Wednesday 30 September 2020


By Jackson Cole
Popular Library, 1965

In the fertile oasis of the Delnorte Valley seethed a full-scale range war. Lynch fever spread. Bombs exploded along the wire fences – reflecting the hate that filled the valley. The Coral River ran red with blood and open war was expected at any moment. Ranger Jim Hatfield had to find the man responsible for the violence before Delnorte became a valley of death.

The man Hatfield had to stop was protected by a terror organization called “The Black Cappers.” Their specialties were killing and destruction and they had forced the nesters and the ranchers into two armed camps. Hatfield found himself caught in the crossfire – an easy target for anyone with an easy six-gun. He was running on sheer power and had to get his man in a hurry . . . before the powder-keg of Delnorte Valley exploded!

This story was originally published under the same title in the November 1937 issue of Texas Rangers (see below). I’d guess the 1965 version has been expanded to create the length needed for a book. Jim Hatfield was created in 1936 by A. Leslie Scott and all the stories were published under the pseudonym of Jackson Cole. Scott was the main writer for the long running series alongside Tom Curry. A few other authors wrote for the series too. Guns Across the Pecos was written by Curry.

This is a tough, fast-paced story that contains a number of surprises and plenty of action – more or less every chapter containing gunplay or fist fights. Although the tale does include women, they don’t have very big roles – even the girl who provides the love interest.

Hatfield is extremely fast with his guns, talks to his horse Goldy, and has a quick mind that helps him solve all the problems he faces almost effortlessly. Hatfield occasionally comes across as superhuman when it comes to second-guessing his enemies and when he gets shot – the latter occurring more than once in this tale but Hatfield seems able to shrug his wounds off and carry on as if nothing had happened.

Being such an old story there is some of the kind of lingo we don’t see much of nowadays, such as ‘dawggone it’, ‘keerful-like,’ and ‘shoot yuh daid.’ This, to me, is part of the fun of reading these old tales but at times can be a challenge when there’s a lot of it in one sentence. 

Tom Curry keeps the main plot twist a secret until near the end, and it was one I didn’t see coming, although I did work out who was behind whatever it was that was going on. The story ends with a classic hero chasing bad guy across country scene, making for a final dramatic showdown that ends the tale in suitable style. 

I’ve read a few Jim Hatfield tales in pulp magazines and found them to be very entertaining and this extended book length story proved to be as equally enjoyable. 

Saturday 26 September 2020


By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, February 2019

With Apaches on the prowl, ex-cavalry sergeant Sean Keegan, bounty hunter Jed Breen, and ex-Texas Ranger Matt McCulloch take shelter in a West Texas way station – along with a hot-as-a-pistol female bound for the gallows, a spiteful newspaper editor, and a coward with $50,000 who promises them five grand if they’ll deliver his blood-soaked stash to his wife.

Turns out, Indians might be the least of the problems for the trio, soon to be known as the Jackals. The loot’s stolen property of the vengeful Hawkin gang, and these prairie rats are merciless, stone-cold killers. And the brother of the man the woman killed wants to butcher her himself rather than watch her swing. McCulloch, Keegan, and Breen are ready for a showdown – but the Jackals may not live to spend that $5,000.

These Johnstone books are getting longer and the author certainly packs a lot of excitement into those 359 pages. This story fairly gallops along and there’s never a dull moment as gunfight follows gunfight. 

At the start the author switches between his three main characters, to tell the stories of how two become ex-cavalry and ex-ranger and of the events that see them and the bounty hunter following separate trails that will see them arrive at the way station under siege by the Apaches. We are also introduced to the outlaws, the coward, and the woman. There is another character waiting at the way station, an actor with a wagon load of props and both he and his items will have an important role to play in the bloody, violent outcome of this tale.

I found the book an easy read that urged me to keep turning the pages. There were some terms used that I don’t often see in westerns, such as the words bubba, punk and arse – the latter appearing only once before being replaced by the more commonly used ass in books about Americans. 

Once knowledge of the $50,000 become known to the people trapped in the way station it was interesting to see how some of their character traits changed as greed took its grip on them.

Amidst all the violence there are some moments of humour, mainly coming from the actor, in either deeds or words.

The final desperate attempt to break-out of the way station makes for gripping and dramatic reading. The race for freedom being a real out of the frying pan and into the fire situation that leads to more gunplay and double-cross that very few of the characters survive in one piece.

This book is the first in a new series and the second one has just been released and I’m looking forward to reading it very soon.

Sunday 20 September 2020


Number 28 of 52
By Hank Mitchum
Cover art by Guy Deel
Bantam Books, March 1987

The stage carrying Andrea King never made it to Placerville. Solomon King, her husband, knew she was somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but was she alive or dead? With Andrea’s sister Lorraine and the Indian guide Gray Hawk, King began his grim search. 

Then the first storms of winter hit with blinding fury. Accompanied by a lost party of miners carrying gold, King made it to the relay station of El Dorado – only to find that someone in the party wanted all the gold for himself and thought eleven lives was a small price to pay. 

The snows made them prisoners of El Dorado, and one by one they died. King had to find the killer before the killer found him – and ended his desperate search for his wife.

The Stagecoach Station series of books are stand-alone novels that are linked by having a story that revolves around a stagecoach or stagecoach station. One or two books do see returning characters, so those tales probably need reading in order, but generally you can dip into this series anywhere and enjoy each book for what it is.

Hank Mitchum is a pseudonym behind which 14 authors wrote. The writer of this entry is Lew A. Lacy and he wrote more books in this series than anyone else.

As well as being a western, this is a murder mystery tale too. The author keeps the reader in suspense as to who the killer is until the end. Of course, as the victims fall the list of suspects gets smaller. Lew A. Lacy writes the growing sense of fear well, and his characters become more and more on edge with each death. Accusations fly and friendships crumble. No-one trusts anyone and being trapped in a snow bound stage station doesn’t help.

This is a well told story that had me on the edge of my seat a number of times. The characters are all engaging and the desperation to discover who the killer is provides some great tension to the story. Being murdered isn’t the only threat to the trapped people’s lives, dying of starvation is another fear.

Lew A. Lacy also keeps the fate of Andrea a secret too. This only to be discovered after the murderer is unmasked and dealt with. Lacy also has a couple of twists waiting to surprise the reader which added to my enjoyment of this story.

This book proved to be a very entertaining read and I’m sure it won’t be long before I read another by Lew A. Lacy, or try one or two of the other books in this series as there are some great authors  behind the pen-name of Hank Mitchum. 

Thursday 17 September 2020


By Matt Chisholm
Cover art by Carl Hantman
Mayflower, 1963
Reissued 1967

There were three men – unwanted, except by the law.

Arch: the gunman, lover of horses and woman.

Rance: touch as rawhide, wild as a Comanche, steady as a rock.

Jim: young, unpredictable, often frightened – but with guts.

They fled into the desert, three desperate men with all hands turned against them, but they kept their pride and their code.

When they met the woman and saw what had been done to her, they ignored their own danger and offered her the only thing they had – themselves.

Together the three came riding into the open maws of death. They did waver, wanting only that their epitaph should tell those who came after them that they did not step back or flinch in the face of death.

I’ve long been a fan of Matt Chisholm’s writing. His books are packed with action. His characters are tough, heroic when they have to be, and capable of making the wrong decisions too. His stories often contain touches of dry humour. His plots are rarely predictable and he isn’t afraid of killing off some of the main characters. 

This book begins with the three main characters being pursued across the desert. Chisholm’s descriptions of hopelessness, heat, and desperation for water are superbly written. Why these three men are being chased is slowly revealed as is the fact that the posse isn’t exactly law abiding, even though they have the sheriff along who is a drunk and is easily led. It seems their real mission is to kill every Mexican they can find, drive them back over the border.

When the woman, Maria, is introduced to the story, then the plot becomes more complicated. A nameless corpse in a tower also adds intrigue – who was he, who killed him and why? 

It isn’t long before Arch sets out to rescue Maria, alone, against impossible odds. When Arch attempts to free her from her home proved to be one of the highlights for me. I could almost feel the tension as Arch tries to break into the heavily guarded building. 

Matt Chisholm, once again kept me thoroughly entertained with this very fast moving western, reinforcing my belief that he is one of the greatest British western authors.

Matt Chisholm is a pseudonym for Peter Watts, who also wrote westerns under the pen-names of Cy James and Luke Jones. 

Saturday 12 September 2020


Number 4 of 29
By Jory Sherman
Cover art by Pino Daeni
Zebra, 1980

Once Gunn met the beautiful Jilly Collins, her loving wouldn’t let him kiss her goodbye. She was the kind of woman who could please, tease and entice a man to do whatever she wanted – and what she wanted was revenge. So, she convinced Gunn to ride to Cataldo Mission and help her get even with Jason Berryman, the ruthless scoundrel who married her, took her money and ran.

They found Berryman in the local saloon playing out a winning hand of cards, but when he saw his wife with the sharpshooter Gunn, he knew that death would be the winner – and that lady luck had run out.

As you’ll see from the cover, this book is part of an adult western series. Explicit sex does take up a fair portion of the pages and it seems Gunn gets to bed most of the main female characters. This also leads to a very funny scene with an embarrassed Gunn caught by Jilly with another girl in his room. Jealousy also rears its head in another well written part of the story when two women engage in a wild catfight much to the amusement of the onlookers.

There is plenty of other action too, the kind involving fists, knives and guns that is often graphic in its description.

Berryman makes for an excellent adversary who always seems to be one step-ahead of those pursuing him. When Gunn and Jilly catch up to him, he is in the process of swindling another woman in a similar way to how he tricked Jilly. Getting Jilly’s money back soon becomes less of a priority to staying alive. 

I’ve read quite a few books written by Jory Sherman and have always enjoyed his writing style, his attention to detail and often poetic descriptions of emotions and landscapes are a joy to read and this story lived up to all my expectations. If you appreciate westerns that have a fast-paced plot, are filled with violent gunplay, contain graphic sex, and have some humorous scenes too, then this maybe a book you should consider reading.

Monday 7 September 2020


Number 9 of 15
By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, April 2011

Conrad Browning had money, a manservant and a mission: to find his missing children and meet them for the first time. He’s come as far as Denver, dodged a bullet from a beautiful assassin, and landed in a big buy-in poker tournament against a ruthless heavy-betting cattle baron with a plan of his own – to take this city slicker into the wilderness, and hunt him like an animal.

But Rance McKinney doesn’t know who he is facing. The son of legendary gunman Frank Morgan, Conrad goes by the moniker of the Loner. Now it’s the Loner against McKinney, the hunter and the hunted. And when he’s cornered, the Loner is the most dangerous beast of all…

Still searching for his children, the Loner meets a man who just might be able to shed some light on their whereabouts, but getting McKinney to talk is just one of the problems facing Browning. It also seems that someone else is sending hired assassins to kill him. 

The author weaves a tangled plot that moves forward at a tremendous pace and also features a real western character, namely Bat Masterson. As well as organizing the poker tournament, Masterson plays a major role in the outcome of this tale. 

The poker game provides some tense and gripping reading but it’s when the Loner becomes the subject of a deadly manhunt that the book really picks up in the action stakes. There are also a couple of surprises in store amid the flying lead and brutal deaths. 

For me, this is another strong entry in this excellent series. The author certainly knows how to craft a tale that will capture the readers imagination from the very beginning, and then piles on the suspense making the book difficult to put down until the gunsmoke drifts away from the scene of the final climactic gunfight that resolves most of the story’s plotlines, leaving me eager to read the next book in the series.