Sunday, 27 February 2022

GUNSTOCK


BUCKSKIN
Number 2 of 42 + 10 Giant Special Editions
By Roy LeBeau
Leisure Books, 1984

When wealthy Abe Bridge, owner of the fabulous Idaho mountain resort, Gunstock, hired Farris Lea as a hunting guide, he didn’t know that Lea was actually Buckskin Frank Leslie, the fastest gun alive. And Buckskin didn’t know he’d wind up trading lead with a robber baron who aimed to swindle Bridge out of a fortune in silver ore.

Though Buckskin was loyal to the man who’d hired him, Bridge’s lovely daughter Sarah was another reason for his remaining at Gunstock. In spite of the allure of a lusty kitchen wench and the erotic expertise of a beautiful German countess, it was for Sarah that Buckskin risked revealing his true identity and facing a hangman’s noose, as he was forced to use his murderous gun skills once more!

Gunstock is a resort for the very rich, and guests come from all over the world for a good time and to do some hunting, but this has very little to do with the plot. Most of the storyline revolves around Buckskin trying to keep secret who he is and how good he is with a gun. This is something he’s been very successful at until the silver ore is discovered and the killings begin. It seems obvious as to who is behind the murders, and soon Buckskin is trying to stay alive and protect the resort owner. 

Early on we discover just what Buckskin will do to keep his real identity a secret. Trouble comes when news gets out that a gunman has been hired to do away with Lea and if that isn’t enough of a problem Ned Buntline arrives at the resort, and he will certainly recognize Lea as Buckskin Frank Leslie. 

The author keeps the plot moving forward well, throwing in a few twists and surprises, including a bloody fight with some Cossacks. Buckskin takes a lot of physical punishment and soon wants to avenge the death of a maid. Some of the fights are hard-hitting and quite brutal – I thought the last confrontation between Buckskin and the hired gun was particularly effective.

Buckskin is an adult series so there is a lot of very explicit sex throughout the story, each act taking place over numerous pages. Occasionally extremely bad language is used too.

Roy LeBeau, a pseudonym used by Mitchell Smith, takes liberties with the real-life story of Buckskin Frank Leslie, but does include some true facts about him in this fictional tale that for me turned out to be a fun read.   

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

HARD LUCK MONEY

THE LONER
Number 14 of 15
By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, July 2012

A beautiful young woman has an incredible story about her outlaw father who got busted out of jail and then met a bloody end. Katherine Lupo believes her dad, a career train robber, was sprung by someone who wanted to set him up for another crime – and then killed him when the job was done. A Texas Ranger believes her and turns to The Loner, to go undercover and find out who was behind Lupo’s escape and murder. Posing as train robber, The Loner finds what he is after: a cold blooded and deadly master criminal. But from the get-go, The Loner is fighting for his life, for the lives of men and women on the right side of the law – and one desperate shot to plant an evil man six feet under.

The first part of this book tells of what happened to Lupo, telling the tale of his jailbreak and reveals who was behind it and what they want from the bank robber. The story then follows his involvement with the gang and his death at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. 

Kid Morgan, The Loner, doesn’t want to get involved, but eventually agrees. Given a new identity the Kid is thrown into prison hoping the gang will free him for his fake talents as a successful train robber. There are some tense scenes inside the prison as the Kid finds he can’t trust anyone, fellow prisoners or guards.

Soon the Kid is sprung in an explosive jailbreak and he finds himself riding with the gang on a train robbery, will he be forced to break the law? He is also surprised to find a beautiful young woman is part of the gang and he is puzzled as to her involvement. Can she be trusted as she wants him to help her escape the gang?

Like the previous books this one moves forward at a tremendous pace. The plot is straight-forward enough but the author keeps it interesting by adding twists and turns that soon had me wondering how the Kid could possibly bring the gang to justice. Filled with great characters and lots of action I found this book to be just as enjoyable as those before it and on reaching the end I was left eager to read the next in the series, something I’ll be doing very soon.

Friday, 18 February 2022

SKINNER


By F.M. Parker
Sphere  Books, 1989
First published by Doubleday, 1981

For centuries the harsh badlands of the west had played host to only the harshest and toughest of beings. John Skinner was one of them – a man as hardened as the mustangs he bred. Using bullets to thin out his herd, he ensured hat the fittest survived.

But now Skinner had a different use for his rifle. It was him against a thieving, murdering gang that held to ransom the woman he loved. They would kill her if he tried to wreck their plan: they would do worse if he didn’t.

Putting bullets into horses was an unpleasant necessity for Skinner. But when he got this gang in his sights, pulling the trigger was going to be a pleasure…

As far as I can tell, this is Fearl Parker’s first western, and like those that come after, it begins with a prologue subtitled The Making of the Land. These pages explain how the land came to be as it is in the story, in this case how a lake had been formed that eventually dried out and became a dusty harsh land where little water could be found. It is in this landscape that Skinner hunts his prey.

Parker is extremely good at describing the land and the struggles to survive in such a hostile place. It is easy for the reader to feel the unrelenting heat and become as parched as the characters looking for water. You’ll share their frustrations when discovering that the life-giving liquid isn’t where it is supposed to be. Over all this hangs the nerve-stretching fear of death from an unseen enemy.

The story is a straight-forward chase tale, a race against time. The characters are well-drawn and you’ll soon be wondering if Skinner will be able to free Beth. Skinner also befriends a young man on the run, who wants to turn his life around, return the money he stole from a bank due to a misunderstanding of his father’s words. A chance discovery seems like it could give him the opportunity to do just that.

There is plenty of hard-hitting violence. Sometimes death strikes so suddenly it’ll take your breath away. One such killing took me totally by surprise and I had to reread the paragraph to make sure it really was the person I thought it was that had died. 

This is only the second Parker book I’ve read, and I’ve really enjoyed them both. I like the gritty descriptions of land and characters. The brutal action scenes and the unpredictability of the plot, which includes the uncertainty of who will be alive at the end. I’m just glad I have a few more Parker books on my shelves as I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

Recently Fearl Parker has been putting his work out as ebooks, and has also made available some new novels.

Monday, 14 February 2022

RED SUN


By William Terry
NEL, July 1972

A train carrying a Japanese delegation with a golden ceremonial sword for President Grant is robbed by outlaws led by Link and Gauche. When Gauche double-crosses Link and leaves him for dead, Link is ordered to team up with Kuroda, one of the ambassador's samurai bodyguards, who has a week to recover the sword or commit 'hara-kiri'. Kuroda will also kill Link before taking his own life. Hoping to find out from Gauche where the gang buried the loot from the train before Kuroda can kill him, Link tries to unsuccessfully escape from the samurai. Soon a truce is formed between the American and the Japanese samurai and they close in on Gauche but a new threat is waiting for them all, a band of Comanche warriors eager to take all their lives.

One of three film novelisations written by William Terry, whose real name was Terry Harknett, whom westerns fans will know better as his pseudonym George G. Gilman behind which he wrote the extremely successful Edge series. 

Terry told me that his movie novelisations were based on the screenplays and that he didn’t get to see the film before writing the book. He was also given information on who would be starring in the film so he could base his characters descriptions on them. When reading this book, it is very easy to imagine the actors in the leading roles, and hear their voices too. 

The clash of cultures makes for some humorous scenes that add a light-hearted feel to the story but it is not a comedy western. The plot is simple yet entertaining and the many action scenes can be quite brutal at times although nowhere near as graphic as Harknett’s series westerns. 

If you’ve seen the film or are a fan of Terry Harknett’s writing, then this is a must read for you. If you like stories where cultures clash then this is a tale you will probably enjoy. I also think anyone who likes westerns should find this a worthwhile read. 

Red Sun is a 1971 Franco-Italian Spaghetti Western that was directed by Terence Young (better known perhaps for his James Bond films). Red Sun starred Charles Bronson, ToshirĊ Mifune, Alain Delon and Ursula Andress. The original screenplay was by Denne Bart Petitclerc, William Roberts, and Lawrence Roman, from a story by Laird Koenig. 


Wednesday, 9 February 2022

THE VIOLENT LAND


JUBAL CADE
Number 21 of 22
By Charles R. Pike
Cover art by Richard Clifton-Dey
Granada Publishing, 1983

If Cade hadn’t wanted so badly to track down the man who murdered his wife, he probably would never have ventured into the mountains in such weather. Probably would never have found a couple of lovers crucified on a tree, or been taken by the crazed Ezekial to the weird lost valley which the iron rule of a fierce religion dictated that he should never leave alive . . .

But he did want to find the murderous Kincaid, and he had found the valley. Now, if he wanted to live, he would probably have to kill.

A series begun by author Terry Harknett, who many will know better as George G. Gilman, but from number four the books were all written by Angus Wells, except book 11 which was by Kenneth Bulmer. Harknett said he hadn’t the time to write any more of them after the first three due to other series commitments so happily passed the series over to Wells.

Wells continued with the theme of Cade searching for his wife’s killer, started by Harknett, throughout the series, giving the doctor a reason to be wandering all over the West. Wells soon made the series his own, stamping his very readable style on the books. Of the authors that would become known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, Wells wrote the goriest graphic scenes. Having a doctor as an anti-hero gave Wells the excuse to really get creative in his descriptions of violence and attempts to save people’s lives.

It's the fact that Cade is a doctor that keeps him alive once captured by Ezekial, as he is sick and isn’t ready to die, but even so it’s a fine line Jubal walks between life and death throughout the story. 

After discovering the hanged man and crucified girl, Cade tries to save the latter as she’s just clinging to life. A vicious wolf pack attack adds to Cade’s problems and he’s saved by Ezekial, only to be taken to a hidden community from which he isn’t allowed to leave - ever. Most of the rest of the story revolves around Jubal planning to escape and then putting his plan into action. He doesn’t make his bid for freedom alone, there are others that tag along and they are soon pursued by Ezekial and his right-hand men. The end of the book finishes just as violently as it began in a savage showdown that few will survive.

For followers of this series or fans of Angus Wells’ work, you’ll want to read this book. For those new to the series, it’s a fairly good entry point, even if it is the second-to-last book in the series, as it includes many of the elements the series is known for – good writing, an interesting plot, well crafted characters, bloody violence and detailed medical procedures. This one also contains some great religious speech as Ezekial uses the teachings of the Lord to justify his rules and Cade fires back quotes that make Ezekial doubt himself.

Having read all the books in this series a number of times, I would say it is certainly one of the stranger plotlines, and it’s more than entertaining for that reason alone. I wouldn’t say it was one of the best Jubal Cade books but it’s certainly a fun read.

I must mention the cover art, as this for me is one of the best covers of the entire series – all painted by Richard Clifton-Dey.