Monday, 31 May 2021


By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, January 2012

Drifting into New Mexico Territory, Conrad Morgan, The Loner is turning his back on the past. Then he rides up on a wagon train of pioneers – and straight into an inferno of death and revenge…

Led by a charismatic fool, a group of pioneers are crossing Apache territory, blind to the danger around them. The Loner would ignore the passing pilgrims of it weren’t for a beautiful woman. Then, when he turns his back, the Apache strike. The night is lit with an unholy fire. Mutilated bodies are left behind. And four women are taken prisoner across the Rio Grande…

To go where no man should go alone, The Loner joins a brutal band of scalp hunters. His plan to strike before a notorious Mexican slaver gets a hold of the captive women. But the first shots The Loner fires might be the easy ones. Getting out of Mexico alive – with the two bands of enemies behind him and miles of desert straight ahead – will be the fight of The Loner’s life…

You’ll see on the book cover that this entry in The Loner series is announced as number eleven. Pinnacle dropped a clanger here, as the previous novel is also book eleven, which is why I have called this one book twelve. The next book in the series is correctly billed as number thirteen.

After a superb opening chapter, that sees The Loner telling a group of gunmen who are about to attack a saloon full of other men to wait an hour or so until he has left town as he doesn’t want his horse catching a stray bullet, in a tense, amusing scene that reminded me of something you’d see in a spaghetti western, I was hooked and didn’t want to put the book down.

The Loner spends a little time reflecting on past events that have him wanting to dispose of his former life completely. He is determined to banish Conrad Browning into the dark depths of history and become Kid Morgan permanently, as he drifts aimlessly across the West. It’s whilst doing this, that he rides to intercept the wagon train out of curiosity. He then accepts a job to help guide them through Apache territory. Once they safely reach their destination, the Loner parts company from them. It’s now that the action really mounts and the book becomes one long, violent, chase, or should that be two chases? One to try and free the women from the Apache and then another as Kid Morgan attempts to get the ladies back to America.

The story is filled will great characters, especially the scalp hunters, men that may turn on The Loner at any moment. They don’t straight away as they need his gun as even with The Kid riding with them, they are massively outnumbered by the Apache, the odds being about ten to one. If you want a book with a high death toll, then this one surely fits the bill.

Getting the women away from their captors makes for some dramatic reading as does the race for the border as the Rurales give chase, leading to an excellent bloody final showdown that brings the story to a terrific end.

This was an extremely enjoyable book that left me wanting to read the next one as soon as possible.

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