Monday 30 January 2012

The Hellrakers

By Owen G. Irons
Hale, January 2012

Meeting the Van Connely gang was like coming face to face with hell. Skyler Lynch had hired them, along with his old friend Randy Staggs, to help him drive a herd of horses southward to the Pocono country, where he and his daughter, Kate, had a little ranch.

Van Connely didn’t take long to steal the herd and murder Lynch, before setting off on a rampage across the Southwest. He wasn’t the kind of man to reflect on the past but perhaps he should have.

After all, he had left Randy Staggs alive, and Randy had vowed to track him down even if he had to follow him to the ends of the earth….

This book follows both Staggs and the Connely gang, switching between them so the reader can follow the paths of both. Most of the action comes from the Connely gang as the reader witnesses their trail of destruction and mayhem.

Not only does Staggs have a vengeance quest to fulfil, but he also has to break the news of Lynch’s death to his daughter. Staggs’ also has problems with a horse, and it’s this that will make this an appealing book to all horse lovers, as this animal is as much a star of the story as any of the human characters.

Like always, Owen G. Irons (really prolific author Paul Lederer), presents the reader with a fast moving, easy to read story that revolves around a well thought-out plot, that will keep the reader hooked.

Although the final showdown between Stagg’s and Connely is as expected the method of the outlaws’ death comes as a complete surprise, and is one I haven’t read of very often in a BHW, or indeed any other western, making for a neat ending, that once again left me looking forward to the next book by this author.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Morgan Kane: The Star and the Gun

By Louis Masterson
WR Films Entertainment Group, Inc.
eBook, January 2012

It started with the mobile brothel…

In New Orleans, Texas Ranger Morgan Kane carried out orders to go after a crook named Tilder. Kane learned about trouble up at Fort Henderson - Tilder ran a bar and brothel on wheels fleecing soldiers. An officer was killed and a corporal blinded. Tilder had been discharged from Fort Henderson for swindling … he wanted revenge.

Kane would take care of Tilder, but who else had a piece of the brothel? How were the girls recruited? A sadistic dandy and his fat, crazy sidekick were somehow involved – and when one of the girls tried to help Kane she was found hacked to death with a barber’s knife. Kane was never squeamish – but this case turned even his stomach.

Louis Masterson really does come up with the goods here, in both developing Kane’s character and in superb storytelling. The reader will find out more about Kane’s weaknesses – women and alcohol – and how determined he can be when fuelled by revenge.

Masterson also creates two of the most memorable villains in the series, Lonnie Kidd and Claus Winter. Deadly, sadistic, with hinted at perversions that Kane finds repulsive, these two men are nearly Kane’s undoing. It’s after a brutal beating by them that Kane’s lust for vengeance rises to drive his being and in turn reveals just how deadly the lawman can be.

Towards the end of the story Masterson really does excel himself with some top class writing that sees Kane racing against time, the sense of urgency, the feeling that for all Kane’s efforts his frantic ride may be all for nothing, really comes across strongly, leaving the reader as breathless as Kane.

Does Kane manage to save the day and kill the badguys or is he destined to fail and wallow in more heartache? They are questions I’m not going to answer here, you’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourselves and in doing so I’m sure you’ll find yourself enjoying this story as much as I did.

The Morgan Kane books can also be bought from itunes, and other Internet bookstores.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Six Ways of Dying

By Cody Wells
Hale, January 2012

In his wildest dreams, Angelo never imagined he would forge such an unusual partnership with an old man, two tough brothers, their hired gunmen…and a treasure map. Though it had started well, in less time than it takes to cock a Colt the whole deal was going bad.

Determined to get even, Angelo sets out to track down the men who double-crossed him. Only this time, he is saddled with an arrogant cavalry officer, some raw recruits and a beautiful girl – with whom he has fallen helplessly in love.

Upon meeting Ulzana, the Apache renegade, they find themselves outnumbered and exhausted. But Angelo doesn’t give a damn about the odds. If he has to go down, he’ll go down fighting.

This is Cody Wells first Black Horse Western, but not the first tale to star Angelo as he has already appeared in the short-story Angelo and the Strongbox, which explains how he met his sidekick Mr. Jinx, a dog that features prominently in this book too.

When Angelo and co discover just where the treasure is put a big grin on my face as it reminded me of the kind of problems the stars of one of my favourite western TV series, Alias Smith and Jones, often found themselves tackling. It was great seeing how Angelo set about recovering the hidden fortune, which, of course, doesn’t go according to plan and Angelo’s troubles really begin.

Unusually for a Black Horse Western these days, this one has plenty of battles between cavalry and Indians. There are lots of other fights too as the race to get hold of the treasure heats up and Angelo sets out to get justice for the wrongs done to him.

Cody Wells has written an easy to read story that flows effortlessly through its plot of twists and turns, that makes for an entertaining way to pass a couple of hours.

Six Ways of Dying is officially published on January 31st, but is available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Miles to Little Ridge

By Heath Lowrance
Beat to a Pulp, December 2011

U.S. Marshal Gideon Miles finds himself in the sleepy town of Little Ridge, Montana, on the search for a wanted man. But just as Miles enters town, he's spotted by a hard case who recognizes Miles as the lawman that killed his friend. Now Miles must face the wanted man, who claims his innocence and is raising a daughter on his own, while the hard case and a ne'er-do-well partner are gunning for him.

Edward A. Grainger created Gideon Miles and here we have a short story about that character written by Heath Lowrance.

I’ve never read anything by Heath Lowrance before – Edward A. Grainger (real name David Cranmer) must have faith in him to allow him to write about one of his two heroes, the other being Cash Laramie, who gets a brief mention in this story – and I found his writing style to be very readable, and I liked how Miles finds himself fighting for his life against two men he never expected to be trading lead with. In fact the main mission of Miles’ is really just a second plot line to the story.

Like in Grainger’s own stories this one also manages to squeeze in a little bit of racial hatred, and I felt this was handled well, although the seasoned western reader will have read countless such scenes in many books before, whether about black men, red, or half-breeds.

What I liked best about this tale was Miles’ determination to arrest the man he was after, no matter how many told him this man was innocent. How Miles will not deviate from doing his job and says the courts will decide whether the man is convicted or not. Many other fictional western lawmen would tend to take these matters into their own hands and decide to free the man if they felt so moved to do so.

If you want a short, fast read then this western novella ticks all the boxes. If you want an action packed tale, then once again this provides just that. If you want an entertaining read then that’s exactly what this is. If you want value for money then at $0.99 (£0.77) how can you pass this by?

Saturday 21 January 2012

Pay Dirt

By Lee Walker
Hale, January 2012

Jim Payne, Sheriff of Cedar Springs, thinks nothing of it when he is asked by his Ma to deliver a letter to his estranged brother, Michael. However the trail leads him to Golden Gulch, a dangerous Californian boomtown, high on gold fever and in the tight grip of the ruthless conman, Coleridge Craven, and his henchman, Kid Cassidy.

When Jim hands over the letter, he thinks his job is done but it seems Golden Gulch just doesn’t want to let him go. An old family feud, a miner’s revolt and the murderous intentions of Craven and the Kid are just some of the trials he faces if he ever wants to leave Golden Gulch alive….

At last Lee Walker’s second BHW has appeared. After reading his first, Gun Law, I was looking forward to this one.

The book starts with a horrific prologue, which explains the animosity between brothers Jim and Michael Payne. The story then jumps forward a number of years and the reader joins Jim as he arrives in Golden Gulch. It isn’t long before he finds himself confronting Craven and becomes a target for the conman’s hired guns.

Lee Walker has come up with a great bunch of characters that are a pleasure to read about. The story moves forward quickly and is filled with well-written action scenes that paint vivid images within the mind. The final blazing showdown takes up a good portion of the book and provides an exciting conclusion to the story.

Lee Walker is a pseudonym used by Ed Ferguson, and he writes in an easy to read style that defies you to put the book down before the end. 

Once more, like after finishing Gun Law, I’m left looking forward to the third western from Lee Walker.

Pay Dirt is officially released on January 30th but is available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Death Devil

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, January 2012

1861, the Ozark Mountains – where hate ran rampant and life was cheap.

Deep in the Ozark Mountains, there’s a killer disease on the loose, and the only one who can stop it is the beautiful Dr. Belinda Jackson. A mad fever is spreading like wildfire, and with the gun-toting galoots, flimflamming snake oil salesmen, and distrustful denizens around her, the doc is at the end of her rope. Luckily, the Trailsman has just the bedside manner to get the job done….

Jon Sharpe fills this story will some terrific characters, all of which are going to provide one kind of a headache or another for Fargo. There’s the on going feud between Dr. Belinda Jackson and the doctor who was in the area before her, Charlie Dogood. Belinda also has to deal with many locals mistrust of a female doctor and their reluctance to let her tend them. Other problems for The Trailsman include the young kid who likes to rob people for fun, there is also the crazy bowman running around in the woods loosing arrows at anyone at anytime. Never mind the locals who just want to see him dead or run out of town.

Once locals begin to believe the fever is rabies the story takes an even darker tone, as a number of horrific killings take place in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. Fargo and Belinda receive some brutal treatment, which sees the Trailsman’s anger boiling over and this leads to some exciting, and savage, action sequences that provide for gripping reading.

I know there are those who don’t read this series due to its adult content. For a long time now this has been cut right down and this book has even less than expected, so I’d suggest you don’t pass it by just because you don’t like a lot of sex in your westerns.

The story also has an ending of the type that hasn’t cropped up in a Trailsman book for a long time. Powerful and memorable, which allows the author (in this case David Robbins writing as Jon Sharpe) to show how Fargo deals with an emotional battering. Occasionally having this kind of ending to a book is surprising, and adds strength to the series in my opinion and is something I’d welcome more of as it makes it difficult to predict just how each book will end and therefore keeps me coming back for more.

And is the disease rabies? I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out the answer to that question….

Seems Amazon have made a mistake with the cover image in the links below, the links will take you to the correct book - the cover they are showing is for a latter book.

Monday 16 January 2012

Howard Hopkins, 1961 - 2012

It's with great sadness that I write this post in memory of writer Howard Hopkins, perhaps better known to western readers as Lance Howard, whose 30+ books were published by Hale under their Black Horse Westerns imprint.

Howard was one of the first authors I ever swapped emails with and he was generous enough to send me a book or two and he was one of the first BHW authors I read. We are also exactly the same age, born on December 12th 1961. It seems he died of heart failure whilst walking in the snow on January 12th.

An obituary can be found here all with details about his service.

Comments can be left at his Facebook page here.

Howard, you will be greatly missed.

Saturday 14 January 2012

No Coward

By Lee Clinton
Hale, January 2012

When a man has nothing left to lose be careful, he can be dangerous, very dangerous – and Olford Tate is now such a man. At the end of a cattle drive from Texas to Missouri, a physician hands the young cowboy a death sentence. His dangerous state of mind results in the cold, calculated killing of a man in front of a room full of witnesses.

When an aging US marshal with a missing finger and hard-nosed approach to the law comes to his defence, it results in an odd and unlikely partnership. But is Marshal Henry Owens being straight with young Olford or using him for his own purposes? What follows is a treacherous and unpredictable journey as their relationship is tested to the point where there is no room for the coward.

After really enjoying Lee Clinton’s first BHW, Raking Hell, I was very much looking forward to this, his second book, which has taken just under a year to appear, was it worth the wait?

Like his previous book this story is told mostly in short chapters. The print is also very small putting this into the category of longer BHW. Adding to the length of the story is the fact that the chapters start just a few lines down from the end of the previous one, rather than on a new page like the majority of BHW, so this book provides the reader with a much longer read than expected from this publishers westerns.

Another element that makes this book standout from other BHW is the fact that women have very little parts to play, there isn’t any romance to be found, unless you count Tate’s infatuation with a singer, which is only a brief part of the story.

The relationship between Tate and Owens makes for fascinating reading, as the reader knows Owens’ plan and will have to wonder how Tate will react when, and if, he finds out the truth. Their friendship grows through a deadly walk to safety, which makes for some tense and gripping reading.

Action scenes are sudden, brutal, and gruesome. Owens’ mission seemingly being thwarted by paperwork – not that this would bother him as he has his own rules of making life easy by simply killing those who wrong him or the law.

Of course the reader knows there can’t be a happy ending for Tate, due to his illness, but I sure didn’t expect the book to finish as it does. This dramatic conclusion being another surprise for those who have read many BHW as this type of ending just doesn’t happen very often – in fact I can’t remember reading another that ends quite like this. Powerful, gritty and memorable.

So, to answer my question of whether this book was worth the wait, I’d say most definitely. Let’s just hope it’s not nearly a year before Lee Clinton’s next book comes out.

No Coward is officially released on January 31st, but is available now from the usual Internet sources.

Tuesday 10 January 2012


Edited by Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books, 2011

Everyone recognizes the names of Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, Zorro and the Cisco Kid. But how many actually know the characters from their fictional roots? Years before appearing in film, on radio and television, their creators painted a rather different picture of each than Hollywood presented on the silver screen.

Unmasked collects the first appearances of Hopalong Cassidy, the Cisco Kid and Zorro plus a forgotten novel of the Lone Ranger.

Once again Black Dog Books presents the reader with a quality book that proves to be both entertaining and fascinating. The book begins with a brief look at the history of each of the four characters, concentrating mostly on their film and TV appearances, written by Francis M. Nevins. This informative introduction includes a number of black and white reproductions of film stills, posters and pulp covers.

Tom Roberts writes a short editorial essay to explain the origins of each story, or set of stories in the case of Hopalong Cassidy, that provides some great background to the tales, their writers and their heroes.

It’s here that I must admit to never having read anything from any of the authors in this collection before, nor have I ever seen a Hopalong Cassidy film or show, likewise with the Cisco Kid. Zorro I’ve seen a couple of times, with the Lone Ranger being the most familiar to me from TV. This all means that I didn’t have any real knowledge to compare what is on offer here with, so this is where Tom Roberts essays came into their own.

The six Hopalong Cassidy tales where all originally published in 1906, except the first one that is from 1905, and it’s these that use the most ‘cowboy dialogue’ that I found I had to read carefully to understand at times. Due to this these stories do come across as somewhat dated, so I was surprised by the Cisco Kid story that was published in 1907 as I expected more of the same, and didn’t get it – sure there is some but it is not used anywhere near as heavily as in those Hopalong adventures.

The Cisco Kid story proved to be my favourite. This tale presents the Kid as a cruel outlaw who enjoys killing just for fun. The story has a neat twist, although it is easy to see it coming, but nevertheless makes for a memorable ending. I was also surprised by the dark tone to this story.

The Zorro tale (from1919) is in fact an excerpt from a much longer story, but you don’t need to know what has gone before to enjoy it and get the flavour of Zorro’s character.

Finally there is the Lone Ranger novel, written by an unknown author. A story published in 1937, which didn’t come across as being dated, and offers the reader an intriguing mix of action and mystery as the Lone Ranger attempts to prove a wrongly accused young mans innocence. Again the ending was somewhat predictable but it was great fun getting there.

Unmasked is a book that should most definitely be added to all western fans collections.


Hopalong Cassidy by Clarence E. Mulford
The Fight at Buckskin
The Vagrant Sioux
Trials of a Peaceful Puncher
Hopalong Keeps His Word
The Advent of McAllister
Holding the Claim

The Cisco Kid by O. Henry
The Caballero’s Way

Zorro by Johnston McCulley
The Curse of Capistrano (excerpt)

The Lone Ranger by Anonymous
The Masked Rider’s Justice

Saturday 7 January 2012

Hangrope Law

By Colby Jackson
ebook, December 2010

All Sam Blaylock wants to do is make a home for himself and his family on the Texas ranch known as Rancho Diablo. But then his son finds a wounded man alongside the Brazos River, and a deadly danger from the past soon threatens to ruin everything Sam is trying to build. Only gunsmoke and hot lead will make things right and give the Blaylock’s a fighting chance for the future!

The second book in the Rancho Diablo series introduces the reader to Sam Blaylock’s sons and daughters in more detail, although this book concentrates mainly on Titus. Titus is about to see his dreams of adventure take on a savage reality.

Finding the wounded Orion Pike and taking him back to Rancho Diablo brings all kinds of problems to the Blaylock’s from both outlaws and lawmen. The reasons why the outlaws want Pike is a mystery and one the author keeps secret for most of the story, thus using this to hook the reader and keep him turning the pages.

The story moves forward at an ever-increasing pace and as more characters are introduced the more the reader has to wonder how the Blaylock’s are going to preserve their good name. There is plenty of action and a tense standoff between the lawmen and Blaylock that fairly crackles with tough dialogue.

Colby Jackson is a pseudonym shared by three authors, and in this case the man behind the name is James Reasoner. James ties up all the plot threads neatly and left me eager to read more about the Blaylock family, something I’m going to do very soon as, at the moment, there are a further three books in the series. 

Available as both ebooks and paperbacks the Rancho Diablo books are a series that no western fan should miss.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Angelo and the Strongbox

By Cody Wells
Lobo ebook, August 2011

Heading for Tombstone, Arizona Territory to begin a new life, Angelo finds himself slap bang in the middle of a stagecoach hold-up. When fate forces him to take a long overdue rest in the town of Gatlin, he becomes a key player in trying to solve the mystery of the stolen strongbox. 

This short story first appeared in the terrific anthology A Fistful of Legends, published in 2009. Cody Wells recently made it available as a stand-alone ebook that offers great value for money. ($0.99 / £0.77 at the time of writing this)

One of the main reasons for publishing it as an ebook is so that readers who are looking forward to reading Cody Wells’ first full length Black Horse Western, Six Ways of Dying, that will be published at the end of January, and also stars Angelo and partner Mr. Jinx, can catch up on just how these two teamed up.

Angelo is a memorable hero who finds himself up against some well-crafted villains. There’s plenty of action and more than one twist to the fast moving plot. And, of course, there’s Mr. Jinx, who will remain in any readers’ mind for a long time, and who adds moments of humour and terror (if you’re a man reading this) to the story. 

Definitely a very entertaining read, that has me looking forward to Six Ways of Dying.

Cody Wells is a pseudonym used by Englishman Malcolm Elliot-Davy who now lives in America and works as a leathersmith. 

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Three for the Trail

By Ben Bridges
An eBook: April 2011

For those who have yet to try a book by Ben Bridges, then I’d suggest this is an excellent way to discover his writing. All three stories in this collection have been published before (see the contents below for more details). The second tale features one of Ben Bridges’ series characters, Carter O’Brien.

All three stories are smooth-flowing and have well thought-out plots, each offering surprises along the way, particularly the third tale. Characters are well crafted and believable as is the dialogue. All provide exciting and suspenseful reading making them difficult to put down until the final word.

Ben Bridges is a pseudonym used by David Whitehead, and he has also had many westerns published under his own name and a handful of other pen-names, and has been busy making some of them available as ebooks (check his website for more details – a link can be found below) as I’m sure you’ll want to read more of his books after reading this one. Three for the Trail sells at less that $1.50 and the same in English pounds, at prices like that how can you pass this book by?


Lonigan Must Die! – a simple quest for vengeance turns into something much different. (First appeared in A Fistful of Legends, Express Westerns 2009)

Comanche Reckoning – a down-at-the-heel sheepherder and his family have to set past hatreds aside when renegade Comanches attack their modest spread. (First appeared online at 2006)

Stretch-Hemp Station – an elderly couple struggle to keep a terrible secret that threatens to tear them apart. (First appeared in Where Legends Ride, Express Westerns 2007)