Monday 31 December 2012

Westerns read during 2012

Here’s a list of the Westerns I’ve read this year, or listened to in a couple of cases. I’ve linked each to its review and will continue to update the links to those that I haven’t reviewed yet.

JANUARY READS – 11 books

1. Unmasked edited by Tom Roberts
2. The Guerrilla Man: Bloody Trail to Kansas by Steven Clark
3. Morgan Kane: The Star and the Gun by Louis Masterson
4. The Trailsman #363: Death Devil by Jon Sharpe
5. No Coward by Lee Clinton
6. Pay Dirt by Lee Walker
7. Miles to Little Ridge by Heath Lowrance
8. Six Ways of Dying by Cody Wells
9. The Last Ride of Jed Strange by Frank Leslie
10. The Hellrakers by Owen G. Irons
11. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt


12. Morgan Kane: Backed by the Law by Louis Masterson
13. Death on the Devil’s Highway by Josh Lockwood
14. Sabinas Kid by Steve Ritchie
15. The Gunsmith #2: The Chinese Gunmen by J.R. Roberts (audio version)
16. Redemption: Hunters by James Reasoner
17. Fugitive Run by Chet Cunningham
18. Cotton’s Law by Phil Dunlap
19. A Message for McCleod by Emmett Stone
20. Devils Nest by Richard Prosch
21. Hang ‘Em All by David Whitehead
22. The Brothers O’Brien by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
23. Morgan Kane: A Ranger’s Honor by Louis Masterson

MARCH READS – 11 books

24. Longarm and the 400 Blows by Tabor Evans
25. Violence at Sundown by Frank O’Rourke
26. The Trailsman #365: High Country Greed by Jon Sharpe
27. Bullets for a Ballot by Nik Morton
28. Dead Man’s Ranch a Ralph Compton novel by Matthew P. Mayo
29. Morgan Kane: Marshal and Murderer by Louis Masterson
30. Last Man in Lazarus by Bill Shields
31. Range of Terror by Billy Hall
32. Cody’s Law #5: Mano A Mano by Matthew S. Hart (audio version)
33. The Vinegar Peak Wars by Hugh Martin
34. The Venom of Iron Eyes by Rory Black

APRIL READS – 9 books

35. Dead Man’s Brand by Norbert Davis
36. Slocum and the High-Rails Heiress (#398) by Jake Logan
37. Buff Tea by Edward M. Erdelae
38. Thunder Valley by David Robbins
39. The Search for the Lone Star by I.J. Parnham
40. Morgan Kane: Pistolero by Louis Masterson
41. No Peace for a Rebel by Peter Wilson
42. Derailed by Owen G. Irons
43. The Trailsman #366: Mountains of No Return by Jon Sharpe

MAY READS – 14 books

44. Sundown at Singing River by Ty Kirwan
45. Morgan Kane: The Monster from Yuma by Louis Masterson
46. Midnight Rider by Ralph Cotton
47. Twilight Trail by Lance Howard
48. .45-Caliber Cross Fire by Peter Brandvold
49. Against All Odds by Hank J. Kirby
50. Bodie #1: Trackdown by Neil Hunter
51. Fortress Palomino by Michael D. George
52. Morgan Kane: The Devil’s Marshal by Louis Masterson
53. The Trailsman #367: Texas Tempest by Jon Sharpe
54. Ride the Savage River by Scott Connor
55. Tribute to a Legend by Connor McKenzie
56. Have Gun, Will Play by Camille LaGuire
57. The Red Sabbath by Lewis B. Patten

JUNE READS – 11 books

58. Escape from the Alamo by Dac Crossley
59. The Accomplice #3: The Silent Partner by Marcus Galloway
60. The Blackwell Claim by Troy D. Smith
61. The Ranch Next Door and other stories by Elisabeth Grace Foley
62. Blood of the Scalphunter by John Legg
63. Apache #1: The First Death by William M. James
64. Morgan Kane: Gunman’s Inheritance by Louis Masterson
65. The Pecos Kid #5: Devil’s Creek Massacre by Jack Bodine
66. The Ghosts of Poynter by Amos Carr
67. The Bloodstained Crossing by Matt Laidlaw
68. Gallows Bound by Ben Coady

JULY READS – 10 books

69. Three Rode Together by Steve Hayes and David Whitehead
70. Morgan Kane: Revenge! by Louis Masterson
71. The Bells of El Diablo by Frank Leslie
72. Bullet for a Virgin by Peter Brandvold
73. The Loner #5: Rattlesnake Valley by J.A. Jihnstone
74. Old Gun Wolf by Frank Leslie
75. Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot by the Bly Family
76. Tanglefoot by Logan Winters
77. Invite to a Showdown by Terrell L. Bowers
78. Hour of the Black Wolf by Mark P. Lynch

AUGUST READS – 11 books

79. The Outlaw’s Daughter by C.J. Sommers
80. Of Stampedes, Runaway Trains, & Riverboat Scoundrels by James C. Odonnell
81. The Trailsman #370: Blind Man’s Bluff by Jon Sharpe
82. Blood on the Land by Paul Bedford
83. Beyond Redemption by I.J. Parnham
84. Wolf Creek #1: Bloody Trail by Ford Fargo
85. Shadow of Guilt by Mark Bannerman
86. Murphy by Gary Paulsen
87. Six-Gun Nemesis by Colin Bainbridge
88. Big with Vengeance by Cecil Snyder
89. Rancho Diablo #3: Dead Man’s Revenge by Colby Jackson


90. Luke Jensen, Bounty Hunter by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
91. Rogue Lawman: The Lonely Widow by Peter Brandvold
92. The Trailsman #371: California Killers by Jon Sharpe
93. Day of the Wolf by Charles G. West
94. Talbot Roper #1: Bullets and Lies by Robert J. Randisi
95. High Noon in Snake Ridge by Scott Connor
96. Johnny Dollar by Tony Masero
97. Domingo’s Trail by Greg Mitchell
98. Fargo’s Legacy by Tyler Hatch


99. Rusty Spurr #1: The Last Lawman by Peter Brandvold
100. The Trailsman #372: Missouri Mastermind by Jon Sharpe
101. Faro Blake #1: The Big Gamble by Zeke Masters
102. Easy Company and the Bible Salesman (#25) by John Wesley Howard
103. Judgement Trail by Rob Hill
104. Double Cross Trail Drive by Chet Cunningham
105. Duel of Shadows by Billy Hall
106. Trooper Dalton by Ed Law


107. The Long Shooters by Daniel C. Chamberlain
108. The Trailsman #373: Utah Terror by Jon Sharpe
109. The Spanish Bit Saga #20: Walks in the Sun by Don Coldsmith
110. Stillman #6: Once Upon a Dead Man by Peter Brandvold
111. Fergal O’Brien #3: Miss Dempsey’s School for Gunslingers by I.J. Parnham
112. The Hanging of Red Cavanagh by Jim Lawless
113. Blood and Gold by Clay Starmer
114. Poison Mean by Peter Brandvold
115. Whispering Skull by Dean Edwards


116. The Outlaw Life by Owen G. Irons
117. Wind River #2: Thunder Wagon by James Reasoner
118. The Trailsman #374: Fort Death by Jon Sharpe
119. Sudden Death by Corba Sunman
120. Not a Hope in Hell by Hank J. Kirby
121. The Head Hunters by Mark Bannerman
122. Bowen & Baile by Frank Roderus
123. The No-Account Girl by Peter Brandvold
124. Nine Dead Men by Walter L. Bryant
125. Pitchfork Justice by Chuck Tyrell

Saturday 29 December 2012

Bowen and Baile

By Frank Roderus
Western Trail Blazer, August 2012

The end of life for a member of his family means a return to a former way of life for Howard Bowen. He gave up hunting men years ago, but there is no one else he would trust with this job.

Then he meets a greenhorn named Edward Baile, equally determined to see justice done, who carries a new weapon called a Mauser. 

Bowen agrees Baile can tag along and together they hit an unknown trail, seeking five guilty men. Will this hunt mark a turning point in each of their lives, or bring about their deaths?

This is the first in a new series of ebooks written by long time western author Frank Roderus.

The book tells of how Bowen and Baile meet up and spends a bit of time introducing the reader to their back-stories, and neatly highlights the differences in abilities and experiences between the aging Bowen and the younger Baile. This also leads to a couple of humorous incidents.

Having Baile using a Mauser again allows for some great contrasts between it and the older western pistols and weapons preferred by Bowen, although both like to use sawn-off shotguns. All these weapons are used to devastating effect during this fast moving tale.

This month has seen the publication of the second book in this series, and on the strengths of the first one, I for one will be wasting no time in getting around to reading #2: Before I Die.

At $0.99 (£0.77) this is a bargain not to be missed.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Nine Dead Men

By Walter L. Bryant
Hale, December 2012

Ten years after his life is saved, Jason drifts into Inspiration. He believes fate has given him the opportunity to repay the debt when he hears of the leader of an outlaw gang, Adam One-Ear. But fate has dealt him a dangerous hand and he must use all his skills with gun and fist to remain alive, especially when up against two ranch-workers who want him dead.

His determination to meet Adam is complicated by the invention of a sheriff who wants to kill the outlaw, a young man seeking revenge for an old injustice, and the abduction of the rancher’s daughter. And by the time Jason, the sheriff and Adam meet for the final time, nine men will have died….

As far as I can tell this is the first Black Horse Western to carry the author name of Walter L. Bryant and his book is one of the longer stories published by Hale. 

Bryant mainly follows his hero Jason but does switch to other characters every now and again such as One-Ear and Billy, the vengeance driven kid. Each storyline, and those of the sheriff and the ranch-workers, are expertly woven together, weaving a twisting yarn that easily held my attention.

Bryant also includes plenty of hooks in the form of questions such as is One-Ear the man who saved Jason back in the Civil War? Why was Jason offered a job out of the blue? Can Billy become a successful outlaw? Which nine characters will become those of the title?

The story is told confidently and at an ever-increasing pace and all the questions are answered satisfactorily by the end. On closing the book I was left hoping it isn’t too long before another BHW comes out from this writer.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Head Hunters

By Mark Bannerman
Hale, December 2012

Elmer Carrington, former Captain of the Texas Rangers, is the victim of a horrendous crime committed by the Mexican bandit, Mateo.

Accompanied by Daniel Ramos, another victim of Mateo, he sets off in pursuit of the man they hate. With the trail leading them deep into Mexico, through dangerous mountains and blistering desert, they encounter terrifying hazards and unforeseen enemies. But nothing has prepared them for the treachery and torture that awaits them when Carrington is given a hideous task. Failure to carry it out threatens death for both him and Daniel Ramos….

Mark Bannerman has long been a popular author of Black Horse Westerns and this book should help keep that reputation alive. His writing style easily pulls the reader into the story and his method of switching from character to character scene-by-scene or chapter to chapter, often leaving them in trouble, ensures the reader will continue turning the pages.

There’s plenty of action, some of it quiet savage – after all the title refers to bringing back the heads of those hunted as proof of their deaths. There’s also the added fear of catching the plague as Mateo is holed up in a town rife with it.

Let’s hope that the name of Mark Bannerman (a pseudonym used by Anthony Lewing) continues to appear on BHWs for a long time to come, as I for one look forward to each new book.

The Head Hunters is officially released on December 30th, but is available now from the usual Internet booksellers.

Monday 24 December 2012

The No-Account Girl

By Peter Brandvold
Mean Pete Press, December 2012

Colter Farrow has been through a lot. He’s killed a lot of men in self-defense. Now the red-haired young gunfighter with the Mark of Satan on his cheek is on the dodge, trying to outrun the bounty hunters and get himself to Mexico.

But then he runs into a beautiful young woman with the unlikely name of Kyle Bruner. Kyle is transporting her dead outlaw brother for burial.

The trouble is, Kyle’s brother is wanted dead or alive. Bounty hunters are after him, too.

Colter falls under the girl’s haunting spell.

He’d best make sure he doesn’t fall too hard...because sometimes love can be more deadly than bullets.

“Thank you, Colter,” Kyle said. “You might be hell with a six-gun, but you’re damn sweet.”

For those, like me, patiently waiting for the fourth Colter Farrow book, Bad Justice, to be published next April, this short story is the perfect bridge. I’ll also take a moment to point out that Mean Pete has put this out under his own name rather than the pseudonym of Frank Leslie the regular books come out as by.

This is an action-packed, gritty read that has an impressive death toll for such a short story. There’s also a neat twist ending to this tale that sees bounty hunters spoilt for choice in either cashing in on Colter and / or Bruner’s corpse. 

No western fan should miss this and if it proves to be your introduction to Colter Farrow I’m sure it’ll have you hunting out the previous books and joining me looking forward to the next.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Not a Hope in Hell

By Hank J. Kirby
Hale, December 2012

They said he was a trigger-happy sheriff, but when the bad boys came to town nobody complained when he cut loose with his guns.

Until the day when two elderly folk are killed during a shoot-out, forcing the sheriff to get out of town and find a new place to make a living. But when things don’t work out as planned: the only place to go is back to Texas, where the wanted dodgers await, along with a whole crowd of enemies….

Hank J. Kirby is one of the pseudonyms used by Keith Hetherington, a writer who has fast become one of my favourite western authors. Each book of his I’ve read has left me eagerly waiting for his next and this story continues that desire.

Not a Hope in Hell is filled with great characters and has a hero that doesn’t come out of gunfights and fistfights unscathed, in fact for most of the book Clay Emory is walking wounded.

The plot at first seems fairly straight-forward but it isn’t long before there’s questions that need answers and then the story moves through a couple of twists and turns and the reader is left wondering just which side of the law Emory now works on. Of course everything is eventually explained and resolved in a spectacular gunfight.

I’ve been a bit vague with the plot on purpose so as not to give anything away and spoil the storyline for those intending to read this book. I’ll finish by saying if you have yet to try any of Keith Hetherington’s work then this could well be the perfect place to start.

Not a Hope in Hell is officially released on December 30th, but is available now.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Fort Death

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, December 2012

When Skye Fargo gets a letter from an old friend and fellow scout, he finds he’s not alone. It seems that every sharp-eyed pathfinder worth his buckskins has been asked to Fort Carlson. But it’s soon revealed that someone has brought them together for a very special reason – to take them out, one by one….

Jon Sharpe has created a very engaging group of scouts around whom this story revolves. One will be familiar to readers of the series, California Jim, who was last seen in The Trailsman #166: Mountains of No Return. Not only are their personalities well thought out – who will ever be able to forget Bear River Tom’s fascination with…. you’ll have to read the book to discover just what that is – but the story also has the gripping hook of who is killing the scouts and why.

As well as the strong mystery thread this book is full of action and snappy dialogue that offers some genuine laughs. Being an adult series you’d expect a fair amount of sex but this story doesn’t go overboard with this, in fact there is only one such encounter.

The author (David Robbins writing as Jon Sharpe) writes in a very readable style and piles problem upon problem for Fargo as he battles to stay alive and solve the mystery of who is killing the scouts, never mind the extra danger of rampaging Bannocks who the army is intent on wiping out.

In conclusion Fort Death proves to be an exciting read that shouldn’t be missed by Trailsman fans or anyone who enjoys a fast paced western.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Sudden Death

By Corba Sunman
Hale, December 2012

Lew Harper receives news that his father is having trouble and spares no time getting back there to help him out. But Lew is too late and the Circle H ranch is in the grip of a stranger.

Looking for explanations, Harper finds himself in an unexpected ambush and his troubles escalate wildly, taking a strange turn when he discovers that his father has actually been missing for three years. Every way he turns the mystery deepens and, when the shooting starts, sudden death is on the cards, and it won’t stop until Lew has all the answers….

The mystery behind the disappearance of Lew Harper’s father serves as a tremendous hook and guarantees that the reader will find the book difficult to put down until the answers are discovered.

Harper has to go it alone as most of the other characters in this easy to read story don’t seem to want him around for reasons that aren’t disclosed until the tale is drawing to its conclusion, a final shootout that is both fast and brutal.

Like many readers of Corba Sunman’s stories I’ve always enjoyed them, and this one is no exception….but, surprisingly, Corba has slipped up by having the same man killed twice within a matter of a few pages. Still he isn’t the first author to do this and I’m sure he won’t be the last, so if you can overlook this mistake I’m sure, like me, you’ll find this story to be an entertaining read.

Sudden Death is officially released on December 30th but is available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Miss Dempsey's School for Gunslingers

By I.J. Parnham
Avalon, 2004

When tonic sellers Fergal O’Brien and Randolph McDougal decided to settle in Destiny, they reckoned the new railroad would make Destiny a boomtown, but it only brought an onslaught of surly gunslingers. While Fergal sells his tonic – a universal remedy to cure all ills – Randolph becomes sheriff of the dusty town. Throwing the ruffians in a half-built jail is his solution for dealing with a corrupt mayoral election and ten thousand dollars disappearing from the town coffers.

Her faith in the decency of the town wavering, the schoolteacher, Miss Dempsey, takes it upon herself to clean up Destiny by educating the gunslingers so that they’ll learn the error of their ways! After all, she points out to one of her students, knowing how to read is important if one’s own name should wind up on a wanted poster.

As Randolph wants to win Miss Dempsey’s heart, he grudgingly supports her cause. But Kent Sullivan, his rival for her affections and a showman of homemade historical memorabilia, is always one step ahead of him in providing her school with just the right support. So Randolph turns to his old friend Fergal for help. Can Fergal devise another one of his legendary schemes to resolve all of Randolph’s problems, or will he just get them both killed? Will decency be restored to the town of Destiny through Miss Dempsey’s school, or will the roughest gunslinger of all be named mayor?

Like the previous two books in this excellent series this story is extremely fast moving and includes many how-are-they-going-to-get-out-of-that situations. There are plenty of laughs to be had too, such as the art lesson and the young boy pointing out the faults in Sullivan’s exhibition. Other story threads that left me grinning were the attempts to rig the election and Fergal finding out his story as to the origin of his tonic has been ripped off and this other sellers’ tonic not only cures all ills, it can bring people back from the dead – and it’s proved to do so! 

Ian Parnham has once again come up with a very entertaining read that left me eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Fergal O’Brien stories are now being made available as ebooks through Amazon.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Walks in the Sun

By Don Coldsmith
Bantam paperback, November 1993

Originally published in hardback, April 1992

Twelve brave young men set out, led by the indomitable Blue Jay, seeking a better wintering land to the mysterious south. But the quest becomes an obsession that plunges the men – and the beautiful, enigmatic woman who joins them – into a lush, deadly forest inhabited by great spotted cats and “thunder lizards,” against a man-eating people near the sea, and to a highland realm where human sacrifice are performed on a man-made mountain.

To the young holy man Walks in the Sun, the journey is a test of his vision and his skill at casting the bones. For as he and his comrades face death, disease, and loss, they fight for survival – and a return to the People.

Like most of the previous books in the series this one is also about discovery, wonders that can also fill the mind with mistrust and fear, be they new lands, unknown people or creatures. Don Coldsmith was a master at capturing these feelings in the written word, making the reader share these moments as if they were there too. A perfect example of this is when Blue Jay and his band camp on the beach and fear they have angered the sea Gods as the water slowly creeps further and further up the sand as if to sweep them away.

Right from the start the reader knows that most of the band doesn’t return from this journey and Coldsmith’s superb storytelling reaches out and grabs the imagination as the reader becomes one of those in the audience listening to Walks in the Sun’s emotionally charged description of the joys and sadness the band endures as their trail takes them much further south than intended.

This really is a beautifully told story that for me has become one of my favourites in this wonderful series so far.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

The Outlaw Life

By Owen G. Irons
Hale, November 2012

When Chase Carver dragged himself into Mammoth Springs he was cold, hungry and exhausted and any man in that condition will gratefully accept the help of a stranger. But the stranger led him to an outlaw stronghold, filled with cutthroats, thieves and gunmen. After joining the outlaws on a bank job, and earning himself the name ‘Mad Dog’ Carver, both the county sheriff and the army are now hot on his tail.

And by rescuing two young women from the ruthless Bandolero he has committed a crime against criminals and faces the entire outlaw contingent who are ready to take up arms against him. The outlaw life had been easy to fall into but there is going to be a fight to the death to try and crawl back out of it….

Owen G. Irons has created a very engaging character in Chase Carver, a man not afraid to jump into a fight, but his inexperience in many things makes him somewhat naïve, it’s this gullibility that will get him into some dangerous situations.

The book moves forward at a very fast pace as events sweep Carver along with them and he has to struggle to find a way out of them and stay alive in the process, for instance what seems to be an easy bank robbery has a fallout neither he or his partner in crime foresaw.

The latter part of the story sees Carver start to realise he may have been set up and you have to wonder how he’ll get out of it alive.

So, once again Owen G. Irons (Paul Lederer) has come up with a great read that leaves me looking forward to his next book.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Poison Mean

By Peter Brandvold
Mean Pete Press, November 2012

The outlaw Chet Villanova has gunned down his entire gang including his girl, the beautiful Delores. All the loot from their last robbery is his. He's headed to Mexico with nearly thirty thousand dollars in his saddlebags--a very rich man indeed.

Rich, mean, and well-armed. 

What...or who...could possibly stand in his way?

This is a gripping, gritty, fast-paced tale that sees Villanova looking forward to his new life in Mexico. Then he meets up with an old man and his beautiful daughter and the outlaw’s plans change…but for the better or worse? I can’t tell you the answer to that but I will say that one of the items in the old man’s wagon instils fear into Villanova and plays an important part in the great ending.

Fans of Peter Brandvold’s work won’t want to miss this one and for those who have yet to discover Pete’s westerns this short story will provide an excellent introduction to his superb storytelling.

Sold for $0.99 / £0.77 this is an ebook not to be missed.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Whispering Skull

By Dean Edwards
Hale, November 2012

In search of work, cow-puncher Jeff Stewart is heading south. Making his way through the strange, untamed landscape that fringes the arid desert, Stewart is riding up into the maze of canyons when there is distant gunfire and a massive explosion.

With the sound of bullets ringing in his ears, the naïve cowboy has no idea that the savage Barton gang is en route to the notorious prison, Fort Addams, to free their leader. And that soon the gang and Jeff Stewart will be on a deadly collision course….

The whereabouts of the Whispering Skull, and the treasure to be found there, is the driving force behind this tale. Only one man knows its location – or does he? The story also involves a vengeance hungry soldier who leads his patrol in pursuit of the outlaws. Jeff Stewart has his own problems trying, unsuccessfully, to stay out of harms way.

As ghostly choirs sing, fear takes a grip on most of the characters and causes the outlaw's fragile friendships to begin to crumble as mistrusts and greed power their actions.

The book builds extremely well to its startling discovery in a box canyon that in turn leads to the final showdown involving all the main characters.

Surprisingly for a Black Horse Western this book doesn’t contain any female characters, which makes for a refreshing change.

This is the first book I’ve read that carries the author name of Dean Edwards but not the first I’ve read by the writer behind this pseudonym, Michael D. George, and once again I’m left eagerly waiting for his next book.