Saturday 26 April 2014

Riders West

By Matt Chisholm
Piccadilly Publishing, June 2013

First published by Mayflower, 1971

Having quit Civil War devastated Texas, the Storm family – father, mother, three sons, two daughters – found their promised land in Colorado. But Colorado was then the American West’s furthest frontier, rich in fertile land but dangerously short on law and order. There were wild animals and Indians – but wildest of all were the desperadoes on the lookout for easy pickings …

Colorado’s Three Creeks country was a hard land indeed, where the strong took whatever they wanted to satisfy their greed and the weak were gunned down if they got in the way. Ed Brack ruled supreme in this brutal territory, thinking he could scare the Storm family off. But the Storms didn’t scare easy. They stood their ground. So the cattle king burned their house… and took their women.
Mild Will Storm, his brother Mart and black Joe Widbee saddled and rode against Brack, guns in their hands and a murderous hatred in their hearts …

Matt Chisholm almost gives this book a light-hearted tone to begin with. There’s the believable feeling of joy and anticipation of finding a new place to settle down and that of family love, of sticking together no matter what. But I did say almost, for Chisholm also includes hints to the harshness of the land and then there’s the hanging man and the questions this discovery brings such as who was he and why was he killed this way?

There are other questions too, such as can the Storms settle on their chosen spot successfully? Does someone else claim the land? It’s the latter that leads to dispute with Ed Brack and this soon turns violent and the Storms decide to take the battle to the rancher. This is where the story takes on a darker tone and becomes a long struggle to stay alive.

Matt Chisholm (real name Peter Watts) really excels when it comes to writing action scenes, he creates tension well and you can never be sure just who will come out of any exchange of gunfire in one piece, be they good or bad. It’s this uncertainty of whether Chisholm’s characters will survive that give his stories a hard edge of reality and make his books such gripping reads.

For anyone reading this series Riders West is a must read as it sets up some situations that will play important parts in coming books and I’m sure it won’t be too long before I read the next one, One Notch to Death.            

Saturday 19 April 2014

Cartridge Creek

By John Benteen writing as Richard Meade
Piccadilly Publishing, April 2014
Originally published by Doubleday, 1974

Cartridge Creek was a typical New Mexico cattle town, not unlike the ones Will Leatherman had known in his days as a trail hand. But now Will was a partner in San Antonio Development, and he had come to find out why the Southern Pacific was so eager to sell the town, and whether he and his partner could turn it into a profitable investment. 

It didn’t take long to discover why the railroad wanted out; the town had become a haven for gunmen, and the two heavily-armed factions were on the verge of all-out warfare. The decent folk were ready to leave town, the ranchers had taken to driving their stock to another railhead, and the money-making possibilities seemed nil. 

But Will Leatherman had a strange feeling about Cartridge Creek, that somehow this town had more to offer than the usual business deal. Almost before he realized it, Leatherman found himself on the brink of finding something he’d almost forgotten he wanted, a place to really call home—or losing it forever. Then he knew he had to fight for Cartridge Creek. 

This story is about greed for both money and power. Benteen creates some terrific characters to battle for these and battle they do in large scale. There are two well-written major gunfights that result in many corpses littering the streets of Cartridge Creek.

Violent acts and love cause Leatherman to reconsider what he wants from Cartridge Creek and leads to him facing massive odds. It’s the power of persuasion that helps rally the help he needs to take on the small army that stands in his way. As well as vivid descriptions Benteen comes up with believable dialogue that makes the speech heavy sections of this story a joy to read.

I mentioned love in the previous paragraph, and that’s an element of the story that works well as Leatherman finds himself competing for the affection of the woman in question and also leads to treachery, hate, and an exciting fight on top of a moving train that is breath-taking.

As the cover states the book originally came out as by Richard Meade, an author better known for writing westerns as John Benteen hence the use of this name on the cover too. As many will already know both these pseudonyms were used by Benjamin L. Haas and his name ought to be enough of a recommendation for all western fans to grab a copy of this book without me urging you to do so too.                     

Tuesday 15 April 2014


By Don Coldsmith
Bantam, April 1994
Originally published by Doubleday, June 1993

Singing Wolf has reached his seventeenth summer, and the time has come to prove himself as a hunter…and a lover. But Singing Wolf has a rival in the hunt for buffalo and in the courtship of the beautiful woman called Rain. He is a handsome stranger from the eastern band of the People, and he has brought a weapon of extraordinary power, magic, and danger: the Thunderstick. Their enemies already have the death-dealing muskets, and if the People are to survive they must have them, too. To learn the way of the Thunderstick, Singing Wolf must overcome his jealousy and accept the teaching of White Feathers…even as their love for the same woman threatens to destroy them and their clans.

Many of the previous Spanish Bit Saga books have dealt with discovery of new lands and people, this entry in this superb series changes direction a little as this is a tale of acceptance of new ways that revolve around the Thunderstick.

Don Coldsmith fills his story with wonderful imagery, of awe for this new weapon and the fear of not having any of these muskets meaning the People could become easy prey for those who do. So the whole of the band set out to trade for these weapons and in doing so will discover that there are many new things being produced that will change their way of life in the near future such as metal traps for instance.

Most of the story is told through Singing Wolf, a much troubled young man who battles to hate White Feathers, a man he finds admirable but is intensely jealous of as Rain seems to welcome his advances. The situation isn’t helped when Wolf finds himself in debt to White Feathers.

There are a number of tense situations such as Wolf’s near death during a buffalo hunt, and later, the mistrust of the intentions of a band of strangers who become unwelcome guests of the People.

I found this to be a great entry into the series, an easy read that left me eager for more, so I guess I’ll be picking up the next book very soon.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Little Man and the Dixon County War

By Stan R. Mitchell
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, February, 2012

Young Deputy Marshal Paul Zachary shouldn't have accepted that badge. And he certainly shouldn't have shot down a ruthless gunfighter in front of a crowd of onlookers at Belleville's busiest saloon. But now that the smell of gunpowder has faded and the blood has been scrubbed off the floor, Zachary is something he never wanted to be: a damned hero. 

When Zachary's best friend is killed and the man's wife is abducted Zachary sets out to rescue the woman. In order to save her, Zachary must achieve what even the Army couldn't pull off: Cleaning out the lair of murderers, thieves, and cowhands who answer only to McConnell, the man behind the killing, who also owns most of the land and all of the law. 

McConnell has bribed or buried every man who's ever stood up to him, including a good-sized Army detachment, so if Zachary plans to take down almost a hundred gunhands and rescue the wife of his murdered friend, Zachary must attempt the impossible. He knows it may cost him his life, but some wrongs must be made right.

If it’s action you want in a western then this book should be on your too read list. Descriptions of places and people are kept to a minimum so the story moves swiftly from one fight to the next. With the hero Paul, Little Man, Zachary going up against one hundred adversaries you don’t need me to tell you that this book contains an impressive death toll.

Unlike many western heroes, Little Man does not believe in giving his enemies an even chance. He will shoot them in the back or from ambush as he doesn’t want to risk being shot himself. Even so, taking on such a large number of gunhands does force him to round up a very small number of men to ride with him and these men are great characters in themselves.

The story is gritty and held my attention well and on reaching the end I was left hoping Stan R. Mitchell will write a sequel soon.                      

Thursday 10 April 2014

The Cheyenne Trail

A Ralph Compton novel by Jory Sherman
Signet, April 2014

Chip Chippendale met Ransom Barnes after the War Between the States, when the two cowboys drove a herd up from Texas together. But when Chip first laid eyes on Wyoming, he knew he was home, and the two friends split off on different trails.

Each man now has his ranch, but when Ransom’s home is attacked and burned by a marauding band of Cheyenne warriors, he is faced with ruin – and makes matters worse by gunning down the Cheyenne leader’s son. A target of the most vicious renegade on the high plains, Ransom turns to his old friend Chip. And Chip never forgets his friends – even if it means making a few enemies.

The above blurb is taken from the back cover and I have to wonder whether whoever wrote it actually read the book, for it doesn’t resemble to story within. To start with the blurb implies that Chip plays a large part in the tale, this isn’t true, he only appears in the last fifty or so pages. Ransom Barnes? There isn’t anyone with this name. The man who loses his home to the Cheyenne is called Reese Balleen and it’s his trail drive to sell his cattle to Chip that is the main storyline.

Having said all that The Cheyenne Trail is a very entertaining read. It’s a long time since I’ve read a cowboy verses Indian story. Throw in bad weather and a group of rustlers and in Jory Sherman’s expert hands you have a well told traditional western that contains very little bad language and no sex. There’s plenty of action and towards the end we find Chip has his own problems to deal with.

Jory Sherman mainly tells his story through Reese but does switch to other characters every now and again, such as the three Cheyenne warriors who are shadowing the herd looking for a chance to steal some cattle to feed themselves and their small band of fellow Indians who are dying of starvation.

The lively, and often humorous banter between the cowboys balances the hardships of the trail and the pain of death. The determination to get the job done comes across strongly and you’ll soon find yourself urging the cowboys onwards to success.

Do they lose the herd to the Cheyenne or rustlers? Do they reach Chip’s ranch and does Chip win his own battles? I guess you’ll just have to read the book yourself to find out and hopefully you’ll find it as enjoyable as I did.                 

Sunday 6 April 2014

The Hunt for Iron Eyes

By Rory Black
Hale, March 2014

With the scent of prey in his nostrils, infamous bounty hunter Iron Eyes has gone, leaving Squirrel Sally alone in a remote town. But Sally is not that easily abandoned, and sets out after him, whipping her six horses furiously in pursuit.

As Iron Eyes closes in on outlaws Joe Hyams and Buster Jones, deep in dangerous terrain, Sally realizes there is another chasing Iron Eyes; the one-armed Wolfe is also hot on his heels….

In this, the twentieth Iron Eyes book, the relentless bounty hunter is pursued by a character every bit as determined to get the job done as Iron Eyes is. Wolfe won’t let anything, or anyone, get in his way of fulfilling his desire for vengeance. The latter being about the only difference between these two savage killers; as Iron Eyes’ says to a lawman, ‘I never waste bullets on folks that ain’t got bounty on their heads’.

Rory Black switches between the three main characters regularly, and it soon become apparent that Wolfe maybe just the man to finally kill Iron Eyes. Squirrel Sally has played a role in the last few Iron Eyes books and her love for the brutal bounty hunter is hard to understand but adds an intriguing element to the storyline, and this tale might just answer how Iron Eyes feels about her (you’ll have to read it yourself to find out as I’m not about to spoil it for future readers here).

The Iron Eyes’ books are quite dark in their tone and are filled with brutal action. Iron Eyes is not an easy character to like, but Rory Black’s anti-hero is a fascinating person that captures the imagination and always has me coming back for more as I really want to see what will happen to him next.

The books are short, and flow effortlessly, building to their violent conclusions in an ever increasing pace. Rory Black’s prose often painting very vivid imagery in the minds’ eye.

Rory Black is a pseudonym used by Michael D. George, and in my opinion he has written one of the best Iron Eyes books yet. The final dramatic showdown will long stay in my mind and has left me eagerly looking forward to the next book, which I believe is called My Name is Iron Eyes and that should be published in August. 

The Hunt for Iron Eyes buy from