Friday 31 May 2013

To Kill the Valko Kid

By Michael D. George
Hale, May 2013

Retired marshal Clem Everett rides into Sioux City a few moments after the infamous bounty hunter Johnny Sunset arrived and it was not long before Clem discovers that the man known as The Sunset Kid is only there to claim the reward money on his old pal Valko.

From an arrangement made way back, Clem knows Valko is due to appear in the city that night. The clock is ticking towards midnight and there is no way to warn his friend that the deadliest bounty hunter in the West is intent on gunning him down. Time is up for the Valko kid….

Michael D. George is a prolific writer of westerns under his own name and a handful of pseudonyms. Most of his work under his own name are parts of series, and this is the fifth Valko book. The Sunset Kid has also appeared in a book of his own, so this one really will have follows of the authors work wondering who will come out victorious and whether either, or both, will die.

I own both the Sunset Kid book and other Valko books, but have never got around to reading them and did have slight reservations about jumping in here as I wondered if it would spoil my enjoyment of the earlier books. Yes, the author includes some of the Valko Kid’s backstory to explain how he knows Clem Everett but that didn’t ruin anything for me, more made me want to dig out those older books and read the full story.

One thing I like about Michael D. George’s writing is his ability to paint vivid imagery with his descriptive passages, particularly of scenes and atmosphere. He also seems to enjoy giving his characters colourful names, such as those of the two main protagonists, The Valko Kid and the similarly named The Sunset Kid. This book also features one more, a man known as The Shadow – and to say any more about him would spoil the book for anyone else, although if you’ve read any of the previous Valko books you’ve probably met him before.

For fans of Michael D. George, in particular his Valko Kid books, this is one not to miss. Anyone else who enjoys fast moving action-packed westerns should also find this to be an entertaining read.

Officially released today make sure you grab a copy as soon as possible as BHW tend to sell out very quickly.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

A Bullet for Sartain

The Revenger #1
by Frank Leslie

Mean Pete Press, June 2014

Mike Sartain, the Revenger is lured into a trap baited with two names from his New Orleans past. When his best friend is killed, the Revenger straps on his LeMat and rides for his own white-hot brand of revenge...

The author behind the pseudonym of Frank Leslie for the first book in this brand new action packed series is Peter Brandvold. Like much of his previous work this story has the gritty and savage feel of a spaghetti western and is filled with memorable characters, not least Mike Sartain. Peter often includes strong female roles, women who can more than match the male leads in ability with weapons and courage; in this case that woman is Marshal Claudia Morales.

There are questions right from the start that easily hook the reader and make this an impossible to put down read. Gunplay is fast and furious and is brutally graphic. The book also contains descriptive sexual scenes. The pace of the story never lets up and the reason behind the attempts on Sartain’s life came as a complete surprise to me and will surely add to the emotional scars The Revenger already carries.

On the strength of this book I hope this series has a long run and I'm already eagerly looking forward to the next one which should be out soon.

Monday 27 May 2013

Dust and Bullets

By Vance Tillman
Hale, May 2013

Dan Fogarty is falsely accused of the murder of his partner, Ben Arrowsmith. He escapes arrest and heads for cactus country to join his old Navajo friend, Ahiga. Dan suspects that the notorious outlaw, the Ocotillo Kid, is responsible for his partner’s death, but when he and Ahiga set out to prove it, they find that things are not as straightforward as they imagined.

Is the whole affair some kind of set-up? What is the relationship between the Ocotillo Kid and local magnate Wes Baxter? The questions multiply as Dan makes himself a target to draw out the killer, but not till the final confrontation with the Ocotillo Kid and his gang are they finally answered.

As far as I can tell this is the second book to carry the author name of Vance Tillman, the first being Riders on the Wind.

Tillman easily hooks the reader with many questions and includes a great twist about halfway through that took me completely by surprise and this results in Fogarty becoming involved in a second manhunt that is also linked  to the Ocotillo kid.

The book has seven chapters and Tillman switches from character to character without warning at times, meaning you have to pay attention or you could become confused about who is doing what. 

Action and scene descriptions are handled well and everything races to a satisfying ending.

Dust and Bullets has an official release date of May 31st, but is available now from all the usual sources.

Friday 24 May 2013

Cotton's Devil

By Phil Dunlap
Berkley, January 2013

When Sheriff Cotton Burke finds Thorn McCann nearly dead from a gunshot wound, he has no choice but to become entangled in the affairs of the nefarious bounty hunter. While McCann is one of the last people Cotton wants to hang around with, someone else from his past is about to burst into his life…

Cotton isn’t proud of the men he’s killed, but he sleeps well at night knowing that he did what was necessary to preserve justice. Judge Arthur Sanborn, the father of one of those men, seems to disagree, and he’s out for blood – specifically, Cotton’s. Thanks to one of Thorn’s shady associates from his past, Cotton discovers some very valuable information about Sanborn, and now, Cotton must enlist the help of Deputy Memphis Jack Stump in order to save not only his own life but also the lives of everyone close to him…

Cotton’s Devil is the third in the Sheriff Cotton Burke series and the story starts moments after the close of the previous book, Cotton’s Law, but you don’t have to have read that book to fully enjoy this one as Phil Dunlap includes just enough information to explain just what lead up to the troubles this tale follows.

The relationships between certain characters are built upon as you’d expect, some strengthening and others heading for rocky ground. Even Burke isn’t safe from the latter as secrets from the past threaten to bring an end to the happiness he’s found with Emily.

Phil Dunlap switches regularly between his characters, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, so the reader can follow all their trails as traps are set and madness takes hold. As the killers gather you will find yourself wondering how Cotton can emerge victorious.

Phil Dunlap steers his story well to its tense climax that seems to resolve all the storylines but then it becomes clear he’s left one story thread dangling, closing the tale with the perfect hook to ensure you and I will be buying the next book in the series.

Monday 20 May 2013

Hangtown Hellcat

By Jon Sharpe
Signet, May 2013

In the remote ranges of Wyoming, Fargo and a work party setting up telegraph lines are bushwhacked, so Fargo takes a posse and gives chase. They end up tacking the killers to a hideout full of vicious men and one wild, wilful woman who runs the entire damned gulch known as Hangtown. And if a name like that has ever been earned, the Trailsman knows this is the time.

Full of excellent characters this story proves to be a fast moving, twisting tale of double-cross and brutality that will keep the reader guessing as to the outcome. One thing is for sure, when Fargo gets angry then the outlaws are certainly living on borrowed time, but it is how the Trailsman takes them out that makes for some spectacular scenes – one of which has been captured so well by the cover artist.

Like in most of his entries to the series this author teams Fargo up with a colourful sidekick, in this case a man called Buckshot and their banter often raises a grin. But it’s the woman who runs Hangtown that will remain in the memory for a long time – particularly her taste in sex, a method I can’t remember reading anything of the like in a Trailsman book before.

There’s plenty of action and a lot of dialogue and something Fargo reflects on – of never having killed a woman – caused me to frown in disbelief as this is simply not true. Strange that an author who has written so many Trailsman books would include such a statement. Still, I guess most readers won’t pick up on this, especially if they only read a Trailsman book every now and again and it certainly didn’t stop me enjoying the story.

Thursday 16 May 2013

The Devil's Work

By Paul Bedford
Hale, May 2013

It is December 1880 and snow covers the town of Devil’s Lake in northern Dakota Territory, where there have recently been two connected killings on the outlying homesteads. Angie Sutter, the attractive young widow of one of the murdered men arrives in town, seeking help from local marshal Rance Toller.

But having jailed a particularly menacing individual who appears out of place in such a quiet town Rance is reluctant to head out into the frozen wasteland, especially as there is only an ageing deputy to stand guard. On returning to Devil’s Lake, Rance and Angie find the deputy dead and the prisoner gone….

Having really enjoyed Paul Bedford’s debut Black Horse Western, Blood on the Land, I’d been looking forward to this one and I must say it more than lives up to the excellence of the previous novel.

From the opening pages this story is almost non-stop action as Rance and Angie find themselves taking on a whole band of regulators set on taking over Devil’s Lake and the surrounding area. There’s plenty of flying lead and blood as the story races to its explosive final showdown that takes place on Christmas Eve and fills more or less the last forty pages of the book.

Paul Bedford tells his story mostly from Rance Toller’s point of view, although he does occasionally switch to Angie or the lead regulator Bodeen. Rance’s favourite weapon is a shotgun and Bodeen’s a Sharps, the destruction to human flesh from these is described quite graphically, which perfectly fits in with the tough storyline.

On the strength of this, and his earlier book, Paul Bedford has firmly established himself a position in with my favourite BHW writers and I thoroughly recommend his work to those who enjoy action-packed westerns.

The Devil's Work has an official release date of May 31st but is available now from all the usual Internet bookstores.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Heed the Thunder

By Peter Brandvold
Mean Pete Press, April 2013

Gideon Hawk hunts the notorious depraved killer, Pima Miller, into the Superstition Mountains of Arizona Territory. Hawk inadvertently shot the killer’s Apache woman, orphaning the killer’s infant son. The killer himself doesn’t seem to mind. He leaves them both behind to save himself and head into the mountains with his beautiful young guide, Jodi Zimmerman, whom he’s kidnapped from the Superstition Stage Relay Station.

Hawk, however, minds very much that his bullet meant for the killer, Miller, struck an innocent woman. He storms after Miller with his usual bloodlust.

The Superstitions are no picnic, however. The Apaches consider the range their Thunder-God’s abode, and the Chiricahuas don’t care for interlopers. And neither does the strange old desert rat known as the Dutchman who will do everything he can to keep his secret stash of ancient Apache gold just that--a secret.

Great to see Peter Brandvold bring back the Rogue Lawman, Gideon Hawk, in his seventh full length story.

As hoped this is just as savagely violent as the previous entries in the series and sees Hawk doing everything he can to kill Miller. This extremely fast moving tale could also be end of Hawk, his death something he is ready to accept and welcome as it means he can then join his long dead wife and son.

The Superstitions provide a hard, maze-like backdrop for this tough story to be played out in and the constant threat of Apache attack keeps all the characters on edge throughout.

The story has a dark tone but Peter Brandvold adds some humour too that matches the mood of the tale. His descriptions are gritty and visual and his characters memorable, be they man or woman – and for me it’s the latter that will remain in my memory most, one of whom we have met in previous Rogue Lawman books.

The book has a powerful ending that is sure to scar Hawk emotionally and make him an even tougher anti-hero (if that’s possible) and I for one am very eager to see where Hawk’s next trail will take him and I’m hoping Pete doesn’t make us wait too long to find out. 

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Into the Snow

By John Erwin
Published 2012

Based on the legend of Silverheels, this novel views events surrounding the early development of the Colorado gold camps through the eyes of Jedediah P. Carpenter, who was orphaned on the Nebraska prairie at the age of sixteen, then finds and loses fortune and love during the great Pikes Peak Gold Rush.

Mount Silverheels, shown on the cover, rises to 13,822 feet above sea level in the northern end of South Park, its name a tribute to the memory of a dancehall girl…

John Erwin’s book is not the usual ‘shoot-‘em-up’ type western I usually read and review here but it is a book that I believe all western fans will enjoy. It is a tale of discovery and wonder at the beauty of Colorado and the authors prose will have you feeling you are there alongside Jed.

It is a story of learning how to survive in the wilderness, how to pan for gold or make money from those consumed with gold fever. It is also a bittersweet love story, this leading to the author’s explanation as to how Mount Silverheels got its name.

Characters are extremely well crafted, their actions and feelings very believable. The story Jed Carpenter tells before heading out into the snow to die merges superbly with well-researched historical events. Jed tells of the harshness of western justice too and deals out a memorable piece of it himself.

This book runs for around 100 pages and I enjoyed every one of them. If you’re looking for a new author to try, or just a well-written story that will keep you enthralled, then I thoroughly urge you to try this.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Bad Justice

By Frank Leslie
Signet, April 2013

Colter Farrow’s branded face is a constant reminder of why he’s been on the run for so long. But his plan to return home and confront his past backfires when he’s framed for the murder of two men. Men who happen to be U.S. deputy marshals.

Resigned to living on the lam, Colter heads to Utah Territory, where a desperate town marshal offers him a job as – of all things – a lawman. What better way for a man to hide from the law than to become part of it? Regardless of which side of the law he stands on, Colter makes enemies quickly. But Colter doesn’t plan on letting them stay above ground for long….

The fourth book in the Colter Farrow series is as hard hitting as the previous three. If you’ve read the earlier books you’ll definitely want to read this for Colter confronts the man who branded him, the conclusion of which sets up the rest of the story. 

Full of brutal, savage action that sees Colter beginning to accept his fate to be a wanted man for the rest of his life. But can his new job as a lawman offer a way out? Frank Leslie builds up hope for Colter but then adds a complication as it seems someone knows Colter’s true identity (he uses a pseudonym for much of the story). Leslie expertly weaves a tale of twists and turns that will make the reader wonder how things will end and just what these surprises will mean for Colter’s future.

Once again Frank Leslie (Peter Brandvold) has written a story that grips from the opening words, paints vivid imagery that captures the imagination and refuses to let go. This book truly is a page-turner. Let’s hope it’s not too long before Colter Farrow rides into his next adventure.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

South to Sonora

By Michael Stewart
Hale, April 2013

After a ten-year prison term for killing a man he’d found molesting a girl, all Tom Jericho wants is a quiet life. But the State Governor offers him a deal: the notorious Crane Gang are planning something big, and the governor wants to know what it is. Jericho had befriended the youngest of the Crane boys in the pen and, with Lee now being transported across the desert, all Jericho has to do is help him escape, infiltrate the gang and uncover the plan.

Before he knows it, Jericho is in Mexico, the revolution raging all around him. One false move could mean a dusty grave in the hot, dry earth of Sonora….

As far as I can tell this is the first Black Horse Western to carry the author name of Michael Stewart and he presents the reader with a fast moving, action-packed tale the keeps you guessing as to the Crane Gang’s plan and whether Jericho can stop it happening.

Jericho is supposed to have help with this but after a bloody shoot-out between two groups of lawmen his backup is left without a memory and now believes he’s an outlaw. If this isn’t a big enough problem, Jericho fears the Crane’s may suspect the true identity of his partner.

Michael Stewart writes well, his book being very readable and his story all comes together neatly without any loose ends.