Saturday 30 April 2022


Number 15 of 15
By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, September 2012

Conrad Browning, a.k.a. The Loner, knows what it’s like to have a family and a home. And he knows what it’s like to lose it all. Now, he has met a man living on the edge of sanity: a good man, a flawed man, a solitary man who might just cost The Loner his life…

Jared Tate is an aging U.S. marshal who has saved lives, made enemies, and planted a lot of bad men in hallowed ground. But Tate is in deep trouble, the kind that comes from a troubled mind. Not remembering as much as he wants to, not forgetting as much as he should. Tate has one person to trust. Because the Loner has made Tate’s enemies his own, taking on Tate’s demons and Tate’s fight. In the lawless and violent Kansas territory, a young wanderer and an again lawman will journey side-by-side one last time – into a fight that will take every bullet they have…

The theme of memory loss due to age is a storyline that doesn’t turn up that often in westerns, and having this tale revolve around that condition makes this story a bit different to other books. Tate’s condition provides one or two humorous moments, but mainly his mixed-up memories will trigger feelings of sadness within the reader. The author handles these scenes with a sensitivity that’ll soon have you hoping you won’t suffer in a similar way when you get older.

The Loner and the lawman get involved in a number of deadly situations as the former escorts Tate to his daughter’s home. At first The Loner doesn’t realize that Tate is suffering from memory loss but it soon becomes very evident and The Loner has to confiscate Tate’s gun when the lawman tries to kill him when he confuses the Loner for an outlaw he tracked down many years before.

An unfortunate newspaper report reveals Tates’ whereabout to both old and new enemies and several attempts on his life are made. As well as gunfights the Loner gets involved in a couple of vicious fistfights as he tries to protect the old lawman. 

I don’t want to make any comments about the ending so as not to spoil it for those who are planning to read the book, except to say that it didn’t quite turn out as I expected.

Talking of endings, Bullets Don’t Die is the last book in the Loner series and for me that is a shame as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all. But I will be able to read more about Conrad Browning as in 2021 the Johnstone’s put out a book called The Morgans which sees the Loner team up with his father, Frank Morgan a.k.a. The Last Gunfighter, and I’ll be reading that very soon.

Monday 25 April 2022


By Peter Brandvold
Wolfpack Publishing, April 2022

“Bloody” Joe Mannion is a town tamer of great renown. His temper is just a famous. Known as the most uncompromising lawman on the Western frontier, he’s been the town marshal of Del Norte in the Colorado Territory for the past five years. When his temper gets the better of him and he badly beats Whip Helton, the son of a prominent rancher, Joe’s house is burned down and his daughter kidnapped and raped. Joe goes on a vengeance-fuelled warpath, putting him at odds with the whole town he’s sworn to protect.

To make sure Whip Helton hangs for the kidnapping and rape, Bloody Joe will risk everything, including his life, the town, and a hail of hot lead!

Bloody Joe is the first book in a tough new series from Peter Brandvold, an author I’ve long been a fan of, and for me he’s yet again come up with a terrific lead character who I’m going to enjoy reading more about. Once Joe sets his mind on doing something, he’s going to do it, and to hell with everything and everyone else. This single-minded determination could see him lose his job, his woman, and his life.

There are loads of excellent confrontations throughout this fast-moving tale and you have to wonder how Blood Joe can emerge victorious as the rancher has a small army ready to take on the lawman and bust Whip Helton out of jail. How Joe gets Whip into jail is just one of the thrilling parts of this brutal tale.

Peter Brandvold excels at fast and furious action scenes and hard-hitting violence, yet he can also write tender scenes just as well, Joe’s love for his daughter comes across superbly. Joe’s haunted mind regarding eyes and his almost uncontrollable temper are appealing traits to his character too.

One of the scenes that built-up tension to breaking point for me was when Joe daughter, Vangie, took her first steps into the streets of Del Norte after her horrific ordeal. I had no idea how this was going to play out. Was she going to snap, be ok, or perhaps take her own life?

There are other great characters to discover too, such as Stringbean, one of Joe’s deputies who doubts his abilities as a lawman, with the opposite sex and as a man and it isn’t long before he’s battling with his belief that he is a coward.

Everything is resolved in a gripping final showdown that has a high death toll and includes a couple of surprising moments making for a very satisfying ending to this great book. 

If you are a fan of Peter Brandvold’s work, then you’ll not want to miss this book, this series. If you love fast-paced action-packed westerns then this is a book that should be on your must-read list. If you’ve never read anything by Peter Brandvold then this is a great place to start, to find out what you’ve been missing.

Book 2, Revenge at Burial Rock is due out in May 2022.

Wednesday 20 April 2022


Book 21 of 73
By J.D. Hardin
Playboy Paperbacks, January 1983

Let loose in London, Doc and Raider are supposed to help Scotland Yard find a master jewel thief. Instead, they crash Victorian society and smash Victorian morals, unable to resist those lusty ladies of nobility who find Western ways so exciting – and who need protection from a crazed medieval-style killer. From the West End to Ascot, from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London, the Pinkertons take on the high life and the low, while Britain holds its breath.

The fact that this tale takes place in London was what made me decide to read this book as I was curious to see how the author presented the English capital city and its people. As expected, it was full of stereotypes and the fact that the upper-class finished many of their sentences with the word ‘what’ was fun to start with but got a little tedious as the story progressed, almost like the author was using the way people speak to differentiate the Americans from English and the privileged form the poor. I certainly wasn’t going to let this spoil my enjoyment of this book though.

Doc and Raider were forbidden of taking part in any investigation to apprehend the jewel thief. They were there so Doc could confirm the identity of the crook as he was the only person to have seen the criminal when the Pinkertons had pursued the criminal in America. Sightseeing and visiting with the super-rich was how they would pass their time, and this was how they got involved with a vicious killer who hacked his victims up with medieval weapons – this killer possibly being the jewel thief too.

As usual Doc and Raider squabble about how to pass their time. This leads to some funny moments, especially when Raider meets a young Winston Churchill. The killings are gruesome and the body count mounts up quickly and soon both Raider and Doc find themselves battling to survive. After a few twists and turns, they have some idea of what they are dealing with but can they defeat this madman? Of course, both plots, killer and thief, entwine and the Pinkertons find themselves involved in a robbery to steal jewels from Queen Victoria which becomes part of the final showdown. 

The Doc and Raider books fall into the adult category of westerns so they do contain some explicit lengthy sex scenes but these are easy to skip if you don’t like reading this kind of thing.

If you want a different kind of western to read, due to where it takes place, then this is certainly a book worth considering. At times it felt like a crime murder mystery rather than a shoot ‘em up western but that was ok with me as it added a bit of variety to my reading.

J.D. Hardin is a pseudonym in this case the real author is Neal Barrett Jr. who wrote three books in the series. There isn’t any continuation in the Doc and Raider series, so you can jump in anywhere and enjoy each as a stand-alone story. Raider would go on to appear in his own 42 book series.

Tuesday 12 April 2022


By Robert J. Randisi
Wolfpack Publishing, April 2022
Originally published by Harper, April 2007

Ty Butler came from Eastern wealth—but ruthless killers destroyed everyone—and anything—who shared his name. Seeking a safe haven in the open West, he discovered refuge among the outlaws and fugitives who staked their claims at the gaming table. His remarkable, and at times uncanny skill at reading faces and cards has kept Butler flush with cash and living comfortably—but it has also kept him sharp and ready for the numerous assassins hunting him, eager to finish the job of wiping the Butler name and legacy from the pages of history.

Arriving in Dodge City, Butler finds the place in chaos. A new type of law is in play here where Bat Masterson carved his legend. Old and powerfully dangerous grudges are about to explode, and Ty Butler is caught smack dab in the middle. When the smoke clears and the undertaker has cleared the corpses, Butler will have friends and enemies in all the wrong places.

Robert J. Randisi is a name fans of western fiction will know as he has written hundreds of westerns under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms. If you like reading Mr. Randisi’s work then you’ll want to grab a copy of this book.

Many of Robert J. Randisi’s westerns fall into the adult category of books, but this series doesn’t as there isn’t any explicit sex to found within its pages. You will find a little profanity but this is used sparingly. Like all the books I’ve read by this author, the pace is fast and dialogue driven.

Butler is an interesting character and we meet him just before he heads to Dodge City so his past is shrouded in mystery. As the story progresses, we find out a little more about a private bounty that has been placed on his head by a person unknown that has seen many attempts on his life and there will be more in this story.

Robert J. Randisi often uses real life characters, events and places in his books and this is one of those stories. Here you will find the fictional Butler interacting with Ben Thompson, A.J. Peacock, Al Updegraph, Jim Masterson and Neal Brown among others. 

The story includes tense gambling scenes and some mystery as to who a bounty hunter is after when there seems to be more than one possible target. There is also another man with a secret past who may, or may not, have a role to play in the outcome of the tale.

For me, Robert J. Randisi has come up with the perfect blend of fictional and historical to make for a very entertaining read that should be enjoyed by all western fiction readers. I’m certainly looking forward to reading the second book soon.

Friday 8 April 2022


By Terrence McCauley
Pinnacle, April 2022

Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeremiah Halstead is escorting notorious outlaw John Hudson across the territory for trial pursued by a pack of Hudson’s men, anxious to rescue their partner from custody. Halstead puts the blast on them, but outnumbered and outgunned, he has little choice but to hole up in an old mining town known as Silver Cloud, Montana. It’s a place where he can keep a lock on his prisoner while figuring out how to get past Hudson’s gang alive.

But the folks in Silver Cloud are none to happy playing host to the lawman or his kill-crazy prisoner. Unable to trust the sheriff to back his play, Halstead finds himself standing alone against Hudson’s gang as they slip into town, recruiting gunmen to help free their leader.

Except for Ed Zimmerman. He’s spent his whole criminal life in John Hudson’s shadow. He wants Hudson dead and buried so he can become the leader of the gang. And if he has to, he’ll put everyone in Silver Cloud six feet under – including Deputy U.S. Marshal Halstead . . .

This book is a terrific start to Terrence McCauley’s new western series. The plot moves forwards at a tremendous pace and is full of twists and turns as different characters are introduced and make their own impact on the situation in Silver Cloud. There is plenty of gunplay and tension mounts as the author builds towards the final deadly shoot-out that sees the death toll rise considerably.

If you’ve read Terrence McCauley’s Sheriff Aaron Mackey series, particularly the last two books, you’ll have met Jeremiah Halstead before and Blood on the Trail does reference events in those books. In fact, some of the characters from the Mackey series, including the sheriff, have small parts to play in this story too. There is also a link to the first Mackey book in that Zimmerman rode with the outlaws Mackey had to deal with in that tale. Having said all that, you do not need to read the Mackey books before reading this spin-off series, as McCauley includes enough information for readers to understand what has gone before and the relationships the various characters have with each other.

Terrence McCauley includes lots of gripping story elements that demand you keep reading. There’s Halstead’s face-off with Silver Cloud’s sheriff Boddington and his two deputies that results in simmering hatred from Silver Cloud’s lawman towards Halstead. Can the U.S. Marshal count on them in his time of need? Then there’s the murder of a whore – who killed her and why? And why does she have books about manipulating others and gaining political power under her bed? Then there’s the question of why Mackey orders Halstead to stay in Silver Cloud? All this and more further complicate things for Halstead as he desperately tries to hang onto his prisoner.

Blood on the Trail proved to be an excellent start to a new series from Terrence McCauley and if it isn’t already on your want-to-read list then it should be. Mr. McCauley is definitely a rising star in western fiction.