Sunday 28 February 2021


By Barry Cord
Ace, May 1973

Wandering cowmen, Long Jim and Windy befriend troubled cripple Lincoln Fervans and his wife at the V Bar Ranch. Lincoln has received warning notes telling him to leave his spread. Fearful for his and his wife’s life Fervans sells the ranch to Long Jim and Windy and now they become involved in the mystery of "Miguel" whose name is on the note. The men must soon draw on every reserve they have to track down a killer - to save their lives and see the ranch is returned to its rightful owners.

Barry Cord packs a lot into the pages of this story. There’s an excellent mix of characters, all of whom may have hidden agendas, even the Sheriff. And what of the Englishman known as Tally Ho, does he know what his ranch hands are doing and are they working under his orders? Then there’s the ghost of Miguel who seems to have come back from the dead to reclaim the V Bar Ranch, and is pretty handy with a rifle. 

I’ve read many books by Barry Cord and have enjoyed them all and this story is as equally entertaining, perhaps not up there with his best, but very good nonetheless. The story is a little more straightforward than a lot of Cord’s work. It doesn’t contain as much mystery as others or that many twists to the plot. In fact, the reader knows just about everything that is going on throughout, although Cord does spring one or two surprises later in the tale.

This is also the third story I’ve read about Long Jim and Windy and I don’t believe there are any more. It certainly doesn’t matter what order they are read in. In fact, I’m not even sure in what order they were originally published. This one is part of an Ace Double and is backed with another Long Jim and Windy tale, Desert Knights, that has the same publishing date. The other book, The Coffin Fillers, I’ve seen listed as being first published both in 1972, 1973 and 1974. I do think it’s a shame Cord didn’t write anymore books about Long Jim and Windy as they are a couple of likeable rogues. 

Barry Cord is a pseudonym used by Peter Germano and for me he is certainly an author worth checking out.

Monday 22 February 2021


By Gary McCarthy
Doubleday, April 1993

Darby Buckingham, the famous writer known to his legions of dime novel fans as the Derby Man, and his fiancée, Dolly Beavers, run into a pack of unusual beasts on a dangerous road mountain road heading towards Lake Tahoe. Their horses are terrified by the exotic animals, and Darby and Dolly’s carriage plunges into a raging river. Though they escape with their lives, their future fortune, which lay in the profitable pages of Darby’s latest Western manuscript, is now irretrievably washed away in the currents of white water.

Determined to make the owner of the camels pay for his ruin, the Derby Man becomes the unwilling owner of a herd of twelve spitting, dirty and disagreeable camels. Along with all his possessions and his manuscript, Darby has also lost the will to write, so the only answer to his dilemma lies in competing for a freight contract to the Consolidated Mining Company’s most inaccessible mine, the Gold Peak.

Unfriendly Paiutes, scorching desert and steep, impassable trails are not the worst of the problems that now plague Darby. The horrors contrived by the murderous band of another competitor make the unyielding tortures of nature pale in comparison. It will be up to the Derby Man, camels trailing behind him, to create the kind of happy ending for this real-life adventure that he does for his novels.

It’s a well-known fact, that Darby doesn’t like horses, now he may have found another type of animal he hates more. The camels also prove to be the source for many of the humorous scenes that come at regular intervals throughout this fast-moving tale.

Gary McCarthy has also created a terrific set of characters for this story, Big Bert Jasper, the former camel owner and leader of a gang of cutthroats. Then there’s Emil El Babba, the Arab camel handler who will not let anyone harm his beloved camels, even the Derby Man. It’s also great to see the return of Bear and Zack. All these and more come together to take part in the race to win the contract from the mining company.

There’s plenty of action, be that brutal fist-fights or exchanges of lead. There’s the mystery of who is killing off the other competitors, although this isn’t kept a secret. The final confrontation between Darby’s band and the killers takes another twist as the Paiutes arrive ready to wipe out everyone. Can Darby use the camels to save the day?

For me, it is a great shame that this book is the last of the Derby Man novels. I’ve enjoyed every one of them. Gary McCarthy surely came up with one of the most unusual western heroes in his portly, ex-circus strongman, prizefighter and novelist Darby Buckingham. All the books have been hugely entertaining, mixing both nail-biting action, superb characters and comical situations. The majority of the stories also revolve around real events adding historical interest too. The Derby Man series gets a high recommendation from me.

Friday 19 February 2021


By Lyle Brandt
Berkley, 2007

Jack Slade pulled up roots a long time ago to take life one day at a time, risking his livelihood, and his neck, at gambling tables across the West. A disappointment to his family, he’s been estranged from them for years. Then he receives word of his brother’s death – under mysterious circumstances – in Lawton, Oklahoma.

It’s been four years since Jack saw Jim, who had firmly planted his roots to become a successful rancher. In addition to acres of land and herds of cattle, Jim left behind a fiancée who has been fending off offers on her property – and cattle rustlers.

The mysterious circumstances behind Jim’s death are starting to become clear. And when fate pins a badge of Jack, he finds himself walking the line between justice and revenge…

This is the first in a series that ran to eleven books. Lyle Brandt is a pseudonym used by Michael Newton.

As expected there is plenty of background information as to why Slade left his family and headed out West. We also discover that Jack and Jim are twins. The reactions of some of the inhabitants of Lawton and some outlaws are excellent as they believe they are seeing a ghost when Slade arrives in town. A lot of the tale explores Slade’s thoughts as he reflects on the past and his future and quite often goes over the same ground, which got a little repetitive. 

Slade’s need to find and punish Jim’s killers sees him at odds with the marshal, Harmon Ford, who needs evidence before he can arrest anyone. Once Slade becomes a lawman himself, he also has to follow rules which restrict how he can deal out his own brand of justice. These aren’t the only problems Slade has to deal with, there’s his growing attraction to his dead brother’s fiancée, Faith Connover.

Full of interesting characters, and a twisting plot, the book moves along at a steady pace with bursts of well described violence. The ending is satisfactory and leaves you wondering what the future holds for the survivors, something I’m hoping to find out soon as I don’t think it will be long before I read the second book in the series.

Monday 8 February 2021


By Dirk Fletcher
Leisure, 1982

Spur McCoy was an Easterner, but when it came to justice he was as shrewd and savvy as any gun-seasoned marshal in the West. As top man in the government’s new Secret Service Agency, he was assigned to investigate reports of a rebel colonel out to capture the Arizona Territory and set up his own nation.

The mountains were towering and the cold was unbearable. The only relief from the low winter sun was a farm fire and as many shots of whisky as a man could stand. Then, along the trail of the outlaw colonel, Spur met up with a feisty beauty who showed him another way to get his mind off the cold.

This is the original book two in the Spur series. For some reason I’ve never been able to find out, after book three, Leisure changed the cover style and began numbering the series from number one again. This means there are two books one, two and three. 

Spur finds himself looking for a missing photographer, whose sister is one of the many women he enjoys the company of. This series is billed as an adult western so these sexual encounters are very explicit in their depiction. For at least the first half of this book Spur seems to find himself pleasuring a woman in every chapter and after a while I did find this to be tedious and I wanted the mission to stop the rebel colonel to begin. Unfortunately, I did have to read these sex scenes as some of the story plot was revealed during these sections of the book. 

As well as being an expert lover, Spur is a tough and capable fellow in the pursuit of his mission. He’s also capable of recovering from a gunshot wound to the shoulder very quickly. Good job, as he soon finds he will be taking on two hundred outlaws with just the help of one man and the photographers sister. Their attack on the outlaw stronghold is exciting, violent and lasts for quite a good portion of the book. In fact, the sexual content drops off to virtually none when Spur sets off to destroy the colonel in an explosive showdown that results in a high body count. 

If you don’t like lots graphic sex, which includes rape, then this book probably isn’t for you. If you don’t mind it, and like hero against massive odds action stories then you’ll certainly enjoy reading this tale.

Dirk Fletcher is a pseudonym used by Chester Cunningham.