Thursday 28 February 2013


By Robert B. Parker
Corvus, March 2013

The dust has yet to settle in the new frontier town of Resolution. It's barely even a town: a general store, a handful of saloons and a run-down brothel for the workers at a nearby copper mine. No sheriff has been appointed, and gunslingers have taken control. 

Amid the chaos, itinerant lawman Everett Hitch has created a small haven of order at the Blackfoot Saloon. Charged with protecting the girls who work the back room, Hitch has seen off passing cowboys and violent punters - though it's his scheming boss, Amos Woolfson, who stirs up the most trouble. 

When a greedy mine owner threatens the local ranchers, Woolfson ends up at the centre of a makeshift war. Hitch knows only too well how to protect himself, but with the bloodshed mounting, he's relieved when his friend Virgil Cole rides into town. In a place where justice and order don't yet exist, Cole and Hitch must lay down the law - without violating their codes of honour, duty and friendship.

Robert B. Parker is perhaps better known for his Spenser novels than his western work. Resolution is the sequel to Appaloosa, which was made into the successful film of the same name starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. Resolution starts shortly after the end of that story.

This is the first book I’ve read by Parker and was taken by surprise by the fact it is written in a minimalistic style. There’s very little in the way of descriptions and when anyone speaks it is only described as the person having said something. It took a little while to get used to this method of writing but once I did I was soon swept up in the storyline and really enjoyed the conversations between Everett Hitch and Vigil Cole. Their matter-of-fact observations about life, killing, and solving problems being one of the highlights of the book.

The story is told through Hitch in the first person as he sides a man he will only come to detest. With the arrival of Cole he leaves Woolfson’s employ and they both find themselves on the opposite side, facing Woolfson’s replacement guns.

Cole is a terrific character, and sees nothing wrong in eliminating someone who gets in his way if this is the easiest way to solve a problem. In fact Cole has no reservations about taking on superior odds in a face to face situation, something that happens in this book in a very memorable scene.

When I finished reading this story I found myself wondering how this author had slipped by me, and have decided I must do something about catching up with his other western work, least of all those other tales starring Cole and Hitch.

I must finally make comment about this actual book I read. This is a beautifully designed hardback from a UK publisher that is to be published on March 5th 2013 and I can only hope it is a success for them and in turn leads to more westerns being published in this country again, be they reprints or original novels. Do yourself a favour and buy a copy.

Monday 25 February 2013

Last Day in Paradise

By Paul Green
Hale, February 2013

When professional gambler Jimmy ‘the kid’ Casey beats the spoiled son of a wealthy ranch owner Jack Hartigan in a game of poker, he is forced to shoot the young man dead in self defence. Hartigan vows revenge and the footloose card player flees the town of Paradise, only to find himself pursued by a gang of ruthless killers, led by the crafty and determined Abe Morgan.

Things become more complicated when the gang captures Jimmy’s fiancée and renegade Apaches go on the warpath. His only option is to return to a town ruled by fear and settle his score with Hartigan once and for all….

If you like the traditional western then this is just the story for you. Jimmy Casey is a capable hero looking to escape his life as a gambler and settle down with his fiancée, Ellen. Ellen is used as a damsel in distress character, she has plenty of screaming to do as she’s kidnapped, and held at gunpoint more than once.

Paul Green tells his tale at a very fast pace and includes some great action scenes, the final showdown between Casey and Hartigan being particularly visual in its writing style.

This is Paul Green’s third Black Horse Western and the second I have read, and on the strength of both of these books I’m sure I’ll be picking up another of his westerns soon.

Last Day in Paradise is officially released on February 28th but should be available to buy now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Mr Gunn

By Tyler Hatch
Hale, February 2013

He was called ‘Mr Gunn’. A good name, he’d earned it – but it wasn’t his name.

That was the trouble: he didn’t know who he was. He learned he had once been called ‘Laredo’ but it stirred no memories. There were other names, too – so many he seriously thought of carrying a notebook to write them in…. One of them surely must tell him why so many men wanted him dead.

But he had to learn his true name, even if it meant he could face a hangman’s noose when he did.

Tyler Hatch writes some superb opening scenes to this tale, telling of the destruction of a prison camp towards the end of the Civil War where both prisoners and guards must all be wiped-out. But there is one survivor, the man who will become known as Mr Gunn. His frantic struggle to stay alive makes for gripping reading.

Gunn’s frustrations at discovering his true identity are portrayed extremely well and soon had me wondering as to just who he was. Tyler Hatch reveals little hints as Gunn finds himself in more and more danger. Being a Southerner during the Reconstruction isn’t a help either.

There’s plenty of action as Gunn falls foul of being framed for murder, becomes a target for a jealous man, whilst attempting to find out about his life before being imprisoned in the war. Even when he does think he’s finding the answers doubt is thrown over his discoveries.

Does Gunn find out who he is? That would be telling and really would spoil the excellent conclusion to this book, so I guess you’ll just have to get yourself a copy if you want to find out.

Mr Gunn has an official release date of February 28th but should be available now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Monday 18 February 2013

New Mexico Madman

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, February 2013

Skye Fargo is playing bodyguard to “America’s Sweetheart,” stunning actress Kathleen Barton. She had the bad judgment to publicly and brutally spurn the attentions of notorious ‘Frisco power broker Zack Lomax, ruining his reputation and his livelihood. Now he wants revenge. And unless the Trailsman keeps both eyes peeled, Lomax is going to give his client a final curtain….

Most of this fast paced tale takes place on a stagecoach journey during which numerous attempts are made on Fargo’s life. Lomax wants to deal with Barton himself so reasons he needs the Trailsman out of the way first so he’ll have no opposition when facing the woman he so wants to kill.

The author of this book is the writer who has Fargo calling the Ovaro ‘Old Campaigner’ and ‘Old Warhorse’ and as usual teams Fargo up with a colourful sidekick, this time stage driver Booger McTeague, a man who provides many laughs throughout the story, in particular the voyeur scene.

There’s plenty of action, and this takes place quickly. The adult encounters are also dealt with in a few paragraphs. Even though the reader knows what is going on from the very beginning, the author keeps the identity of which of the stage passengers is really working for Lomax a secret until he’s ready to reveal who it is, thus giving the story a touch of mystery as Fargo and McTeague try to work out who this person is.

Jon Sharpe is a pseudonym, behind which two authors write at this moment in time, so I believe, and some people have said they find this particular author difficult to read at times and I must say he certainly has his own style. But that aside, he does come up with some great plots and tells them well and always leaves me looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Tom Rider's Reckoning

By Rob Hill
Hale, February 2013

A group of men who founded a prosperous cattle town are to be called to account for something they thought was long buried. After a local lawbreaker blows the cover from their abhorrent nest of lies, Sheriff Tom Rider finds himself accused of looking the other way.

Faced with the realization that his closest friends are guilty of unspeakable atrocities, Rider is forced to accept that he has been manipulated and betrayed. Can he find out exactly what went on? Will he have the courage to admit his part in the cover-up which, until now, he had not known he played?

This tale is filled with mystery and intrigue. Every time I thought I knew where the storyline was going Rob Hill threw in another twist. His plotting easily grabbed my attention and I also found his prose to be very visual, particularly the scene when Rider returns to town to find it deserted and discovers three items waiting in the town square that really start him questioning what is going on and his friendships of the past years.

With strong characters of both sexes, plenty of action and hard-hitting revelations embroiled in murder and greed, this really is a page-turner; a book that demands to be read in one sitting.

As far as I can tell this is Rob Hill’s seventh Black Horse Western and it's the fourth I have read by him. The three I read before this all left me looking forward to reading more of his work and this book follows that path, and I’ll also add that this is probably his best yet.

Tom Rider’s Reckoning has an official release date of February 28th and is available for pre-order now from the usual Internet bookstores.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Bladen Cole: Bounty Hunter

By Bill Yenne
Berkley, November 2012

Bladen Cole will be getting a handsome sum of money from Isham Ransdell, the owner of the Gallatin City Bank. It’s not a withdrawal, but a reward for the heads of the men who killed Ransdell’s associates. The banker wants the Porter boys back in Gallatin City dead or alive – preferably dead. As Cole sets out on his manhunt, he questions the motivation of his new client, the only rich man in Gallatin City somehow left unscathed…

His pursuit goes smoothly enough until he finds himself in the middle of a battle between two rival Blackfeet bands. Cole is forced to take sides, but luckily, this double duty leads him straight to the Porter boys, who are surprised to see a bounty hunter flanked by such an unusual posse. But Bladen Cole is in for a few surprises of his own…

This is the first book in a new western series and as far as I can tell the first western fiction from Bill Yenne.

Cole’s backstory is explained quickly and sufficiently in the prologue. The blurb above, taken from the back of the book, is covered in the first part of the story and then the complications set in as Bill Yenne tells his tale through various characters, Ransdell’s daughter, Hannah, being one of my favourites. I found it fascinating seeing her struggle to accept the truth about her father and then having the strength to act on this and see justice served.

Bill Yenne’s writing style is very readable and contains very little bad language and that that is does is very tame. Descriptions are good as is character development. Action scenes are gripping and one in particular makes for some very tense reading (Hannah being stalked by something in the night). Relationships are formed but don’t always work out as expected and there’s a neat plot twist near the end.  

On finishing this book I felt that I had been thoroughly entertained and was left looking forward to the next book, The Fire of Greed that at the time of writing this review is to be published in November 2013.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Lola: Locked & Loaded

By Peter Brandvold
Mean Pete Press, January 2013

Lola Hammond was just a simple girl from the little New Mexico town of Trinity... until her father, the sheriff, was killed during a bank robbery.

Now, because no one else seems able to do it...and because she finds herself, inexplicably all too able...Lola hunts her father’s killers. 

But what she meets at the end of the bloody trail is not just Vernon “The Butcher” Belcher and a pair of saddlebags filled with loot, but her own dark fate staring her in the eye.

This is a must read for fans of Peter Brandvold’s work, especially for those who have read his Rogue Lawman series, for this short story tells of how Lola Hammond becomes known as Saradee Jones.

The murder of Lola’s father sets her off on the killing trail thirsting for vengeance and she has plenty of opportunity to prove she’s more than a match for those who stand in her way. The tale races along and has a high death toll for such a short story.

You may think you know the path this tale will take but Peter Brandvold springs a surprise twist, a discovery that will play an important part in the transformation of Lola Hammond into Saradee Jones….and I must admit that how she chooses that name made me smile.

Well worth its price of $0.99 (£0.77).

Sunday 3 February 2013

Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance

By Tabor Evans
Jove, February 2013

After some Arizona Rangers and U.S. marshals are bushwhacked while looking for a stolen cache of gold, it’s Longarm’s turn to ride down to the border town of Holy Defiance to find the killers and the loot.

At his side is the heavenly Haven Delacroix, a pretty Pinkerton agent who is Longarm’s match in more ways than one. The Pinkerton’s always get their man – and Haven is no exception. As they tangle with banditos, Apaches, and a wealthy ranch owner and his wild wife, Longarm and Haven are in for a hell of a ride…

This is the twenty-ninth Longarm giant edition (the last one appeared in 2010) and in my opinion it’s great to see them making a return.

Tabor Evans matches Longarm with an engaging partner, one who has an air of mystery surrounding her, something that occupies Longarm’s mind almost as much as trying to figure out who killed the lawman and where the missing gold is hidden.

There’s plenty of action as Delacroix's beauty attracts trouble nearly everywhere they go. But it’s not just when Longarm is with the Pinkerton agent that he finds himself fighting for his life as he has to endure a savage beating and attempted drowning whilst tracking the outlaws alone.

Descriptions of landscapes are expertly written, painting vivid imagery within the mind. The violent elements of the story are brutal and fairly graphic. The whereabouts of the gold remains a secret until the author decides to reveal the truth about it. This also applies to why the lawmen were killed and to just what is going on around Holy Defiance.

The book opens with an exciting gunfight aboard a train and ends with an equally dramatic gunfight between outlaws and Longarm’s small, and unusual, posse.

The man writing behind the pseudonym of Tabor Evans this time around is Peter Brandvold and this story contains many of his trademarks, tough capable characters of both sexes, a fast moving plot, plenty of savage action and some neat twists.

Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance is a must read for both fans of the series and the works of Peter Brandvold. If you’ve never tried either, and don’t mind adult westerns, then this could just be a great place to experience both and I’m sure it’ll have you coming back for more.