Tuesday 30 November 2010

Trailsman #349

by Jon Sharpe
Signet, November 2010

After infuriating some hotheads in Santa Fe, Skye Fargo aims to shuck out of town at a gallop. His plans are thwarted when a local nun begs him to guide two young women through the mountains to join her order. But to do the Lord’s work, the Trailsman is going to have to face down the bandito Fermin Terreros – a man who could terrify the devil himself….

The odds sure stack up against Skye Fargo getting out of this one alive when his weakness for helping women sees him taking on twenty plus bandits alone, not to mention a handful of Apaches too. And then there’s the women he’s protecting, one who seems intent on getting them all killed in her quest to become a nun.

The book is filled with wonderful characters: Sister Angelina, who has a surprising past and some hidden motives for bringing The Trailsman and the two young women together. Dalila, who doesn’t want to be a nun. Terreros, who will stop at nothing to kill them all - to name just a few.

Tough opposition brings out some of the more brutal traits within The Trailsman, which means there’s some savage action to be found within this books pages. The author also includes some lighter moments of humour, mostly in the dialogue spoken by Fargo.

Settings are well described, as are the characters. The fight sequences are savage at times and are depicted well, and with the number of people trying to stop The Trailsman the violence comes regularly and should offer more than enough for any fan of action-packed books.

And just when you think you know how the story will turn out the author (in this case David Robbins writing as Jon Sharpe) throws in another twist to throw you off track.

If you’re a fan of the Trailsman series this is a book you shouldn’t miss. If you’ve never read a Trailsman book, then this would be an excellent place to start.

Monday 29 November 2010

Hombre's Vengeance

By Toots J. Johnson
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

Fifteen-year old Zachariah Smith has been growing up fast ever since he witnessed the murder of his father at the hands of brutal cattle baron, Dale Bryant. At first, avenging his father’s death isn’t at the forefront of his mind as he struggles with the harsh reality of surviving alone…but then he meets two of Bryant’s other victims and he realizes that he must join the fight for justice.

Although Zac knows that lead will fly and he will probably die trying to stop Bryant, he is determined. Zac is back, no longer a wronged boy, but a man. Now is the time for the hombre’s vengeance!

This story takes place over a number of years that sees the young Zach go into hiding, changing his appearance and taking on a new name. The book is filled with strong characters of both sexes. Zac’s desire for vengeance becoming complicated when he discovers the girl he’s fallen for is the daughter of the man he intends to kill. This leads to soul-searching and heartbreaking discoveries.

Hombre’s Vengeance is the first book from Toots J. Johnson and I found it to be a well-written tale that was perfectly paced. Johnson includes a number of cliff-hanger scene and chapter endings that made the book difficult to put down before reaching the final page. The ending tying up all the story threads neatly, including finding out what had happened to a character I thought had been forgotten about.

On the strength of this book I’m sure I’ll be reading the next book from Johnson, whenever that may appear.

Hombre’s Vengeance can be ordered from all the usual Internet bookstores now, but you’ll have to be quick as it seems to be selling out fast.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Blood on the Sand

by Lee Lejeune
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

Mav is on his way west from Tennessee when he encounters a gang of desperadoes about to kill a young Apache brave. When he intervenes to save the victim, he stirs up a lot of bad blood – but he also forges an unusual partnership when a band of Comanche comes to his aid.

He rides on to the small town of Cimarron where he hopes to find some rest … but he soon discovers that there are a few surprises left in store for him yet….

Lee Lejeune creates an intriguing hero in Mav. Seems his name is made up and he just may be a man with a murderous past. The desire to find out if this was true, and just how it would effect the outcome of the book, would have been enough to keep me turning the pages. But, Lejeune includes more hooks than just that, and the plots twists and turns make for an entertaining and fast moving read.

Like many BHWs, Lejeune includes some female interest for the hero, but not just one woman, here we have three, all very strong characters. Will he become romantically involved with any of them? That’s another question that needed an answer and one I’m not going to reveal here.

There’s plenty of action including bank robberies, kidnapping, revenge, overcoming fear of Indians, running fights, and exciting shootouts. More than enough to keep any western fan happy I’d say.

Blood on the Sand is available now from the usual sources.

Oh yeah, and there isn’t a prize for working out which actor has been used for the cover painting.

Thursday 25 November 2010


By Don Bendell
Berkley, September 2010

A son of both the Sioux and the white worlds, Joshua Strongheart has two prized possessions – his father’s bowie knife and his stepfather’s Colt .45 Peacemaker – entrusted to him by his dying mother, who made Joshua promise to use them with honor and respect.

In the Colorado Rockies, Joshua falls prey to the cold-blooded McMahon brothers. When they take his pistol and knife, they have no idea what’s hidden inside the money belt – crucial War Department documents, signed by the president, ordering a fair trial for Captain Jack, captured chief of the Modoc tribe. Now Joshua must recover both his birthrights and the secret papers – before violence erupts across the West…

The blurb above, taken from the back of the book, covers only a small part of this well written story. When Joshua is robbed so is a female passenger, Annabelle, and it’s a promise to her, to get back her stolen antique ring, that sees Joshua tracking down the outlaws, and it’s this that is the main theme of the book.

Strongheart makes for an excellent hero. Don Bendell fills his background in well, and presents Joshua as a somewhat reckless man. Just witness how Strongheart stands in the open, or walks straight at his enemy, as gunfire is directed towards at him, to see what I mean. It’s no wonder he suffers from so many wounds. The action sequences are very well described, as are the descriptions of the landscapes Strongheart finds himself in.

This is the first book I’ve read by Don Bendell – in fact this is his first western in ten years – and I was surprised at how much detail he goes into in describing the trails, towns, and locations, his story is set in. He not only gives the background to places, and origins of their names, but also tells you what they’ve become today. This usually takes a couple of pages, and even though it doesn’t do anything to move the story forward, does provide some fascinating reading. It's not just places that are described in such detail; the bloodline of a horse is also covered in similar detail. For my tastes, though, I did feel this was a little overdone and I found myself speed-reading these sections as I wanted to get back to the action. Having said that these parts didn’t really dampen my enjoyment of the story and I’m sure I shall read the next one in the series, Blood Feather, when it appears sometime next year, as Pinkerton agent Joshua Strongheart is a memorable hero. 

Monday 22 November 2010

Iron Eyes is Dead

by Rory Black
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

The town of Desert Springs lay on the edge of a vast ocean of sand – an oasis which had started to draw the dregs of Texas down into its profitable boundaries. Yet none of the ruthless characters who had been gathering there was anything when judged against the infamous bounty hunter, Iron Eyes, who had trailed a dangerous outlaw into the midst of the remote settlement.

But Iron Eyes was wounded. He had battled his way through a band of Apaches in his quest to reach this place. With an arrow through his chest and a bullet hole in his leg, he had lost more blood than most men could afford to lose. As the town’s doctor fought to save his life a call went out: “Iron Eyes is Dead!”

But is this truly the end for the legend known as Iron Eyes?

Seriously wounding his hero near the beginning of this fast moving book allows author Rory Black to develop his plot and other characters whilst Iron Eyes is fighting for his life, lost to the world in a coma. The doctor who attempts to save the bounty hunter, Doc Hardy, being very memorable as are the two lawmen, Marshal Bale and his deputy Joshua. In fact Iron Eyes isn’t in the book that much, but when he is does he leave a lasting impact.

There’s plenty of action as the owner of the new casino plots to double cross an outlaw, an opportunistic thief tries for a better life, the lawmen struggle to find who is behind a string of murders, and others try to finish Iron Eyes off whilst he can’t defend himself.

Rory Black is one of the pseudonyms used by Michael D. George, and he definitely knows how to pace a book and build his story to an exciting and bloody finale, which sees all the plot threads tied up neatly.

Iron Eyes is Dead is the thirteenth book in the Iron Eyes series and is available now from the usual Internet stores. The fourteenth book, The Skull of Iron Eyes, is set too be published in March 2011 and I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Western Fiction News


Many new books have been announced, including new series, and a new book in a series I thought long passed by. There hasn’t been a new book in the Town Called Fury series since 2007 but July 2011 will see the publication of the fourth titled Redemption.

New books will be appearing in all the main series as well as J.A. Johnstone’s Loner series. New series include MacAllister: The Eagles Legacy and Savage Texas.


For the past few months Hale have upped the number of Black Horse Westerns they publish each month from seven to eight.

So with this increase and the Johnstone family putting out new series does this mean the western might be becoming a little more popular?


The latest edition of Black Horse Extra can be found here. As usual it contains an excellent mix of articles, observations and chat.

The main theme of BHE#20 is what books writers read and there are some great thoughts and reflections from Keith Hetherington. Three other writers also comment on their reading material, these authors being Nik Morton, Matthew P. Mayo, and Gary Dobbs.

There’s also a fascinating article by Greg Mitchell on the history of the telegraph.


Seems Dorchester has a new CEO who is, apparently, making big changes to solve the problems within the company that has stated it’s not on the verge of bankruptcy.

It’s said that Dorchester will now begin to sell paperback’s starting in January 2011, possibly fuelled by the many complaints of readers not being able to get paper books by their favourite authors. Whether these will be regular mass-market paperbacks or trade paperbacks only time will reveal. These will be available through normal retail outlets such as B&N and Amazon. They will still be producing ebooks in a big way.

Let’s all hope the above comments turn out to be true.


It would seem that the interviews I do are some of the most viewed items I post on this blog. There’s almost always six of them in the top ten slots of the all-time posts with cover artist Ken Laager usually claiming top place. Ralph Cotton can be found in second place regularly too – is this because both of these people have links to WFR on their own sites? The only other artist I’ve interviewed, Tony Masero, has never been lower than fourth place.

At one time there was only one book in the top ten, and this often claims second spot, this being The Outlaw Josey Wales. I reckon this gets many hits from people searching for the film as much as the book. Since reviewing Beat to a Pulp, this has claimed sixth place as it’s own. The only other book in the top ten is Larry D. Sweazy’s The Rattlesnake Season.

And just where do the majority of my blogs readers come from? Yeap, America. Over three times the number of visitors to second placed UK. Filling out the rest of the top ten are: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Australia, Denmark, France, and finally Brazil.

By far the majority of people searching for the blog use either google com or UK and the site that many people link to WFR from is James Reasoner’s Rough Edges – thanks for adding the link James.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Andersonville Vengeance

as by J.R. Roberts
Jove, November 2010

Giant edition #15

Commandant Henry Wirz put Clint through hell as a prisoner of war, and when the Union won, Wirz paid for his crimes with a public hanging. Or did he? Word is, the low-down scum is living in Frisco as a U.S. Senator. Now a fellow Andersonville inmate intends to get the job done right this time.

There’s no way Senator Winston is actually Wirz, but because Clint didn’t actually see him hang, he needs to discover the truth – a truth that will have the Gunsmith risking his life for an innocent man, or seeing justice done once and for all.

As to be expected from a Gunsmith book, this story moves forwards at a tremendous pace and is told in short chapters, many of which are dialogue driven.

The author, Robert Randisi, introduces the reader to many terrific characters and spends some of the story following their movements, and plans – although not all is revealed which keeps the reader guessing as to just what is going on, and whether more people than just Senator Winston may not be telling the truth as to just who they are. All these questions make for a very difficult book to put down before the reader discovers the answers in a race against time and an exciting final showdown.

Long time readers of the Gunsmith series will be pleased to discover that this story provides a little more information about Clint Adams' background, of the time he was a prisoner in Andersonville.

As always, once I’ve read one Gunsmith book I find myself wanting to pick up another straight away, and with so many in my collection yet unread, the only question I have is which one to read next?

And does Senator Winston turn out to be Henry Wirz? Sorry, that’s a question I’m not going to answer here, so I guess you’ll just have to pick up a copy of the book and find out for yourselves.

Sunday 14 November 2010

The Fighting Man

by Alan Irwin
A Black Horse Western from Hale, November 2010

Young Rob Sinclair, the son of a homesteader in the Wyoming Territory, has never handled a pistol, rifle or shotgun in his life, but when his parents are killed by the Nolan gang, he is determined to bring the culprits to justice.

Everyone knows that only a real fighting man would stand a chance of defeating the Nolan gang but Rob doesn’t give up that easily. He persuades a retired bounty hunter to pass on some of his own fighting skills and then he sets out on his search for the killers. His journey takes him all the way to the Texas Panhandle but what awaits him there? And can he complete such a perilous mission alone?

Alan Irwin has been having westerns published by Hale since 1990 and between then and now he has notched up thirty titles, with more to come. A few of his books can be found in my collection but I’ve never got around to reading any of them until now.

The Fighting Man is written in a fairly simple style, which is very readable. The book moves swiftly from one burst of action to another as Sinclair tracks his prey. Along the way he’ll find love and a new life. In fact I found it quite refreshing to see that Sinclair gets married during the story – rather than left as a will happen at the end of the book as many BHW’s seem to finish – and the hunt for his parents killers continues after this happy event.

Alan Irwin doesn’t take time to describe settings and people in much detail, if at all, something I felt I’d like a little more of as it would have helped me envision the locations and created atmosphere.

If you enjoy books with a straightforward traditional storyline, with uncomplicated plots, that offer a couple of hours of pure escapism, then this book should be added to your reading list.

The Fighting Man is officially released at the end of the month, but is available to order now.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Law of the Gun

Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis
Pinnacle, November 2010

It’s an American icon: the Western shootist, living by skill, courage and a willingness to spit in death’s eye. Now, the greatest names in Western literature turn this mythical character upside down, inside out and every way but loose…

Law of the Gun is about journeys, vendettas, standoffs, and legends that end – or sometimes just begin – with the roar of a gun…

The Trouble with Dudes by Johnny D. Boggs
Uncle Jeff and the Gunfighter by Elmer Kelton
The Devil Doesn’t Sleep by Deborah Morgan
Destiny’s Gun by Jory Sherman
As Good as the Bad by Ken Hodgson
Inferno by William W. Johnstone, with J.A. Johnstone
Waiting for Mr. Griffith by Tom Carpenter
The First Ride of Monday Happenstance by Russell Davis
Ricochet by Don Coldsmith
Bounty Hunter by John Duncklee
The Wanted Man by Rita Cleary
Dead Man Riding to Tombstone by Andrew J. Fenady
Hap by John D. Nesbitt
Gunfighter’s Lament by Ellen Recknor
Shootout at White Pass by John Jakes
The Long High Noon by Loren D. Estleman
The Two-bit Kill by C. Courtney Joyner

For me, this anthology is filled with tales by a terrific selection of authors, making it virtually impossible to say which story I liked best. If pushed I’d probably choose Loren D. Estleman’s tale, the length of time the story takes place over giving it that little extra appeal. Ask me tomorrow and I’d more than likely single out a different story. Yes, there are a couple I didn’t like as much, but that is to be expected when reading such collections. I’ve read most of these authors before, and of the two I hadn’t, one will certainly have me checking out more of their stories as soon as possible.

Fans of William W. Johnstone / J.A. Johnstone Last Gunfighter stories will be pleased to find that Inferno stars Frank Morgan in a tale set before the first book in that series, The Drifter.

Law of the Gun is definitely a great way to introduce yourself to authors that may be new to you, and for those already familiar with them, make sure you pick up a copy of this book as it contains some excellent stories you won’t want to miss.

Friday 5 November 2010

Interview: Charles G. West

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Charles G. West about his western novels. Hopefully you’ll find his comments as interesting and enjoyable as I did. Thanks again, Charles, for taking the time to answer my questions.

I don’t think there was ever a time when I decided that I was going to be a writer. In high school the one subject I found easy was English, especially the creative writing courses. And I have always thought that everyone has at least one book in them, if they would just sit down and write it. I had what I thought was a great story to write, but even then, I didn’t think seriously about becoming a writer. I started that first book more as a hobby, just to see if I could actually write a whole book. After a long day in my commercial print shop, I banged away at night and early morning on an IBM typewriter. When the book was finally finished, I then decided that the project would be a success if I could get it published. At that point, I was introduced to the real challenge in writing, but I was determined, so I continued to send it to every publisher I could find. About ten years, and God knows how many rejections later, a small publisher in Denver liked the manuscript, and published THE TENANT, a science-fiction medical thriller.

By the time my first western was published, a book entitled STONE HAND, I had replaced my typewriter with a computer. It was not the first western I had written, however. That distinction goes to WIND RIVER, which may still be my favorite. When I was a boy, I was fascinated by the writing of A.B. Guthrie and Vardis Fisher among others. They were the authors that could tell a tale of the old west. I read a great many westerns by other authors, but I decided that I wanted to write one my way. So I wrote WIND RIVER. It was my epic. At this point, I don’t remember why I didn’t want to submit WIND RIVER to this agent I had been talking to. So I wrote STONE HAND and sent it to him. He liked it, and wanted to know if I could write two more to make it a series of three. Of course, I said I could, so we got the Jason Coles series published at Penguin, and I’ve been writing for them under the Signet label, ever since.

It’s rare for me to work on more than one book at a time, because so much time is required for research, which in my books is very important. Even if the book has no connection with actual occurrences of that time period, like the Sand Creek Massacre, Little Big Horn, etc., I still want to portray the people and places, weapons and routines as accurately as I possibly can. I would like to create a complete outline for each new book, but in reality, I never do. At best, I start with the concept of the protagonist and a general idea of the story. Once I start writing, I find that I simply go where the story leads me. Most of the time I end up somewhere I didn’t expect to be. As for how many hours a day I write, it depends on whether I’m on a roll, or if I really feel a passion for the scene I’m writing. But I typically spend about four hours a day, every day working at my computer.

To me, the biggest challenge in writing a western is to develop a fresh plot with characters the reader can identify with. About twelve years ago, when my first book was published, I had the opportunity to talk to a very successful western author, who had published quite a few books. I asked him how he could come up with so many different plots. He told me that there were really only four basic story lines, and he just plugged in new names and places. I hoped he was not really serious, but I remember thinking that if it came down to that, I was going to quit writing. I think I owe it to my readers to give them interesting characters and a good story, one they haven’t read over and over.

I’m sometimes asked which western writers I would recommend. I always think of Fisher and Guthrie, but I also admire the writing of Larry McMurtry in his LONESOME DOVE. I’m afraid I’m not much of a judge of other western writers simply because I haven’t read their work. There’s a reason for this. I don’t trust my memory that much, so I always want to know when I catch a phrase or idea that I think is clever, that it’s mine alone, and was not something I read in someone else’s book.

My earlier books were in series of three and on one occasion, four. The sole reason my latest books have been stand-alones is simply because my publisher dictated it. There is really nothing preventing me from continuing with sequels to any of my individual titles. In fact, I plan to go back and visit some of my earlier protagonists. Many of my readers have suggested that they’d like more of Matt Slaughter, John Ward, and Jason Coles. I don’t really have a preference between stand-alones and series. I’m more interested in a good story. I don’t write under any other name, although I should have used a pen name when I first started, because West is on the bottom shelf at the end in most bookstores. But it’s too late now. As far as recommending a good book to start with for someone who has not read my work, that’s hard for me to decide. They’re all my children, and each one was my favorite when I was writing it. If a reader’s interest lies in stories about lawmen, I suggest DUEL AT LOW HAWK or SHOOT-OUT AT BROKEN BOW If their interest is more into Indians, I suggest the WIND RIVER series. But I think any of my books will give a new reader a good idea of my style.

I guess none of us can say how the future of western fiction will evolve. Ebooks seem to be gaining popularity, and may well be the wave of the future. Some of my non-westerns are offered in ebook format only, but who can say? It’s fairly obvious that the western genre is suffering in comparison with others, especially with the younger readers. Having said that, I have to think that there will always be western fans. Twelve years ago I was told that western fiction was fading fast, with many publishers dropping the genre, and yet today there are still many western fans. I think it’s because that period of time in our country’s development was the most romantic in terms of individual courage and adventure. We need to see more western movies, like in the past – movies with good solid stories like 3:10 TO YUMA, DANCES WITH WOLVES, and LONESOME DOVE.

As for what I read for my own pleasure, I have to admit it’s almost entirely non-fiction research for upcoming books about the time period in our country’s youth which I find so very fascinating.

The two covers shown below are of books yet to be published. Ride the High Range is due out in December 2010 and Thunder Over Lolo Pass will follow in April 2011.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Blood Feud

by David Robbins
Signet, October 2010

They beat and abused his older sister. They poisoned his pa and his uncle and then chopped them up with an ax. But the bloodthirsty Harkey clan really went wrong when they didn’t bargain on a sixteen-year-old avenger.

Chace Shannon killed his first man before he could shave. Now he and his twin sister, Cassie, are sixteen. The twins have a special bond, but Chace must ride the vengeance trail alone. For the sake of his family, he’s taking the fight to the Harkeys – and the lucky ones will die quickly.

If you ever want a hero to challenge your sense of right and wrong then you just have to read this. Maybe hero is the wrong word to describe Chace perhaps anti-hero is more fitting? Whichever you decide, Chace Shannon is a superbly created character whose actions will have you cheering him on, repel you with revulsion a couple of times, and make you wonder if he’s a cold-blooded killer with a heart of gold. Chace Shannon is a character with real depth.

And it’s not just Chace you’ll remember for a long time, there are other equally memorable characters: Chase’s twin sister for instance, Cassie – their relationship will really get you thinking. There’s the man at the inn with his horrifying secret. Members of the Harkey and Shannon families, the list goes on and on.

The book is extremely well paced, quite dark in tone, and filled with exciting action – often quite brutal. Even without the inclusion of cliff-hanger scene endings this book would be very difficult to put down before the final page has been read. The end leaves the storyline open for a sequel and I hope that one will appear sometime in the not too distant future.

Blood Feud is definitely one of the best westerns written by David Robbins and should be on the must read list of all western fans.