Saturday 27 August 2022


Book 2 of 22
By James A. Muir
Cover art by Colin Backhouse
Sphere Books, 1977

The cowboy grovelled, pleading for his life.
“Why?” asked the tall man called Matthew Gunn, “why should I let you live?’
He drew his Bowie knife, moving forwards with hate in his soul and death in his eyes. The figure sprawled on the snow began to scream…

The half-breed, Matthew Gunn, had trailed his quarry through the waterless hell of the Nevada desert, up to the snow-covered crags of the high Sierras. In his wake was a trail of blood which tainted his footsteps and marked him as a killer. Now he approached the culmination of his long pursuit – vengeance! Now he would strike his blow without mercy, because he was called Breed – and the name spelled violent death.

This book starts shortly after the previous one ended and Matthew Gunn, also known as Breed and Azul, continues to track the three remaining scalp hunters who slaughtered his family. He’s cold and merciless in his pursuit and nothing will stand in his way as he tracks his quarry. The author, Angus Wells writing as James A Muir, portrays this grim determination so well that you can feel the hate rising from the pages. 

Like many of the westerns written by the group of authors later to become known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, this also references other authors and/or characters from western movies. Breed signs on with a man called Ezra Culpepper, who owns the Culpepper Cattle Company to guide a cattle drive. Later he’ll help a man called Terry Harknett who is leading a group of travellers through the snow-covered mountains.

It's in this book that Wells introduces words of advice and sayings that Azul remembers being given to him by old Sees-Both-Ways, a Chiricahua shaman. Something that will continue throughout the series. A nodded to the television series Kung Fu perhaps as that series saw Kwai Chang Caine remembering advice from Master Po. 

Wells also reveals more of Nolan’s background. Explaining how the leader of the scalp hunters knows Breed. Nolan is an engaging character, a cold-blooded killer who seems to be one step ahead of Azul and uses the fact that Breed is a wanted man to his advantage.

This is a brutal book. Killings are described in all their gory glory. One death in particular being particularly inventive. There is plenty of blood and graphic detail as bullets pierce flesh and knives slash fragile flesh. Gallows humour occasionally lightens the tone in groan-worthy puns.

If you’ve read the first book in this series, The Lonely Hunt, you’ll definitely want to read this. Be warned though, as the end will certainly make you want to track down a copy of book three, Cry For Vengeance. 

These old paperbacks can be hard to find these days at sensible prices but the good news is that Piccadilly Publishing is now making this series, and the others Angus Wells had a part in writing, available a ebooks so you’ve no excuse for missing out on this excellent series.

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