Tuesday 31 August 2021


By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, September 2021
First published by Kensington in hardback, April 2021

If anyone can get a shipment of brides to the church on time, it’s Bo Creel and Scratch Morton. But this time, they’ll have to cross hell and high water to escort four marriage-bound beauties to a remote gold mining town in Alaska. The brides-to-be include a dangerously attractive widow, her sweet-hearted niece, and two of their friends. The roadblocks to the altar include a lecherous saloon owner, a lovesick sailor, and a gang of hired guns. And that’s just for starters . . . 

The real trouble begins when they reach the Alaskan boomtown. It’s a hotbed of gold and greed, as wild as any on the Texas frontier. It’s clear to Bo and Scratch that the ladies’ “eligible bachelors” are definitely not as advertised. But – to Bo and Scratch’s surprise – neither are their mail-order brides. Before anyone starts exchanging vows and tossing rice, this gold-hungry wedding party will be swapping lead. And the RSVPs will be RIPs . . . 

Having enjoyed the first two Have Brides, Will Travel books, that saw the return of Bo Creel and Scratch Morton from the Sidewinders series, I was looking forward to reading Till Death. Our two elderly heroes soon find themselves facing superior odds from humans and nature, the latter taking place as their ship battles through a destructive storm. 

Quite a large portion of this tale takes place aboard ships and this makes for a welcome change to riding horses or wagons across inhospitable land. It is during this part that one of the mail-order brides, Caroline, struggles with her feelings for one of the sailors and those for her intended waiting in Alaska.

Bo and Scratch do their best to keep trouble at bay, but it seems everywhere they go they create new enemies, either those wanting to kill Creel and Morton or get to know the girls a whole lot better. Some of these adversaries are prepared to follow them to Alaska, and when various groups of these foes team up it looks like Bo and Scratch will have to take on impossible to beat odds.

Action come thick and fast and the plot writhes with twists. The author often switches from one set of characters to another and, more often than not, leaves them in danger, therefore making this a very difficult to put-down book as the reader will want to know what happens next. The final scenes feature some explosive gunplay that resolves everything in a suitable fashion and I was left hoping there will be a fourth book in the not-too-distant future. 

Thursday 26 August 2021


book 11 of 24
By Bill Reno
cover art by Shannon Stirnweis
Bantam Books, June 1989

Sheriff Tug Farrell discovers that young, healthy, able-bodied men – from ranchers to railroad workers to Indian braves – all across the country are being abducted. Destination: an illicit gold mine where the prisoners are forced to work as slaves under the most brutal and inhuman conditions. And no one, not even the guards, is allowed to see the face of the mine owner, Mr. Raven, who never leaves his cabin. Farrell knows that it will take an ingenious and daring rescue to free those prisoners, and he wastes no time planning his first move. Then the woman he loves is kidnapped and taken to the mine. Suddenly there’s no time for a plan, or a posse, or a prayer. Farrell’s going in alone – he only hopes he’ll come out alive.

A series of largely stand-alone novels linked by the fact that each stars a lawman of some kind. Having said that, some of these men who wear the badge do appear in more than one book.

Like many of the previous books, this one has quite a dark theme. Here it’s the total disregard for human life as the slaves are worked to death, gunned down if they try to escape, or put to death for trying to stand-up for themselves – the penalty for the latter being dealt out by whip, fist, knife, or if you’re lucky, a quick bullet to the head.

As Farrell struggles to locate the mine he has to deal with other problems too, such as vengeance seeking brothers out to avenge the death of their father at the lawman’s hands. Falling in love further complicates matters for Farrell. 

The author, Lew A. Lacy, writing as Bill Reno, switches from character to character regularly, weaving sub-plots into the main storyline. Each of these threads eventually tying together for the final showdown that has a terrifying ending for some of the main characters. One aspect of Lacy’s storytelling that I really like is that you can never be sure who will survive the tale, be they good or bad. 

Plot twists and plenty of gunplay make this a lively read. The identity of Mr. Raven wasn’t hard to work out, but seeing how the other characters would react once this was revealed was something that also kept me turning the pages. So, for me, this was another very good entry into The Badge series and I look forward to reading another very soon.

Sunday 22 August 2021


By Max O’Hara
Pinnacle, August 2021

The killers are organized – and ruthless. One by one, they slaughter a railroad crew at Hell’s Jaw Pass in Wyoming Territory. No survivors. No mercy. To ensure the rail line’s completion, Wells Fargo sends their best detective, Wolf Stockburn, to the nearby mining town of Wild Horse. It’s a rowdy little outpost full of miners, outlaws, and downright killers smack in the middle of two of the largest ranches in the territory. It’s also as close to the pit of hell as Stockburn has ever been . . . 

Train holdups, ranch wars, slaughter – this little boomtown’s got it all. Stockburn’s not sure he can trust anyone here, even the deputy’s daughter. This pretty gal isn’t just flirting with Wolf, she’s flirting with disaster. And that disaster comes with a hail of bullets, and – before it’s all over – a lot of blood on the tracks . . .

The second book in the Wolf Stockburn, Railroad Detective series proved to be just as entertaining as the first. The story starts with Stockburn stopping a train robbery and saving a beautiful girl’s life – a girl that will cause all kinds of problems for Wolf. She’s not the only young lady that will complicate Stockburn’s investigation into just who is behind the massacre at Hell’s Jaw Pass, as there is also the deputy’s daughter who seems to know more than she’s telling.

As more characters as introduced, so the plot twists and turns. Surprising revelations add to the intensity of the tale as Stockburn slowly closes in on those responsible for the slaughter. Another obstacle for Wolf to overcome is an unknown sniper with a Sharps who is doing his best to put Stockburn down. 

Descriptions of people, places and action are excellent and the plot moves forward at a rattling pace, leading to a dramatic and frantic showdown but there is still work for Stockburn to do before he rides off into the sunset. There’s a race against time that it seems Wolf will fail to win . . .

Let’s hope it’s not too long before Pinnacle publish more in this series. 

Tuesday 17 August 2021


By James Reasoner
Pocket Books, January 1994

For years Big Earl Stark rode shotgun on the Concord stagecoach, sentencing any man fool enough to test him to an early grave. But now, for the love of spritely Laura Delaney, he’s secretly studying his law books at night, determined to settle down and put up his own shingle. Fate, however, deals him a cruel and tragic hand. Laura’s stagecoach into Buffalo Flat – a coach Earl would have been guarding if he hadn’t left that life behind – is set upon by outlaws, and Laura is savagely killed.

No doubt destined for greatness in the courtroom, Earl is presently out only for revenge, and he makes some shocking and dangerous discoveries – not only about the identity of Laura’s killers, but about his own nature as well. For when you act as judge, jury and executioner, the pursuit of frontier justice can lead straight to hell….

The first of three books published by Pocket Books featuring Judge Earl Stark covers the early days of Big Earl’s career as he sets up his law office. The story explains his switch from stagecoach guard to lawyer and with the death of Laura the story becomes a revenge tale. Stark has to battle with his emotions, those he feels for the loss of Laura and then those that see him struggling with his need to kill the stagecoach robbers or see justice served by the letter of the law.

The story starts as a typical western tale of revenge, with a little mystery thrown in as Stark has no idea who Laura’s killers are or where their hideout is. But the book is by James Reasoner and as anyone who has read his work knows, his tales don’t remain straightforward for long. The storyline soon becomes full of twists and surprising revelations about some of the characters, giving Stark new problems to face, often over the barrel of his LeMat.  

If you have the copy of the book shown above, I’d urge you not to read the character list at the front of the book as it gives away too much about some of them and will spoil some of the surprises the author has in store for you. I’ve always wondered why publishers do this and have long stopped reading this kind of listing due to the spoilers they often contain.

There is plenty of action before Stark satisfies his need for revenge and his new career is set to go off in another direction and it’s one I’m eager to follow in the next books. In fact, there are more than the two put out by Pocket Books as James Reasoner has written a few more stories about Judge Earl Stark. 

One last note, is that the tough looking hombre staring at you from the book’s cover, is in fact, Mr. Reasoner himself.

Saturday 7 August 2021


By James Robert Daniels
Cutting Edge Books, June 2021

Out of nowhere Comanches attack—and sixteen-year-old Jane narrowly survives the slaughter of her family and the kidnapping of her baby sister. Driven by grief and fury, she rides headlong into Indian territory, seeking vengeance. But the odds are stacked against a young girl on the trail, and Jane soon realizes she must disguise herself as a boy to join forces with a tough company of cowhands on a cattle drive to Dodge City. The harrowing trek pits her against tough drovers, raging rivers, ruthless soldiers, and ends in a bloody reckoning that forces Jane to discover her surprising capacity for love, survival—and revenge.

This is James Robert Daniels first book, and what a powerful debut it is. Enthralling, tragic, heart-warming, humorous and brutal. Daniel’s prose pulled me into the story from the opening scene and didn’t loosen its grip until the final words. At times this is a dark tale but there is a lot of hope, of lightness in the mix too.

Jane’s hatred for the Comanches who slaughtered her family and stole her sister is intense, and she’s prepared to accept whatever the cost to achieve her quest to free Sally without complaint, even if that means her own death. 

A major part of the story is a cattle drive. Jane disguising herself as her dead twin brother, soon to be known as The Comanche Kid, is a great plot element, and I was waiting, and waiting to see if the cowboys would see through her masquerade, especially when they decide that The Kid needs to lose his virginity with a whore. This part of the story being compelling reading, how would Jane deal with this situation without revealing herself to be a girl rather than the boy her companions believe her to be?

One of the major strengths of this book is the authors’ ability to portray emotions, be they hate, despair, fear, frustration, love and anguish. Daniels perfectly captures all of these including the confusing emotions Jane experiences as she begins to fall in love with one of the cowboys yet cannot act on it without revealing the truth about herself. 

The action scenes are superbly described, gunfights, stampedes, or cavalry attacks on Indian camps, all making me feel that I was there, sharing the exhilaration and fear that these deadly situations evoked. 

There has been a lot of praise heaped on this book, and I can only say that it is all warranted. This really is a terrific read; one no western fan should miss.