By Ralph Cotton
Signet, May 2010
Civil War veteran and former schoolmaster Sherman Dahl rides the Southwest as a gun for hire. Known by both the law and the lawless as “The Teacher,” Dahl sells his services to those seeking justice, and he is relentless in his pursuit of wanted men.
Chester “Big Chicago” Goines and his band of outlaws have been raising hell across Arizona, thieving and killing everything in their path. When he learns that Dahl has been set on his trail, Goines welcomes the opportunity to settle an old score….
As expected from a story by Ralph Cotton, this book contains a large cast of colourful characters doing their best to kill one another. Mistrust, double-cross, revenge and the lust for money entwine in this very entertaining tale that includes the use of a bullet-proof vest – this later being something I can’t remember reading about in a western before.
Dahl is an interesting and engaging lead character who first appeared in the book Webb’s Posse. He’s a man who doesn’t seem to care how much suffering he might have to endure or how many bullets he might have to take as long as he completes his mission.
Like all the Ralph Cotton books I’ve read this one is divided into three sections. Dahl has a large part to play in the first and third sections whilst the second is pretty much given over to the exploits of Goines and a number of other bandit groups. We also meet a young, inexperienced deputy who is out to kill those who gunned down his sheriff and he causes complications for Dahl, as does the man who hired him to take out Goines. A dancing bear that seems to relish wrestling with humans also has a part to play.
The book is packed with vicious bloody action and at no time was I sure of who would get to kill whom and who would be left alive by the end.
Once again, Ralph Cotton provided me with a thoroughly gripping story where every page was a joy to read, leaving me eager to read another very soon.
Available in paperback, hardback, audiobook and as an ebook.