Sunday 30 November 2014

The Lawman and the Songbird

By Chap O’Keefe
Black Horse Extra Books, November 2014

Originally published by Hale, November 2005

Pinkerton detective Joshua Dillard went undercover to a lawless Montana boom-town peopled by avaricious gold prospectors, ruthless bandits, fancy-pants rogues, and scheming dance-hall girls. In Cox City, he set his sights on arrogant, skull-faced Blackie Dukes and his bunch. But Alvin "Aces" Axford's safe at the Magnet saloon was robbed right under Joshua's nose. Who had spirited away Axford's haul of gold? Joshua had to buy that plucky songstress Kate Thompson had double-crossed the dangerous Dukes gang, luring him into a futile dance in a raging blizzard across the Bitterroot Mountains. It was one of luckless Joshua's most conspicuous failures. Not until seven years later did he return to Cox City, as town marshal. The time had come to solve the mysteries ... and to lay the ghosts of failure with a blazing six-shooter!

I think I’m right in saying this is the fifth book in Chap O’Keefe’s nine book series about Joshua Dillard, but you don’t have to have read any of the previous tales to fully enjoy this one.

In this story it seems Dillard has more than met his match in Kate Thompson, who makes for a very strong female lead character who seems to be one step ahead of everyone else. Having said that the robbery she masterminds doesn’t quite go according to plan and the chase is on.

Chap O’Keefe once more presents the reader with a fast paced book that is filled with action and a twisting storyline. Never was it obvious how this tale would end and the conclusion does come as a fitting surprise.

As with all of Chap O’Keefe’s books I’ve read this one left me eager for more. If you’ve not read one of his books yet then may I suggest this as an excellent introduction to his extremely readable writing.

If you'd like to find out more about Keith Chapman - the man behind the pseudonym of Chap O'Keefe - then a great interview can be found in two parts here: Part 1 Part 2

Monday 24 November 2014


By Lee Clinton
Hale, November 2014

1870 and Indian Territory is a hellhole of lawlessness. Federal lawmen are being gunned down in cold blood and outlaws are trading arms to renegade Indians. The lawmakers in Washington fear that order has been lost and insurrection may spread to the peaceful tribes.

In desperation, a bold and secret plan is devised by two senior marshals to recruit a new and unknown deputy – one who can operate independently to hunt down and kill three notorious outlaws in reprisal. But has the right man been selected for this dirty, difficult and dangerous assignment? Walter Garfield’s background is more than a little shady, and he seems to have his own agenda. Why does he keep asking after a fourth man by the name of Jason Taylor who is travelling with a Mexican woman? And why will people call him Reaper?

For this, Lee Clinton’s fourth Black Horse Western, the author returns to his hero from his third book, The Proclaimers, but this isn’t a sequel, instead it tells of how the ex-marshal of that previous book became a lawman in the first place.

As he has done with all his earlier books Lee Clinton presents the reader with one of the longer Black Horse Westerns. The story takes place in just over a month, each short chapter having a sub-heading telling just what day and/or time its events happen.

The story proves to be an enthralling read, filled with superb characters and includes a gripping mystery thread; that of why Garfield is hunting for Jason Taylor, the answer to which took me completely by surprise.

As the fast moving tale progresses it soon becomes clear that some hard decisions are going to have to be made as Garfield and his small band of allies find themselves facing a far superior force in numbers. This leads to a hard-hitting finale that’s filled with tension that strains nerves to breaking point.

That concluding showdown is one of the most memorable I’ve had the pleasure to read for some time and it left me looking forward to Lee Clinton’s next book, something that can’t come soon enough in my opinion.

Lee Clinton is a pseudonym used by Leigh Alver, and I must also add thanks for the excellent dedication.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Taps at Little Big Horn

By John Benteen
Piccadilly Publishing, November 2014

First published by Leisure Books, 1973

It was the fall of 1875 and all the Plains tribes were at peace. The best Cheyenne hunting grounds were under Army control. But then General Custer found gold in the Black Hills and set out to stir up a war to save his prestige. 

Sundance got involved when Custer locked him into a filthy prison for four months, and when he got out, his hatred for Custer was like a burning flame. Sundance was all Cheyenne when the Indians faced Custer – he vowed to have his revenge, and if he did, Custer would never leave Little Big Horn alive. 

Like the majority of the early Sundance books this one is based on fact, mixing a fictional hero with historical fact and real people seamlessly. Most of the story deals with events leading up to the Battle of Little Big Horn.

You don’t need to have read the previous Sundance books to get full enjoyment from this one as John Benteen includes a fair amount of Sundance’s back story, in this case mostly told by George Crook, who is one of Sundance’s close friends, one he fears he may have to face over a gun before long.

Sundance also has some powerful and far reaching decisions to make. He’s offered a way to perhaps stop the coming Indian war, but this could mean giving up his woman, Barbara Colfax, whom he met in the first book of the series: Overkill.

Benteen’s descriptions are excellent, particularly a frantic struggle to travel through snow and trying to survive a blizzard that threatens to freeze to death those caught in it.

Of course we all know how the historical elements of this fast-paced tale have to end but it’s witnessing how Sundance finds himself facing Custer that made this story for me. There’s double-cross to deal with, lots of life or death situations, brutal action, and a tension filled jail-break. All told in Benteen’s griping, gritty prose that defies you to put the book down before the last word is reached.

John Benteen is a pseudonym used by Ben Haas and I’ve yet to come across a western by him that isn’t worth reading.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Savage Hearts

By David Robbins
Mad Hornet Publishing, November 2014

Nate and Winona King thought they were doing the right thing when they ventured deep into the Rockies to return a little girl to her people.

Little did they imagine it would put Winona and the girl in peril for their lives and pit Nate against ruthless enemies.

At last, another Wilderness book, and one that adds a neat twist to the future of the King’s lives, one I didn’t see coming, but more of that later.

As many will have noticed this, and the previous book, The Gift, are being put out under the authors’ real name, David Robbins, instead of the pseudonym David Thompson that was used when the series was published by Leisure Books.

The book features a tribe unknown to me previously, the Tukadukas, and David Robbins ignited my interest with the unusual hunt that brings them together in this story for me to search for more information on them.

As fans of the series will already know, David Robbins often uses the strength of the family bond, their love for each other, that will see them risk everything to save each other, and this story is no different and that is what leads to the twist ending I mentioned earlier.

The book seems to have two storylines to begin with but you just know these seemingly separate threads will come together violently, and when the King’s get split up the tale gets more complicated and becomes a race against time.

With very strong male and female leads, terrific dialogue often spiced with humour, and savage action scenes, this story builds to a spectacular ending that will alter the King’s lives.

Due to the ending fans of the series will not want to miss this chapter in the King family story. If you’ve never read a Wilderness book before then this is an excellent place to start, to get to know Nate and Winona King and discover how much they are willing to sacrifice for each other.

All I can now hope is that David Robbins doesn’t make us wait quite so long before the next book is published.

Also available as an ebook.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Ebook News

Here's the first in what I hope to be an ongoing series of posts highlighting ebooks.

Chet Cunningham, whom I interviewed here, has been busy putting out his back catalogue as ebooks, including his Jim Steel series and his Pony Soldiers series. The books I'd like to bring to everyone's attention though, is his Outlaws series; six books that were originally published by long gone Leisure Books. All six are now available as ebooks. The reason I'm mentioning this series in particular is that Chet has also put out a further three books that I'm sure fans of the series will be eager to read.

Gary McCarthy, another author I interviewed sometime ago, has also been busy making many of his books available as ebooks, including his entries in the excellent Rivers West series. Two of his own series that I really enjoyed are amoung his releases; The Horsemen, and The Derby Man - you'll find a number of the latter series reviewed on Western Fiction Review.

Piccadilly Publishing continues to put out around eight ebooks each month and have recently begun releasing two terrific series by Judd Cole; Wild Bill and Cheyenne - the latter of which I'd highly recommend are read in order as story threads continue book to book. They've also started publishing Cy James' great Sam Spur series, Peter McCurtin's Carmody books, and McCurtin's entries in the highly regarded Lassiter series originally written as by Jack Slade. Finally, for this entry anyway, I'd like to mention one other series they've started to put out, and whilst some may not called it a western series specifically due to it being set slightly later than the years many consider westerns to be set in, and that's Lou Cameron's Renegade books, originally put out as by Ramsey Thorne.

Sunday 9 November 2014

A Bullet for Lawless

By Steve Hayes
Hale, October 2014

When ex-lawman Ben Lawless took a bushwhacker’s bullet that almost killed him he knew the man who’d shot him and he knew that the bushwhacker never missed: so why was Lawless still breathing?

With rancher Veronica Ketchum to thank for his life, Lawless decides to return the favour and back Veronica in her battle with land-grabbing cattle-baron, Stillman J. Stadtlander. Their paths have crossed before and Lawless is no fool: he cannot take on Stadtlander’s gunhawks alone. He enlists old friends, Drifter and the enigmatic Gabriel Moonlight, and just for good measure calls in Latigo Rawlins, the very man who had bushwhacked him….

This is the latest book in Steve Hayes Santa Rosa Saga and readers of this excellent series will have met all the main players in this story before, and this time it seems as though Stadtlander might finally be made to pay for his crimes.

Steve Hayes builds the tension well, not just for the coming showdown between Lawless and Stadtlander, but also for the future of Moonlight who is now riding on the wrong side of border, the side that has him named as an outlaw with a future at the end of a rope.

When Lawless and friends finally face Stadtlander and his gunhawks the results are unexpected and provide a terrific twist to the tale. This in turn means Lawless has more problems to solve, not least one of the heart.

I can’t really say any-more about the storyline without spoiling it so will finish by saying that if you have read any of the Santa Rosa Saga books before then make sure you don’t miss this one, and if you’ve yet to try any of Steve Hayes work then this could well be a great place to start.

Many of the Santa Rosa Saga books are also available as ebooks.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Stearn's Break

By Caleb Rand
Hale, October 2014

Looking to start a new life, away from the futility of working an exhausted gold mine, Will Stearn and his partner ride into Ragland. But the town is tough and it isn’t long before Will’s old friend is fatally wounded in a back street brawl. Will considers moving on, until a brush with Connie Boe leads him to accept an attractive and profitable business offer.

So, when hard-nosed gunman Newton Boe returns to claim his wife and a share of the newly opened Rojo Pluma, Will is advised by the sheriff to cut his losses and leave town. But Stearn knows better than to avoid this fight, and must stand firm in the face of terrible trouble.

Caleb Rand is a pseudonym used by Carl Bernard, and under this name and another, Abe Dancer, he’s had around forty westerns published. Quite a few of these reside in my collection but this is only the second one I’ve read.

The plot is fairly straight-forward and doesn’t happen is quite the order the blurb above would have you believe. For instance Stearn’s partner, Clem Tapper, isn’t killed until near the end of the book. My favourite character was the sheriff, a man struggling to keep everyone alive whilst keeping his daughter out of trouble.

The pace of the book is excellent, ever increasing towards Tapper’s death, and this in turn sets the story up for a deadly final showdown between Stearn and Newton Boe.

On the strength of this story I think it’s time I dug out some of Carl Bernard’s other books.