Saturday 30 October 2021


By Oliver Stranger
Cover art by Michael Codd
Corgi Books, 1977 (nineteenth edition)
Originally published by George Newnes, 1937 

It was a roaring boomtown filled with men who lived, talked and dreamed only of finding gold; a gaudy town where killings were frequent; a hell town where desperate men were prepared to go to any lengths to achieve their ends: wealth and power.

Paul Lesurge was one such man; and he had many men and women under his thumb. But he had a major obstacle to his plans too. A quiet-spoken Texan named Green, otherwise known as Sudden!

When Oliver Strange wrote the first Sudden book, The Range Robbers (1930), it was intended to be a standalone novel and the only western Strange planned to write. The books’ massive success taking author and publisher by surprise so a sequel was soon being written. The series continued for ten books; all being reissued numerous times. The final book carrying the author’s name of Oliver Strange, Sudden Plays a Hand (1950), is a pale shadow of those that went before and there is some doubt as to whether Strange wrote it. 

In the 1960’s the books were published as paperbacks and a new audience was found. Sudden became a must-read westerns series once again and in 1966 a brand-new story appeared, Sudden Strikes Back, from a new author; Frederick H. Christian (real name Fred Nolan). Four more stories followed by this author, the last being published in 1970. The Christian books were also republished a number of times, the last being as hardbacks under the Black Horse Western line with different titles.

There have been many debates as to the correct order to read the Sudden books as Strange wrote prequels and sequels to The Range Robbers, and the majority of readers would place Goldseeker into forth place, although it was the sixth book Strange wrote.

Strange mixes cowboy slang and formal English, which takes a little time to get a grip with, but once you do, it is this that adds a certain charm to the tales. The plots aren’t anything special, and are usually foreseeable, but Goldseeker does contain a couple of neat surprises (even though one is easily predictable from early on in the story). Also, Goldseeker sees the appearance of a real Western character, Wild Bill Hickok, and there’s a great scene when Hickok and Sudden decide to find out which of the two is the fastest draw.

Strange includes a lot of humour in Goldseeker, mainly in the form of observations in conversation. Two women have strong roles to play, one who is trying to seduce Sudden so she can get him to do as she wants in an attempt to take control of Deadwood. She’s not the only person setting people up for a double-cross and it seems not many of the characters can be trusted. Everything builds neatly to an exciting and dramatic ending that ties up all the plot threads. 

The Sudden books are definitely a product of their time, and if you can accept the terms that would be seen as politically incorrect today then I would think most western fans would find this series worth exploring as the books are extremely readable. 

Tuesday 26 October 2021


Number 7 of 16
By Justin Ladd
Cover art by Gordon Crabb
Pocket Books, April 1989

Everyone’s spoiling for Seamus O’Quinn, even though the prizefighter claims he’s only in Abilene to train for his next match. But when a big-city triggerman arrives to give O’Quinn the business, Marshal Luke Travis knows this fight is for keeps. A Chicago mobster has put a price on O’Quinn’s head that’s as good as lead in his back – and there’s a hardcase in Abilene itching to do the job.

O’Quinn’s lawman bodyguard thinks he can handle it alone – until the prizefighter rides into a trap. Marshal Travis and Deputy Cody Fisher are up against the lawman and the gunmen as they try to uncover the truth – and nail two killers before they strike again!

The author opens this book with a couple of brutal killings that introduces the readers to the main characters of the story. Shorty after O’Quinn and his police guard, Jack McTeague who is posing as the prizefighters trainer, arrive in Abilene. For those who’ve read the previous books in this series, a number of people from those earlier tales now find their lives intertwined with that of O’Quinn and McTeague. 

McTeague’s frustrations with O’Quinn, as the prizefighter seems incapable of lying low, are portrayed extremely well by the author. One of O’Quinn’s old boxing acquaintances is now a school teacher in Abilene and it isn’t long before they set up a sparring display for the school children, which comes to an unfortunate, yet humorous, end before it’s really begun.

As the story progresses the Chicago mobster discovers where O’Quinn is hiding and sends his hitman to dispose of the prizefighter. The plot is further complicated by O’Quinn falling in love and it’s the girl of O’Quinn’s affections who the killer uses to bait a trap. This all leads to an exciting final showdown involving some of Abilene’s townsfolk too, not least Marshal Travis and Deputy Cody Fisher.

Like the earlier books, this one proved to be an enthralling read. I was hooked from those vicious opening scenes and found it difficult to put down until I discovered how O’Quinn was going to escape with his life and see if his testimony to what he’d witnessed would put the Chicago mobster away. 

I would imagine that most fans of western fiction would find this book, in fact the whole series, an enjoyable and entertaining read. I know that I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the next book in the series, something I’m planning on doing very soon.

Justin Ladd is a pseudonym used by James Reasoner. 

Tuesday 19 October 2021


By B.J. Lanagan

Cover art by Bill Dodge
(except book 7)

This nine book series was published by Jove. First book appeared in July 1997 and the last January 2000.
B.J. Lanagan was a pseudonym used by Robert Vaughan.

When the Civil War was over, the regular soldiers of the blue and gray returned to the peaceful lives they had known before. Not so for Win and Joe Coulter, members of Quantrill’s Raiders, the most brutal gang of Yankee hatin’ cutthroats ever assembled. They returned not as heroes, but as wanted men. Now they’re committed to a lifetime on the edge – experts with guns, with women, and with keeping just ahead of the hangman’s rope…

Like others in Missouri, Win and Joe Coulter didn’t take sides during the war. Until a band of marauding Yankees brutalized and murdered their parents. They had nothing left but each other and a desperate thirst for vengeance. Then they met William Quantrill and joined his bloodthirsty Raiders. Killing men at the drop of a hat, the Coulter brothers became two of the most wanted men in the West. And learned just how sweet – and deadly – revenge could be…

After the fall of the Confederacy, every one of Quantrill’s Raiders was a wanted man. But in San Saba, Texas, Yankee hatin’ and baitin’ were still favourite pastimes. Lured there by a promise of easy money, Win and Joe Coulter joined forces with a fiery redhead in a plan to rob her lover – the richest Yankee in the county. Win was happy to oblige the woman, in more ways than one. Because for men with a score to settle, the war wasn’t over – it had only just begun…

Win and Joe don’t like getting shot at, especially by varmints who don’t have skill enough to kill them. Then, after fending off an unsolicited attack, they find themselves a genuine lady in distress – bound, gagged, the works. Her name’s Pamela Wellington, and her daddy owns Camelot, a bright, shining sixty-thousand-acre kingdom in the middle of Texas. But like that golden ranch of yore, there’s foul-smelling evil afoot. And it’s not Joe Coulter’s boots…

Someone’s about to mess with the Bushwhackers. And that means someone’s about to be messed back.

All Win Coulter wanted was a nice hand of poker. But his hand was hotter than the Devil’s coffee mug, and he ended up winning the deed to a Belle Springs saloon named the Desert Flower. Now Win and his brother Joe, have a place to drink for free.

But Belle Springs is run by a sheriff as crooked as an old man’s spine. He runs his own watering hole, and he doesn’t cotton to competition. So it looks like the Bushwhackers will have to ante up a special “sheriff’s tax” – or get out of town.

Yeah, right.

Normally the Coulter brothers didn’t pay any mind to some varmint’s love life. But Win and Joe were down to their last dollars, so they agreed to find the guy’s long-lost lover, a little filly named Cat Clay. It seemed like their easiest job yet. Except that Cat was living smack-dab in the middle of a Mexican ranch war with bullets flying thicker than blazes.

Now they have to find a ruthless killer, settle a ranch dispute and rescue a very lovely lady in distress without ending up six feet under. All in a day’s work for these two men from Missouri…

Epitaph, Arizona. Nice place. Beer’s cold, at least. But Win and Joe barely get two drops to their lips before the shootin’ starts. When the smoke clears, a marshal and two lowlifes are dead, and the Coulter brothers are hip deep in a war.

On one side’s the ranchers. Other side’s the miners. Who’s good and who’s bad ain’t the issue. Who’s gonna survive is. And with the Coulters in town, every two-bit gunslinger’s chances just dropped to zero.

These ain’t the kind of fireworks Win and Joe were expectin’. The coldhearted massacre of a Bushwhacker’s family turns their Fourth of July festivities into a funeral. All signs point to the work of Kansas Charley Beckett, a Jayhawker who rode against the Bushwhackers during the war – and who lusts to gut every rebel soldier who ever forked a horse.

Now, the only red, white, and blue Win and Joe want to see are the red of his blood, the white of his eyes, and the blue of his body as it hangs from the gallows…

All Win and Joe want out of the tiny town of Sulphur Springs is a cold beer, a hot bath, and some warm company for the night. But Win’s company offers more than he bargained for when she confides that her brother has been murdered by an outlaw rustler bent on ruining every rancher for miles around. It’s more than the Marshal can handle, but word is that it’s something the Coulter brothers can…

The Coulter brothers have gone their separate ways for the time being. While Joe’s strikin’ gold, Win is being tracked by someone with a well-placed burr under his saddle…

But what really rankles Win is his less-than-hospitable welcome in Horseshoe, Nevada. After being left for dead in the street, all Win wants is a good meal, a cold beer, and the sultry coos of a soiled dove. All that stands in his way is a no-good sheriff, whose mouth is faster than his draw. Killing the man gets Win a date with the gallows. But you can’t count one Coulter out while his brother still has the gumption – and the guns – to do something about it…

Monday 11 October 2021


Number 434 of 436 + 29 Giant Editions
By Tabor Evans
Cover illustration by Milo Sinovcic
Jove, January 2015

After saving soiled dove Lucy Potter from two attackers, Longarm takes pity on the young woman. He buys her a new dress, gets her cleaned up, and takes her out for a fancy steak dinner. Lucy’s got a good heart, and Longarm hopes his kindness might encourage the jaded prostitute to try another line of work.

But before Lucy can begin her new life, she’s killed by the same men who attacked her. Blinded by rage, Longarm can no longer see the line between justice and revenge. He turns in his badge and rides off after the killers. But as he trails them to Rock Springs, her learns the killing was premeditated – and greed was the motive. . . 

What at first seems like a straight-forward revenge tale slowly takes on a few twists as Lucy Potter’s family become involved and Longarm finds he has a puzzle to solve. Were any of Lucy’s family responsible for her death? Most of Longarm’s investigation takes place in the last quarter of the story, the earlier chapters used for introducing various characters and Longarm forming a plan to track down Lucy’s killers. The author also follows the murderers flight for a couple of chapters which helps make the reader wonder how Longarm will ever catch up to them.

The author paces the book well and kept me turning the pages as I wanted to discover whether Longarm would just kill those he hunted to satisfy his need for vengeance, or would he control that urge and attempt to arrest them? 

There’s not a lot of gunplay in this story which may disappoint some. The Longarm books are an adult series but sex is kept to a bare minimum, just a couple of pages in total. This tale is more a murder mystery with Longarm just asking questions, listening and watching to find out who was behind Lucy’s killing.

For me, I wouldn’t place this Longarm book up there with the best the series has to offer, but it did keep me entertained. The final scenes offering some surprises into the fate of a couple of the characters that tied the story up neatly.  

An observation on the book itself. The Longarm books are around 180 pages long, but this one has blank pages so all chapters can start on a right-hand page and those chapters start about half-way down the page. All that means is that the story is 30 pages shorter than the overall count. 

Tuesday 5 October 2021


By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, May 2020

Once upon a time in the Old West, Buck Trammel was a Pinkerton agent with a promising future. But after a tragic incident in a case gone wrong, he struck out for the wide-open spaces of Wichita, Kansas. Working as a bouncer at The Gilded Lily Saloon, he hopes to stay out of trouble. But soon enough, his skills are put to the test. Two of the Bowman clan turn a friendly card game with a drunk gambler into a killer-take-all confrontation. Buck saves the gambler’s life, but at the cost of the Bowman men. That’s when Deputy Wyatt Earp arrives. He warns Buck that he’d better get out of town, pronto, and take the gambler with him. The rest is history – if he lives long enough to tell it . . . 

The blurb deals with the opening scenes of this fast-moving tale about greed, power and the law. As Trammel and the gambler, Adam Hagen, put distance between themselves and Wichita their true characters slowly emerge and a friendship is formed. Behind them come some of the Bowman’s, desperate for revenge. Other killers are on Trammel’s trail too. The author switches between characters  as subplots develop and shape the main storyline.

Adam decides he and Trammel should head to the Hagan family home near the town of Blackstone, just North of Laramie, even though he doesn’t think he’ll be welcomed by his cattle baron father. Once they arrive at the Blackstone Ranch the author introduces more complications to the plot that will cause deadly problems for Trammel to overcome. Trammel finds himself appointed Sheriff of Blackstone and is soon involved in plenty of gunplay and powerplays.

As the story races towards its end, it becomes obvious that some of the plot-threads won't be completely resolved, neatly paving the way for the second book, Bury the Hatchet, a book that I’m sure I’ll be reading very soon as North of Laramie was a very entertaining and enjoyable tale that left me wanting more.