Saturday 31 October 2009

The Trailsman #336

as by Jon Sharpe

Signet, October 2009

After Fargo takes a job protecting a stagecoach, he ends up facedown in the dirt. When he comes to, a man is dead, the money is stolen, and an entire town blames Fargo. But a beautiful backwoods nurse knows Fargo was drugged, and Fargo suspects that someone set him up for a fall. Now he has to find out who’s trying to heap shame on his good name – and pay back the favor with hot lead.

Jon Sharpe fills this book with an excellent set of characters, many of whom Fargo doesn’t know whether he can trust – after all most of the town want to hang him for something he wasn’t responsible for. There are evil outlaws, a man suffering through guilt, a lawman who can’t prove his suspicions, those of both sexes driven by greed, the innocent caught up in events out of their control, and, the expected, handful of sensual women. Many of these people are out to double-cross each other too. Just a few of these well-drawn characters would be enough to hold a readers attention, but this amount means they take a firm grip and won’t let go until you find out how everything is resolved.

Jon Sharpe writes this book in an easy to read style, constantly switching from one character to another, gradually unveiling who is behind what, bringing a number of them together for a suspenseful final showdown. There’s not as much gunplay as in some Trailsman books but the devious lives of the many characters more than makes up for this. Even when the author reveals the bad guys, and their plans, you’re never quite sure how the story will finish.

I’m sure this book will please all Trailsman fans, and those who just dip into the series from time to time.

Friday 30 October 2009

The Staked Plains

as by Billy Moore
A Black Horse Western from Hale, October 2009

When buffalo-hide hunter, Quentin McLeod, rescues Carlotta Mainord from Comanche raiders, their struggle is still far from over. They must face further hostility from the Indians, flash floods and white brigands, only to find themselves in even greater danger when they arrive in the apparent safety of New Mexico.

Carlotta Mainord is attacked and left helpless in a coma and McLeod is blamed and accused of being a Comanchero. Can he convince the hanging jury of his innocence and will he escape the lynch mob in time?

The story begins in the middle of McLeod’s rescue of Carlotta and provides some excellent action sequences, as does the subsequent flight for freedom. During this Billy Moore spends time fleshing out his two main characters’ back story and develops the growing attraction between them – Carlotta at first mistrusting McLeod’s motives: after all he was a Galvanized Yankee!

Once McLeod finds himself held prisoner by the US Army, the story changes pace a little and becomes a war of words in a fascinating and suspenseful trial. Billy Moore introduces two real characters here that help with McLeod’s defence, these being Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving.

Billy Moore has also come up with a wonderfully evil bad guy, Ian Richards, who seems one step ahead of everyone, even though he’s seen to be slowing slipping into the grip of craziness.

The book finishes with a frantic escape bid that ends in a dramatic, and memorable, scene.

I don’t know anything about Billy Moore – even if this is the authors real name or a pseudonym – and it looks like The Staked Plains is his first Black Horse Western. On the strength of this book I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for more.

For those interested in cover art this book features a painting by Tony Masero (he who painted the majority of the covers for George G. Gilman’s westerns in the UK).

The Staked Plains has its official release on October 30th, and I’d suggest getting your order in soon, before it sells out.

Thursday 29 October 2009

The Battle for Skillern Tract

as by Matt Laidlaw

A Black Horse Western from Hale, October 2009

When desperate ex-Confederate officer Zac Hunter rides into Nacogdoches, he has his mind set on bank robbery. What he finds when he walks into the bank is a robbery already in progress and town marshal Dan McCrae dying from gunshot wounds.

Hunter is accused of murder by councillor Morgan Jarrow, then abruptly offered the job of town marshal. He is forced to serve notice on businessmen drilling for oil on the Skillern tract, crosses swords with lawyer Tyne Coburn and the two gunslingers Yantze and Levin, and must decide if Deputy Quint’s strange confession is the truth.

As the various factions in Nacogdoches struggle for supremacy, Hunter is drawn into a vicious cycle of treachery and murder. The showdown would come in a blazing gunfight on the Skillern tract.

Matt Laidlaw really heaps problem upon problem for his hero, Zac Hunter. Questions about motives, who is really who they say they are, and who he can trust, all grabbed my attention and made this a very difficult book to put down.

The story takes place over a three-day period, and Matt Laidlaw weaves his fictional characters, and how it could have happened, with true events. Oil was discovered on the Skillern tract on the day it is in the story: the author adding some notes at the end explaining this and which people in the book are real.

Matt Laidlaw is a pseudonym for writer John Paxton Sheriff, and this author really knows how to build on his storyline, creating a book filled with mistrusts, deceit, greed and plenty of action. The final showdown making for some very exciting reading as all sides converge on the drilling site.

Even though I have other books by John Paxton Sheriff in my collection I never got around to reading any. After reading this one I’m sure going to be rectifying this soon.

The Battle for Skillern Tract will be officially released on October 30th, but it should be available from Internet booksellers now.

Monday 26 October 2009

Death Ground

By Ed Gorman

Leisure, November 2009

The bank’s been robbed, two men are dead, and there’s a $1,000 reward on the head of a mountain man called Kriker. Leo Guild is just as eager as anyone to collect the bounty. But he also knows—from personal experience—the law has been wrong before. He wants to hear Kriker’s side of the story before making any rash judgments. So he sets off through the icy wilderness to track his quarry. The deeper Guild goes in the mountains, the more he realizes that in this case the law and the truth are not at all on the same side. If he wants justice, he’ll have to find it for himself…whatever the price.

To my knowledge this is the second of Ed Gorman’s Leo Guild books, and the second to be reprinted by Leisure. The story is superbly written and has a very dark tone to it. Guild carries his own ghosts, there are a couple of characters hiding their own pasts, and an outbreak of cholera hangs over them all.

Ed Gorman spends quite a bit of time fleshing out his characters back stories, writing some lengthy passages about their past life and how they came to be where they are, particularly in the case of Kriker and the little girl he calls his own. Then there is the Bruckner brothers, one you’ll soon detest and the other, perhaps, feel sorry for.

Guild’s quest to discover the truth of who killed who, and why, makes for some fascinating and well thought-out reading. Once Guild has these answers he finds himself in a race against time to free a kidnapped, and very sick, little girl.

The story is filled with hard-hitting scenes as it moves towards its tragic and emotionally charged ending.

Death Ground has made me realise I’ve overlooked some great reading by never having read any of the Guild books before, so I can only hope that Leisure continue to reprint the remaining books so that those of us who missed out the first time can join the ranks of those who enjoyed them first time around.

Ed Gorman is definitely a writer who should be on all western fans must read list.

Death Ground should be in the stores any day, although it is available from Internet sellers now.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Iron Eyes Makes War

as by Rory Black

A Black Horse Western from Hale, October 2009

The infamous bounty hunter, Iron Eyes, is forced to chase the wanted outlaw Joe Brewster down into an arid desert even though he has been badly wounded in a showdown with Brewster’s brothers.

Losing his pony, Iron Eyes is forced to follow on foot. To his surprise, he discovers an oasis in a valley. Iron Eyes trails the outlaw into the valley and soon finds that a few families are living there under the threat of death by Don Miguel Sanchez and his army of vaqueros.

Will Iron Eyes leave or fight until the bloody showdown?

Rory Black is a pseudonym used by Michael D. George for his Iron Eyes books, and this is the twelfth in the series. You don’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy this story.

Iron Eyes makes for a dramatic hero just by his appearance alone, his emaciated build and his scar-covered face make for a memorable character. One thing that many readers may not like about Iron Eyes is his views on and treatment of horses – so if you’re a horse lover you may prefer to skip this one. For those of us who do read this we get an action packed story of a single man taking on massive odds, although he does get some unexpected help. We also see a touch of tenderness from Iron Eyes – a man who is presented as a cold killer who cares nothing for others – with his words to a child, perhaps there is some kindness within him after all?

The book is easy to read and thunders along at a rapid pace building well to its savage finale that should provide a satisfactory read for most western fans.

I mentioned Iron Eyes’ appearance earlier, and this really makes me wish Hale could afford to commission cover paintings for its books, as I’m sure artists could come up with some truly spectacular images of this skeletal man.

Iron Eyes Makes War has a publication date of October 30th, but it is available now from many Internet booksellers.

Thursday 22 October 2009


by Frank Roderus

Leisure, November 2009

Harlan Breen may be a robber, but he’d never kill anyone. Harlan Jarrett, on the other hand, has no problem with murder, but no one knows about that yet. So when a dying woman lives just long enough to identify her killer as “Harlan,” well, it’s only natural they’d arrest Harlan Breen. Breen knows he’s innocent, but he also knows he’ll swing for sure if he can’t break out of prison and find the real murderer before they lead him up those gallows steps.

Having read many books by Frank Roderus, but always written under pseudonyms, I was looking forward to reading this, my first under his own name. From the opening paragraph I was hooked, and as the story developed so did my curiosity as to the outcome.

There are many gruesome deaths throughout but Frank Roderus doesn’t describe them during the actual killings, instead he tells of these horrors through the eyes of those who are unfortunate enough to discover the bodies.

Harlan Breen and Harlan Jarrett are very different characters and the book switches regularly through series' of chapters about both of them, and, at times, other people. It’s Breen who Frank Roderus writes about the most. The fear Breen has for being arrested for the killings he didn’t commit comes across well as he attempts to track down Jarrett and clear his own name. Frank Roderus also includes many light-hearted moments that balance the overall dark theme of the book.

Frank Roderus writes in a smooth flowing style that moves the story forward at rapid pace. Frank’s chapters, mostly, are very short. His descriptions are visual and his dialogue natural.

If you’re a fan of Frank Roderus then this book is a must have, and if you’ve always wanted to try one of his books then this would definitely be a good starting point.

Harlan has a publication date of November 1st, but is available now from the usual Internet booksellers.

Wednesday 21 October 2009


as by Logan Winters
A Black Horse Western from Hale, October 2009

Of what use is a deserted ghost town? None at all unless like the old desert rat, Josh Banks and his young partner, Wage Carson, you have nowhere else to go and are tired of sleeping out with the rattlesnakes. In Hangtown, at least, they would have some shelter from the elements, some water for their weary mounts. In the spirit of things the two saddle bums vote Josh mayor of Hangtown and appoint Wage town marshal.

They weren’t alone for long. Within days the painted ladies arrived, followed by a detachment of soldiers. Things were already out of control when four rough-looking strangers arrived seeking a brief respite from the harsh desert. There was to be no respite for any of them, especially for Josh and Marshal Carson. It was not long before gunplay erupted and the silent town was prodded to violent life.

This is probably the shortest Black Horse Western to be released this month but Logan Winters (Paul Lederer) sure packs enough action and well-drawn characters into his story to make you think you’re reading a much longer tale. The pace is electrifying, not once does the story drag, in fact Hangtown is a very difficult book to put down before you’ve read the final word.

The story follows most of Hangtown’s new residents equally, perhaps Carson having centre-stage a little more than anyone else. Each character captures the imagination well, making you care about what will happen to them – even the four bank robbers. Paul Lederer includes a touch of romance between the shy Carson and a young girl travelling with the painted ladies, Liza, which seems to be heading for a happy ending. Whether it turns out that way I’m not going to say, but I will add that not many of the characters are alive at story end.

Once more Paul Lederer has come up with a book that should be on the reading list of those who enjoy fast paced, action-packed, traditional westerns.

Hangtown has an official release date of October 30th, but is already available through Internet bookstores.

Monday 19 October 2009

The Guns of Sapinero

as by Frank Leslie
Signet, October 2009

Colter Farrow may be young, but ever since his stepfather was savagely murdered, his blood has boiled with a rage just as great as any man’s. Now, riding with a Remington as his only company, he sets out on a journey for justice.

The bloodied path of vengeance leads him to the town of Sapinero – a place that harbors men without conscience or guilt. The inexperienced Colter wants to settle some scores, but he’s unnerved by the murderous darkness that lurks within his own heart. As his list of targets grows and the harsh truths behind his stepfather’s brutal death are laid bare, Colter realizes that revenge can claim more than just his life.

The gruesome, and very visual, descriptions of a man crucified in a wagon bed being feasted upon by vultures whilst still alive, sets the tone for this book beautifully. The story is packed with savage, and bloody, killings and torture (brandings), but it’s not just the violence that hits hard, so do the emotions that fuel Farrow’s quest. Seeing him change from being a carefree cowhand to questioning his abilities to track down his stepfather’s killers, struggling with his inexperience with killing and surviving in this brutal land, fearing how to tell his stepmother the truth about her husband, all make for fascinating, and gripping, reading.

Of course it’s no secret to western fans that Frank Leslie is a pseudonym used by Peter Brandvold and this book definitely lives up to our expectations of his work, and introduces us to his latest hero, as this book is the first in a new series.

There’s even a brief guest appearance by one of Peter Brandvold’s other heroes, Lou Prophet, that has a lasting impact on Colter Farrow.

The Guns of Sapinero is a well-told, fast moving, violent, story that is a terrific introduction to Colter Farrow and has me eagerly awaiting the publication of the next book in the series, The Killers of Cimarron.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Longarm and the Lone Star Trackdown

as by Tabor Evans
Jove, October 2009

(Giant Edition #27)

A violent storm’s brewing in Indianola, but Custis Long isn’t paying much mind. Instead, he’s hoping to finally nab a hard case he’s been chasing. And Longarm has other, more pleasurable plans with an old friend – the lusty, busty heiress Jessica Starbuck…

Meanwhile, the squall turns into a deadly flood – and an armed French dandy manages to kidnap Jessica for ransom. Now Longarm will have to keep his head above water if he wants to save his life – and a heiress’s hide…

This is the fourth giant edition to pitch Longarm against a new cartel, and even though this book is a self-contained story it does mention events of the previous three books, and brings all the carried over plotlines to a conclusion, so it may be an idea to read the earlier books first: Longarm and the Outlaw Empress, Longarm and the Golden Eagle Shoot-Out, and Longarm and the Valley of Skulls.

Like the other three mentioned giant editions this one also sees Longarm teaming up with stars of other western series, in this case the main ones being Jessica Starbuck and Ki – there is a third well know western star who appears near the end but I’ll leave you to find out who that is yourselves. Of course Jessie and Ki have appeared in a number of Longarm giants, the first 10 in fact, plus the first of those mentioned above.

Like the others in this arc of giants the man behind the Tabor Evans pseudonym is James Reasoner. James has written an excellent story here that I found very difficult to put down. The reasons for Jessie’s kidnapping are kept secret until near the end but James is a master at revealing little hints that keep you reading until you find out the answer, and I must say I didn’t work it out before James wanted me to know.

As this book is part of an adult series there is the usual quota of sex, and you may be forgiven thinking there’s a lot of it at the beginning, but once each main character has indulged in this particular pleasure, that’s pretty much it, and the book picks up speed and before long it’s racing along like a runaway horse.
There are many exciting gunfights, including one involving a cannon, but, for me, I think some of the best scenes are during the destruction of Indianola. James’ prose being extremely visual in putting over the horrors that Mother Nature can inflict on the world and those unfortunate to be caught up in it.

As I’ve already said the story does conclude with bringing down the new cartel – and does so in a terrific violent showdown - but James finishes the book with a final line that will leave you wondering what lies in store for Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long in the future.

Monday 12 October 2009

Tim McGuire Texas Cowboys

Here's Tim McGuire talking about his August 2009 book Texas Cowboys.

Western Fiction News: A Competition

Caroline Fyffe's western romance Where the Wind Blows (published by Dorchester) has been getting rave reviews and might be of interest to some of you who follow this blog. The book has also been optioned to be made into a movie.

Caroline is offering one lucky person the chance to win a stay at a California dude ranch, all you have to do is watch a short book preview video and write your version of the last line to the story. Closing date is December 1st. Follow this link for more details.

Reading Habits

Gary over at Tainted Archive memed me with these reading habit questions so here’s my answers…

Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack?
Very rarely.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
Horrifies me. I like them to look as new after I’ve read them.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
Bookmarks. Used to rely on memory but as I’ve got older….

Laying the book flat open?

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Around about 99% fiction.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Have never listened to an audio book. Doesn’t appeal to me.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
I can put it down at any point but do try to do this at chapter end if possible…but then again some authors make it impossible to leave a book at chapter end.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
I can usually work its meaning out. If there’s a dictionary nearby I’ll look it up there and then, if not I’ll remember it and look it up when I can.

What are you currently reading?
Harlan by Frank Roderus and The Guns of Sapinero by Frank Leslie – which I guess kinda answers a question to come.

What is the last book you bought?
The Rattlesnake Season by Larry D. Sweazy.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
Sometimes, although it’s rare. I read a few on the computer but as I don’t want to spend too much time before a computer screen – and as the computer stays in one room – I’ll read a book at the same time.

Do you have a favourite time of day and/or place to read?
Anytime, anyplace. Quite often I try to read for an hour or so after getting in from work, giving my body time to relax.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
I collect series so therefore read more series books, but I enjoy stand alone titles just as much.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Not really. It would depend whom I’m recommending an author to.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
As most of my collection is made up of series books then that’s how they get stored, in number/publication order. The size of the bookcase dictates which series is on which shelf and I try to keep all books from one series on the same shelf. Stand alone titles are dotted around to fill gaps, although I do try to keep the same authors’ work together. Due to space many of the books I read end up in storage.

Joanne Walpole, consider yourself memed.

Friday 9 October 2009


by David Robbins
Leisure, May 1997

The wide open boomtown of Diablo was a tinderbox in the blistering Arizona sun, just waiting for a spark to set it off. It looked like every prospector, gunman and hard-luck case west of the Mississippi had hit town, desperate to get what he could, and to hell with everyone else. Trouble was, that made Diablo one mean town: The homesteaders hated the prospectors and the miners, and both sides hated the cowboys and the ranchers.

Lee Scurlock was the spark Diablo was dreading. He was riding to escape his past in the dirty Lincoln County War, and trying to mind his own business at the stage relay station when three cowboys took it into their heads to make trouble. When the shooting stopped, one of the cowboys was dead, and Scurlock had found himself some serious trouble – trouble that would follow him when he rode with the stage into the blazing man-made hell of Diablo.

This book is filled with strong characters, both men and women. There’s the rancher, Kemp, who has a number of fast guns on his payroll, a man everyone believes is behind the ‘troubles’. Diablo is in desperate need of a lawman and a fast gun is in town to take the job. Lee Scurlock, a man with the law on his tail and a fast gun on his hip, finds himself drawn into this tangled web of confusion and mistrust. Throughout the story the reader – and Scurlock - is never quite sure as to just who is on whose side and who can be trusted.

Not only does David Robbins provide the reader with a fast moving action packed tale, he also manages to weave in some love interest which helps make the characters involved even more believable and real.

A book I didn’t want to put down until finished. A book that, maybe, will have the reader surprised that it doesn’t turn out how you’d expect, as in who lives, dies and comes out on top.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Barjack and the Unwelcome Ghost

by Robert J. Conley
Leisure, September 2009

Marshal Barjack likes to keep peace and quiet in the tiny town of Asininity. It’s better for business at the Hooch House, the saloon that Barjack owns. But peace and quiet got mighty hard to come by once Harm Cody came to town. Cody’s made a lot of enemies over the years and some of them are hot on his trail, aiming to kill him—including a Cherokee named Miller and a pretty little sharpshooter named Polly Pistol. And when the Asininity bank gets robbed, well, now Cody has a whole new bunch of enemies…including Barjack.

Although I’ve read other books by Robert J. Conley, this was the first time I’d read one of his Barjack books. Barjack is a great character who seems to spend more time with his woman and drinking whiskey than working in his marshalling office. The book is written in the first person and Barjack has some great outlooks on life, and has a pretty sharp tongue, dishing out some superb sarcasm throughout the story.

Harm Cody makes for an excellent bad guy who gives Barjack and his friends a real problem as they chase him down only to have him disappear time and again. This all makes for some very entertaining reading. Cody’s ability to vanish from under Barjack’s nose soon has him thinking he’s chasing a ghost.

As well as plenty of action, Robert J. Conley includes some very funny moments, such as the laugh-out-loud scene involving a bathtub.

The only problem I had with the book was the writing style in that it took a bit of getting used to. Conley writes the book as his characters speak, so there is plenty of slang and wrongly spelt words – for instance seed instead of saw, tuck instead of took, skeered instead of scared, drawed instead of drew, and Churkee instead of Cherokee. Once I’d read a page or two and got used to this way of writing I found myself enjoying it and found it gave the book a charm all of its own.

This story has definitely got me wanting to check out more of Robert J. Conley’s Barjack books, seems I’ve been missing out on a great series.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Beyond the Crimson Skies

as by Owen G. Irons
A Black Horse Western from Hale, September 2009

Kendo was looking for salvation as well as retribution. Of these two retribution was the simpler to exact. Losing Frank Pierce’s horse herd to raiding gunmen had not been his fault, but it was bound to ruin Kendo’s reputation which had already been severely darken by past failure.

Left alone and afoot on the open plains by treacherous companions, he needed to track down the outlaws and recapture the horses, the sale of which Pierce was banking on to save his small ranch. That alone was a vast challenge and Kendo couldn’t know how much worse it could get before he encountered the beautiful woman who was intent on building an outlaw empire in the far country.

Having really enjoyed the previous books I’ve read written by Paul Lederer under the pseudonyms of Owen G. Irons and Logan Winters I was really looking forward to reading this one.

Like his other books Beyond The Crimson Skies takes off like a shot and doesn’t let up in pace, sweeping the reader along on a roller coaster ride of a fast moving plot and even faster guns. After only a few pages you’ll be wondering, like the hero Kendo, as to who is behind the theft of the horses and can Kendo retrieve them?

The book is filled with an excellent selection of characters, of both sexes. Kendo also finds himself facing past demons. Descriptions are superbly written, be they of landscape or action, and the dialogue is handled equally as well. Although the story doesn’t have any real twists or surprises to the outcome, the book is as good a read as I hoped and I’m looking forward to Paul Lederer’s next.

Beyond the Crimson Skies was officially released on September 30th, and due to how fast BHW seem to sell-out these days, I’d suggest getting your order in soonest so as not to be disappointed.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Western Fiction News

For those who enjoy westerns with strong mystery storylines then keep an eye-out for these two books coming from Leisure. Killstraight by Johnny D. Boggs will be released in December 2009 and Crucifixion River by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini will be published in February 2010.

If my review of Gunsmoke has you eager for more of T.T. Flynn’s work, then I’ve been informed that Leisure will be publishing Last Waltz at Wild Horse in May 2010.

For those who follow the adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long, Clint Adams and John Slocum, you’ll be pleased to know the next giant editions in all three series will be hitting the shelves during the next three months.

Longarm Giant Edition #27: Longarm and the Lone Star Trackdown has a publishing date of October 2009.

The Gunsmith Giant Edition #14: Lincoln’s Revenge has a November 2009 release date.

Slocum Giant Edition #15: Slocum’s Great Race has a release date of December 2009.

All books in these series, including the Giants, usually appear towards the end of the previous month than during the actual published date month, and the Longarm book has been out for a while now, in fact it will be reviewed here in a few days time.