

There’s trouble brewing in the Dakotas and a Starbuck ranch is right at its center. To head off violence, Jessie Starbuck and her Samurai bodyguard Ki, go north – and step into a full-blown range war. As Ki tangles with the local guns, Jessie takes on a mad Marquis who won’t stop at murder in his bid to take over the territory…

A series of books of which I have read many, most of which I’ve enjoyed. Not a lot of fighting action in this one, although the book does build to a violent final showdown. Not a surprise to find the Marquis is backed by the Cartel either, who Jessie has been fighting since the death of her father at the beginning of the series.*

The book was entertaining enough and well written, the inclusion of Theodore Roosevelt came over as credible too, he sides Jessie throughout most of the story.

Not a bad entry into the series but in my humble opinion there are better in this long running series – the series reached #153 books.

*This story is told in the first Longarm giant edition, Longarm and the Lone Star Legend. The first book of the Lone Star series begins after that title.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Arrow and Saber #1

as by G.A. Carrington
Dell, 1989

Fort Reynolds, Colorado 1868. Fresh from West Point, Second Lieutenant Marcus Cavanaugh arrives with a platoon of recruits from the East into territory seething with Indian trouble. Two Eagles and his renegade band of Cheyenne warriors have broken the peace, raiding railroad crews and wagon trains, slaughtering men, women, and children, then disappearing into the hills.

Scouting for Two Eagles’ war party, Cavanaugh at last discovers their winter village, barely escaping with his life to report back to the fort. But nothing in his military training has prepared him for the savagery and danger he encounters as he leads his men against the hostile braves in the bloody battle known as the Oushata Massacre.

Like many first books in a series this one takes its time introducing the various characters that may return in the rest of the series – assuming they survive each book.

The author (in this case Robert Vaughan) takes care creating memorable characters, even though they aren’t that different from those in other books the reader may have read about in other U.S. Army tales.

The story itself isn’t very complicated, is a straightforward and easy read, filled with plenty of soldier verses Indian action.

Cavanaugh unwittingly becomes a hero early on, allowing Vaughan to explore some professional jealousy in the ranks of the army, which leads the commanding officer to desire similar hero recognition, and how this blind ambition nearly leads to the destruction of his complete command.

Entertaining and has me looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Sunday 14 September 2008

Gold Fury

by James Gordon White
A Black Horse Western from Hale, 1993

A million dollars in stolen Yankee gold – and only Laura Canby knew where her father had hidden it. Easygoing drifter Ben Harper wasn’t looking for trouble when he helped a beautiful lady in distress, but he ended up in a scorching desert with Laura and some ill-sorted companions: Jason Hearn, a slick con man with a lightning draw, Adam Winston, an unscrupulous ex-Union major, and Captain Randall, an ex-Confederate officer and gentleman turned outlaw. After fighting Mexican bandits and hostile Indians, they arrive at a final showdown, where gold-lust turns men into vicious killers, and the only way to survive is kill or be killed.

Gold Fury is an extremely fast moving and action packed tale filled with well-drawn characters that make this book impossible to put down until the end is reached.

White starts the story gently, even injecting a humorous scene when Harper first meets Laura, this soon leads to a moment of brutal violence and from then on the action doesn’t let up.

As all the various parties attempting to find the missing gold come together, White creates an air of mistrust; the feeling that all will turn on each other the moment the gold is discovered. White also hints that all these people may not be who they say they are, thus adding further intrigue to the tale.

Having read a few other books by White I was expecting an exciting read and that was exactly what I got from Gold Fury, which means I wouldn’t hesitate for one moment in recommending his work.

Saturday 13 September 2008

Ambush on the Mesa

 by Gordon D. Shirreffs
Gold Medal, 1957

A regiment was needed but they sent only one man, Hugh Kinzie, scout for the United States Army. Hugh saddled his dun and rode west. He found the party of men and women ambushed by Red Sleeves, the maniacal chief who hated the white man more than he feared death itself. Now Hugh was trapped with those he’d come to save…and it looked like there was no escape.

Gordon D. Shirreffs writes fast moving, tough prose, and in this case presents the reader with a group of hard to like characters, yet his superb storytelling will have you reading on to see if any of the trapped party can survive.

Although the Apaches hardly appear in the story, except briefly at the end, it’s the ever present threat they pose that that had me hooked. Shirreffs creates an almost palpable tension, and fear, amoung his hemmed in group of soldiers and civilians, that makes for gripping reading as their number is whittled down one by one.

Although Kinzie is the main character, Shirreffs spends almost as much time telling you what the other people are doing and feeling. These parts of the book told in a series of short paragraphs that move from character to character until each has been written about. This way Shirreffs is able to further complicate the tale as each person plots ways in which to escape the trap.

There’s plenty of action as the book leads to its exciting conclusion that left me eager to try more of Gordon D. Shirreffs’ work.

Friday 12 September 2008

Wilderness #57

as by David Thompson
Leisure, September 2008

Few natural wonders inspire Nate King like the Rocky Mountains. But he knows that behind its beauty, the wilderness can be deadly. The Woodrow family is woefully unprepared for the perils of the rough country. Concerned for their safety, Nate agrees to help them search for their missing brother. Yet it doesn’t take long for Nate to feel that they’re the ones being stalked. With Blackfeet on the warpath and vicious wild animals circling ever closer, he’ll need all the survival skills he possesses to keep the Woodrow’s safe and make it back to his own family alive.

The opening chapter contains enough intrigue, around a very memorable character, that had me well and truly hooked immediately. This nursery rhyme spouting woman setting the tone of the book superbly, hinting at the craziness to come.

David Thompson’s (David Robbins) descriptions and cliff-hanger scene endings combine in an almost palpable tension that builds a threat of untold horror in the readers mind, as Nate and his companions begin to discover just what has become of Woodrow’s missing brother.

For me the stand-out part of the book was that of Nate and Tyne facing the four Blackfeet warriors, David Thompson’s words playing the innocence of child against the extremely dangerous reality of the situation in a highly strung moment that creates a scene of savage beauty.

David Thompson, through expertly crafted passages of gripping prose, once more proves why the Wilderness series continues to go from strength to strength, as the story weaves its way along a trail of fear until it’s final shocking revelations.

Thursday 11 September 2008

Herne the Hunter #11

as by John J. McLaglen
Corgi, 1979

Wild Rose City, Dakota Territory. Eliza and Lily Sowren ran the town with a fist of iron. Eliza tall and bony, Lily short and fat – both as tough as nails. On the surface they were both pictures of elderly virtue but beneath something altogether different… As Jed Herne found out when the sisters called on his special talents to protect their silver mine from an unknown gang of thieves and murderers…

‘Darling, I am growing old,
Silver threads among the gold
Shine upon my brow today;
Life is fading fast away.’

John J. McLaglen is a pseudonym shared by Laurence James and John Harvey. This book was written by Laurence James.

The Sowren sisters make for two very memorable characters, James paints a gentle image of them, then through hints and finally actions brings out their real personalities in a series of shocking revelations, including sadistic torture and other perversions. These two elements often turn up in books written by James, but by having them as the darker side of two sweet old ladies, helps make them two of the most memorable characters James created.

Silver Threads also contains an equally memorable challenge to Herne’s reputation as a fast gun. The shootist trying to avoid the confrontation, even though he knows what the inevitable outcome will be. This scene is beautifully captured by the cover artist right down to the correct colour clothing.

For me, Silver Threads has always been one of the strongest entries in the Herne the Hunter series, and re-reading it now, confirms this is still so.

If you like tough, brutal, westerns then this book is well worth checking out – as is the whole series in my opinion. After Edge, Herne the Hunter is my favourite series to come from the group of authors known as the Piccadilly Cowboys.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Dakota Lawman #2

by Bill Brooks
HarperTorch, June 2005

This is the second Dakota Lawman book.

Jake Horn was on the dodge for a crime he didn't commit. The town of Sweet Sorrow took him in and rewarded him with a badge he never wanted. Still, this out-of-the-way Dakota hellhole is a good place for a man to get lost in. Then William Sunday arrives, he's suffering from an illness that will soon claim his life and he's determined to reconcile with his daughter before his body does him in – or the band of bounty hunters hot on his trail. Then there's the man who killed his wife and children, a man Horn must bring to justice…

The title and blurb for this book are a bit misleading in that they indicate that William Sunday is the main storyline of this tale; in fact the hunt for the man who kills his family and it's effects on other people are the major storylines of this book.

The idea of Sunday dying of cancer can't help but bring comparisons to John Wayne's last film, The Shootist.

Bill Brooks manages to create a strong depressing atmosphere to the town of Sweet Sorrow, a backdrop for his, mainly, sad characters to act out their miserable lives. Brooks spends a lot of time explaining his characters past lives and following events that bring them to Sweet Sorrow – such as a wagon load of saloon girls.

Action comes at regular intervals and is often described in all its brutal violence and the reader has to wonder how many of the stories characters will be alive at the end of the book.

Like the first book in this series I felt it would have been better a little shorter, but even so Killing Mr. Sunday is a gripping read and is worth a look by any fan of the western genre if you like the harder, grittier approach to your reading material.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Gunn #2

by Jory Sherman
Zebra, 1980

No one left the town of Cuchillo alive because Pace Jerez, the man who owned it, wanted it that way. And no one left Paula’s cantina unloved because she wanted it way. But Gunn had never been in Cuchillo before and he didn’t know the rules.

Gunn manages to intervene in the slaughter of a family but only manages to save the beautiful Zolia. Seems her father has a journal that Jerez wants. Gunn teams up with Zolia to get even with Jerez.

There's plenty of action in this story, of more than one kind – this book is billed as an adult western.

Jory Sherman manages to portray a town living in fear well, building up a tense atmosphere. The town is filled with people who soon come to look upon Gunn as their saviour, if he can live long enough, as Jerez does what he can to kill Gunn.

At times the violence is very descriptive, particularly the brutal death of one of the women.

There’s mystery too as Gunn attempts to find the journal and work out just what secrets it contains and why Jerez will kill to get it.

If you like bloody violence, bad language and a few rounds of adult action then this could be just the book for you.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Cutter #2

as by Duff McCoy
Pinnacle, October 1990

Simon Crow and his desert scum bust into a small trail store hungry for blood. The old storekeeper and his wife were helpless against them. A lone drifter witnessed the killings at gunpoint, taking a headshot that left him unconscious while Crow picked his pockets and left him to rot. But hate burned too deep in Jeb Cutter to let him die. Now he’ll track each man like an animal and butcher the outlaws in a mad-dog killing spree that’ll take him clear across Kansas in a trail of hot gore and sweet revenge!

This series is supposed to be written in the tradition of Edge, and the violence does at time mirror that series, but what it lacks is a main hero I cared about, didn’t care whether he was successful in his quest or died in the attempt.

The book was easy enough to read, didn’t have a complicated plot or many twists to the tale. At times I wonderd if McCoy (Charley W. Perlberg) forgot the type of western he was writing, as one minute Cutter was calling the men he trailed “bastards” and then in the next sentence “jaspers” which came across as him being a pulp western hero from the 1940/50’s instead of the brutal hero based on spaghetti western anti-heroes, this, at times, made Cutter seem like two different characters.

Having said that, if you want a fast, violent, read that’s not going to tax the brain too much, then this book could be the escapism you need.

Friday 5 September 2008

Where Legends Ride

edited by Matthew P. Mayo
Express Westerns, November 2007

Where Legends Ride is a collection of 14 short stories, written especially for this book, by a group of authors who nearly all write for the Black Horse Western series published by Robert Hale of England. There’s a mix of long time writers, who’ve had many westerns published by Hale, to those new to the genre.

As to be expected from such a collection there’s a wide mix of tales and styles to be found in this book. You’ll find up-lifting stories, those that cover much darker themes, and the traditional western tale. Plots include high-noon showdowns, lynchings, raging prairie fires and scrub-country manhunts, not to mention one or two excellent twists to the end of some of the stories.

One thing they all have in common is that they are all fast moving tales filled with action that should appeal to all western readers.

For me it was a chance to try authors new to me, such as Matthew P. Mayo, Ross Morton and Derek Rutherford. All stood up well to those who’ve been around for a while and have become long-time favourites of mine, like Jack Giles, Lance Howard and Ben Bridges.

Where Legends Ride is a fine example of a western anthology and really doesn’t contain any weak stories. All those involved in this book should be justly proud of themselves and I look forward to their next collaboration.

Table of contents:
The Prodigal Chuck Tyrell
Easier Than Working Gillian F. Taylor
A Time to Live Jack Giles
Pretty Polly Duane Spurlock
The Ballad of Jessie Barnett Lance Howard
Bubbles Ross Morton
Once Upon a Time in Mirage L.J. Parnham
The Man Who Tracked a River Derek Rutherford
Crazy She Called Him Roy Carlton
Stretch-Hemp Station Ben Bridges
Desert Surrender Kit Churchill
Hecate P. McCormac
Snows of Montana Matthew P. Mayo
Hard Times for the Pecos Kid Lee Pierce

Thursday 4 September 2008

Searcher #6

as by Josh Edwards
Diamond, November 1991

John Stone didn't expect too much from the Texas range – just the chance to be reunited with the only woman he loved. But that was before he laid eyes on Cassandra Whiteside, the beautiful mistress of the Triangle Spur ranch…and a dead ringer for his long lost Marie. It doesn't take long for Stone to get on the bad side of the old colonel who calls the Triangle Spur and Cassandra his private property. Soon Stone has added a pair of scheming cowhands and the wicked owner of a rival ranch to his dance card of enemies. Who said ranchers live longer than soldiers?

This is another excellent entry in the SEARCHER series.

Josh Edwards, a pseudonym for Leonard Levinson, writes a fast paced book that keeps the reader guessing to the outcome, as Stone's enemies grow in number to what must be unbeatable odds.

All the characters are superbly portrayed, many having dark secrets. There's even an ex-slave of Stone's, who swears he'll kill Stone the first chance he gets.

One of my favourite characters has to be the man who lives in a cave who says Stone will end his days living in one too, it's the safest place to be. A man full of despair, like Stone. It's no wonder they decide to go to Kansas because if they're lucky the Comanche will kill them on the way!

Stone's big drunk, on a night in town, leads to some terrific scenes, such as a drunken gunfight in a bar that sees neither Stone or his opponent able to hit anything they aim at.

And what of Stone's search for Marie? Maybe it's ended with the heart- stopping discovery of a woman who looks just like her. I guess you'll have to read the book to find out.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Trailsman Giant Edition #6

Idaho Blood Spoor
as by Jon Sharpe
Signet, February 2006

When the son of one of the wealthiest men in country goes missing in the dangerous Oregon border country, Skye Fargo, along with a motley crew of renowned frontiersmen, get asked to find him. With twenty thousand dollars going to whoever succeeds. Not only does Fargo have the dangers of the trail to contend with he also has the other trackers to keep an eye on as that kind of money brings all the worst out in them.

Jon Sharpe - in this case David Robbins - comes up with a cracking entry into the series with Idaho Blood Spoor. It has all the elements I expect from a Trailsman book, a great fast moving plot, mystery elements, characters whose motives come under suspicion, tests of friendships, violent action, odds you’ve just got to wonder how Fargo can take on and win, and a writing style that makes the book impossible to put down.

The most gripping sequence, for me, is when Fargo and company come under threat from a mysterious marksman, this was sheer edge of the seat stuff!

All the elements of the story come together in a terrific ending with no threads left untied.

I’d also like to pass acknowledgement to the cover artist, the lower picture is superb.

Monday 1 September 2008

Outlaws #5

by Chet Cunningham
Leisure, July 1990

They were young, mean and deadly, five escaped outlaws running from the law and every bounty hunter in the West. The odds were against them ever growing old, but they vowed to stick together until the bitter end.

Thrown in jail for cutting up a gringo in a fair fight, Juan Romero rode with the Outlaws and had been with them ever since. Juan had left his wife and young son behind in Mexico, but on his return he found they were far from safe. Taken prisoner by a murderous officer of the federales called Batista, they faced certain torture and death – unless the Outlaws could drown Batista and his thugs in pools of their own blood.

This book doesn’t let up on the action as Romero searches for his family. At times it seems as if the entire story is one long gunfight. Chester Cunningham puts Romero through some heartbreaking trials as each lead turns up a blank, each time he thinks he’s found his family he finds it’s only the beginning of another trail. Romero’s frustrations come over strongly as his rage builds.

There is a major gaffe in one of the early battles, and that’s when we are told there are twelve dead littering the ground, three paragraphs later and they’ve magically become fourteen!

Still, that mistake aside, this is an entertaining enough read but be warned, if you don’t like violence directed at babies and young children do not read this.