Tuesday 30 June 2015

Gila Monster

By Colin Bainbridge
Hale, June 2015

A stagecoach is winding its way towards the small town of Medicine Bend when it is attacked by outlaws. However the coach’s passengers manage to beat them off. This unusual array of characters – the new town marshal Wade Calvin, insurance salesman Taber, and Miss Jowett, on her way to care for her relatives – thus find their lives intertwined.

As the new arrivals settle in, the outlaws’ vicious leader ‘Gila’ Goad hears news of the botched robbery from his base in a disused silver mining camp in the surrounding hills. Named after the deadly Gila lizard he keeps as a pet, Goad is brutal and unpredictable. He learns of Calvin’s presence in town and believes he is the same man who once imprisoned him. Goad is determined to get his revenge.

When Miss Jowett’s young relatives are kidnapped, Calvin knows the race to find the outlaws is on. He must take the fight into the hills as he searches for Goad and his camp, and the stolen children – before it is too late.

Like other books I’ve read by Colin Bainbridge this one features a creature, so I’m guessing that Mr Bainbridge must be an animal lover. As Goad keeps his Gila lizard in his coat pocket I’d say it’s a youngster as an adult would be far too large to be kept this way. Goad’s habit of discussing his problems with the Gila are both entertaining and strange at the same time.

Bainbridge brings together a very different set of characters for this novel, and each will have a vital role to play in freeing the kidnapped children and bringing an end to the outlaws’ plans, for Goad has a much bigger prize in his grasp than just robbing stagecoaches and banks.

Bainbridge breaks each of the six chapters into a series of scenes that switch from character to character regularly. He includes plenty of action as the story builds smoothly to its bloody conclusion.

On finishing the book I’m again left looking forward to Colin Bainbridge’s next, not least to discover just what kind of animal will have a starring role.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

The Gun Master

By Rory Black
Hale, June 2015

Rex Carey arrives in the township of Willow Creek on his way to visit an old friend. Unknown to him, the infamous Zane Black is staying in the same hotel.

Soon Carey, known throughout the West as the Gun Master, clashes with Black and blood is spilled. Black had been planning the perfect bank robbery and was awaiting his brother and gang to execute his plans.

As Forrest Black rides with his men into the remote settlement, he has no idea he is about to find his brother dead. He sets out to find the killer and his outlaw gang collides brutally with Carey. Who will come out on top?

Up until now Michael D. George has used the pseudonym of Rory Black for his Iron Eyes series only so this is the first time he’s put out a book about someone other than Iron Eyes under that pen-name. My initial thoughts were why when he writes under a variety of other names too, and could this be the first book in a new series?

Those familiar with this authors work will find everything they expect in this very fast moving tale; savage outlaws, a lightning fast hero, plenty of deaths, and a writing style that paints vivid imagery within the mind, in particular the final showdown that can easily be imagined as playing out before you on a cinema screen.

As I read this I became certain the Gun Master was to become a new series but the surprising ending made me doubt my thoughts, so I guess time will reveal whether Rex Carey will ride again. If he does I’m sure I will be reading his next adventure.

The Gun Master has an official release date of June 30th but is available now.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Once More into the Breech

By Peter Brandvold
Five Star Publishing, May 2015

When Doctor Clyde Evans is kidnapped from his home in the middle of the night to tend a wounded outlaw, Sheriff Ben Stillman’s problems are only just beginning. Stillman tracks the doctor to a remote cabin deep in the Two Bear Mountains. He springs the doctor, shoots the outlaws, and confiscates the bank loot. He also arrests a beautiful young outlaw, Hettie Styles, who promptly puts a bounty on Stillman’s head. Compounding his problems, his old foe Jacob Henry Battles rides into town with a steel hook replacing the arm Stillman shot off years ago before sending Battles to prison. 

Dying from consumption, Battles was recently let out of Deer Lodge Pen. He says he’s in town merely to settle down, but after a shot is fired into Stillman’s house in the middle of the night, the sheriff thinks Battles is out for revenge. 

Meanwhile, Doc Evans must navigate more personal torments when young Evelyn Vincent, the waitress from Sam Wa’s CafĂ©, professes her love for the older sawbones only weeks before Evans is due to be married to the Widow Kemmett! 

In this, the 10th book in the Sheriff Ben Stillman series a long occurring problem really takes a grip making this a must read for fans of the Stillman stories.

For all the deadly dangers Stillman faces in this violent tale it’s something he is powerless to control that could be his downfall. The bullet in his back is causing him to stiffen up, near paralysing him. How can he protect his family, let alone continue being a lawman if he ends up in a wheelchair? Peter Brandvold comes up with some powerful storytelling as he writes about Stillman’s fears of what the future may hold for him.

Doc Evans’ women problems are a major part of this tale as the Stillman books are about the people of Clantick too, and this makes for a neat subplot and will have you wondering who he will choose.

Peter Brandvold has always been very good at creating terrific characters and this one is filled with them; Battles, a dying man who says he isn’t after revenge: Miller, who’s trying to engineer the ultimate gunfight between Stillman and Battles: Hettie, female outlaw who seems to be able to wrap men around her little finger and is out to double-cross her gang, to name but a few.

The story is packed with bloody action that is quite savage at times and also contains some explicit sex. There’s mystery too, such as who is taking sniping shots at the Stillman home. All overshadowed by the fear I’ve already mentioned that Stillman may not be capable of protecting his friends and family when the time comes which makes for some edge-of-the-seat moments before the final tension filled confrontation.

Here’s hoping Peter doesn’t make us wait too long before we get to find out what he has in store for Sheriff Ben Stillman next.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Strong Convictions

By GP Hutchinson
The Hutchinson Group LLC, February 2015

In 1876 the seemingly impossible happened--Emmett Strong, a prodigy of a pistolero, accidentally shot his own young wife in a showdown gone awry.

Now, five years later, death visits Emmett's family again, and want to or not, he's going to have to overcome his reluctance to draw his six-gun if he's to catch and bring to justice the crazed gunman who murdered his brother. The pursuit of his brother's killer takes him all the way to Nevada's Comstock country where the assassin has taken refuge with rich and powerful kin.

Among the many unexpected situations Emmett encounters in Nevada is forbidden love when he falls for Li Xu, the fascinating daughter of Chinese immigrants. But before the relationship has time to bloom, Li Xu disappears--kidnapped along with five other young women.

Can Emmett afford to leave off the chase of his brother's murderer to search for and rescue the women? Can he afford not to? With success hanging on quick thinking and quick shooting, can he take one last shot at both love and retribution?

This is the first book I’ve read by GP Hutchinson so did it grab my interest enough to make me eager to read more of his work?

The opening tragic scene of Strong shooting and killing his wife is extremely well written (as is the rest of the book) and will have you wanting to read more to see how Strong copes with the emotional trauma this triggers within him.

Hutchinson fills his story with great characters, both good and bad, male and female, of which you can never be sure if any will live or die. The pacing of the story is excellent as the plot moves through a series of twists and turns putting more and more obstacles in Strong’s path that need to be overcome if he wants to get justice for his brothers’ murder.

Including a Chinese girl for the love interest adds more complications and you’ll want to see if love can win out over the prejudices of the times, providing Strong can save her from her kidnappers.

If it is action you want, then you’ll find plenty of that too as Strong and his companions battle a vicious adversary.

The book concludes satisfactory but does leave a couple of story threads hanging to ensure you and I will be reading the next book in the series. In fact two more are announced for release in the near future, Strong Suspicions and Strong Ambitions, although no publication dates are mentioned.

Available as both paperback and ebook

Wednesday 10 June 2015

I Am the Law!

By Hank J. Kirby
Hale, May 2015

Mitchell Slade, a top US Marshal, is sent to clean up the New Mexico town of Hatfield. Within a few minutes of his arrival, four men lie dead under a shroud of smoke, and this sets the tone for Slade’s stay.

It isn’t long before the man who killed Slade’s family, Brazos McGraw, shows up in town. The streets of Hatfield are ready to run red with blood unless Slade can stop his old enemy’s reign of terror. And to do this will cost him much more than he is prepared to pay.

There are lots of surprises waiting in store for the reader as the truths about Slade and McGraw’s past come to light. This is not the only twist though, for one of the four men Slade kills on arriving in Hatfield is the towns’ Sheriff. Seems this lawman helped outlaws escape justice for a hefty sum of cash. Why? Was he as crooked as they are? Obviously I can’t answer that here, but will add that the Sheriff’s daughter is soon gunning for Slade.

When we first meet Slade he comes across as a brutal no-nonsense man who justifies his actions by saying he can do what he likes because he is the law! Something that rubs up many of Hatfield’s citizens the wrong way. As the story develops we see through this mask and Slade’s true motivations are revealed and these become more complicated by the dead Sheriff’s daughter, an attraction to each other neither can deny even though she wants him gone, preferably dead.

Regular readers of WFR will already know that Hank J. Kirby is a pseudonym used by a favourite author of mine, Keith Hetherington, a writer with hundreds of western books published under a variety of pen-names. Like many of his books this one starts with a bang and then gallops forward at an ever increasing pace offering the reader great dialogue, tough characters of both sexes, and plenty of pulse-pounding action before a final race against time that seems impossible for Slade to win.

If you’ve never read any of Keith Hetherington’s books then this one is a great way to introduce yourself to his work. 

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Reins of Satan

By Lee Clinton
Hale, May 2015

The reins of Satan are harnessed to the sins of violence.

Civil War veteran Gabriel McDermott has spent the last thirty years as an enforcer for anyone who could pay. But times have changed. It is now 1897 and the Old West is fading. His talents are no longer in demand and this hard man is now seen as a relic from long ago.

In a desire to escape his past and settle down, he turns in his young travelling companion for a $1500 reward. However, when his partner is hanged without a trial, the execution awakes Gabe’s lost conscience. Memories from a violent past return to haunt and his nerve fails – just when Satan decides to call.

As you will probably gather from the above blurb this book has a very dark tone, and that is what makes this story such a fascinating read.

McDermott is a lost soul, haunted by past killings, believing Satan is toying with him, tormenting him before welcoming him to Hell. As the story unfolds we discover some of Gabe’s history, witness the horrors that he’s tried to keep locked away.

Meeting Hannah and her son, Josh, could just mean life might be looking up, but McDermott’s nerve fails when they need him the most. Can Gabe redeem himself in their eyes?

This is the kind of book that at times can prove to be a hard read due to its themes, but you will not want to put it down as you’ll want to know if Gabe can rise up, perhaps even find happiness. There is plenty of brutal violence and this is used to horrific effect in a savage lesson in trying to stop someone becoming a killer themselves. There are many things in this story that will stay in my mind for a long time, it’s that powerful. 

Lee Clinton is a pseudonym used by Leigh Alver and this grim and gritty tale has definitely strengthen my belief that he is one of the top Black Horse Western writers being published today.