Wednesday 31 August 2011

Colorado Clean-Up

By Corba Sunman
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2011

Provost Captain Slade Moran sets out from Fort Benson, Colorado, to investigate the disappearance of an army pay roll and its military escort.

The grim trail brings them to the empty roll coach and a murdered escort, with one soldier mysteriously missing. Captain Moran is led to Moundville where he is confronted by desperate men plotting to steal a gold mine.

Corba Sunman is another writer with over thirty Black Horse Westerns to his name, and one that I’ve only recently read even though a handful of his books can be found in my collection.

This story is told from many viewpoints and features quite a large cast of characters, nearly all of them on the wrong side of the law. Many of the latter are set to double-cross each other at the first opportunity. Unusually for a BHW this story doesn’t contain any major female roles.

Corba Sunman tells the tale with ease. The story is extremely well thought out and often leaves the reader wondering what is going to happen next, or how can they get out of that? The plot contains robbery, murder, jailbreak, double-cross and gunfights, before everything comes together in a fast and furious shootout that leaves many of the cast dead and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

So, once more, I’m left looking forward to Corba Sunman’s next book and wondering just where I’ve stored the other books of his I have as I really do need to check out previous publications.

Colorado Clean-Up is officially released today and is available from the usual sources.

Monday 29 August 2011

The Gallows Land

By Bill Pronzini
Gunsmoke, 2005

Original published 1983

Roy Boone wanders aimlessly in the arid Southwest, a life with no meaning since the death of his wife. He is desperate for water, and stops at a ranch where Jennifer Todd gives him food and drink. Seeing this pretty young woman with her battered and bruised face, Roy is concerned for her welfare. That night, he finds Jennifer’s husband dead and he believes that she killed him. Then Roy is attacked by someone hiding in the shadows, and shortly after he is shot at by strangers. He has a lot to fret about, not least Jennifer – who has by now gone missing.

Bill Pronzini really grabs the reader’s attention in the early part of this book as question piles upon question. Just what is going on? Who are all these people Roy Boone unwittingly finds himself tangled with? What has happened to Jennifer? And so it goes on; puzzle after puzzle that hook the reader with their twists and turns.

The book is written in the first person so further developments are just as surprising to the reader as they are to Roy Boone. The story is told at a fast pace, although I did feel its momentum sagged a little as it moved into the second half before picking up speed again for its exciting final fight that sees one of the characters meet a particularly gruesome death.

This book has been put out by a number of different publishers and this version adds some author information at the back. Here we discover that this book has the same beginning as a (short?) story written by Bill Pronzini called Decision.

Overall I found The Gallows Land to be an entertaining read that will certainly have me keeping an eye-out for Bill Pronzini’s other westerns.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Kato's Army

By D.M. Harrison
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2011

Wells Fargo Agent, Jay Kato, didn’t want the job of taking a consignment of gold to Green River Springs. The town held too many memories – bad ones.

His cousin, Duke Heeley, had threatened to kill him of he ever came back to town, but he put aside his misgivings when he was offered a generous bonus. After all, he only had to deliver the money to the marshal.

However, when the time came to step off the train, a hail of bullets greeted him. Kato knew he’d have to raise an army to fight them all.

This is the second Black Horse Western by D.M. Harrison, the first being Robbery in Savage Pass.

Jay Kato’s ties to the town of Green River Springs provide some excellent confrontations with people from his past, particularly with Blossom Lessard. Blossom becomes the girl for romantic interest, but not with Kato, he has bridges to rebuild with another woman. Along with trying to mend his relationship with his cousin, Kato finds his social life a big problem, but this is nothing compared to the difficulties of hanging onto the gold.

Green River Springs is more or less under siege by the well-drawn bandit Three Fingers, a man with a sizeable number of outlaws backing him. It’s when they attack the town that Kato has to rally the townspeople into an army to defend their homes and in doing so the gold too. This leads to a great battle for the town. A fight you’d have thought would be the end of the tale, but no, D.M. Harrison has further plot developments, like the gold going missing.

Even though I did raise my eyebrows when it was mentioned safety-catches were released from pistols, I found this to be a well-written story that kept me turning the pages.

Kato’s Army has a release date of August 31st but is available now.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

.45-Caliber Firebrand

By Peter Brandvold
Berkley, September 2009

Cuno Massey had always stayed on the good side of the law. But he’d never found himself stuck in the middle of a feud between a weary old rancher and a band of Indians hungry for revenge. With warring braves surrounding the ranch and a doomed man begging for help, Cuno’s the only rider left who stands a chance to save the rancher’s daughter from a savage massacre.

Fighting arrows with bullets and tussling with grizzly bears, Cuno’s rescue ride is no pleasure trip. And when his wagon party comes up against a squad of territorial marshals looking to break some rules of their own, Cuno’s got to do what it takes to defend the girl – and himself. Even if it means defying the law and becoming a wanted man…

The sixth Cuno Massey book proves to be every bit as good as those that have gone before it. It’s a tough, gritty and violent read that is filled with attention grabbing, exciting action. The sequence with the bear makes for tense nail biting reading. For all the savagery Peter Brandvold also shows a touch of the tender side of Cuno as he attempts to save the rancher’s daughter and some children from chasing Indians.

For long time readers of this series who have witnessed Cuno battling to survive against all kinds of hardships, you will find yourself wondering how he can possibly come out of this one alive. What I will say is this book brings about some surprising endings to friendships begun in earlier books and finishes in such a way that it could also be the end of the line for Cuno – or at least his current lifestyle.

The ending of this book makes me glad it’s taken me so long to getting around to reading it as I won’t have to wait too long to read the next Cuno Massey story, as .45-Caliber Desperado is due out this September, which, although only a few days away, is still not fast enough for me as I’ve just gotta know what happens next! 

Monday 22 August 2011

In Need of Hanging

By Billy Hall
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2011

For months Thad Palmer had been on Vince Long’s trail – a trail littered with raped, beaten women and people killed in cold blood. Now Thad’s hunt led him into the very valley where his own sweetheart awaited his return. He knew with certainty that she was the object of his quarry’s intent and his heart was already racing at the prospect of being with Coralee.

But as he emerged into the sunlight again bent on reaching the budding settlement, he didn’t see the rifle barrel aimed at the centre of his forehead. Can Thad save himself and the life of the ones he holds dear?

In Need of Hanging is mainly a chase story as Thad Palmer tracks the young killer, more often than not too late to save Vince Long’s latest victims.

The books begins by showing why Long became the crazy killer he is. After that the book mainly follows Palmer as his hunt becomes sidetracked a couple of times, one being warning a wagon train about a possible Indian attack. At the same time he manages to save Coralee from becoming another of Long’s kills. This, of course, is the beginning of Palmer’s and Coralee’s relationship.

There’s plenty of action, some quite graphic in description. Pacing is handled well, building in increasing speed, sweeping the reader along effortlessly towards its well-crafted ending.

With over thirty Black Horse Westerns to his name, Billy Hall once more leaves me wondering why it’s taken me so long to discover his work. Definitely an author worth taking the time to catch up on his back catalogue.

In Need of Hanging is officially released on August 31st but should be available now from all good Internet bookstores.

Friday 19 August 2011


By Pike Bishop
Pinnacle, April 1983

Diamondback. His real name is seen only on wanted posters, spoken only by bounty hunters. But as Cord Diamondback he’s blazed new fame as a judge-for-hire – with the fists, guns, and brains to make his decisions stick.

He took the job in Dog Trail for the money – and the woman. But Diamondback has been double-crossed. And the sentence for that is death!

This Diamondback series lasted for nine books (a tenth was announced but Pinnacle folded before it was published) and a variety of writers wrote as Pike Bishop. Raymond Obstfeld being the author behind the pseudonym this time.

I found the book to be a very entertaining read that moved forward at great speed. There’s plenty of action and a fair amount of humour too. It may contain a bit too much sex for some but this series did come out at the height of the adult western and was aimed at that market.

Characterisation is very good, especially in the case of Cord Diamondback. The reason he changed his name and why he won’t take his shirt off in front of anyone adding a sense of mystery to his background. I hoped this would carry on throughout the series but the author had other ideas and the reader does find out the truth before the end. I also liked how Diamondback is given a catchphrase, something else that helps make him a memorable hero. Whenever asked how he knows so much about a particular subject he always says it interests him – which is often.

On the strength of this story I will definitely be hunting through my collection for the other books in the series.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Best book trailer ever?

Is this one of the best book trailers ever?

Wednesday 17 August 2011

The Prairie Man

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

Tales about the spectre of the night known as the Prairie Man were told to frighten children, but one day those tales nearly led to a tragic accident for Temple Kennedy. His friend Hank Pierce saved his life. Temple vowed that one day he would return the favour.

Fifteen years later the two friends grew up to lead very different lives: Hank is a respected citizen while Temple is an outlaw. But, when Hank is wrongly accused of murder, Temple is given a chance for redemption. He vows to save Hank or die in the attempt.

However, in seeking to unmask the real culprit his investigation leads to a man who isn’t even supposed to exist: the Prairie Man.

Ian Parnham sure piles on the problems for his hero, Temple Kennedy. Not only does he have only two days to find the real killer, a task made increasingly difficult due to the fact the everyone else seems to think Hank is guilty, including the town lawman. Kennedy will also uncover, and have to deal with, the truth behind his parent’s deaths. And as for the Prairie Man, how can he catch someone who isn’t real?

The Prairie Man is a terrific character, who real or not, gives this story a memorable touch of supernatural mystery. As the story progresses more deaths are blamed on this spectre.

Ian Parnham keeps the suspense high by not revealing to the reader just who is responsible for what, and when Kennedy finds himself in jail the reader has to wonder how he can possibly save Hank, or himself for that matter. The book is action packed and also contains many moments of humour, particularly when Kennedy is trying to right his past wrongs.

The tangled story threads prove to have a strong grip, and I’d say any reader would find this book difficult to put down until all the answers are brought out into the open. Definitely a tale that captures the imagination, and one that will leave the reader eager to try more of Ian Parnham’s work.

The Prairie Man has an official release date of August 31st but can be ordered now from the usual Internet sources. 

Monday 15 August 2011

Western Fiction News


A new Facebook group has been launched called Western Book Readers. It's only been going for a few days and already has over one hundred members, who are a mix of readers and authors. If anyone would like to join here's a link: If that doesn't work then email me and I can invite you. (My email can be found under the 'about me' section of this blog)

The latest issue of Black Horse Extra is now available and contains the usual mix of info and articles which include a few authors discussing The Rights and Wrongs of eBooks. Greg Mitchell also compares Real Cowboys with Reel Cowboys. Black Horse Extra is essential reading for all western fans.

Long time favourite fictional hero Morgan Kane looks set to appear in not one, but three English speaking movies and many of the books are to be released as ebooks, again in English. I really hope they get Kane's character right in the movies as his flawed character is one of the main appealing aspects of this series. For those who don't know Morgan Kane was written by Kjell Halbing under the pseudonym of Louis Masterson. Find out more about the films here.

Western Fictioneers have realeased a massive collection of all new western short stories in an anthology called The Traditional West. This is available now as an eBook but a paper version will follow shortly. Look out for a review soon.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Derby Man #5

By Gary McCarthy
Bantam, January 1981

A man could mine fabulous wealth on the Comstock but Darby Buckingham strikes only a mother lode of trouble. With his sledgehammer fists and sharply honed wits, Darby sets out to expose a spellbinding stock manipulator. Rigging a boxing match that becomes a nightmare of punishment, sabotaging a mine shaft into a pit of death – Darby’s rattlesnake of an opponent baits him ruthlessly. Yet, like an enraged bear, The Derby Man always comes roaring back into action.

Once more Gary McCarthy has written a very entertaining story that sees the usual mix of action, tight plotting, and humour, that I’ve come to expect from this series. For those who’ve read the previous books in order, and seen how Darby’s relationship with Dolly Beavers has progressed, this story also offers a threat to their love for one another – jealousy that could lead to its end. Seeing the frustrations in Darby’s failed attempts to get it back on track makes for some great reading and adds a further complication to the plot of exposing the stock swindler.

Conrad Trent makes for an excellent adversary for Darby, as no matter how Darby tries to bring the swindler down, Trent always seems to be one step ahead of him; his swift mind and silver tongue getting him out of trouble and making Darby look foolish in the progress. Even when it seems Darby finds the answer of how to expose Trent’s wrongdoings Gary McCarthy comes up with a neat twist to seemingly foil Darby’s plan. All this makes for some fascinating and gripping storytelling that will leave the reader wondering just how Darby can finally bring about an end to Trent’s crimes.

At the close of this book Gary McCarthy adds an authors note, which fills the reader in on some of the history of the Comstock, explains how Trent is based on real stock manipulators. He also tells of what happened to one of the real people he used in his story, Julia Bulette. 

Sunday 7 August 2011

The Sheriff and the Widow

By Chap O’Keefe
ebook, 2011

First published by Hale in 1994.

As dangerous as unstable dynamite . . . that was Sheriff Ross Kemp's assessment of Jessica Blackwood. She was darkly beautiful, and she was married to the richest rancher around. Mysterious notes, a bizarre accusation and the bushwhack murder of her madly jealous husband shoved Kemp into the biggest trouble of his life. Tried and convicted on a trumped-up charge, Kemp was sentenced to ten years of living hell in the state pen. His only hope was Jessica's lovely stepdaughter, Ellen, but as Ellen began to uncover the truth she fell into deadly danger from Orson Rymer, gambler and blackmailer, and Snake McClay, evil-minded gunslick. It looked as if justice would never be done!

The fast flowing, easy-to-read story, proves to be a very entertaining book. Descriptions of action and landscape paint vivid imagery and the characters will soon have you shouting for them to be triumphant, or for their demise.

The story is fairly straightforward, with the good and the bad being clearly defined, yet there is an air of mystery too, as when the time comes for the Boyd Blackwood to die the author carefully avoids telling the reader who actually squeezed the trigger, therefore making you wonder if it was who you’d think it would be.

The book contains some excellent set pieces, such as a prison break that leads to a massacre. In turn these events become a race against time, although those involved never know this. There is also a surprising – and somehow fitting – death for one of the main characters, a type of death that you don’t read about that often in westerns.

Everything comes to a violent conclusion that ties all the plot threads up neatly.

The Sheriff and the Widow is available now a great, giveaway price, so how can you not afford to add this to your collection?  (At the time of posting this review the book is being sold for $0.99 or £0.86)

Friday 5 August 2011

Western Adventure, October 1957

Street & Smith's
British Edition Vol. 2 - #4


Featured Novelette:
Driftin’ Cowhand by Walt Coburn
When Rafe Joplin’s tough-hand outfit drove away a cavvy of rustled horses across the Missouri, Bass Jackson knew his life depended on the trigger savvy of that Driftin’ Cowhand.

Range Hogs Can Die by Wayne D. Overholser
With nesters invading Redstone Valley, even Hugh Latham’s six-gun rep couldn’t keep the lid on a cattle-sheep feud.

Boothill Cargo by Norman A. Fox
Doc Comanche wasn’t checking off that counterfeit dinero as a dead loss until he collected hot-lead toll.

Deadline for a Deputy by Frank Richardson Pierce
Tony Baxter had three strikes against him when he made a baseball player pinch-hit as a deputy and take the trail of Wideawake Jackson.

Showdown at Sundown by Richard Poole
Without chips to buck a high-stake poker game, Kerry Lantham gambled his life on blistering Colt aces.

Published a number of years before I was born, I found this pulp to be a mixed bag for my tastes. My favourite story was Boothill Cargo. Doc Comanche being an entertaining lead character, one I believe stars in a number of pulp tales by Norman A. Fox and I’ll certainly be hunting through my collection to see if I have any others. The fact I liked the story the most surprised me as a previous pulp story I’ve read by Fox didn’t inspire me that much.

Of the remaining stories I liked Showdown at Sundown best, then Range Hogs, and then the featured novelette Driftin’ Cowhand – I thought this one went on a bit too long.

Deadline for a Deputy I gave up on, mainly due to all the references to baseball, a game I’m not familiar with in any way at all due to it not being that popular here in England. Still I don’t expect to like all the stories these old pulps contain.

Overall this issue of Western Adventure has left me eager to try another one soon.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

The Crack in the Lens

By Steve Hockensmith
Minotaur Books, January 2011

It’s 1893 and things finally seem to be going right for Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red.” After years of hard knocks, they have a bit of money and some spare time – time enough to take a hard look at something from Old Red’s past. Years before, Old Red lost his fiancĂ©e to a brutal killer and the local authorities swept the case under the rug. Now, Old Red is determined to find out what really happened and to secure a measure of justice for his beloved. But everyone in town wants the secrets of the past to remain buried forever…and possibly have the brothers buried with them! It’s a puzzle that’s twisted enough to confound even that most unconfoundable of men, their mutual inspiration: Sherlock Holmes.

This is the fourth book to feature the Amlingmeyer brothers.

Steve Hockensmith presents the reader with a murder mystery that sees some very emotional revelations about Old Red that will not only surprise long time readers of this series, but Big Red too. With no real leads to help them solve this five-year-old murder case the brothers find themselves in all kinds of danger from people unknown. For instance the book opens with them both about to be strung up. How they escape being imprisoned and/or death makes for some very exciting reading.

The story is told through the eyes of Big Red, and as always he has many humorous views on events that befall them. The comical moments contrast well with the darker, more sinister, developments of the investigation. Events move forwards at a cracking pace and most chapters end with a cliff-hanger situation for our heroes.

Not only are the Amlingmeyer brothers very memorable characters but so are the supporting cast, even how Steve Hockensmith has one of his female characters speak – you’ll have to read the book to see what I mean. All the clues are there but I didn’t pick up on them until the author wanted me to, thus the suspense was kept high, urging me to keep reading.

The case is finally cracked in a dramatic and deadly scene that sees one of the brothers suffering a setback, an injury that it seems he will carry into the next story, which means I’ve just got to start reading that one very soon to see if he fully recovers. What I do know is that I’m sure I’ll find the next book just as entertaining as this one. Highly recommended.