Tuesday 31 December 2013

Westerns read during 2013

Here's a list of all the westerns I've read during 2013. Most have been reviewed here (click the number to go to the individual review). Those I haven't reviewed yet I hope to get around to soon and will update links as and when I can. I tend to miss reviewing books when I read them on holiday or when I'm ill and then find time escapes me when trying to catch up. I've not as many read as in previous years due to reading other types of books.

JANUARY READS – 10 books

1. The Trailsman #375: Texas Swamp Fever by Jon Sharpe
2. Killing Melvin Badthunder by Peter Brandvold
3. Bowen & Baile #2: Before I Die by Frank Roderus
4. Cotton’s Devil by Phil Dunlap
5. Six for Texas by Elliot Long
6. The Reluctant Gun Hand by Logan Winters
7. Mexico Breakout by Ben Bridges
8. Clancy’s Last War by Terrell L. Bowers
9. The Pecos Kid #6: Bad to the Bone by Jack Bodine
10. Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance by Tabor Evans


11. Bladen Cole: Bounty Hunter by Bill Yenne
12. Resolution by Robert B. Parker
13. Lola: Locked & Loaded by Peter Brandvold
14. Tom Rider’s Reckoning by Rob Hill
15. The Trailsman #376: New Mexico Madman by Jon Sharpe
16. Mr Gunn by Tyler Hatch
17. Last Day in Paradise by Paul Green
18. Chaparral Range War by Dusty Richards
19. The Trail West by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone

MARCH READS – 9 books

20. War Paint by W.R. Benton
21. The Trailsman #377: Bounty Hunt by Jon Sharpe
22. Redemption: Trackdown by James Reasoner
23. The Nations by Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke
24. Blood Feud 2: Hounds of Hell by David Robbins
25. Genesis Gunplay by John Davage
26. Devil’s Deal by Lee Walker
27. Latigo by Steve Hayes
28. Gunsmith Giant: The Further Adventures of James Butler Hickok by J.R. Roberts

APRIL READS – 8 books

29. Jeremiah Painter by George Wolk
30. The Trailsman #378: Wyoming Winterkill by Jon Sharpe
31. Bad Justice by Frank Leslie
32. The Proclaimers by Lee Clinton
33. South to Sonora by Michael Stewart
34. Night of the Gunslinger by I.J. Parnham
35. Into the Snow by John Erwin
36. Marshal South Rides Again edited by Diana Lindsay

MAY READS – 8 books

37. Rogue Lawman: Heed the Thunder by Peter Brandvold
38. Comes the Reaper by B.J. Holmes
39. The Trailsman #379: Hangtown Hellcat
40. The Devil’s Work by Paul Bedford
41. Dust and Bullets by Vance Tillman
42. To Kill the Valko Kid by Michael D. George
43. A Bullet for Sartain by Clifton Drago
44. West of the Big River #1: The Lawman by James Reasoner

JUNE READS – 9 books

45. Rio Concho #1: Showdown in Abilene by Alfred Wallon
46. Coyote’s Trail by Edward M. Erdelac
47. The Trailsman #380: Texas Tornado by Jon Sharpe
48. Bowen & Baile #3: Felicity by Frank Roderus
49. Confessions of a Gunfighter by Tell Cotton
50. A Storm in Montana by Will DuRey
51. The Preacher’s Legacy by Walter L. Bryant
52. The Comanche Fights Again by D.M. Harrison
53. The Trailsman #381: Bowie’s Knife by Jon Sharpe

JULY READS – 6 books

54. Talbot Roper #2: The Reluctant Pinkerton by Robert J. Randisi
55. Viva Reaper! By B.J. Holmes
56. Shootout at Hellyer’s Creek by Chap O’Keefe
57. Wilderness #67: The Gift by David Robbins
58. Write a Western in 30 Days by Nik Morton
59. Last Stand at Bitter Creek by Tom Rizzo

AUGUST READS – 10 books

60. Monty McCord by Chuck Tyrell
61. Blood Money by D.D. Lang
62. Whiplash by Owen G. Irons
63. The Bank Robber by Giles Tippette
64. The Trailsman #382: Terror Trackdown by Jon Sharpe
65. Rogue Soldiers by Corba Sunman
66. Sharper’s Quest by Jay D. West
67. Missouri Vigilantes by Mark Bannerman
68. Holt County Law by Richard Prosch
69. The Scout #1: Rowan’s Raiders by Buck Gentry


70. The Trailsman #383: High Plains Massacre by Jon Sharpe
71. The Return by James D. Best
72. Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave by Mark Mitten
73. Triplecross Trail by Josh Lockwood
74. Pope’s Bounty by Aaron Adams
75. The Hot Spurs by Boyd Cassidy


76. The Derby Man #6: Explosion at Donner Pass by Gary McCarthy
77. El Paso Way by Steven Law
78. Guns of the Reaper by B.J. Holmes
79. Valley of the Damned by Cordell Falk
80. The Storms #3: Riders West by Matt Chisholm
81. Comanche Moon by Simon Webb


82. The High Trail by Rob Hill
83. Skeleton Hand by C.J. Sommers
84. The Trailsman #385: Thunderhead Trail by Jon Sharpe
85. Murphy #2: Murphy’s Gold by Gary Paulsen
86. The Afterlife of Slim McCord by Jack Martin
87. The Gunsmith #384: Louisiana Stalker by J.R. Roberts
88. Trouble at Nathan’s Ford by Jack Sheriff


89. The Bronc Buster by Billy Hall
90. Town Tamers by David Robbins
91. Livin’ on Jacks and Queens edited by Robert J. Randisi
92. Bladen Cole #2: The Fire of Greed by Bill Yenne
93. Gideon Ryder #1: Smugglers’ Gold by Lyle Brandt
94. Gun Storm by Corba Sunman
95. Darrow’s Gamble by Gillian F. Taylor
96. Trace Takes a Hand by Owen G. Irons
97. Jake Moran #1: Dead Man’s Crossing by Robert Broomall

Sunday 29 December 2013

Darrow's Gamble

By Gillian F. Taylor
Hale, December 2013

‘Set a thief to catch a thief’ is a risky strategy for a lawman to take but Sheriff Darrow has very personal reasons for wanting to catch the bank robber, Tom Croucher. Forced to stay in Wyoming and unable to search for the outlaw, Darrow is relying on two convicted criminals, Tomcat Billy and Irish, to do the job for him.

But Tomcat hates Darrow, and Irish wants to go straight. They join Croucher’s gang but who deserves their loyalty – the outlaw or the sheriff?

This is the fourth in Gillian F. Taylor’s Sheriff Darrow series and it’s the first one I’ve read. There is mention of how Darrow became the man who arrested Tomcat and Irish and I’m guessing this can be read about in more detail in the previous book, Darrow’s Badge.

One of Gillian F. Taylor’s strengths is her character studies and how she makes both good and bad likeable in some way, and as you read more about them part of you will be hoping they all survive but, of course, this can’t happen.

I’ve only read two of Taylor’s earlier books and in both of these horses played important and memorable parts and she continues with this theme here. Darrow’s horse being that animal in this story, providing both funny and sad scenes that will stick in my mind for a long time.

The story is filled with lively action, battles of loyalty, and plenty of twists and turns. Darrow’s tough exterior is seen to begin to crack a number of times, especially when he’s wondering if he’s done right in releasing Tomcat and Irish, trust is a fragile credence.

Darrow’s Gamble proved to be an excellent read that left me eager to catch up and the previous three Darrow books and hoping that Gillian F. Taylor doesn’t keep us waiting quite so long (three years between this one and her last) before her next book comes out.

Friday 27 December 2013

Livin' on Jacks and Queens

Edited by Robert J. Randisi
Piccadilly Publishing, November 2013

Livin’ on Jacks and Queens is an anthology of fourteen short stories all revolving around gambling put together by Robert Randisi. None of these stories have been published before and a couple of them feature characters that have appeared elsewhere, such as Scott Parker’s tale and Robert Randisi’s that sees the return of Talbot Roper.

Most of the stories use cards as the method of gambling but a couple offer other ways of winning or losing, such as Chuck Tyrell’s boat race, Randisi’s throwing horseshoes, and Christine Matthews’ betting on how lawmen will leave their jobs.

The authors are a mix of old-hands and those who are newer to the western genre and that’s where, for me, the strength of such anthologies come into their own, as they give the reader a chance to try out writers who are new to them and will, I’m sure, discover some they will be keen to explore further work from.

Of course I have my favourites among this collection, but can honestly say I enjoyed each of them. There’s stories that follow traditional western themes, one that borders on being a horror tale, and one that’ll have you thinking is this possible?

At a price of less than £2.00 and just over $3.00 how can you not afford to give this terrific collection of gambling stories a chance?

Jacks or Better by Johnny Boggs 
A Cold Deck by Phil Dunlap 
The Reckoning by Randy Lee Eickhoff 
It Takes a Gambler by Jerry Guin 
Odds on a Lawman by Christine Matthews 
Pay the Ferryman by Matthew P. Mayo 
White Face, Red Blood by Rod Miller 
Hazard by Nik Morton 
Acey Deucy by John Nesbitt 
The Mark of an Imposter: An Evelyn Page/Calvin Carter Adventure by Scott Parker 
Horseshoe and Pistols by Robert J. Randisi 
Too Many Aces by Charlie Steel 
Missouri Boat Race by Chuck Tyrell 
The Legend of ‘Blind Ned’ Baldwin by Lori Van Pelt 

Sunday 22 December 2013

Gun Storm

By Corba Sunman
Hale, December 2013

Deputy Jim Donovan has his fair share of worries: his brother has suffered brain damage as a result of an accident; the notorious Elroy Johnson is back in circulation, after Donovan put him away; and Martha Preston, wife of the local store keeper has been robbed and murdered.

There is temptation from Della Jordan, attractive owner of the local saloon, to quit his job and take a job on her horse ranch, but can Della be trusted? And with Stomp Cullen and his gang in town to rob the bank is there going to be any way to avoid the mighty gun storm?

As you can tell from the blurb above, Corba Sunman packs a lot into this story. Donovan isn’t given a moment of time to take a breather before one incident merges with another. Every chapter has its share of action, mostly gunplay but Sunman adds a well depicted fistfight and a couple of jail-breaks for variety. All this means that the term action-packed could have been invented to describe this book.

Each storyline is well thought out and will have you guessing as to who committed the murder of Martha Preston and how Donovan can stop the outlaws whilst trying to keep his brother alive and decide how he feels about Della Jordan.

Each thread of this very fast moving yarn comes to a satisfactory conclusion amidst a hail of lead, and I was left feeling thoroughly entertained and looking forward to Corba Sunman’s next book.

Gun Storm has an official release date of December 31st but is available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Saturday 14 December 2013

The Fire of Greed

By Bill Yenne
Berkley, November 2013

Bounty hunter Bladen Cole rode into Santa Fe with the bodies of two wanted outlaws who decided to try their luck against his Colt .45. But he’s riding out with an even more profitable venture – the capture of four robbers who stole a payroll from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.

Rather than let word spread about the theft, the railroad men need someone who can get the job done quickly and quietly. This is a job for a bounty hunter.

Following a trail of bodies, Cole soon realizes that the payroll robbery is only the beginning of something much bigger and bloodier on the horizon…

This is the second Bladen Cole book and it proves to be just as an entertaining read as the first. Bill Yenne fills his tale with intrigue, action, and a number of excellent twists to the tale.

Bladen Cole’s pursuit of the payroll robbers brings up painful memories of his past, something that will become one of the major storylines of this tale. Cole will also meet someone who may have a meaningful role to play in his future too.

Bill Yenne switches regularly from character to character weaving a number of different threads that are soon heading on a collision course. Not all these threads are resolved at the same time, in fact some launch new problems for the bounty hunter.

With both strong male and female roles, a gripping plot that at times mirrors a Shakespeare play, exciting gunfights, visual descriptions, believable dialogue (and very little bad language), this is a book that should be on the reading list of all western fans.

Monday 9 December 2013

Town Tamers

By David Robbins
Signet, December 2013

Ludlow, Texas, has a problem. A band of rowdy and violent cowhands from the Circle K ranch has been terrorizing the small town, drinking, smashing windows, and even shooting up innocent citizens. With the townsfolk terrified, Ludlow is on its way to falling totally under the gang’s control – unless someone does something about it.

Asa Delaware has a good reputation as a very bad man to cross. Roaming the West with his two grown children and with his gun always for hire, he’s known as the Town Tamer. For a fee, he’ll fix what – or who – is causing a ruckus. There isn’t any job he’ll walk away from or any challenge he finds too hard. But when his children start backing out of the family business, Delaware may find out what it means to be on the business end of a shotgun barrel….

If it is action you want then this story is packed with it. Told with style and visual prose that puts you right there, witnessing the Town Tamers cleaning up Ludlow in a hail of lead and blood.

It’s easy to follow Delaware’s belief that he, and his children, fight on the side of good against evil but then David Robbins throws a deadly problem into Delaware’s path when he’s called to Ordville, Colorado. A town with troubles where it isn’t clear just who are the good or the bad.

David Robbins has created a great set of characters for this stand-alone novel. The Delaware’s that soon had me wishing there were more books about them. The Gray Ghosts. The man known as The Tracker, and so the list goes on.

David Robbins often writes books with a strong family bond and this one is no different. It is beautifully crafted and will have you sharing the emotional struggle Delaware has when his son announces he wants out of the family business. A fathers’ love for his children hitting home hard during the aftermath of a lethal gunfight.

Filled with cliff-hanger situations, believable dialogue, and brutal action sequences, this is a very fast-flowing story.

Town Tamers, in my opinion, is a story that should be enjoyed by all western fans, and is truly a hard-to-put-down read.

Thursday 5 December 2013

The Bronc Buster

By Billy Hall
Hale, November 2013

Bullied as a kid because of his size, Ian Hennessy has sworn never to run from anyone again. But facing a stranger wearing a tied-down Smith & Wesson with a five-inch barrel, there is no doubt that the gunman is after the price on Hennessy’s head.

Now, with the sun directly in his eyes, he can just make out a second gunman, poised to shoot him if he tries to run. And Hennessy’s dreams of going west, and establishing a ranch with the girl he loves, will all come down to this moment….

Roughly the first third of this book tells of how Hennessy was bullied at school and of how he comes to stand up to his tormentors. There’s many a well described fist-fight during this part of the story. He also meets a girl who will become the woman of his dreams.

How to stand-up to bullies isn’t the only new ability Hennessy will learn at this stage of his life. He also discovers, after training, that he is a natural at the fast-draw. Something that he hopes he will never have to use.

So this is a story that shows a young boy growing into a man who doesn’t back down for anyone. A young man who is reluctant to use his talents with fist and gun.

Billy Hall builds his story thoughtfully and almost gently. Hennessy tries to stay out of trouble and make a good living as a bronc buster but the senseless killing of a horse sees his anger begin to boil, but who to direct this hatred at?

There’s another lesson waiting to mould Hennessy, that of learning to control his emotions when being forced to kill. When this happens Billy Hall really ups the pace of this excellent story and gunplay becomes a major element of the latter part of the tale.

So does Hennessy build the life of his dreams with the woman he desires? Is he even alive at the end of the story? Obviously I can’t answer those questions here but I’m sure anyone who chooses to read this book will have fun finding out.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Trouble at Nathan's Ford

By Jack Sheriff
Hale, November 2013

When a planned bank robbery in Drystone City results in the death of the owner’s wife, Cage turns his back on lawlessness and heads home. But when he arrives in the border town of Nathan’s Ford, he has been followed by his nemesis and rides into tragedy. With his family’s ranch burned to the ground, and his parents and brother murdered by Mexican rustlers, Cage – aided by childhood friend Velvet Goodwine and reluctant bank owner Milton Guthrie – sets off in pursuit of the killers.

A confrontation with the rustlers leads to the unmasking of the man behind the deaths, and a bloody finale, which leaves Cage fighting desperately for his life and the lives of the only friends he has left.

Jack Sheriff can always be relied on to present the reader with what at first appears to be a straightforward western tale but then adds twists and turns to ensure you’ll be wondering just how the story will end.

His character studies are excellent but in this case it’s his descriptions of fear and exhaustion and the human will to carry on at all costs that came over so powerfully to me. Just read the scene of a desperate struggle not to drown for one example of this.

Yes, I had my suspicions as to who killed the bankers’ wife, and yes I was correct, but how the killer died came as a complete surprise; understated and neatly done.

Velvet Goodwine (what a great name) deserves a mention as she proves to be an exceptional female lead whose knowledge of some of the other characters more than helps in unmasking the person behind the murder of Cage’s family. Velvet’s ability with firearms, both handgun and rifle, are used to great effect too.

Trouble at Nathan’s Ford is a book that I believe should be enjoyed by all who like fast moving traditional westerns and I’m certainly looking forward to the next book from John Paxton Sheriff, under whichever of his pseudonyms it is published.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

The Afterlife of Slim McCord

By Jack Martin
Hale, November 2013

Blackman and Tanner have seen it all, but nothing has prepared them for what they find in the town of Possum Creek: the mummified remains of notorious outlaw Slim McCord, in a travelling carny show.

And Slim McCord, long after his death, is now involved in the most lucrative bank robbery of his outlaw career. The three men, thrown together again in the most unlikely way, must face this dangerous turn of events head on, as the bullets fly….

Having followed Jack Martin’s western writing career since the beginning I have to say this is his best book so far. The use of a mummified outlaw adding an unusual touch to this fast moving tale. Blackman and Tanner are well crafted heroes that will have you hoping they achieve their aims.

The use of the long dead outlaw adds thoughts of the supernatural to those who try to figure out how a bank can be robbed without any sign being left as to how it was done. All this adds to the legend of Slim McCord.

Alongside the bank robbery storyline, Jack Martin also includes some flashbacks that show how McCord meet Blackman and Tanner, this also leads to an explanation as to how they became wanted men.

Jack Martin also had me grinning when a reporter and dime novelist is discovered walking towards town. His name Gary Dobbs, which is Jack Martin’s real name. The fictional Dobbs will also have a small part to play in building the legend of McCord.

If you’ve never tried one of Jack Martin’s books then this could be the perfect place to begin.

The Afterlife of Slim McCord is officially released on November 29th, but is already available from the usual Internet booksellers.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Louisiana Stalker

By J. R. Roberts
Jove, December 2013

Capucine Devereaux is being stalked. The infamous Baton Rouge madam is used to unwanted attention from the weaker sex, but one man’s obsession is unnerving her. Making matters worse, Lee Keller, the gunman she hired to deal with her stalker, has his own fixation with Capucine that’s distracting him from doing his job.

In desperation, the madam turns to Clint Adams to get both stalkers out of her life. Keller doesn’t like the idea of being replaced and plans to put the Gunsmith in Boot Hill. But unknown to Keller, Clint has a stalker of his own who’s trailed him from Arizona to Lousiana – and he won’t let anyone else kill his prey…

This entry in the long running Gunsmith series is a tale filled with intrigue as the author doesn’t reveal the identity of two out of the three stalkers until he is good and ready too. This is also the case with the stalkers’ motivations. Both these storylines make for strong hooks that defied me to put the book down until I’d discovered the answers

J. R. Roberts’ smooth, fast-flowing, writing style is a joy to read. His pacing is superb, both building in pace and suspense as all the story threads start to converge, setting the book up for an exciting conclusion as rivers burst their banks and Baton Rouge, and the surrounding areas, begin to vanish beneath floodwaters.

Most of the story threads come to a satisfying end but J. R. Roberts (Robert J. Randisi) expertly leaves one hanging that will be continued in the next book, The Silent Deputy, thus ensuring I will be reading that when it comes out next month. 

Sunday 17 November 2013

Thunderhead Trail

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, November 2013

Fargo is used to tracking down killers and thieves, but he’s never had a quarry like this before. A rancher has just had his one-of-a-kind stud bull wander off into the mountains, and he’s offering a hefty sum to whoever gets it back. But the Trailsman isn’t the only hombre going after the horned bounty – and the disappearance may not have been as random as it seems….

The impressive bounty for the bull draws in a wild mix of characters ranging from three young boys to a seventy-year-old lady, all eager to claim the money. These are not the only people Fargo has to deal with as he’s made enemies of three brothers who are constantly trying to kill him. Then there’s the bull, a massive beast that kills those it feels threatened by….which is just about everyone. If that isn’t enough then someone is killing off the opposition and leaving no trace and there’s a handful of Blackfeet on the prod too.

The action doesn’t let up for one minute in this well told tale that’s filled with edge-of-the-seat situations, memorable characters, savage violence, and dialogue that, at times, had me laughing out loud. As the bull hunters began to fall to the mystery killers’ bullets or knife I soon found myself wondering if anyone would be left alive to claim the bounty on the animal. The author, in this case David Robbins writing as Jon Sharpe, also had me pondering on how the bull could be captured and taken back to its owner…if anyone could get anywhere near it without being killed.

I know some readers are put off this series due to its reputation of containing lots of graphic sex, and yes that was true of the early books, but these days they don’t contain anywhere near as much. This book has one such encounter and that takes up only a couple of pages, so I would say don’t let the adult tag that has been applied to The Trailsman series put you off trying this book as you’ll be missing out on a great read.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Skeleton Hand

By C.J. Sommers
Hale, October 2013

It wasn’t aces and eights – the so-called dead man’s hand – that the skeleton was holding, but he was definitely dead. Cut loose from the Domino Ranch, Cody Hawk and his friends are facing a winter without work. So when the cowboys come across the skeleton it leads them to its treasure of gold and right into a deadly game, up against a band of killers and a money-hungry woman.

As they make their way across the empty land it seems that the skeleton isn’t holding the only deadly hand: Cody Hawk will need the luck of the draw, and some help from a wild mountain girl, to survive….

At first the story seems to be a straight-forward tale about finding some gold and then deciding what to do with it and trying to second-guess who the skeleton was and how he died. But C.J. Sommers doesn’t leave it there, he has some surprises waiting, one being a major plot twist that really does complicate matters for Cody Hawk as he meets various characters that have valid claims to  the gold, but can he trust any of them? And not only that, there’s the question of who is the person shadowing him?

The story moves forward at a rapid pace and it isn’t long before Hawk is on the run from a variety of people all eager to get their hands on the gold. Everything leads to a dramatic final showdown that concludes the story neatly.

I’ve read one of C.J. Sommers six, to date, Black Horse Westerns previously and enjoyed both that and this one and will definitely be reading more soon.

As to the identity of Sommers I’m sure I know, and will add that he writes under a number of different pseudonyms and I’ve read lots of his books and found them all to be excellent entertainment. If you want to know who it is then check the comments on the last Sommers book I read, and if you are still unsure then here’s the dedication in Skeleton Hand, ‘To Owen Irons, friend and mentor’. 

Saturday 9 November 2013

Explosion at Donner Pass

By Gary McCarthy
Bantam, June 1981

The thundering engines of the Central Pacific are stalled in the quest to conquer the mighty Sierras. Only a mountain of a man, Darby Buckingham, could pound the railroad through the granite walls of trouble. Atop sheer rock cliffs just a death plunge away from the surging river a thousand feet below, braving punishing cold, Darby must lay down track foot by hard-blasted foot – with a construction crew that is threatening to tear itself apart with vicious fighting. But as they climb towards the notorious Donner Pass they face the most brutal challenge – an avalanche of sabotage and murder that could even crush the Derby Man.

Gary McCarthy perfectly blends historical fact with fiction to allow his hero, Darby Buckingham, to take part in, and witness, true events that shaped America.

The opening of the book sees Darby’s long-time girlfriend, Dolly Beavers, trying to get him to propose to her, and once again this is interrupted as her intendeds' presence is required elsewhere. It isn’t long after Darby sets out on his mission that attempts are made on his life.

As in the previous books in the series, Gary McCarthy mixes exciting action with comical situations, but, for me, it was the struggle to get the track down and beat the time limits that kept me enthralled. Even though I already knew some of the problems that faced the Central Pacific I found McCarthy breathed fresh life into this story and so kept me eager to keep reading.

The finish of the tale concludes the major storylines well but leaves a couple of threads hanging to be continued in the next book, one that I will be reading very soon.

The Derby Man series, for me, ranks right up there with the very best western series.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

The High Trail

By Rob Hill
Hale, October 2013

With his supply wagon lost at the bottom of a ravine, his men mutinous, and winter weather closing in, Lieutenant Calvin Glaze is facing a desperate struggle for survival in the high mountain passes of the Oregon Trail. As conditions worsen, the young lieutenant comes to realize that he has been set up, and that his mission was always designed to fail.

Facing down unspeakable horror on the high trail, Glaze forces himself to travel beyond the limits of ordinary human endurance to confront the man out to destroy him.

Rob Hill’s descriptions of the extreme conditions Glaze and his small band of troopers find themselves battling are superbly written, placing the reader right there with them, experiencing the deadly cold, the lack of vision, the hunger, and the fear of death. It’s during this strength zapping trek along the high trail that Glaze thinks about his past, horrific events that lead to him being sent on a fools’ mission.

There are many memorable scenes within this tale that will remain in the memory for a long while, such as a deer with a gun (yeap, you read that right) and a meal unlike any the soldiers have had before. It’s on meeting the deer that the book takes on a dark tone that continues until the end when Glaze returns to face his enemy, and it is here that Rob Hill has a great twist to the tale waiting, one I didn’t see coming that finishes the story in style.

With each Rob Hill book I read I find myself eager to pick up another, hoping it won’t be too long before a new one is published. Rob Hill has definitely become one of my favourite Black Horse Western writers and I’d suggest that if you haven’t read any of his work before then The High Trail would be a great place to start.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Comanche Moon

By Simon Webb
Hale, October 2013

The Reverend Jonas Faulkner, pastor of the First Claremont Presbyterian Church in Texas, is a man with a secret: in his younger days he was a notorious gunman, involved in a horrific massacre causing the deaths of many children. So when a party of young girls travelling to an orphanage in Claremont is seized by a Kiowa raiding party, Pastor Faulkner knows he must act.

Seeking redemption for his violent past, the elderly clergyman is still a force to be reckoned with, and he’s prepared to go toe to toe with anyone standing in his way.

Comanche Moon is the first Black Horse Western by Simon Webb and he writes in a style that took me a little while to get used to. The beginning of the book is written in such a way that the reader is being told the story by a narrator, something that took a little getting used too. Later, Webb seamlessly blends this storytelling method with the more usual third person technique – in fact I didn’t notice when it changed just suddenly realised it had – before returning to his opening style for the final few pages.

The plot moves forward at a fast pace and involves some tense situations as Faulkner, and the small group of people he reluctantly finds himself saddled with, track the missing girls to a Comanchero hideout. Action scenes are quite graphic in their description and perfectly illustrate the difference between the mild pastor and his vicious hidden character. The two sides of Faulkner cause problems for others, not least a cavalry Captain, as they struggle to decide how the man can have such different sides to his personality.

Does Faulkner find the girls and get them to safety? Does he find redemption? Of course I can’t answer that here without spoiling the story, but will say, that if you decide to pick up a copy of Comanche Moon I’m sure you’ll enjoy finding out.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Valley of the Damned

By Cordell Falk
Imagicknation Press, December 2012

Matthew Carter comes to the violent boomtown of Darwin just one job away from leaving his troubled past behind. When his mentor is murdered, he must choose between running into the desert and staying on to find the stash of gold that could mean his redemption. Caught in a firestorm between the competing wills of a legendary lawman, a corrupt rail baron, and a vengeful Colonel, Matthew rides hard with the fear that his last job may turn out to be just that.

Valley of the Damned is the first in a series of that name. According to the author’s website there will be a further five books.

At first glance the cover of this book isn’t that inspiring, doesn’t grab a viewers’ attention, but on reading this book it perfectly illustrates an element of the story. I just hope prospective buyers don’t pass it by as it doesn’t shout western in a way we usually see.

Cordell Falk has created a fascinating group of characters that find themselves on a collision course that can only have one outcome; a bloody battle that all sides participate in.

Getting to this final showdown makes for a great read. At first the story seems to be yet another version of a range war tale but it doesn’t take long for this to be seen not to be the case. There’s much more going on than that, and with the introduction of each new character the plot becomes more and more complicated. I can’t really say anymore on this without spoiling some of the surprises waiting in store.

With plenty of mystery and intrigue Cordell Falk hooks the reader, keeping them turning the pages to find the answers to such questions as who is the Chinese girl, Mai, and what are her motives? How can a barbed wire fence staked across a railroad track hope to stop a train?

As all sides come together for the last gunfight most of the story threads are tied up but, like in all the best series, Falk leaves a couple dangling ensuring his readers will be on the lookout for the next book.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

R.I.P. Bill Gulick

Bill Gulick has passed away at the age of 97. 

He wrote a number of westerns, three of which were filmed:
‘Bend of the Snake’ became the 1952 movie ‘Bend in the River’ which starred James Stewart, Rock Hudson and Arthur Kennedy.
‘The Road to Denver’ became the 1955 movie of the same name starring John Payne, Mona Freeman and Lee J. Cobb.
‘The Hallelujah Train’ became the 1965 movie ‘The Hallelujah Trail’ starring Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick and Bill Hutton.

As well as writing fiction he also wrote a number of factual books.

He will be sadly missed by family, friends and fans.

Friday 25 October 2013

Rowan's Raiders

By Buck Gentry
Zebra, 1981

Orphaned at eight and a frontier runaway at fifteen, Eli Holten spent six years of his life in the camps of the fierce, savage Oglala Sioux learning the ways of the plains. Driven by his restlessness, ruthlessness and cunning, famous for his tracking, hunting and killing expertise, Holten was compelled to move on. He returned to the white man’s civilization and became an Army scout.

Now he leads the way for Army wagon commands, venturing into Indian camps to parlay with hostile chiefs and serving as a courier through hundreds of miles of treacherous wilderness. With each new danger-filled adventure he risks his life and dares to tempt death. He is a man to respect, a warrior to fear and a professional who knows the meaning of revenge.

The early 1980’s saw the launch of many series tagged as adult westerns and The Scout series falls into that category. The first book appeared in 1981 and the final one, number 34, in October 1992. Buck Gentry is a pseudonym behind which two or three authors wrote. I’m not sure who wrote this one.

If you don’t mind some explicit sex scenes in your westerns and enjoy tales revolving around Army verses Indians then The Scout is a series worth considering.

The story is extremely fast moving and jam-packed with action. Holten barely has chance to catch his breath before being involved in more deadly clashes. Some of the descriptions of these bloody encounters are fairly graphic and Holten isn’t immune to taking a hit or two – although he does seem able to shrug his wounds off and carry on easily whereas many men would be struggling to continue. The only slight criticism I have is that twice Holten was caught in a virtual no escape situation and his nick-of-time rescue came about in an almost identical fashion.

Buck Gentry created a great lead character in Eli Holten and a memorable supporting cast. His story offers one or two twists and all his plot lines are neatly resolved by the end. 

I found this to be a very entertaining read and will certainly being reading the next book in the series soon.

Sunday 20 October 2013

The Ghost with Blue Eyes

By Robert J. Randisi
AmazonEncore, October 2013

It was a sight that would haunt Lancaster's soul for the rest of his life - a beautiful little girl with startling blue eyes. Eyes that looked up at him as he fired the shot that killed her.

He hadn't meant to do it. Why did she have to get in the way just as he drew down on the man he was hired to kill? He asked himself that question every day, but he never found the answer, or a way to forgive himself. Even before the girl's body was cold, Lancaster hung up his guns and picked up a bottle. But even the booze couldn't get those blue eyes out of his head.

And when he found another another little girl who needed his help. a girl as desperate and sad as the one he'd killed, he knew he'd finally found a way to regain his soul ... even if it cost him his life into the bargain.

This isn't a review as I read this book when it first came out in August 1999 which was before this blog was even thought of. So why am I posting this now? Simply because I think it's a book that needs attention bringing back to it as AmazonEncore have just made it available again and that I think it's a terrific read and one that should be considered by all western fans.

Robert J. Randisi believes it's one of his best westerns ever, if not his best, and this is something I just have to agree with.

Originally a stand-alone title I believe, the book, and its hero, became such a hit that Randisi went on to write three more books featuring Lancaster in the lead role.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

El Paso Way

Blood for Justice #1
By Steven Law
Berkley, October 2013

When everything you love is lost to a vicious killer, you can either trust the law or take matters into your own hands…

As a young boy, Enrique Osorio witnessed the destruction of his entire family at the hands of Antonio Valdar, the Demon Warrior. Father Gaeta took him in, encouraging Enrique to wait for the right moment to confront Valdar man to man. But when Enrique meets Pang Lo, who lost his own father to Valdar, he knows his moment has come…

With Pang’s mastery of martial arts and Enrique’s hunting skills, they plan to catch the Demon Warrior before he reaches the Mexican border. With a determined sheriff also tracking Valdar, Enrique and Pang pray for the justice they deserve, fuelled by a passion to make a bloodthirsty killer finally taste his own blood…

Steven Law writes well, his descriptions painting vivid imagery within the minds’ eye. His dialogue is believable and his characters are very memorable. Actions scenes are often brief and hard hitting. His story is laid out in non-numbered chapters (each having a title instead) and are of varying length, and these are broken by scene changes.

This story brings together a small group of people from very different backgrounds and unites them in a deadly hunt for vengeance and a race against time to free kidnapped girls from Valdar’s clutches. Along the way, Enrique in particular, will have his beliefs tested, such as the temptations of alcohol and that of the flesh. He, and Pang, will also struggle to comprehend the decisions of others, especially after attempting to free two girls from slavery.

One of the biggest problems facing Law’s group of justice hunters is that each desires to kill Valdar themselves. How this is resolved I can’t tell here so as not to spoil it for those intending to read this book, what I will say is that how this turns out throws in some great twists to the plot.

Steven Law neatly leaves a story thread hanging and the close of the tale suggests that this will be the theme of the next book in the series, one that I’m certainly looking forward to reading.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Cover Gallery: FOXX

by Zack Tyler

Meet Foxx, chief detective of the C&K Railroad. He’s tracking a pack of killers to their lair in the treacherous Nevada hills.

First he sets his trap in a San Francisco jail. Then he stalks his prey across the desolate mesas. Pursued by women whose passions lead to murder…pursuing a gang of men who settle debts in blood, all he has is a quick draw, a wily mind, and one last, deadly gamble: surprise.

The prospectors were lined up against the homesteaders in simmering Sherman, Kansas, where gold-rush fever had the town trigger-taut. That was when Foxx rode in to settle the dust so the C&K Railroad could resume construction of its brand-new southern spur.

Foxx was a cool hand at danger, but he hadn’t counted on the hired gun who was Sherman’s only law…or the land-scam kingpins who sealed their contracts in lead…or Romy, the beautiful Pinkerton detective who made it clear she was out to uncover a lot more in Kansas than trouble!

Their guns were still smoking when Foxx lit out after the Clark gang, wanted for robbery and murder on the C&K Railroad. Armed with his Smith & Wesson, a few raw clues, and his Comanche-honed instincts, Foxx followed a dangerous trail that led from a dusty southwest café through a maze of outlaw hideouts. Almost thrown off the track by the wiles of two hot-blooded women who wouldn’t take no for an answer, Foxx made it from Hell’s Half Acre to New Mexico’s treacherous Cañón Quimera where luck ran out and the shooting began…

Foxx rides herd on a payload of cattle through the snowbound hell of Wyoming Territory armed with only a ragtag trail gang and unflagging endurance.

It’s a new job for the chief detective of the C&K Railroad – an innocent-sounding longhorn drive that’s mined with blizzards, bison, and an army of angry Sioux. But the biggest hazard of all is the one Foxx least expects – a lonely beauty who comes along for the ride and turns their trail of trouble into a hotbed of tension – and a stampede for survival!

They were vicious killers determined to stop the C&K Railroad’s eastern spur…a gang of Spanish and Apache night riders who left a trail of scalped and mutilated bodies in their wake.

The stakes were high and the fight was dirty as Foxx rode into the lawless Arizona Territory to check out the rowdy railhead camp where the violence began. It looked like sabotage from within. But who was calling the shots and why? Foxx finally found his lead in a Queen of Spades who was playing with a stacked deck and a loaded pistol in a game she couldn’t afford to lose.

Foxx was doing the honors, pouring champagne for Vida Martin, when the bullet shattered the plate-glass window. The second slug slammed into the table. Someone had just missed his target, and that target was Foxx’s lady.

Armed with his .44 Cloverleaf Colt and a beautiful Pinkerton detective – a seductive decoy – Foxx rode the C&K out of San Francisco headed for the Idaho badlands. Setting himself up as a sitting duck, he swore to flush out a vicious outlaw – a foe from the past – someone who wanted revenge in the worst way and wouldn’t hesitate to kill a lady to get it. 


The Foxx series was published by Dell, the first book appearing in January 1981 and the last in September 1982. Zach Tyler is a pseudonym used by Melvin Marshall.