Tuesday 31 July 2012

Invite to a Showdown

By Terrell L. Bowers
Hale, July 2012

After a bizarre double killing forces her into exile, Rowena Jansen is living like a hermit in Keylock, Colorado, and concentrating on survival.

Travis Clay went off to war and witnessed the terrible suffering of men and his country. Afterwards, he joined his friend to work on a ranch, but when a deadly ambush costs Clay a herd of cattle and leaves him near death, he sets out to find the men responsible.

Inadvertently ending up in Keylock, his fate is joined with that of Rowena. Four men are searching for her, intent on a killing, while Travis is on the trail of five or six murdering rustlers. The only way to win such a war is to invite both sides to a showdown.

Terrell L. Bowers begins this book by telling two separate stories, both running parallel to each other before converging on a collision course. First we meet Rowena and witness her struggle to survive as an Indian captive, before being freed to live with an aging buffalo hunter. During this part of the book Bowers switches between Rowena’s life trials and those of Travis, each of their stories providing fascinating reading and bringing them into conflict with two different groups of men.

It soon becomes obvious that Rowena and Travis will become romantically involved and that relationship is neatly, and believably, brought about. But, of course, there’s the killers to deal with too and Bowers comes up with an excellent solution to this that closes the book with style and provides another problem for one of the lead characters that left a grin on my face.

Like the other books I’ve read by Terrell L. Bowers I found this difficult to put down and felt I’d been thoroughly entertained by the end. Once more I’ve been left looking forwards to his next book.

Invite to a Showdown is officially released today.

If you decide to search for this book on American Amazon without going through the link above (left one) please note the wrong spelling of the authors last name.

Sunday 29 July 2012

The Bells of El Diablo

By Frank Leslie
Signet, July 2012

As the Civil War rages through the South, two men take fate into their own hands as fortune hunters and venture into Mexico, where the sacred Bells of El Diablo, forged of pure gold, are said to be buried….

The son of a wealthy plantation owner, Confederate lieutenant James Dunn is young, brash, and a fierce fighter. But during a guerrilla mission in the north Georgia mountains, he learns firsthand how horrific and destructive the war really is. Having lost his taste for bloodshed after a brutal act on a night-cloaked bridge, he deserts…and he isn’t alone.

Crosseye Reeves, a former sharecropper on the Dunn plantation, witnesses James’s moment of horror. And he’s had his own bellyful of war. Together, the men make for Denver, where a tale of treasure in Mexico gives them a new destination…and perhaps even new lives.

This book is filled with superb characters be they friend or foe, some of who might just help James Dunn find redemption from the gut-wrenching act of violence that sees him desert from the army. Frank Leslie sure doesn’t believe in giving his heroes an easy time, and Dunn perhaps suffers more than any other character he’s created.

The story pounds along at a rapid pace, full of strong dialogue, terrific descriptive passages that make you feel like you share the emotions of the characters or are there in the savage landscapes with them. Action comes thick and fast and is often graphically described, as Dunn and Reeves have to battle Apaches and other enemies for possession of the bells...bells that might not even exist.

Frank Leslie includes many twists and turns to the plot before springing a final surprising revelation about one of the characters during the spectacular bullet sprayed ending that sets the seed for a follow-up book, and as I’ve seen it mentioned that this one is the first in a new series, I can only hope I don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next.

Friday 27 July 2012


By Logan Winters
Hale, July 2012

It was a long way from Kansas to Las Palmas, New Mexico Territory, but Chad Dempster had trouble brewing at home and was hoping the trip would be worth it. He wanted a new town, new ways, and a new name. On emerging from the Overland Stage, he got all three at once, but not in the way he could have expected. He stumbled out, hit the ground and became the immediate butt of the local wits who dubbed him ‘Tanglefoot’.

Fortunately, or so he thought, Glen Walker, one of the town’s first citizens came to his aid, dusted him off and offered him work. What Chad could not have known was that Walker had chosen him as the ideal dupe to help him loot the town of Los Palmas, using a badge and a gun.

Logan Winters once more comes up with the goods in this fast paced book that has greed as its central theme. Greed made legal by hastily re-written laws that it seems cannot be opposed or changed. So even though Chad and his new friend deputy Byron Starr, who has a dubious past of his own that could be his undoing, it seems that this is one new law that they can’t beat.

The how Chad and Starr save the town from Walker’s law provides fascinating and gripping reading. Walker also has numerous gunmen on his payroll so the story has plenty of gun action too, as Walker decides he needs to dispose of Chad. There’s a humorous element in that Chad is a little clumsy and not very good with a gun, yet through circumstance he is seen to be the opposite.

At the close of this story I was again left with the feeling of being extremely well entertained and looking forward to the next Logan Winters’s book, but, like other times, I don’t have to wait as Logan Winters is a pseudonym used by Paul Lederer and he also writes as Owen G. Irons and it just so happens that Hale have published one of these books this month too: The Rose Canyon Gang.

Both books have an official release date of July 31st but are available now from all the usual Internet bookstores.

Monday 23 July 2012

Cover Gallery: The Tracker

By D.R. Bensen

Across the West, following every faint scent and clue, rides a man sworn to hunt and kill the outlaws who murdered his family. Today, tomorrow and always, he is The Tracker.

The night of fire and blood drew a smear of red across lawyer Cole Brandon’s life – his wife and family slaughtered by the vicious Kenneally gang. The gang escapes unscathed, and the only one captured is set free on a legal technicality. Brandon’s trust in the law is now shattered – and he becomes a walking dead man. Then an encounter with a tough old mountaineer gives Brandon new life and a new purpose – vengeance. Using any name, any role, any means, he’ll track the gang and their monstrous leader, Gren Kenneally, and kill them one by one.

A faint clue leads him to a brawling Kansas cowtown, then to Bascom, Texas, and a ranch that might hide his man. But before Brandon – now hardcase Carter Bane – can unearth his prey, the town explodes in a private war that throws him in with his prime suspect!

The mayor was a con man who gambled his power for control of the mining boomtown of Kampen, Arizona Territory…the miner put up his savings for some unsuspected riches from the earth…stage robbers waged their lives for fast loot…but gambler Beaufort Callison hadn’t come to Kampen to play poker. Just to find one man and kill him. For Beaufort Callison is really Cole Brandon, The Tracker, and he’s following a clue that may lead him to his quarry.

Kampen may hold one of the men The Tracker is pursuing: a member of the Kenneally gang that slaughtered his family back in St. Louis. Once an ambitious young lawyer, Brandon is now a single-minded avenger. He’s gambling that his prey will cross his gunsights – if he survives the life-threatening hazards of Kampen and its gold-crazed citizens!

On the booming frontier, a reporter needs a nose for news, an ear for a lie, an eye for danger – and a gun for insurance. So does a manhunter. Cole Brandon is both.

Following a wild hunch, Brandon came to Spargill, Colorado, in search of the killers who wiped out his family. Bluffing his way into a newspaperman’s job, he has the ideal cover to sniff around Spargill and turn up the men he seeks. But the job becomes more than a disguise when Brandon’s masterful scheme brings a railroad line in – and saves the town from ruin. Spargill’s starting to feel like home, and a very desirable lady is luring him in another direction, but for Cole Brandon there can be no respite – until his gun has claimed its final revenge!

Carter killed ruthlessly but professionally, to uphold the law as he saw it. Kenneally killed as naturally as he breathed, for profit, fun or convenience. Brandon hunted patiently and killed implacably, slowly filling the bloody ledger of vengeance.

Cole Brandon’s quest for the surviving members of the Kenneally gang, who annihilated his family, leads him to northern New Mexico and the small town of Bezan. There he enlists in a company of irregulars whose aim is to destroy an outlaw band lead by the very man Brandon is tracking – Peter Kenneally. Captain Anson Carter, embittered exile from the Texas Rangers, whips his untrained outfit into seasoned shape, readying them for an all-out assault. But a wily Kenneally stratagem puts Carter out of action at the crucial moment, and it’s up to Cole Brandon to find a way to carry out Carter’s mission…and his own secret one.

A seasoned Texan can make almost anything out of rawhide – a lariat, a crude sledge, a supreme instrument of torture and death. Soft-spoken Cole Brandon was new to Texas, but as rancher Ray Volker’s trail cook he learned fast, feeding the men on the cattle drive and looking for the one among them he would have to kill – with rawhide, bullet, or bare hands.

Gren Kenneally’s gang had slaughtered lawyer Cole Brandon’s family – and left Brandon with one purpose in life: to hunt down and destroy every man who had ridden with Kenneally. Now Brandon watches and waits on the thousand-mile drive to Kansas for the man he seeks to show himself…and die.

He’s a lone-riding salesman, with windmills for his wares. Bigsbee’s a town with a reputation for tranquillity, a precious boon for any weary traveller.

Neither the man nor the town is what it seems. For the rider is Cole Brandon, once a lawyer, now a single-minded avenger, tracking down the renegades of the Kenneally gang who slaughtered his family. And Bigsbee’s been hit hard by the depression that followed the Panic of 1873, making it a battleground for homicidal outlaws and vigilante mobs. Fighting to survive, Brandon gains unlikely help – from one of the Kenneallys he’s hell-bent to destroy. Now Brandon has to make an enemy an ally, and face the deadliest decision a man ever made.

When a warehouse explosion in Philadelphia blasts away the last of the vicious Kenneally gang, Cole Brandon believes his quest to avenge his family’s slaughter is finally done. A former attorney who stepped outside the law for justice, Brandon’s only bedfellows have been fate, fear and death. Now winsome and enterprising Jess Marvell may be the one person who can help him discover his true self – a man buried beneath years of false names, flickering campfires, and flying lead. But just as Brandon dares to make a rendezvous with peace, Gren Kenneally rises from the ashes.

The ruthless gang leader is a target Brandon must confront, though Kenneally now sees behind his many masks. Through Yellowstone’s untamed wilderness Brandon will pursue him – to a roaring waterfall where one of them will be silenced forever.

Cover art by Bill Dodge. 

Published by Pocket Books, the first appeared in June 1992 and the last in December 1993. 

Friday 20 July 2012

Old Gun Wolf

By Frank Leslie
Mean Pete Press, July 2012


Ex-Confederate soldier, ex-Indian fighter, ex-train robber, ex-gunslinger...ex-father... Wilbur Calhoun just wants to run his little ranch in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, a quiet place even at the turn-of-the-century. He wants to be left alone, just him and his collie dog, Shep. He wants to weather his last days in peace. 

But then a rider comes after him at the head of a mountain snowstorm. That rider turns out to be Wilbur’s son, Devlin, whom Wilbur hasn’t seen since the boy was two years old. 

Devlin is a deputy U.S. marshal now, and he’s come to arrest his father for murder. But not just any murder. The murder of Devlin’s mother over twenty-five years ago in Tennessee...

Wilbur Calhoun might be old and just want to live quietly and anonymously, but does that mean he’ll go to the hangman peacefully, even when escorted by his long-lost son?

Old Gun Wolf is the first short story from Frank Leslie, at 20 pages it doesn’t take long to read and provides first class entertainment from beginning to end.

Frank Leslie manages to include a lot in this short tale, filling the reader in on the background of Wilbur Calhoun, and of the fatal shooting that sees Devlin wanting to see his father hanged. It’s a tough storyline that contains bloody graphic action.

Animal lovers will warm to Shep and to Wilbur’s dedication to him. There’s a wolf too that provides a neat link to the beginning and end. 

As expected the story is well told and I was kept wondering how it would finish. Would Wilbur or Devlin, perhaps both, or maybe neither, be dead by the conclusion?

And now I’m left eagerly looking forward to the next (short?) ebook from Frank Leslie.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Bullet for a Virgin!

By Peter Brandvold
Mean Pete Press, May 2012

The Rio Concho Kid must save a young Mexican girl from the savage intentions of the lusty General Constantine San Gabriel, who forced her into marriage. 

On their wedding night, Tomasina De La Cruz sticks a stiletto in the General’s guts and flees his sprawling hacienda with the help of the half-Apache drifter, Johnny Navarro, a.k.a., “the Rio Concho Kid.” 

The Kid and Tomasina race toward a rendezvous with the young man to whom Tomasina’s heart really belongs. In so doing, Tomasina and the Kid must avoid a deadly trap set by the man whom the dishonored General hired to bring his young bride back so he could have her tortured and gunned-down by firing squad. 

That man is the infamous, deadly bounty killer known only as El Leproso, the Leper!

Can the Kid prove victorious over his fiercest enemy and avoid falling in love with Tomasina, who is as beguiling as she is beautiful but who also harbors a bizarre, bone-chilling secret?

Announced as the first in a series of ebooks told in the style of those pulp western stories of yesteryear. Not only does Peter Brandvold pull that off, he also adds a touch of the spaghetti western to the mix, making this a book that all western fans should enjoy.

The plot gallops forwards at a terrific pace, with just enough description to add authenticity to the landscapes and colourful characters. And what great characters they are, all extremely memorable, including the bounty hunter El Leproso – a man who hides his face behind a sack cover and proves to be more than a match for the Rio Concho Kid. And who’ll be able to forget the owl?

Like those pulp novellas, this is a fairly short story (around 50 pages), with each chapter titled. The action doesn’t let up for a minute. All this means that the reader will not put it down before reaching its conclusion – a final showdown that springs a wonderful twist to the ending. 

All I can hope now is that it isn’t too long before Peter Brandvold finds the time to write, and publish, the next Rio Concho Kid adventure.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Morgan Kane: Revenge!

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

Morgan Kane’s friend, Peter Grossmann, had been gunned down by convicts on the run from the penitentiary at El Paso.

Kane dealt with two of the gunmen but the ringleader, Johnny Vulture, was still at large. Kane was determined to hunt him down and avenge Grossmann’s death. Johnny Vulture, for his part, had marked Kane down as the marshal who’d killed his companions. And there was the woman – Allison MacKay.

She had known Kane long ago. She, too, had old scores to settle…

This is an essential read for those following the adventures of Morgan Kane for the book brings to an end a story thread that has been running throughout the series so far, and also sees a doctor giving Kane some grave warnings about his current life-style (and when you consider this book originally came out in 1967, those warnings are not unlike those doctors dish out today). Kane’s attempt to follow the doctor’s advice put a massive grin on my face.

Kane doesn’t really feature that much in the book, particularly at the beginning after he’s killed some of the men who gunned down his friend Grossmann (another character whom readers will have met a number of times in previous books). Louis Masterson turns the book over to Johnny Vulture and his chance meeting with Allison MacKay and the plans they put into motion to rid the world of Kane…

Louis Masterson really does create an excellent emotional atmosphere once Kane and Allison come face to face. Can Kane forget the violent past between them? Can she? Is it possible Kane is falling in love? To reveal the answers to those questions here would really dilute the strength of the horrific ending to the book, these final scenes painting a very visual, dramatically haunting conclusion to this chapter in Kane’s life. 

Interesting cover too, for not only does it illustrate the passions of the book extremely well, the inclusion of the gun and dog (Allison’s savage pet) tell of the violence that is waiting to destroy without warning. The shadows concealing the figures faces also indicate the dark tone to this story – indeed the whole series – perfectly.

Friday 13 July 2012

The Silent Partner

By Marcus Galloway
Berkley, October 2008

Caleb Wayfinder is down on his luck. When he partnered up with the infamous gambler Doc Holliday, he hoped to see his fortunes rise, not find himself in the unenviable position of tossing drunks and deadbeats out of a saloon in the bustling town of Deadwood.

So when Creek Johnson offers him an equal share in a gold claim in exchange for watching his back, Caleb agrees – only to run afoul of Johnson’s double-crossing partners and their boss, Dave Rudabaugh. When the gun smoke clears, Caleb finds himself arrested for murder by townsfolk eager to string him up.

But Deadwood’s bloodthirsty citizens didn’t reckon on Doc Holliday taking matters into his own hands to save his friend…

The third, and sadly the last, of The Accomplice books is every bit as good as the previous two. Caleb Wayfinder and Doc Holliday are superbly thought out characters and the story, although fictional, is based around real events in Holliday’s life.

The above blurb is only the beginning of the story as once Holliday frees Wayfinder the pair leave Deadwood fast. Splitting up, the tale then follows each of them in turn until events bring them back together as Rudabaugh believes they owe him and is determined to make them pay and they need to join forces to deal with him.

One of Rudabaugh’s men, Samuel, further complicates matters, as you are never quite sure whether he has his own agenda or not. He’s definitely behind a number of attempts on Holliday’s life.

Marcus Galloway writes extremely well, and like other books of his, I found this one hard to put down. There’s always plenty going on to hold interest including tense scenes of poker and lots of gun action. This story also sees the first meeting of Holliday and Wyatt Earp, and brief as it is proves to be a memorable element of the tale, which for me makes it a shame the series didn’t continue any further.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Escape from the Alamo

By Dac Crossley
CreateSpace paper book, November 2010
ebook, January 2011

Remember the Alamo! The defenders fought bravely. To the last man, giving their lives for freedom and the Republic of Texas. But suppose one of those warriors survived the battle? What could he do? Where could he go? He’s supposed to be dead.

Young George Hanks, a Tennessee lad called “Possum” by Davy Crockett finds himself on the battlefield at San Jacinto, wounded, confused and alone. He can’t go back to Tennessee because they believe he died at the Alamo. What’s become of his idol, Davy Crockett? Possum believes that Crockett must have also survived the Alamo battle, and undertakes to find him in South Texas.

Dac Crossley’s book is a well-written and extremely readable tale of a young lad’s journey to manhood. His search for Crockett, which is actually a very small part of the story, just serves as a link to the different situations Possum finds himself in, which include taking on Indians and bandits, getting arrested and put on trial, and then enlisting in the Texas Rangers.

This isn’t an action-packed shoot-‘em-up western of the type I usually read. Yes it does contain a bit of gunplay, but this mostly happens off-screen, meaning it’s the consequences that Possum has to deal with. The story is more a character study telling how Possum grows, is shaped by events and the people he meets.

Dac Crossley includes a lot of fascinating facts about the changes Texas and its people face after the fall of the Alamo, many of which help mould Possum as he finds himself having to make life-changing decisions himself, whereas in the past he always had somebody to make those decisions for him, such as Davy Crockett. As well as Crockett linking the different parts of this story, Dac Crossley also includes Grady Bleeker, a man who knows Possum’s secret, and threatens to reveal it. Bleeker turns up often throughout the book and also helps tie events together.

The final part of the story jumps forward a few years and sees Possum as a grown, strong man, no longer the frightened insecure lad he was portrayed to be at the beginning of the story. The closing sequences also ties up the loose threads neatly, such as what happens to Bleeker and Cassandra, the girl taken by Comanches early on in the tale.

If you have an interest in this time period of American history then this could be just the book for you.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Three Rode Together

By Steve Hayes and David Whitehead
Hale, June 2012

Jesse Glover was minding his own business when Ulysses S. Grant summoned him to Washington, asking him to quit the life of a cowboy and keep Arizona safe from the likes of Cochise and Geronimo. So Jesse saddled up and headed for Fort Bowie and its Indian-hating commanding officer, Major Nicholas Calloway.

Along the way he saved a beautiful White Mountain Apache girl named Morning Star from a monstrous fate. And when he tangled with a ruthless gang who was determined to start a whole new Indian uprising, he found help in the shape of two unlikely allies – a Zulu warrior named Sam and a Chiricahua Apache named Goyahkla, who was better known as Geronimo.

Steve Hayes and David Whitehead have written a number of other novels together that have been published by Hale, but this is the first western. Both have had westerns published individually under their own names, and in David Whitehead’s case, under a number of pseudonyms too.

The book is well written, as expected, and moves forwards at a great pace. As well as the three main characters, Jesse, Sam, and Geronimo, there are others that are as equally memorable, Morning Star and Cochise being but two of them.

Jesse Glover’s mission of peace seems doomed to failure from the start as there are people on both sides who would rather go to war, Geronimo being one of them. This difference of opinion leads to a very visually written fight between Geronimo and Jesse. This isn’t the only obstacle they face with each other, for both have strong feelings for Morning Star…

The story portrays a sense of urgency as time runs out towards the latter part of the tale as the Apaches ride down on the fort intent on wiping it out. This provides some exciting reading as the three men of the title race to halt the impending battle. Are the three successful? Does Jesse or Geronimo win the heart of Morning Star? I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out, and I’d suggest you’ll be as entertained in finding out as I was. 

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Morgan Kane: Gunman's Inheritance

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

To die alone is a gunman’s inheritance…

Pierre Bayard, alias Johnny Largo, alias Whip Lash, was wanted for murder in five states. After he’d shot a marshal in Laramie and fled south, Kane was put on his trail. He didn’t know much about the killer, beyond the fact that he was a superstitious woman-chaser, but he learned a little more from some of the strange assortment of people who’d had dealings with him during his flight. And appropriately enough, when Kane caught up with Bayard, in Las Vegas, it was a shooting competition…

This entry into the Morgan Kane series has one of the more straightforward storylines, it’s essentially a tale of a lawman tracking down a killer. Much of the first part of the book follows Kane’s search during which he meets a variety of people who help him track down the whereabouts of Bayard.

Of course Louis Masterson adds depth to his lead character during this chase by having Kane question his future after meeting up with Pete Grossmann again (see previous books) and finding out that the Texas Ranger was afraid he’d lost his grip, had taken two bullets fired by a young bank robber. What is a gunman’s inheritance? No friends? No family? Just a gun and loneliness? Does Kane come up with an answer? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Kane also has to deal with his own fear of dying after visiting a fortune-teller.

Once Kane meets Bayard at the shooting match the story really picks up pace and Kane finds himself battling his conscience as to why he can’t just gun the man down without warning? The shooting contest itself provides some tense reading too. The final fight between Kane and Bayard is dramatic and brings the hunt to an exciting conclusion.

Kane doesn’t come out of this book unscathed, in fact not many of the characters in this tale do, if any, some may find a brief moment of happiness but….

Gunman’s Inheritance is a must read for those following Kane’s story as his meetings with, and thoughts of, people from his past pave the way for the next book in the series, Revenge!

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Gallows Bound

By Ben Coady
Hale, June 2012

Against the odds, having hunted down and cornered the notorious outlaw Frank Cuskin, Marshal Abe Ryan realizes that his problems are only just beginning. Lack of sleep, the desert, Indians, Cuskin’s polecat kin, thirst and exhaustion are a combination which, on the long ride ahead, make it ever more likely that Ryan’s mission will end in failure.

When Cuskin gets the upper hand and leaves him for dead, a lesser man than Abe Ryan would have abandoned the task and traded the dangers of his mission for his previous easy life of town marshal. But Ryan is not a lesser man, and he will use every weapon in his arsenal to deliver the killer to the gallows.

From what I can gather this is Ben Coady’s twelfth Black Horse Western and it’s the first I’ve read.

For roughly the first half of the book Ben Coady only introduces four characters, two being Ryan and Cuskin, the others being one who staggers in only to die moments later, and the final person who has a major role to play in the plot. During this part of the story Ryan has time to reflect on his life and on his untold love for Kate Collins. A message from Kate further into the tale causing him to have to make a difficult decision that could affect his future relationship with her.

The pace of the book is rapid and includes some great descriptive passages, most memorable for me when Ryan is left for dead with predators closing in and him being unable to defend himself. Ben Coady also creates some good tension when Ryan finally tracks down Cuskin again and has to get him out of an outlaw stronghold.

Ben Coady, which is a pseudonym for James O’Brien, writes well, in an easy to read style. He likes to use brackets, and does this quite a lot. Chapters and scene ends often finish with a cliff-hanger situation or a dramatic revelation that make it difficult to put the book down before the final page is reached and everything is resolved satisfactory.