Thursday 30 June 2022


By Marshall Grover
A Cougar Western from Cleveland Publishing, 1961

The tranquillity of South-West Missouri shattered when the Garfield gang made camp on Thunder Mountain.

Abby Garfield, wife of the boss-outlaw, was captured by the wily Hank Todd, marshal of Coreyville. Soon, the citizens of this isolated settlement were in fear of their lives, wondering if they could survive the savage onslaught of the bandit-band, when Garfield came to rescue his woman.

But Hank Todd was a Texan, befriended by two fellow-Texans, already famous as the West’s most notorious trouble-shooters. Larry and Stretch couldn’t be deterred by superior numbers, for they had never learned the meaning of fear.

As far as I can tell, this is the 68th Larry and Stretch western put out by Cougar. Sometime later Horwitz took over the publishing of the series and started with their own number one. Altogether there are 440+ Larry and Stretch books. In America Bantam published some of them, but for legal reasons the author’s name was changed to Marshall McCoy and Larry and Stretch became Larry and Streak. Marshall Grover/McCoy is a pseudonym for Australian author Leonard Meares and he wrote 746 westerns under a variety of pennames.  

Meares introduces a lot of great characters, be they outlaws, lawmen or citizens, which include a memorable house maid and a confederate soldier that doesn’t know the Civil War has been over for years. Larry and Stretch don’t take centre stage for the first half or so of this story, in fact they hardly appear. They do have a novel way of getting free board and feed right at the beginning, which is how they become involved with Hank Todd and the troubles facing the town of Coreyville.

The author also includes humour, be that via dialogue or situations. One of the incidents that put a big grin on my face being Todd’s arrest of Abby Garfield and his way of getting her to his jail. The story isn’t short on action either and this involves fist-fights, gunplay and even a cannon. As the situation becomes more desperate Larry and Stretch step forward to orchestrate the defence of Coreyville and set out to take down the Garfield gang. 

Start Shooting, Texans proved to be a very entertaining read that made me wonder why I haven’t read one for such a long time, probably before Western Fiction Review was ever thought of. What I do know, is it won’t be anywhere near as long before I read another.

Sunday 26 June 2022


A Tale of the Fetterman Massacre
By Robert Lee Murphy
Five Star Publishing, June 2022

Fighting to defend their favourite buffalo hunting grounds following the Civil War, Lakota Chief Red Cloud’s coalition of Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapahos drove the military forces out of the Powder River country.

On a bone-chilling day in December 1866, Captain William Fetterman led eighty men into the army’s worst defeat at the hands of the Indians until Custer’s Last Stand a decade later. 

Despite the turmoil of virtually constant Indian attacks at Fort Phil Kearny, a youthful paymaster clerk and a beautiful young schoolteacher fall in love. Their future is torn asunder when in the aftermath of the Fetterman Massacre the United States abandons the forts protecting the Bozeman Trail, closing the shortest route used by immigrants to reach Montana’s goldfields.

Red Cloud’s War was the only war the American Indians won fighting the U.S. Army.

Having enjoyed Robert Lee Murphy’s Iron Horse Chronicles trilogy about the building of the transcontinental railroad I was eager to see how he told the story of the Fetterman Massacre. The vast majority of characters that appear in this book are real. Into this meticulously researched and well told tale the reader will follow the events that led up to the massacre, the loss of Fetterman and his men, and the aftermath. 

Into this historical struggle, Robert Lee Murphy places a small number of fictional characters. It’s around Zach Wakefield, the paymaster’s clerk, that the fictional elements revolve as he falls in love with Katy O’Toole. Katy, though, is engaged. Then there is Duggan McGuire who is also interested in the young schoolteacher. 

The story is told in the first person, through Zach, so there are certain events that can only be told by describing what he sees after they’ve happened, such as the massacre of Fetterman and his men. Zach only gets to witness the results as he helps gather the dead. The brutalities of war are graphic in their descriptions, especially when describing how people died. 

Murphy easily held my interest as the historical events played out and he seamlessly blends his fictional storyline into them. The constant Indian raids means there’s plenty of action. There’s also the very cold winter weather to deal with, and a long ride in these sub-zero conditions to survive. Murphy also includes lots of detail about army life and their out-dated weapons they have to use. How Fort Phil Kearny was built is another fascinating aspect of this tale.

The book ends with an historical afterword which tells of what happened to many of the surviving characters.

If you have an interest in the Fetterman Massacre, or like stories that are based around historical events, then this book should be on your reading list. Equally, if you just enjoy well told tales, then this is a book that I think most western fans will enjoy. 

Thursday 23 June 2022


Book 138 of 398 + seven giant editions
By Jon Sharpe
Signet, June 1993

When Skye Fargo rode into the tiny town that called itself Serenity, it looked like a place that time and trouble forgot. It was just a huddle of ramshackle wooden buildings nestled in a remote Rockies valley where the men were lazy and the women were willing. A smooth-talker named Traute ran it with an iron hand in a velvet glove, and you didn’t want to cross this self-made king of the mountain. But the Trailsman found that out too late…after he had uncovered the vein of hellish evil under this peaceful paradise…and found himself stripped of weapons and hope in a trap that made death seem sweet…

In this extremely fast-moving tale, Fargo becomes fuelled by rage, a killing urge that will see him stop at nothing to wipe the town of Serenity off the earth and blast Traute to hell. Senseless deaths and being badly mistreated are what sends the Trailsman off on a killing spree. 

The author really piles on the problems and deadly situations for Fargo to have to deal with. Fargo doesn’t always come off best either, he on the receiving end of some vicious beatings, which of course heighten his resolve to take revenge on those responsible. 

Filled with memorable characters and tough dialogue, this is a book that has strong roles for both men and women. The story is filled with action that left me breathless. Descriptions of landscape and people give a great sense of time and place. The violence is often brutal and fairly graphic. As the Trailsman is an adult western series there are a couple of explicit sex scenes too. 

The author writing behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe for this book is David Robbins and he can always be relied on to provide the reader with a thrilling tale that should entertain all western fans.

Thursday 16 June 2022


By Max O’Hara
Pinnacle Books, June 2022

Red Miller is more than a thief and a killer. He robs banks and trains not just for the money, but to spit in the eye of every badge-toting lawman who dares enforce law and order. He surrounds himself with only the deadliest of desperadoes – and takes a perverse pleasure in deadly bloodshed.

Five of those people have banded together. They have all lost something to Red’s murderous rampage. There is no place in America or Mexico where the bandit and his gang can hide from their vengeance. And they’re led by Wolf Stockburn, Wells Fargo detective and a dead shot who knows that sometimes justice comes only from the barrels of smoking guns.

The first two books in this series were excellent reads, and for me, this third one surpasses them both. The author has created a wonderful set of characters that had me rooting for them or despising them – yes, these people can be found on both sides of the law. 

Red Miller is wonderfully evil. Stealing, killing, he enjoys it all. Part way through this tale he gets hooked on a drug that sees him suffering mood swings, so you can never be sure how he is going to react in any given situation.

Stockburn is driven by guilt. Out to avenge a death and then more as the body count increases and he won’t let the border between America and Mexico stop his pursuit of Red, even if it means facing the Rurales. 

It’s not just men who have strong roles to play in this extremely fast-moving tale. There are women too, equally as memorable as the male characters, and they have important roles to play in the outcome of this novel.

The action scenes are tough, savage and fairly graphic. Brutal fist-fights and gunfights, one of which involves a Gatling gun. Many bodies will litter the towns and countryside before we even get to the final violent showdown.

I’ve been a bit vague in my descriptions of the plot and what I liked about this tale as I don’t want to ruin any of the plot twists this story contains. I will say I wasn’t surprised when the chase led Stockburn into Mexico as this is a favourite place for this author to set his stories. As it is no longer a secret, I can reveal that Max O’Hara is a pseudonym for Peter Brandvold. 

For me, Peter Brandvold is one of the best western authors writing today. His storylines are always gripping and full of action. Unlike some of Peter’s other work, this book, indeed the series, doesn’t contain any explicit sex and there is a distinct lack of bad language making it a safe read for all western readers. 

Book 4, One Way to Boot Hill, is due out at the end of December and that is one release I’m looking forward to. 

Thursday 9 June 2022


By Gordon D. Shirreffs
Wolfpack Publishing, May 2022
Originally published by Ace Books, July 1977

After his friend and fellow Ranger, Bass Burnett is killed, Vic Jamison reluctantly re-joins the Arizona Rangers as an undercover agent. His mission —to clean up the savage Rio Diablo country— a job that the army had given up on ten years ago.

In a stubborn battle against cruel elements and even crueler men, he soon comes to realize why so many men died in pursuit of the same goal. . . and why his chances of survival are no better.

From the opening scenes I was easily pulled into this gritty story. Vic Jamison makes for an engaging character who has to battle men and nature in his struggle to find out just who is behind the killing of his friend, and others. Not only that, there is the question of why?

Jamison soon rescues a girl from a raging flash flood and an attraction to each other follows quickly. Jamison rides away though, to join up with Deborah’s enemies. This doesn’t go down too well with her and her father. Jamison hasn’t told them, or anyone else, his true purpose for being in the Diablo Mountains or even his real name. As the odds rise against Jamison, I began to question whether he’d be successful in his mission, never mind win the heart of the girl.

There is plenty of tough action that is hard-hitting in its description. Shirreffs is also very good at describing locations, the harsh unforgiving mountains and canyons coming over as dangerous as any man. 

Jamison stands up for himself, even when the odds are against him, or when he’d be better off keeping quiet. This alienates him against those he’s trying to gain the trust of and places him in some deadly situations. Everything builds to an exciting and brutal showdown that made me wonder if Jamison would survive the final gunfight.

Does Jamison live? Does he ride off into the sunset with the girl? I’m not going to answer those questions here. All I will say is I’m sure western fans will enjoying finding out for themselves. 

I own a lot of Gordon D. Shirreffs' books, but for some reason haven’t read many of them. Each time I do read one I have to wonder why I don’t read his work more often as he sure knows how to spin a great yarn.

As you will see from the cover art above, Wolfpack Publishing have just released Rio Diablo in a double book also containing The Proud Gun as they continue to republish Gordon D. Shirreffs' back catalogue.