Sunday 29 August 2010

Death Rider

as by Boyd Cassidy
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2010

When mountain man Rufas Kane stumbles across the body of a harmless cowboy on a hillside overlooking the spirited town of Death, the question everybody is asking themselves is: why would anyone want to kill Dan Cooper?

When one of Gene Adams’ cowboys is killed in a gunfight with the ruthless Trey Skinner, it becomes apparent that Skinner is the man responsible for Cooper’s untimely death. But all is not as it seems.

As the night goes on, an alarming spate of killings shake the town to its foundations, but Gene Adams vows to find the answer and the killer before dawn or die in the attempt.

Boyd Cassidy sure got me hooked very quickly with the question of why are these killings taking place, surely it can’t be as simple as a serial killer just fulfilling his need to kill? Boyd Cassidy also ensures you keep reading by using many cliff-hanger chapter and scene endings, making the book difficult to put down before reaching the last page.

The story moves forwards at a very fast pace as everying takes place during a single night. The death toll is impressive as the killer guns down his seemingly random victims. Adams, his cowboys, and the local law, struggle to work out why these people are being killed and how to catch a killer who disappears like a ghost, and at times seems to be in more than one place at a time. Trey Skinner makes for a terrific bad guy as he runs rings around everyone in the strangely named town of Death.

I’ve not read any other books by Boyd Cassidy, but have read others by the author who writes behind this pseudonym: Michael D. George. One thing I did notice, which is extremely rare for a Black Horse Western, was the lack of women in the story. In fact there’s only a couple mentioned fleetingly, although one of them does get a couple of lines to speak. This has made me interested in finding out if women appear, or not, in the previous nine books by Boyd Cassidy.

Overall, I found Death Rider to be an entertaining read that will see me trying another of this authors books sometime down the trail.

Death Rider is officially released at the end of August but is available now from the usual Internet booksellers.

Thursday 26 August 2010

The Trailsman #346

as by Jon Sharpe
Signet, August 2010

Arkansas, 1860 – where the Trailsman finds himself in hot water in more ways than one.

Fargo jumps into the deep end of trouble when he helps young Dave Harrigan fight off two bushwhackers. Harrigan is heading to Hot Springs to look for his father, who went there for the healing powers of the waters. Someone doesn’t want Harrigan to make it to town. And the Trailsman knows that before this is over, the blood is going to blow like a geyser of gore.

Like the many of books in this long running series, Arkansas Ambush has a touch of mystery to its gripping plot. This story is also filled with many surprises that keep catching Fargo unprepared, unable to react instantly to them, which place the Trailsman in deadly danger at times.

The plot revolves around damage being done to hotels and each of these premises owners are extremely well drawn characters that all provide headaches for Fargo. Is one of them behind the troubles? These aren’t the only people Fargo has to deal with, as there is also a lawman that seems intent on driving the Trailsman out of town or locking him up in jail. Again the question is why?

Jon Sharpe – in this case James Reasoner - also throws in an excellent twist to the tale that leads to an exciting finale that ties up all the plot threads neatly.

Arkansas Ambush is another book that I’d recommend to not just to fans of the Trailsman series, but to anyone who enjoys fast moving, action packed, westerns. 

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Western Fiction News

EDGE first appeared in 1972 and continued until 1989. The EDGE series ran for 61 books and the half-breed teamed up with one of George G. Gilman’s other anti-heroes, Adam Steele, in 3 more books. The series sold in excess of eighteen million copies.

Today these westerns are much sort after, particularly the latter books in both series – the final EDGE book often commanding a three-figure sum on auction sites.

Now EDGE is available to buy once more as ebooks. The covers carry new artwork from the artist, Tony Masero, who painted the UK covers all those years ago.

The first book in the series, The Loner, is available now for just £2.01 ($3.11). Get it direct from the publisher Solstice or sites such as Smashwords. The books will also be available from other major Internet booksellers soon.

The latest issue of Black Horse Extra is now available, and as usual features a wonderful mix of articles and comments. Chap O’Keefe introduces readers to one of his series characters, Joshua Dillard. Matthew Mayo talks about how his hopes to see his books published by Dorchester have taken a blow with the publisher’s announcements to switch to ebooks, and Greg Mitchell continues his examination of the artwork of Frederick Remington. Along with these there is the usual selection of news items that cover a broad variety western topics.

Sky Movies magazine has done a four page feature to tie in with their Westerns Week at the end of September. Picking some of their favourite stars from the western genre they’ve named them thus:

The Anti-Hero – Clint Eastwood
The Deputy – Dean Martin
The Loner – Gary Cooper
The Icon – John Wayne
The Cowgirl – Jane Russell
The Villain – Lee Van Cleef
The Gent – James Stewart

Along with this they’ve picked five must see western moments and these are:

The Duel –The final showdown with the winding down musical pocket watch in For A Few Dollars More.
The Exit – Wayne’s Ethan walks away from the home at the end of The Searchers.
The Gunfight – The final bloody shootout that ends The Wild Bunch.
The Punch-Up – The fistfight in Blazing Saddles that spills from the western set into other sets and buildings.
The Song – As the heroes await death in Rio Bravo.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Railroad to Redemption

by I.J. Parnham
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2010

The influx of railroad men looking to build a new track to Redemption brings plenty of trouble for Sheriff Cassidy Yates. However, things seem to be looking up when Dayton Fisher, down on his luck and looking for work, arrives in town.

Dayton’s bravery persuades Luther to hire him as a bodyguard but the job turns sour when Luther hires six ruthless gunslingers to cause mayhem about town. Worse is yet to come and when Luther is killed the repercussions force Dayton to pit himself against his friend Cassidy.

Can the two men put aside their differences for long enough to defeat the gunslingers?

Ian Parnham begins this book by introducing us to the various characters that will play the main roles within this twisting tale of intrigue. There’s Dayton who arrives in town by train, broke and jobless. There’s the three brothers defending their ranch from a group of gunmen. There’s Luther, a man who works for the railroad who keeps his plans to himself. There’s a group of nuns looking for a guide. There’s a band of guslingers lead by a man called Mason Fox. Finally there’s Sheriff Cassidy – a lawman who has appeared in a number of prevoius books – who finds himself struggling to make sense of all that’s happing. At first you don’t see how all these people could possibly become involved with each other, but, of course they do.

Ian Parnham tells his story in easy to read prose that propels his tale forwards at an ever increasing speed, making this book difficult to put down. One of Ian Parnham’s trademarks is that somewhere down the line there will be a surprise or two and I never saw the excellent twist he includes in this book coming. Amoung all the action there moments of humour too, mainly through comments to, or from, the nuns. Eventually everything comes together in a violent showdown that ends the book in a spectacular fashion.

Railroad to Redemption is out now, even though it has an official release date at the end of the month.  

Thursday 19 August 2010

Renegade's Legacy

as by Rick Dalmas
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2010

The mystery man rode into town the day that they buried Big Al McCord. He called himself ‘Brett’ – but some people had good cause to suspect he was really ‘Dan McCord’, a runaway kid returning after almost 20 years – all grown-up and out for vengeance.

His arrival shook the town to its foundations; it brought turmoil and gunsmoke to the rangeland and it caused panic and desperate moves amoung corrupt officials and folk with a bad conscience.

But Brett had his own agenda – and when they found out what it was, that part of Dakota would never be the same again.

Rick Dalmas immeditately captures the readers attention by creating a gripping air of mystery around his main character, Brett. Just who is this man? He’s quick with gun and fists, carries scars and neither denies or confirms that he is really Dan McCord. People have their own ideas about his idenity and some act on their assumptions, leading to tense confrontaions and exciting fights.

The supporting cast are as equally enthraling as Brett. Those that stood out for me being Raina Redbird, Barton Gill, and Joel Rackman. Each of these characters having important roles to play in the outcome of this well written and beautifully paced story.

Rick Dalmas is a pseudonym used by one of my favourite Black Horse Western writers: Keith Hetherington. He’s definitely a man who knows his craft, and I’ve yet to read a book by him I’ve been disappointed in.

And no I’m not going to reveal who Brett really is, or isn’t. That’s something you’ll have to find out for yourself by reading the book, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy doing so.

Renegade’s Legacy is available to buy now from Internet booksellers, and due to how quickly BHW sell out these days don’t wait to long to put your order in.

Monday 16 August 2010

Longarm #379

as by Tabor Evans
Jove, June 2010

When Longarm rides into the usually dry Warhorse, Arizona Territory, torrential storms greet him. But he’s only in town long enough to find and arrest Ed Galloway, train robber and murderer of Longarm’s friend.

Then some vigilantes come looking for the well-liked, peace-loving local marshal, Pat Ryan. And Longarm starts to wonder if the star packer is who he says he is – or if he’s got his man. But could a cold-blooded killer be the most popular hombre in town?

This very fast moving book throws up a dilemma for Longarm, making him wonder if he can turn a blind-eye to the law. He also finds himself up against some great opposition in both the townsfolk and the vigilantes. The rain throwing in extra problems as Warhorse is cut off by the floodwaters. A kidnapping leads to some very tense and exciting reading.

Rain and floods aren’t the only problems provided by Mother Nature that Longarm has to overcome, there’s snakes and landslides. All these combine to make for a gripping read, making this a very difficult book to put down before reaching the end.

The book is beautifully paced, full of well-drawn characters, and visual prose, meaning this is a must read for Longarm fans and a book worthy of consideration for those who haven’t tried a Longarm novel yet. Maybe all I need to do is tell you who the author is writing behind the pseudonym of Tabor Evans this time, to convince you to give this book a try, and that person is James Reasoner.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Dead Man Riding

as by Lance Howard
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2010

Two years before, Logan Priest had left the woman he loved in hope of sheltering her from the dangers of his profession … but he made a terrible mistake. When a vicious outlaw whom he brought to justice escapes prison, he seeks revenge on the very woman that Priest once sought to protect.

Logan has no desire to return to the manhunting trail until he receives the outlaw’s grisly calling-card. Can he gather his wits in time to meet the challenge or will he become the killer’s next victim?

I’ve always enjoyed Lance Howard’s books, and this one is no exception. The opening sequences ask questions of whether the hero, Logan Priest, has done the right thing by leaving Serena behind when they both loved each other. The reader soon finds out he hasn’t when she is brutally killed, and when Priest finds this out in a very horrific way, the book explores feelings of guilt.

The anger this guilt triggers fuels the desire for revenge and the book steps up a gear and includes a neat little twist early on that throws both reader and Priest, as the man he suspects of murdering Serena was locked-up at the time of the killing.

Filled with fascinating and well-drawn characters such as Logan Priest, Dawn Hawthorne and Demarte Markello, the story grips the reader from the first pages and won’t let you go until the last. In fact left me wanting to read another of Lance Howard’s books right away.

Lance Howard is a pseudonym used by Howard Hopkins.

Dead Man Riding is officially released at the end of this month, but should be available now from the usual Internet booksellers.

Sunday 8 August 2010

The Judge #7

as by Hank Edwards
Harper, May 1992

Clete Bartlett has a dark heart that pumps nothing but bad blood. One drunken night, Clete rides roughshod through cattle town Ellsworth, Kansas, until his wild gunfire finds its mark in an innocent storekeeper.

Sheriff Drew Mitchell arrests Clete for murder, and stirs up a hornet’s nest of trouble. Turns out that Clete is the only son of cattle baron Carter Bartlett, a ruthless man who would do anything to spring his son – even kill a sheriff.

Judge Clay Torn has other ideas. He means to bring Clete to trial. But if anything did happen to Drew, Torn would ride to hell and back to bring every last one of them to justice. As it turns out, hell is only the halfway point.

Judge Clay Torn is a memorable lead character, not least for the knife he carries concealed beneath his coat; a weapon he uses with deadly proficiency. His single-minded belief in handing out justice to the letter of the law, without ever bending the rules often puts him in great danger, and in this story Torn’s beliefs are really going to be put to the test as to whether everyone truly deserves to be brought before the law or given a second chance.

The plot of this book isn’t anything the seasoned western reader won’t have come across before, but Hank Edwards tells it in an entertaining way that had me turning the pages quickly. The odds Torn finds himself up against will have you wondering how he’s going to come out on top, forty-to-one really do seem like insurmountable odds.

The Judge is a series I’ve enjoyed so far. Hank Edwards is a pseudonym with all but two books being written by the author who wrote this one, Jason Manning.

Thursday 5 August 2010

The Trailsman #345

as by Jon Sharpe
Signet, July 2010

South Pass, Wind River Range, 1859 – where a valley of death is littered with the skeletons of children, and Fargo discovers the only god around is Sam Colt.

When he’s hired to find some pioneers who seemingly vanished on their way west, Fargo comes across a vile encampment that may be the clue he needs. The camp is ruled with a blood-soaked fist by imperious Philly Denton and his crew of killers, and the Trailsman knows that if they’re the snakes that did the travellers in, he’ll have to take them out.

This entry into the long-running Trailsman series offers the reader many intriguing characters, some of who may not be who they say they are. There’s a man who calls himself a magician, another who claims he’s writing a book, a woman who many suspect isn’t who she says she is, and plenty of hired guns who’d like nothing better than to blow Fargo to hell.

The author also adds a couple of mystery plotlines that help hook the reader, such as where a box of jewels is, and what’s behind a nailed shut door – the latter providing a horrifying discovery.

The book is very fast moving, full of attempts on Fargo’s life by various methods and there are plenty of shoot-outs, beatings, whippings, and chases. Of course being a book in a so-called adult series there are the obligatory sex scenes too, but these are dealt with in only a few paragraphs, perhaps not covering more than four pages in total.

One thing I will add is that the author behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe, this time, definitely has his own style. His speech patterns and phrases are totally different from how the other writers working on the series have Fargo – and other characters – speaking, which make his books stand out from the other authors who also write Trailsman novels, as does having Fargo refer to the Ovaro as Old Campaigner or Old Warhorse. He also calls one of the characters with the same surname he uses in many of his books, in fact was the surname of the hero of a series he wrote during the 1990s if I’m right with my suspicions as to who wrote this book.

Whether it’s good or bad to have one author writing so differently to the others working on the same series I’ll leave for you to decide, what I will say is South Pass Snake Pit proved to be an entertaining read.

Monday 2 August 2010

The Gunsmith #42

as by J.R. Roberts
Charter, July 1985

Along the Powder River in Wyoming the cowboys’ strike for better conditions has failed and now cattle are being rustled and men are disappearing, presumed killed. The law can’t find the answers. Clint Adams, The Gunsmith, rides in a saves the beautiful young daughter of the strike leader from being hurt by a group of toughs. Now Adams is caught up in the mystery of the missing cattle and once legendary range detective Heck Thomas joins the hunt the odds start looking better for the cowboys…

Once more a Gunsmith book that has Clint Adams meeting up with a real person from the history of the American West. Although both Adams and Heck Thomas are in the book from almost the word go it isn’t until near the end that they meet face to face to finally solve the case of the missing cowboys.

The book is told in the usual fast paced style I expect from this series, with very little scene description, the author preferring to stay with the characters and their movements.

Like most Gunsmith books I’ve read there is little gun action until the end, the earlier part of the storyline introducing the various characters and building up the plot. This all sets the story up well to finish with a final exciting confrontation.

A book not just for Gunsmith fans but for anyone who likes fast moving reads.