Saturday 31 January 2015

The Last Mountain Man

By Tony Masero
A Hand Painted Western, September 2012

Montana 1867

Misty Blue came down after twenty years in the mountains to find he never knew they’d even had a war on down there in what posed as civilization. The war was over now but that didn’t trouble Misty, he was about to start another one all of his own.

Commissioned by a wealthy rancher’s widow, Misty finds himself on a mission below the border where a lunatic with a taste for pure havoc runs things.

Guided by an ex-Confederate old timer who knows the ground and accompanied by a resourceful redheaded firebrand with attitude and a foul mouth Misty forges a violent and bloody path through the warlord’s territory with no more than a tomahawk, Colt and Springfield rifle to see him through.

The brutal warlord keeps house in some strange ways and has his own weird army fashioned to bizarre principles. But they are about to confront two hundred pounds of living grief and enter a world of pain they never knew existed, that is, until they met the man called Misty Blue – truly, the last of the old time Mountain Men.

Tony Masero has created a superb character in Misty Blue, a tough man whose promise you don’t want to be on the wrong end of. A man who isn’t afraid of taking on superior odds and will wade into his enemies with just his fists if no others weapons are available.

But Misty isn’t the only terrific character to be found in this fast moving, action packed tale, Misty’s companions are very memorable too, one of whom Misty warms to considerably, who brings out the unstoppable desire for revenge. Misty’s main enemy is also superbly drawn, a self-proclaimed God who thinks he has the power of life and death over anyone.

Tony Masero is foremost an artist, and it’s this that surely helps him write prose that paints vivid imagery in the minds’ eye making this book such a joy to read.

Whether this book was originally intended to be the first in a series I’m not sure, but luckily for me it has become as I liked Misty Blue enough to want to read more about him, and at the time of writing this review there are a further four Misty Blue tales, and if they are anywhere near as good as this one then this series could well become one of my favourites.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Death Comes Easy

By Will Black
Hale, January 2015

Latham Parry is hell-bent on revenge: to ruin the man he holds responsible for his brother’s death.

Mitch Evans rides into town in search of his own brother, only to discover that he has been burned to death, and that his young wife and child have died trapped in the root cellar of their home.

Two men, both thinking they have right on their side, but only one will survive as death comes easy in the West.

Will Black also includes greed as a motive for killing, and combined with the twin story threads of revenge makes this book a gripping fast paced read.

Filled with many terrific characters, including strong female roles, that Black keeps switching between regularly the reader witnesses how plans fall apart far too easily as it’s almost impossible to second-guess what your adversaries will do in response to your actions. This makes for some edge-of-the-seat reading as you have to wonder if anyone will be able to get anywhere in time to save more senseless killings.

Will Black is a pseudonym used by Adam Smith and over the years he has put out many Black Horse Westerns under a variety of pen-names. I’ve always enjoyed his well-thought out plots, his visually descriptive narrative - that can at times be quite gruesome, all mixed with plenty of gunplay. If you’ve never read anything by this author then Death Comes Easy is an excellent place to start.

Sunday 25 January 2015

The Revenant

By Michael Punke
Picador, January 2015

The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes turned warlike over the white men’s encroachment on their land, and other prairie foes—like the unforgiving landscape and its creatures. Hugh Glass is among the Company’s finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive.

The Company’s captain dispatches two of his men to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies, and to give him the respect of a proper burial. When the two men abandon him instead, taking his only means of protecting himself—including his precious gun and hatchet— with them, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge.

With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out crawling inch by inch across more than three hundred miles of uncharted American frontier, negotiating predators both human and not, the threat of starvation, and the agony of his horrific wounds.

Mixing fact, legend, and taking one or two literary and historical liberties, Michael Punke has written a superb story that both entertains and informs as he tells the tale of Hugh Glass, concentrating on his struggle to survive a horrific bear attack which makes for unforgettable reading.

Jim Bridger is one of the two men who leave Glass for dead, and this adds to the tension as you know Glass can’t kill him when he catches up to him, but why will he change his mind when the burning desire for revenge is what drives Glass on in his remarkable test of human endurance?

Punke also tells of Glass’s past; his time as a sailor and pirate under Jean Lafitte which makes for fascinating reading in itself.

Punke’s descriptions are vivid, capturing both time and place extremely well. There are light-hearted moments but it’s the brutal side of life in the wilderness that enthralled me the most.

If you have more than a passing interest in the life of Hugh Glass, or Jim Bridger, or tales of mountain men, then this book cannot be recommended enough.

The Revenant is soon to be a major motion picture, starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Blood Trail

By John Legg
Wolfpack Publishing, August 2014

Humiliated and left to die by a band of ruthless outlaws, Travis is saved by a man even harder than those who nearly killed him. Now, his hunt for his own brother becomes a quest…and the man who saved him shows him that a blood trail is the easiest to follow! And he must follow it to the end. His end, or his brother's.

This is the first book in a new series by John Legg, an author whose work I have enjoyed on many an occasion.

The story begins with the loss of Travis’ parents and of the struggles he faces to keep the family farm going whilst looking out for his brothers and sister. With failing crops and rebellious brothers this task proves too much. But there is hope, Travis meets a young lady and marries her. Shortly after this Travis hears one of his brothers has taken to the outlaw trail and he sets off to save him if he can leaving his newly wed wife behind.

John Legg then ups the pace, showing how Travis changes into a ruthless bounty hunter and the book becomes an action packed read. Finding his brother, though, becomes an almost impossible task but eventually they do face each other.

John Legg has always known how to create memorable characters and interesting twisting plots that challenge you to put the book down even for the briefest of moments. Blood Trail is no different in those respects. The end is dramatic and moving and left me eager to read the second book in the series, Blood Feud, that has recently been published.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Broken Arrow

By Dale Mike Rogers
Hale, December 2014

Erle Hawke is a drifter who sets out from his distant home in search of his brother. For years he finds no sign of his sibling. Unlike the boiling climate, the search has gone cold. Then, after riding into a sun-bleached town, Hawke is told that there is a ranch out in the arid desert looking for hands. The youngster does not realize that the town locals are lying. They are sending him to his death in the uncharted desert.

As Erle slowly begins to succumb to the ferocious heat, and is running out of precious water, a strange vision appears. As Hawke stares into the shimmering heat-haze he sees a chilling character riding towards him: an Indian, painted from head to toe, and sat astride a powerful black horse – the mysterious Broken Arrow.

The above blurb all takes place in the opening pages of this very fast moving story. The questions of who is Broken Arrow and what does he want, remain unanswered for much of the tale, and many more questions offer a number of puzzles to the reader.

Dale Mike Rogers switches regularly between the various groups of characters that are all converging on the same place, many unware of the others existence. As well as Hawke and Broken Arrow there’s a vicious group of killers searching for a long lost treasure, three lawmen tracking the killers, and an unnamed forgotten band of Indians who are shadowing them all.

Dale Mike Rogers is another of Michael D. George’s pseudonyms and this book contains all his current trademarks; excellent descriptive prose that often paints horrific imagery, a lack of women, referring to people as creatures, a breathless pace, and bloody violence.

George’s tales are some of the shorter books that Hale publish under their Black Horse banner and can easily be read in one sitting. If you’ve never tried this author then Broken Arrow could be just the place to start.

Monday 5 January 2015

The Slocum series comes to an end

SLOCUM #430:
By Jake Logan
Jove, December 2014

Down on his luck in San Francisco, John Slocum takes a contract with the Central California Railroad. He’s given the difficult task of locating a stolen shipment of silver worth over ten thousand dollars, but he catches a break when he discovers that the company’s attractive secretary, Tamara, was an accomplice in the robbery. Too bad his employer would rather believe in the thief’s feminine wiles than in Slocum’s cold hard facts.

Fuming mad and out of work, Slocum starts looking to let off some steam. But when Tamara offers Slocum a new job – finding where the rest of the robbers stowed the loot – he has a hard time saying no to the seductive crook, or to a change of fortune. Still, Slocum knows he has to keep his cards close to the chest, or else he might end up six feet under…

The Slocum series first hit the shelves way back in 1975, the books being published by Playboy. It wasn’t until 1983, when the series was taken over by Berkley that a new book appeared monthly. Jake Logan, is of course a pseudonym behind which a great many different writers wrote over the years, many of whom are held in high acclaim in the western genre, which means there are more than a fistful of excellent reads to be found in the series.

Slocum’s Silver Burden is the last book in America’s longest running Western series but does it bring the series to an end in style?

I would think followers of the series will be more than pleased with this book for it does bring about a conclusion to John Slocum’s many years of riding the trail, sometimes on the side of the law and more often than not on the opposite side. Here Slocum tries to help the railroad but when he’s tossed aside he decides to help himself to whatever he can get as pay back. But this is where the real problems occur as the stolen silver is hidden in four different places and those responsible have a bad habit of dying before revealing where the silver is hidden.

There is also other complications, such as whether Tamara can be trusted. And what of the bounty hunters? Are they looking to claim the reward for returning the silver to its rightful owners or are they hoping to ride off into the sunset with the small fortune? Whichever trail they choose they aren’t going to let Slocum stand in the way, which means there’s plenty of action to be found in this story.

I’m not sure who has written this book but I will say it is well written, moves forward at pace, contains a number of surprises, and, as I’ve already mentioned, brings the series to a neat ending. 

Friday 2 January 2015


By C.J. Sommers
Hale, December 2014

More than a decade ago the Red Butte boys had been one of the most powerful and deadly gangs in Arizona Territory; pulling off the Big Springs robbery and netting $50,000 in gold certificates, before disappearing. Since then, no sign of the gang or gold certificates had been seen and it was assumed that the gang was living off the proceeds of the heist in Mexico.

But when one of the certificates surfaces in the town of Bisbee, the Bank Examiner’s Office hopes that the trail of the robbers can be traced. And who better to take on this ghost hunt than the tenacious Laredo?

Laredo makes for an intriguing lead character, a man who thinks of retiring after each case, a man who enjoys the chase but not the killing. But this assignment may be too much for him; just how do you find a gang that vanished so long ago?

C.J. Sommers’ story moves forwards at a tremendous pace, filled with action as someone doesn’t like Laredo nosing around. Hidden identities are one of the problems Laredo has to figure out and there’s also a couple of neat twists along the way. And what of the talkative Alicia? How much does she really know and what angle is she playing? Obviously I can’t answer those questions here, but I will say she is part of a surprising ending for someone.

As I’ve revealed a number of times on Western Fiction Review, C.J. Sommers is a pseudonym used by Paul Lederer, a writer who should be on the reading list of all fans of the western genre. If you’ve yet to try his work then this book could well be the ideal starting place.

For some reason I cannot find this book for sale at