Wednesday 29 August 2012

Six-Gun Nemesis

By Colin Bainbridge
Hale, August 2012

In Chaparral Bend a gallows is being raised for youngster Ty Garland, accused of bank robbery. But is he really guilty? His old ma claims he is innocent, and town tamer, Crossdraw Kitchenbrand, is inclined to believe her, especially as the notorious gunman Angel Addison and his gang, the Yuma Boys, seem to be involved.

Crossdraw’s search for answers brings him up against big ranch-owner Landon Clovis and leads him to the outlaw roost of Addisonville. He can count on the support of the old woman and a girl he has rescued, but will that be enough to succeed against overwhelming odds? Will his six-guns finally bring justice?

This is Colin Bainbridge’s fifth Black Horse Western and the third I have read.

The story starts well with Kitchenbrand discovering a tar-and-feathered old lady. Who could do such a thing to an elderly woman and why? Her tale exposes more questions than answers and Kitchenbrand finds himself involved in attempting to free Ty Garland, but there are people who don’t want that to happen.

The book builds in intrigue and suspense, has plenty of action and well-drawn, strong characters of both sexes. And who will be able to forget Reba (a crow)? 

The reason for killing or saving Ty Garland isn’t easy to work out and kept me glued to the story. Everything comes to a satisfactory end and I was left with a feeling of being thoroughly entertained and looking forward to reading another of Colin Bainbridge’s books. 

Six-Gun Nemesis has an official release date of August 31st, but is available now.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Beyond Redemption

By I.J. Parnham
Hale, August 2012

As a child Jeff Dale witnessed the terrible aftermath of an atrocity. Elmer Drake killed three members of a family and when the surviving girl Cynthia went missing, Jeff vowed that one day he’d find her, no matter how long it took.

Ten years later. After finding a clue about Cynthia’s fate, Jeff becomes a bounty hunter and follows the trail to the town of Redemption. And in Redemption stalks a gunslinger who carries a gun in one hand and a cross in the other. A man with a rope-burn around his neck, called Elmer Drake….

With plenty of questions hanging over the motives of the excellent cast of characters this story revolves around, the fast moving plot easily sweeps up the reader making this a difficult book to put down. Who is killing gold miners? Is Cynthia still alive? Can Jeff Dale trust an outlaw? Does Sister Angelica’s hospital have any part to play? What is Elmer Drake planning and what is the meaning of the cross he carries?

Like other Ian Parnham books I’ve read this one has a few twists and turns to surprise the reader and has plenty of exciting action that will satisfy readers who like lots of gunplay in their westerns. Even though the identity of one of the characters is fairly easy to work out the outcome of Jeff’s meeting this person is in no way predictable and how it concludes provided a satisfying and realistic ending for me.

So, once more, Ian Parnham leaves me looking forward to his next book, Devine, which is listed for a December release.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Devil's Creek Massacre

By Jack Bodine
Harper, March 1994

Cutthroat Comancheros, wandering banditos, the Mexican Army, the Fourth Cavalry – and Miss Vanessa Fontaine – all want Duane Braddock, who has the fastest gun in the West and much more than a price on his head. But it is the Apaches who leave him for dead in the Coahuilian Desert.

Found by a ragtag outlaw band led by an ex-Confederate soldier, Braddock is brought back to the land of the living. By the time he is well enough to run, a greedy plan to seize half-a-million dollars of Army payroll is in place. The dynamite is set, the fuse is lit, and the Pecos Kid has his pick: kill or die.

The book begins moments before Braddock finds himself fighting for his life against a small band of Apaches in a gripping scene that leaves the Pecos Kid barely alive. A good portion of the story then deals with Braddock’s recovery. During this time Jack Bodine introduces his cast of excellent characters, such as outlaw leader Captain Cochrane and his woman Juanita Torregrosa, Dr. Montgomery and the crazy killer Johnny Pinto, all of who will cause problems for Braddock as the tale evolves.

Jack Bodine switches between characters chapter by chapter, following all their thoughts and schemes. By far the largest number of chapters not about Duane Braddock continue the story of Vanessa Fontaine – Duanne and Vanessa had been lovers (see previous books). Newly widowed Vanessa now searches for happiness but still can’t get Duane out of her mind so she sets out to find The Pecos Kid, her trail putting her into all kinds of dangerous situations.

Braddock must struggle to keep true to his beliefs and tries to get out of having to take part in the payroll robbery. He also has his hands full of trouble in the form of Johnny Pinto, this madman forcing Braddock into an extremely well written duel.

Does Vanessa find The Pecos Kid? Does Braddock manage to avoid being part of the robbery? Does he get away from the outlaws? All I will say is the book gallops forward to its brutal final showdown that sees a few loose threads left dangling so they can be continued in the next book in the series. A book I shall be reading very soon. 

Jack Bodine is a pseudonym used by Len Levinson, and he’s recently put all the Pecos Kid books out as ebooks under his own name, along with his other excellent western series The Apache Wars Saga that were originally published as by Frank Burleson.


Tuesday 21 August 2012

Shadow of Guilt

By Mark Bannerman
Hale, August 2012

It starts out as a simple mission to trace his kid brother, but Brad Caulderfield rides into a heap of trouble when he kills the brother of Marshal Seth Blevins.

Charged with murder and pursued by the embittered lawman, Brad has no alternative but to run for his life. He faces further complications from Stella Goodnight who is out for blood when he fails to return her affections. When his brother reappears bearing bitter resentments from the past, he is looking headlong into the face of his nemesis….

This is the first Black Horse Western from Mark Bannerman for some time, his last appeared in 2007.

Mark Bannerman throws plenty of problems at his hero, Brad Caulderfield, such as finding his brother, Lanny, who has sworn to kill both Brad and their father. There are posses hunting them both too. A neighbouring father is also looking for vengeance and is threatening to throw the Caulderfield’s off their rented land if Lanny isn’t returned to pay for his crimes. Then there’s Stella and her baggage that also sees more people wanting to kill Brad. A plague of grasshoppers have an important part to play in the fast moving plot too.

When we first meet Brad he’s having problems with snakes, a confrontation that sees him being bitten, this gives the author the opportunity to add an interesting scene involving one of the new hypodermic syringes.

As the story unfolds it soon becomes clear that the reader can’t second guess on who will be alive at the end, and for those who are the final scenes are played out in a courtroom.

Once again Mark Bannerman has come up with a very entertaining read that has left me looking forward to reading another of his books very soon.

Mark Bannerman is a pseudonym used by Anthony Lewing and you can find an interview I did with him here.

Shadow of Guilt is officially released on August 31st but is available now from the usual Internet book stores.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Blind Man's Bluff

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, August 2012

The Chiricahua Mountains are full of dangers – and the most terrifying is Apache warrior Red Dog. So when Skye Fargo comes across him, it’s no surprise he’s in the middle of torturing a prospector. Fargo rescues the man, but earns the hatred of Red Dog in the process. And with a slew of greedy gold hunters aiming to start a bloodbath, the Trailsman is going to have to grow eyes in the back of his head to survive….

Opening with a gruesome scene of torture this Trailsman adventure never lets up with action thereafter. Jon Sharpe brings together a terrific cast of characters who when not trying to kill each other are having doubts about who they can trust and whether they are being told the whole truth about a search for gold. All these questions kept me glued to the pages as I was instantly hooked with the need to find out just what was going on.

Being a Trailsman book there isn’t a shortage of women wanting to bed Fargo, but for me the most memorable woman is the one who wants nothing more but to blow a hole through his skull. In fact she is probably my favourite character that Fargo comes into contact with this time.

There are plenty of cliff-hanger chapter, and scene, endings that make the book difficult to put down before discovering what happens next, and the pacing is superb. Descriptions are brief but offer more than enough detail to give the reader a good idea as to the landscape this story is played out in. Violence erupts regularly and is often quite brutally described.

With Jon Sharpe this time around being David Robbins you can expect some cracking dialogue laced with sarcasm and humour, along with some neat twists-to-the-tale.

Blind Man’s Bluff proved to be a very enjoyable read that left me eager for next months offering California Killers.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Blood on the Land

By Paul Bedford
Hale, August 2012

In 1844, young British Army officer, Thomas Collins, is sent to the fledgling Republic of Texas. His mission: to meet the legendary President Sam Houston to negotiate terms for the British Empire’s involvement in his country.

What Thomas finds is a world of subterfuge and danger. The republic is scourged by an implacable and deadly enemy, the Comanche Nation, for whom rape, pillage and bloody warfare is a way of life. His desperate fight for survival brings him into contact with Captain John Coffee Hays, and his effective Texas Rangers, and ends in a lethal climax aboard a steamboat on the unpredictable Brazos River.

This first Black Horse Western from Paul Bedford is unusual in both the time period the story is set in and the fact that the story is told in the first person. The book is also much longer than the majority of BHW due to more words per line and more lines per page. Chapters also begin a few lines after the previous one ends rather than starting on a new page.

Paul Bedford's prose is very readable and his story is action-packed, containing many fights with the Comanche. Thomas Collins is a hero out of depth as he struggles to understand this new country and its people. He soon begins to have doubts about his mission and questions why he seems to be the target for assassination and who is behind these attempts. Can he even trust the man who saved his life, Bannock, a man who claims to be a Texas Ranger, one whom others have never heard of?

The fights often last a number of pages. They are brutal and often graphic in description. Great to see mention of the amounts of powder smoke emerging from the guns that obscure vision, making it difficult for the triggerman to see if they’ve downed a target. 

The story is well plotted and moves forward swiftly, its many questions serving to hold the readers attention. Finding a lone female survivor of a ruthless attack on her family’s cabin adds further complications in the form of kidnap and emotional turmoil as Thomas wonders if he’s falling in love with her. Can these feelings be allowed to get in the way of his mission?

I found Paul Bedford’s book to be an excellent read and was left hoping it won’t be too long before another comes out. Blood on the Land has an official release date of August 31st but is available now.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Rattlesnake Valley

By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, April 2010

They came from the sea: a former ship captain named Owen Bird who inherited a Texas ranch from his brother… A former pirate named “Black Terrance” Malone, who has arrived in the once peaceful Rattlesnake Valley with a crew of sea dogs to do his dirty work. And dirty work it will be, as Black Terrance begins a campaign of thieving and threatening, even targeting Bird’s beautiful young niece. Into this storm rides the Loner – Conrad Morgan, son of legendary gunfighter Frank Morgan. The Loner sees what no one else does: a war born on the high seas and a third party is bidding his time – waiting to strike a death blow on solid, bloody ground…

Having the two sides come from a background of sailors and pirates, gives this book an unusual and welcome slant to what at first seems to be the classic range war plot. But it isn’t long before it’s discovered that there is much more at stake here, that a range war is how it seems only on the surface.

The author grabs the reader’s attention with great characters, not least Bird’s niece Diana and saloon owner Sophia, women who could find a way into The Loner’s heart.

The pace of the story is excellent, powering along through exciting gunplay, a sword fight and other tense scenes. Mentioned in the blurb is a third party and the author keeps the identity of this person a secret until they are ready to reveal all, this includes the reason they are interested in the fight in Rattlesnake Valley – and this was something I couldn’t have guessed at so came as a surprise that added another twist to the tale.

As one would hope the final showdown ties up all the loose ends and offers a new way of life for Conrad Morgan, a life with one of the lead women of the story. Does he choose to stay or ride on? That’s a question I’m not going to answer, just say I’m sure most western fans will really enjoy reading this book to find out and by the end feel as thoroughly entertained as I did.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Cover Gallery: Bodie the Stalker

By Neil Hunter

Bodie was a bounty hunter, a legalised killer, a man alone.

Bodie was a survivor in a tough world where a gunman’s life depended on his ruthlessness and his speed on the draw. But Bodie didn’t kid himself about the glory of being a gunslinger. Killing was a trade and Bodie was for hire to anyone with enough money and desperation. Yet there was one man who tried to take Bodie for a two-bit greenhorn. And Bodie wasn’t about to be taken…

In San Felipe a priest had been brutalised, a young girl raped and a statue stolen. Bodie aimed to kill the men responsible. He had once been a lawman, but now he tracked outlaws for bounty, and for his own satisfaction. He would blast a murderer’s head off without flinching – it was all in a day’s work. Only this time it was different. Bodie had a personal stake in wanting these men dead. For a killer, a private quarrel can be fatal…

Angela Crown came to Bodie with a proposition – she wanted to hire his gun. It wasn’t Bodie’s usual line of work, but something about Miss Crown convinced The Stalker that the job would be worthwhile. 

That’s how Bodie got mixed up in bushwhacking, rape, corruption and murder. He was set against a powerful, ruthless landowner who wanted Angela Crown’s mine, and wasn’t going to let one gunman stop him getting it. This sonofabitch had enough money to hire every two-bit gunslinger in town – all to kill Bodie. 

But that wasn’t all the bounty hunter’s problems. There was also a beautiful, wealthy and cold-blooded whore called Beth Arling and she, too, had good reason to want Bodie dead…

They called the man Coyote. A half-breed, a ruthless killer. It needed an equally ruthless man to run him to ground. There was only one gunman that could measure up. Bodie.

When Bodie set out to find Coyote with twelve Winchesters and a thousand rounds of ammunition, he couldn’t know that his carefully devised plans were to be completely wiped out.

The first complication came in the voluptuous form of Eden Chantry, a girl Bodie knew from way back. The second big problem loomed in the shape of Silva, a hitman from the East. Bodie’s reputation had spread even as far as New York, and somebody in that city had decided that The Stalker was too dangerous to live…

Jody Butler was a mean, vicious kid. For a long time he’d had the run of the territory where his rich, powerful father was the law. But the day Jody blew a man’s head away with a shotgun, the townspeople of Pine Ridge decided they’d had enough. They hired a killer. He was called Bodie.

For the first time in his life it looked like The Stalker had bitten off more than he could chew. Major Butler wasn’t the type to sit back and see his boy taken in by a bounty hunter. He hit Bodie with everything he had.

Bodie was kicked, beaten, damn near killed. But he soaked it all up, and came back for more…

The day a Kiowa Indian saved Bodie’s life was one that neither of them would forget. In Long Walker, Bodie found the nearest thing to a partner he’d ever need.

They were both hunters, outcasts, loners. And they were both on the trail of the same man – a bible-spouting killer called Parson Kane. It was obvious that neither Bodie nor the Indian could take Kane and his Comancheros alone. But in Pueblo Diablo, they discovered that even as a team they may have bitten off more than they could chew.

Neil Hunter is a pseudonym used by British writer Mike Linaker and this series was published in the UK by Star Books. The first five came out in 1979, the sixth, and last followed in 1980.

1980 also saw the publication of the second issue of the UK’s Western Magazine in which a further, short, story about Bodie appeared: Death Comes to Jubilation.

It is still possible to find the books, Linford also published them in large print editions, but the magazine is much harder to find. Piccadilly Publishing has recently been putting the series out in ebook form and the first two are available now. 

Click on the above images to see larger versions.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

The Outlaw's Daughter

By C.J. Sommers
Hale, July 2012

Matt Holiday was riding a dangerous trail. He had a kidnapped boy and a woman to worry about, a quartet of robbers behind him, $20,000 in missing gold to find and an unwelcoming outlaw town ahead of him. With the gunfighter, Frank Waverly, searching for him it would be a lucky day if the gold was ever returned to the Butterfield Stage Company.

And the most dangerous gun on the range belonged to the beautiful Serenity Waverly, Frank’s daughter. She rode with Matt, but he suspected that would last only as long as it took them to recover the stolen gold. She had outlaw blood in her and knew only outlaw ways.

This is C.J. Sommers third Black Horse Western and the first I’ve read, other than that I know nothing else about this writer.

Matt Holiday is an able hero who, at times, puts helping others ahead of his mission to recover the stolen gold. He’s not opposed to getting into a gunfight if needed (and of course it is) but it’s Serenity who comes across as the more devil may care type of person, often acting without thinking, and is ready to gun down those she sees as needing to be killed without a blink of an eye. 

The story moves forwards at an ever increasing pace and you have to wonder how all the problems Holiday faces will be resolved by the end, especially after Frank Waverly arrives on the scene. Holiday has a good idea as to Serenity’s motives, but can he believe Frank’s?

The plot is fairly straightforward but does offer a surprise killing at the end which I didn’t see coming.

The Outlaw’s Daughter proved to be a well-written and entertaining read.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot

By the Bly family
Greenbrier Books, March 2012

In 1905, at 58 years old, legendary lawman Stuart Brannon – now a rancher and widower – had no intention of leaving his beloved Arizona Territory to attend the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon.

Then the telegram came: Stuart, I need you in Portland. Tim Wiseman is missing. I think there’s a cover-up going on. Tell folks you’re going to the Exposition. Nose around. Find out how a U.S. Marshal can disappear and no one knows why. I’ll contact you there. T.R.

No way could Stuart Brannon refuse a personal request from Teddy Roosevelt!

This book was started by Stephen Bly, an author with more than 105 novels and non-fiction books to his name, of which a number of them were co-written with his wife, Janet. Sadly Stephen passed away in 2011. Janet, and their sons Russell, Michael, and Aaron completed the book hence their names appearing beneath Stephen’s on the cover.

The story also brings a close to the Stuart Brannon series. The first book Hard Winter at Broken Arrow appeared in 1991. Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot is the seventh in the series.

The story is very much character driven, many of whom Brannon comes into contact with here he seems to have met in some of the earlier novels but it isn’t essential to have read them before this one as just enough information is given to explain how they know each other. There are also many foreign characters, all fuelling the thought that some International conspiracy may be behind the disappearance of Tim Wiseman.

Humour plays an important part too. Brannon is asked to compete in a charity golf tournament, something he tries his best to get out of, and his first attempt at the game results in some erratic shots to say the least. Brannon also has trouble with an out of control horse and a chandelier-swinging lady who has a passion for llamas.

The story is as much a detective novel as a western, and as the bodies mount up, Brannon seems at a loss as to just what is going on and why. Slowly pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place and I can’t really reveal any more than that without giving anything away, but I will add that a dead whale on the beach might have something to do with it, or not…

Stuart Brannon is a very likeable hero and this story has left me eager to read his earlier adventures and to try other Stephen Bly novels.

Friday 3 August 2012

Hour of the Black Wolf

By Mark P. Lynch
Hale, July 2012

Sheriff Gus Dudgeon finally has a witness who can identify the masked outlaw Black Wolf, who has terrorized Autumn Jericho for years. Gus must keep the witness safe until a wanted poster artist arrives and a likeness of the outlaw sketched. It should be simple. But Black Wolf has influence across town and Sheriff Dudgeon finds he can trust no one but his closest men.

While the sheriff is protecting his witness, Black Wolf sends Big Jim Deal to prevent the artist from arriving. But it seems Big Jim is also having trouble trusting his men, and there are people lurking in the shadows and willing to help Dudgeon, too.

With tensions rising, time running out, the hour of the Black Wolf is at hand.

Mark P. Lynch expertly uses the technique of switching between his cast of excellent characters chapter-by-chapter or scene-by-scene. This enables him to finish each of these sections by leaving someone in a dangerous situation or with a question, thus ensuring the reader will find it very difficult to put the book down before finding out what happens next.

The fast moving plot is full of twists and turns, which includes some of the characters identities. One of these is revealed about a quarter of the way into the story and came as a complete surprise to me, so much so I had to go back and re-read some of the beginning to see if I’d missed any clues, and praise must be heaped on Mark for setting the perfect trap which caught me out wonderfully.

Dialogue is believable and there is just enough description to set scenes well. Gunplay and knife killings are fast, furious and brutal. The book has strong parts for both male and female characters, not least the witness, whose fears provide some very visual scenes such as when remembering events that lead to seeing the Black Wolf’s face.

This is the first Black Horse Western from Mark P. Lynch and I can only hope it’s not too long before another appears. If you want to find out more about Mark he has a blog here.

Hour of the Black Wolf was officially released on July 31st and is selling out fast so if you want a copy don’t wait too long before ordering one.