Saturday 30 April 2011

Rogue Lawman #6

By Peter Brandvold
Berkley, May 2011

Brazos got off lucky this time. His pa, Blue Tierney, saved him from receiving due justice at the hands of a hangman in Trinity Ridge. Which means the Tierney’s and their gang are continuing to roam free, spreading their terror…

What this town needs is a temporary lawman who exhibits little diplomacy when it comes to doling out justice – and Gideon Hawk is that man. Not everyone is sure of him though, especially a hard-nosed yet fetching schoolteacher and some shady businessmen…

Like most hardened outlaws, the Tierney’s don’t take kindly to getting pushed out of their territory, and they put up a damned good fight. But Hawk won’t back down until he has them strung up from the gallows they once escaped…

Once more Peter Brandvold comes up with the goods. This is a tough, violent, and very fast moving story that throws up a couple of surprises for fans of this series. The first being Hawk’s promise to a dead lawman to see the Tierney’s hang, rather than dish out his usual form of justice – killing them on sight. The other surprise comes at the end where we see Hawk considering settling down and getting married! That’s sure left me wanting to see another Rogue Lawman book come out as soon as possible so I can find out if this happens.

The book is filled with hard-hitting action, that builds in savagery towards an exciting and brutal final gunfight that Hawk is luck to walk away from. There’s plenty of cracking dialogue too, often laced with touches of humour. The story also sees the return of Saradee, the girl who kills as easily and proficiently as Hawk.

For fans of the Rogue Lawman series, and Peter Brandvold’s work – this is a book not to be missed.

Gallows Express should hit the shelves any day now if it hasn’t already. Definitely a book all westerns fans should enjoy. 

Thursday 28 April 2011

The Secret of Devil's Canyon

By I.J. Parnham
A Black Horse Western from Hale, April 2011

When Mayor Maxwell and his daughter are brutally murdered, feelings in Bear Creek run high. Even when the killer is caught and sentenced to life in prison, the townsfolk demand a lynching. So sheriff Bryce calls in Nathaniel McBain to spirit the killer away through Devil’s Canyon to Beaver Ridge jail.

At first, Nathaniel manages to stay one step ahead of the pursuing mob; but as he loses ground, he realizes he faces an even bigger problem: his prisoner may be innocent after all….

A dark secret about what really happened is buried in Devil’s Canyon. Will Nathaniel be able to uncover the truth before the mob reaches him?

I.J. Parnham presents the reader with a book that starts off like a straight-forward storyline but with the introduction of more and more characters, such as the bone-hunter Jim Dragon and his enemy Pierre Dulaine, and Emily Chambers who is searching for her missing father, all of whom seem to be involved in different threads to the story, it isn’t long before the plot throws up twist after twist that makes this book impossible to put down until the reader discovers how everything is resolved.

It’s the plots twists and turns that make I.J. Parnham’s books so appealing to me. Every time I think I know what is going on, what will happen next, Ian throws in another twist to completely throw me off track. Descriptions are kept to a minimum, just enough to allow the reader to visualise what the people, landscapes, and towns look like. Ian tells his story’s at a fast pace, uses believable dialogue, and ties everything up neatly by the end.

The Secret of Devil’s Canyon is a very entertaining read that, once more, leaves me looking forward to his next BHW. This book is available now from the usual Internet sources. 

Tuesday 26 April 2011

A Way in the Wilderness

By Paula L. Silici
Moonlight Mesa Associates, May 2011

Left by a buffalo hunter on the doorstep of a brothel after her parents are massacred by Indians, young Meg Finn grows up to loathe her life as the cleaning woman at Dodge City’s notorious Black Boots Inn. When she is tricked by the madam into thinking she’s been sold for one night’s pleasure to mysterious rancher Nathan Barris, her world is turned upside down. So begins Meg’s adventure farther west to search for her Uncle Sean. Little does she know that fate will bring her face to face with Nate Barris again. Will the secrets she harbors keep her from finding love and acceptance in his arms at last, or will those secrets completely destroy them both?

I picked this book with some trepidation, as it’s not my usual reading choice, for this book is billed as a western romance. Now I’ve not read any out and out romance books before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I did find out very quickly is that Paula L. Silici knows how to write, knows how to create believable characters that capture the imagination from the opening scenes, knows how to keep her readers turning the pages.

This is a book that deals with the happiness and fear that falling in love brings forth within people and hidden secrets that could rip apart their dreams – and in this case it’s not just Meg’s story but there’s a secondary romance thread that follows the fortunes of Holly, a girl who leaves the Black Boots Inn along with Meg. Holly has to deal with a cowboy who knows what she did for a living and seems determined to destroy any hope of her starting afresh. How Roy Lunt will be dealt with was one of the storylines that kept me eager to keep reading.

There’s also another thread to this tale. This involves three orphan children that are rescued from being sold as slaves by Meg and her friends. Taking these children with them adds another enemy that wants these children back so must be confronted at some point. At first this storyline is kept to the sidelines, simmering just under the surface before it rears its ugly head and leads to a final shootout and ultimately leads to repairing damage done to other relationships within this fast moving story.

As Shirely Johnson, senior reviewer for the MidWest Book Review says, “This is a wonderful romantic read laced with adventure, mystery, and western flair.” And I don’t think I could sum it up any better than that.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Dakota Rage

By Jake Douglas
A Black Horse Western from Hale, April 2011

Chance Lawton lived with his best friend, Ishna-Kobay, amongst a Lakota Sioux tribe in the Black Hills of Dakota. They hunted and broke mustangs – until a fake army patrol ambushed them, stole their belongings and killed Ishna-Kobay.

Lawton usually liked to steer clear of trouble, but avenging his friend’s murder was no trouble: the way he saw it, it was his bounden duty. And if duty meant facing ‘Captain’ Brodie Hall’s guns, then so be it….

This book is filled with fast moving action from almost the first word. Lawton’s desire for revenge seemingly the only storyline, and that would be enough for most authors. But Jake Douglas further complicates matters with the discovery of hidden gold nuggets that Lawton cleverly uses to draw his enemy to where he wants him.

The final showdown between Lawton and McCracken – the actual killer of Ishna-Kobay - is an exciting one on one without guns that is told brutally. This fight carried out under Indian rules. In fact a band of Sioux play a major role to the outcome of Lawton’s quest for vengeance and the other plot threads.

Dakota Rage is a well-written book that moves forwards at a tremendous pace as it builds to its excellent ending. But then again I’d expect nothing more from this writer: Jake Douglas being non other than the highly regarded western author Keith Hetherington.

Dakota Rage has an official release date of April 29th but is available now.

The Outlaw Marshal

Many of you will already be aware that Edward A. Grainger's latest Cash Laramie has recently appeared at The Flash Fiction Offensive but just in case there's some of you that haven't read it yet then please click the link and read this excellent short story that shows the darker side of Cash Laramie. (I've only got around to posting about this now as I've been away for a few days)

Wednesday 20 April 2011

The first western I ever read

By John Robb
The Children’s Press, 1968

This is the first western I ever read. It’s the story that got me hooked on, and began my lifelong passion for, western books. It could also explain why The Trailsman series is one of my favourites today – but more of that later.

I guess I’d have been under ten years old when I was given this book. I enjoyed it that much that I soon found myself the owner of two other John Robb westerns. All three starred the same hero. A scout who was very fast with his twin Colt Dragoons, a man called Catsfoot.

This story sees Catsfoot taking on a Mexican bandit called Janamo and his gang. Janamo is a giant of a man who is also extremely fast with his guns, although he likes to use his fists too. Janamo is the terror of the area but everyone is too scared to take him on. The army can’t spare any soldiers as they have their hands-full with an Apache uprising, so Catsfoot steps in.

Catsfoot is definitely a ‘white hat’ hero. He fights for justice, doesn’t use bad language (he wouldn’t I guess when you consider the age group this book is aimed at), and only kills when there’s no other choice – for instance in this story he takes on a small band of Apaches and rather than kill them he’s good enough to shoot their weapons from their hands! Fanciful stuff, and not very realistic, but for a young child reader exciting and dramatic. The final showdown between Catsfoot and Janamo in a classic one-on-one fast draw in a dusty street also stayed in my mind.

Even today I found this book to be an entertaining and action filled read. I was also surprised at how savage it is in places when you think that the book was written for the children’s market.

I mentioned the Trailsman series earlier and that I thought Catsfoot could be the reason I like those books so much. When I compare Skye Fargo and Catsfoot there are many similarities, both are fast guns, both scout for the army, both wear buckskins, both are expert trackers etc. It’s almost like Fargo is the adult version of Catsfoot.

After having decided to read this again I’m sure I’ll be reading my other two Catsfoot westerns once more, and the other John Robb westerns I’ve managed to find thanks to the Internet.

Monday 18 April 2011

Paytime for a Good Man

By Joseph John McGraw
A Black Horse Western from Hale, April 2011

Todd Coulter was a good man, a family man, wanting nothing more than to make an honest living by honest toil. He abided by the laws of God and men but somebody or something up there just didn’t like him….

In the end, he lost his family, his home and everything he’d worked for. But then Hollis Clarke turned up from his past and showed him the error of his law-abiding ways.

Hollis offers Todd a surefire way of making money. It’s not honest or legal but Todd no longer cares. He knows that a man with money can stand on his own two feet. He can do what he wanted and go wherever he pleases. He can be free….

But both men knew that the day of reckoning always comes…and when it does, it’s paytime.

This book offers a fast moving story filled with action that had me wondering as to its outcome, for this book has quite a dark theme running throughout that I found fascinating to see unfold.

Joseph John McGraw has written a wonderful study of character that illustrates how a person can change when everything he lives for is cruelly snatched away. We also witness how money leads to mistrust and greed – real or imagined – and puts a strain on friendships. McGraw portrays a man cracking under pressure superbly, the voice he begins to hear in his head questioning, yet urging him on in his quest for a new life, hints that maybe everything isn’t going to turn out perfectly for Todd.

As the killings mount up, the author throws in a number of surprises that eventually lead Todd to believe his luck is changing for the good, but McGraw has one hell of a twist waiting for Todd, one that I thought made for a just ending to the book.

Paytime for a Good Man is Joseph John McGraw’s fifth BHW, and the first I’ve read by him. On the strengths of this story I’ll certainly be looking out for more of his books.

Paytime for a Good Man is officially released on April 29th, but should be available from the usual Internet bookstores now.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Dear Mr. Holmes

By Steve Hockensmith
April 2011

For fans of Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range series this collection of short stories is something you should not miss. For those who’d like to discover just why so much praise is directed at Steve Hockensmith’s books, then this is the perfect place to start.

Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer have starred in five "Holmes on the Range" novels, rustling up award nominations and fans aplenty as they cracked mysteries using the methods of their hero, Sherlock Holmes. How did these Old West drifters first discover Holmes, though? What were they doing before their novel adventures began? And how did their early, awkward stabs at "deducifying" turn out? These seven short stories provide the answers.

In "Dear Mr. Holmes," Old Red first gets the itch to turn detective -- and just in time, too, because a killer's stalking him and his brother along a Kansas cattle trail. In "Gustav Amlingmeyer, Holmes of the Range," Old Red's attempt to settle down and open his own "cafay" goes haywire when one of the customers gets a side order of arsenic with his steak and potatoes. In "Wolves in Winter," Big Red and Old Red go up against deadly predators of both the two- and four-legged variety. And the adventure continues in four more stories…

Here are the stories you’ll find in this collection:

Dear Mr. Holmes
Gustav Amlingmeyer, Holmes of the Range
Wolves in Winter
Dear Dr. Watson
The Water Indian
The Devil’s Acre
Greetings from Purgatory!

All but one of these tales was previously published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. The odd one out being “The Water Indian” which first appeared in the anthology Ghost Towns.

Each tale is presented as a letter to either a publisher or a specific person: Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson for instance. All are fast moving stories of mystery and suspense in a western setting. All are told in an entertaining and laugh-out-loud, easy to read, style that makes it impossible to stop reading them until you’ve reached the end. There are many memorable moments too, such as the Amlingmeyer’s encounter with a vicious dog – this painted some hilarious images within my mind.

Dear Mr. Holmes has just been released as a paperback and ebook earlier this week, and is definitely worth spending a few dollars on.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Cannon for Hire

By Doug Thorne
A Black Horse Western from Hale, April 2011

It is the autumn of 1897, and men are flocking to the wild and woolly Yukon Territory in search of gold. But soldier-for-hire Tom Cannon has a different reason for making the hazardous trek north. The one-time cavalry officer has been hired to find Emmet Lawrence, a greenhorn who had gone to seek his fortune and then disappeared.

Time and again, as Cannon searches the icy wastes and snow-capped mountains, he draws a blank. No-one remembers Lawrence or knows where to find him.

Then, something happens that Cannon hasn’t allowed for. Emmet Lawrence comes looking for him….

Once Cannon has been hired to find Lawrence, Doug Thorne fills most of the first half of this fast moving book with the treacherous journey north. Descriptions of landscape, and hardships, making for some very visual reading, this includes an exciting ride aboard a flatboat where I had to wonder if any of the passengers would make it back to land in one piece. During this part of the book the author also takes time to fill the reader in on Cannon’s background and also explains why he risks his life for money.

Once Cannon arrives in Dawson the story ups a gear and action comes thick and fast as we discover just what has become of Lawrence. This leads to some excellent gunfights and then to a surprise ending for one of the main characters.

After finishing this story I couldn’t help but wonder if Cannon will return in more books, as this reads like it could be the first in a series.

Doug Thorne is a pseudonym for two writers: Alfred Wallon – a German author of many westerns in his home country, and David Whitehead – a well-published English writer. This book proves their teaming up is a very worthwhile partnership, and I hope we see more books from them very soon.

Cannon for Hire has an official release date of April 29th and is available for pre-order now.

Friday 8 April 2011

.45-Caliber Widow Maker

By Peter Brandvold
Berkley, May 2009

Cuno Massey is determined to start a new, peaceful life. But when he comes across a prison wagon under attack, he can’t just ride on. A gang of outlaws is hell-bent on granting four hardened convicts an early release, and with the only other lawman down, the marshal is badly outnumbered.

Dispensing frontier justice from the barrel of his Colt .45, Cuno does his best to even the odds and keep the murderous animals where they belong – in their cage. But the trail is long, and the gang is relentless. Looks like Cuno has just signed on for the ride of his life.

This book is full of brutal characters, even the women are hard-as-nails and add to the challenges Cuno will have to overcome if he’s to survive this mission he sets himself after doing his best to stay out of it. Unfortunately Cuno is still a little too trusting of the fairer sex and this could lead to his downfall. It definitely leads to a tale full of savage action that never lets up from the opening sequences to the final bloody gunfight.

Peter Brandvold, in my opinion, is one of the western writers working today that fans of the genre should not overlook. Granted his work maybe a little too violent for some, as he doesn’t shy from graphic descriptions of death, but don’t let that put you off as you’ll be missing out on some superb storytelling that grips from the word go.

The book is filled with terrific characters such as Fuego, and the outlaw girl Johnnie – the latter of whom you have to wonder if she and Cuno will become an item, something I’m not going to reveal here.

Peter Brandvold sure doesn’t believe in giving his heroes an easy ride either, here the odds facing Cuno are massive – four prisoners just looking for a chance to escape and kill him in the progress, and the large band of outlaws out to free the captives – odds that are surely impossible to take on and win? All this makes for one very exciting read that has left me eager to read the next book in the series.

I’ll finish by saying that I think .45-Caliber Widow Maker has to be the best book in the Cuno Massey series so far.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

WF Peacemaker Awards

Western Fictioneers (WF) is pleased to announce the nominations for the first annual Peacemaker Awards.
Nominees for the 2010 Best Western Short Story Award are listed in alphabetical order:

 “Left Behind” by Carol Crigger from the anthology Roundup! Great Stories of the West (La Frontera Publishing
 “This Old Star” by Wayne Dundee from the anthology Bad Cop…No Donut (Padwolf Publishing)  
 “Two-Bit Kill” by C. Courtney Joyner from the anthology Law of the Gun (Kensington) .
 “Scourge of the Spoils” by Matthew P. Mayo from the anthology Steampunk’d (Daw Books, Inc)
 "Catch a Killer by the Toe" by Pete Peterson published by Untreed Reads

Nominees for the 2010 Best Western Novel Award are listed in alphabetical order: 
Avenging Angels by Lyle Brandt (Berkley)
Manhunt (Berkley) by Lyle Brandt (Berkley)
Settler’s Chase by D. H. Eraldi (Berkley)
Long Ride to Limbo by Kit Prate (Western Trail Blazers)
Wulf's Tracks by Dusty Richards (Berkley)
Congregation of Jackals by S. Craig Zahler  (Dorchester)

There will be no Best First Western Novel Award awarded this year as there were not enough entries to complete the field of judging.

The Peacemaker Awards will be announced June 23, 2011 in Bismarck, North Dakota.  A place and time will be announced at a later date.

Western Fictioneers (WF) was formed in 2010 by Robert J. Randisi, James ReasonerFrank Roderus, and other professional Western writers, to preserve, honor, and promote traditional Western writing in the 21st century.  Entries were accepted in both print and electronic forms.  The PeacemakerAwards will be given out annually.  Submissions for the 2011 awards will be open in July, 2011. Submission guidelines will be posted on the WF web site.  For more information about Western Fictioneers (WF) please visit:

Sunday 3 April 2011

The Gunsmith #352

By J.R. Roberts
Jove, April 2011

Riding across New Mexico, Clint Adams finds over a dozen dead people showing no visible wounds. Disgusted by the scene, he rides into the surrounding towns, determined to uncover the identities of the victims and bring their murderers to justice.

But Clint’s investigations only raise eyebrows among the locals, who leave his questions unanswered – and brings him to the attention of those responsible for the massacre. People who have no qualms putting the Gunsmith at the top of a hit list…

I’ve often thought the tagline on the front of the Gunsmith books is a bit misleading: ‘The all-action western series’, as there is very little fighting with either guns or fists in many of the books as that tag implies, and this entry into the series is one of those. What it does have is an extremely well written sense of urgency, a fast flowing style that sweeps the reader up and defies you to put the book down before you find out the answers to the questions Clint Adams is looking for.

The plot is fairly straightforward. The method of killing the people Adams finds is not hard to guess when he discovers them, in fact the author tells us anyway only a few pages later. It’s who did it, and why, that becomes the main thrust of the story.

Once more J.R. Roberts presents the reader with a collection of well-created characters. This story turning up a very memorable man in the form of the hired gun that doesn’t want the fame he could get for being the man to kill the Gunsmith. He’ll do it provided he can keep out of the limelight.

The story is dialogue driven, and this provides lots of tough talking as the characters attempt to bluff and double-guess each others intentions. Of course being a book in an adult series there is quite a bit of graphic sex too.

Like many Gunsmith books I found this to be a quick and entertaining read that left me wanting to read another straight away.