Friday, 29 September 2023


By Hondo Wells
Cover art by John Hunt
Mews, March 1977
Original: Pyramid Books, 1955, as by Harry White

Clane was cornered by Dardac, the bounty hunter. Dardac wanted the money for his hide and would stop at nothing to get it.

It was no use trying to tell the bounty hunter that he is innocent. To him Jeff Clane was nothing but a wild animal, something to be killed and hung over his saddle, another bounty to be collected…

This is not an overly complicated plot, even though it combines two much used western storylines – that of a man accused of a murder he did not commit and the theme of a greedy rancher wanting to chase homesteaders out of a valley he wants to claim as his own. What raises the standard is how this tale is told. The author’s lean prose and noir feel make this a very readable book.

Clane is guilty of killing the man he is accused of murdering, but he did so in self-defence. No-one seems to care about that though, not least the vicious bounty hunter Dardac. The book starts with a wounded Clane being tended to by a homesteader family whose attractive daughter, Patience, sees Clane as a way to escape her current lifestyle. Clane sees her as the answer to what he has been searching for but refuses to acknowledge these feelings as he knows death is stalking him and will claim anyone around him too. It’s also great to read about a man who has been shot not getting over it within a few pages, suffering from his wound throughout the story.

It’ll be no surprise to see Clane become involved in the range war, standing up against the powerful rancher and his gun-hands even though he wants to go and lead Dardac away from the people who’ve helped him. Things get even more complicated when the bounty hunter falls for Patience too and he won’t take no for an answer which leads to a brutal scene between the girl and Dardac. Most of the characters have to deal with both physical and mental pain and it’s the latter agonies that give this book its strengths.

Hondo Wells and Harry White are both pseudonyms, the man behind them being Harry Whittington. Shadow at Noon is not the best western Whittington wrote, but it is certainly worth reading.

Monday, 18 September 2023


Book 15 of 24
By Stetson Cody
Panther Books, September 1963
Originally published by W.A. Allen, 1960

Cattleman, Dan Hollis, is tricked into an ambush by trigger-slammers in the main street of Baxter. It seems only a miracle could save him from an ugly death. To Hollis the intervention of Cactus Jim Clancy at that crisis in his unhappy life might well have been that miracle.

The Cactus Jim Clancy westerns were originally published in hardback, all by W.A. Allen except the last two. The second-last published by Jenkins, and the final book by Hale. W.A. Allen did put some out under their paperback imprint too. Panther Books began a run of five paperbacks starting with Colt Fever. The first Cactus Jim Clancy book appeared in 1949 and the last in 1973.

I guess it won’t be a surprise to anyone to discover that Stetson Cody is a pseudonym. The author behind the name being Leonard Gribble who also wrote westerns as Lee Denver, Landon Grant, Chuck Kelso, and Steve Shane.

Colt Fever is the first book by Gribble I’ve read. 

The story is very traditional. Clancy is a range detective looking out for his employers’ interests and arrives in Baxter to discover why Hollis hasn’t been paying back his loan. The plot is standard fare. It’s a range grab tale with a couple of twists and turns thrown in for good measure. Gribble’s prose is of its time, fairly hardboiled with a lot of western colloquialisms that come from the pulps. These add a neat flavour to the tale.

Gribble mixes the range grab plot with a subplot involving a con-artist and his sister, who are being pursued by an undercover detective. There is also a strong role for another woman, Clarice who is Hollis’ wife. She is sleeping with the Jud Allen, the man who wants to take over the Hollis ranch. Allen also has more problems in that one of his hired guns is attempting to horn in on his business. As various characters set up plans to double-cross each other, so the story becomes more complicated before all the plot threads combine to bring about a satisfactory ending.

I was surprised to find that Cactus Jim Clancy wasn’t in the book that much. Gribble mainly tells the story through the other characters and Clancy just pops up now-and-again to orchestrate the way to deal with problems. He does get involved in some of the gunplay too.

Overall, I found this to be an entertaining enough read to want to read another, but maybe not straightaway.

Thursday, 31 August 2023


Book 8 0f 22
By James A. Muir
Cover art by Colin Backhouse
Sphere Books, 1979

The Kiowas slaughtered Amos and Eliza Marker without pity. But they took young Jeb, raised him and taught him to be a warrior. To live like a Kiowa. Think like a Kiowa. Kill like a Kiowa.

When Matthew Gunn, known and feared as Breed, was called by rich businessman Ty Horn, he didn’t know that Horn was Eliza Marker’s brother. Or that Horn had some crazy sentimental idea about saving Jeb from the Indians after all this time. Even when he knew, he didn’t care. The rich white man was offering a whole heap of money for the ‘rescue’. And soon Breed had a debt of honour to be settled with the Kiowas – a debt to be paid strictly in torture, destruction and death . . .

I remember really liking this book when it was first published. I’ve read it a couple of times between then and now. Rereading it again, I found my enjoyment hadn’t diminished in any way. I particularly like how Horn is stubborn, or just doesn’t listen when Gunn explains how Jeb won’t want to return to the life of a white man, won’t even remember his uncle. This can only finish with an unhappy ending for some of the characters, can’t it?

Once the man known as Breed gives his word, he’ll put his life on the line to fulfil his promise. There’s plenty of times this will happen as he tracks down Jeb, now known as Mahka. The action scenes are described in gory detail, adding to the brutal harshness of the story.

James A. Muir is a pseudonym for British author Angus Wells and, like with the other novelists now known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, his books contain lots of references to people in the trade at that time and to western book and/or movie characters. Blood Debt is dedicated to Nick Tryhorn, so it’s obvious where the businessman’s name came from. Breed teams up with a man called John Havee – another of the Piccadilly Cowboys is author John Harvey. We also find characters called Hedges with thinly disguised references to another western hero who was born with that name, although he is mostly known as Edge. Breed also briefly meets a man called Ethan and his companion who seem to be searching for something or someone. Another of John Wayne’s movie characters also gets a mention, Nathan Brittles from the film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Whenever I read a Piccadilly Cowboy western, I look forward to seeing who will get mentioned during the story, real or fictional, as it always makes me grin.

I must also comment on the excellent cover art done by Colin Backhouse. He, and others who fronted the U.K.’s westerns at this time, must have worked closely with the authors as the paintings more often than not illustrate a scene from the story, as is the case here.

If you’re a fan of the Breed series, Angus Wells, the Piccadilly Cowboys, or just tough savage westerns, then this is a book you won’t want to miss. These old paperback series are not the easiest to find these days, and if you do, they are often priced ridiculously high, so you might be pleased to discover that Piccadilly Publishing are putting them out as ebooks at very good prices. Breed 8: Blood Debt was published in ebook form this month.

Tuesday, 29 August 2023


By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, June 2023

In the world of criminal lawbreakers in Laramie County, Lucian Clay was king. He terrorized the locals, robbed every business in the territory, and ruled the place with a merciless iron fist. Thankfully he’s behind bars now – along with a load of other prairie rats – thanks to Laramie’s new sheriff, Buck Trammel. Unfortunately, Trammel can only enforce the law while others specialize in working around it: namely lawyers. And no lawyer is more crooked or corrupt than the belly-crawling snake Clay hired to get him out. By any means possible . . . 

Their breakout plan is simple: The lawyer will wait until midnight. Then he’ll break in to the county jail to bust his client out. He’ll scale the walls, kill the guards, ambush the deputies, and release the prisoner. There’s just one catch: As soon as Clay is freed, the other convicts want out, too. Which sparks total chaos in the prison, creates a distraction for Clay – and unleashes the worst blood-soaked night of murderous mayhem Buck Trammel has ever witnessed. And will never forget. If he survives . . . 

The violent jailbreak is the opening part of this book, which leads to Trammel and two others riding in pursuit of the lawyer and Clay. Back in Laramie political wrangling takes place to have the lawman removed from his job. The lawyer, Bessler, has plans for Clay’s money, and neither of these two men trust the other. A stagecoach crew also get mixed up in this deadly chain of events ensuring there is never a dull moment in this fast-moving tale.

The author plots well, describes the action sequences in visual prose. His dialogue is believable. His characters tough and single-minded. Nothing will stop them achieving their aims. Trammel and his very small posse won’t have it all their own way either and will have to suffer greatly as they attempt to track their quarry down.

I’ve enjoyed the previous four books in this series, and this one was just as gripping as those. It’s hard to say more without including major spoilers, so I won’t, other than to add that this tale is a must read for western fans. You don’t need to have read any of the previous books to enjoy this one, for there’s enough backstory mentioned to explain what has gone before. In ways this is also a new beginning for Trammel, as sheriff of a new town. 

It’s also interesting to note that the stagecoach business is called The Frontier Overland Company and that is the title of a new series the Johnstone’s are launching later this year, presumably written by the same author of this book. So, for me, that means I have a new series to look forward to as well as another Buck Trammel book that should be out in December. 

Saturday, 12 August 2023

Slocum Bibliography

Over the last few of months, I’ve been helping Anders N. Nilsson compile a bibliography on Jake Logan’s Slocum series. 

The Slocum series began in 1975 and continued into 2014. There were 430 regular sized books, many of which we reprinted a number of times, and 17 giant editions. 

The bibliography names many of the authors who wrote behind the pseudonym of Jake Logan. It also details which books were reprinted and how many times, including foreign publications. There is other data about the books too.

If anyone can supply information that will help fill in the gaps, or provide us with corrections, then please comment below.

You can find the bibliography here: The Bibliography

Images of all the covers can be found here: Book Covers

Friday, 21 July 2023


Book 6 of 22
By Charles R. Pike
Cover art by Richard Clifton-Dey
Mayflower/Granada Publishing, 1976
ebook, Piccadilly Publishing, July 2023

The negro hung from the flaming cross and watched. In front of his burning cabin the white-robed figures of the Klu Klux Klan repeatedly raped his wife. Then came Jubal Cade to spit death from his .30 calibre Spencer . . . 

When they post the reward for the capture of the Klan’s Grand Dragon, the bounty-hunters flood into St Louis. But Jubal Cade is there before them. He has seen the Klan’s savagery first-hand. And Jubal is a man who knows all about vengeance.

Cade gets involved with the Klan whilst visiting Andy Prescott, the young blind boy Jubal has taken under his wing. Cade is constantly trying to raise money so Andy can have medical care and now there’s a chance an operation will restore Andy’s sight. The money Cade could secure by bringing in the Klan’s leader would pay for that operation, and when the Klan kidnap the head of the clinic, Cade has two reasons for destroying the Klan.

The author behind the pseudonym of Charles R. Pike is Angus Wells and he brings together a lot of the series threads for this tale. Being in St. Louis brings Cade face to face with the man who has sworn to have Jubal killed, Ben Agnew. Now they have a common enemy. Can they put the past behind them for a while to take on the Klan and unmasked the Grand Dragon?

Like in many of the books written by the group of authors now known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, there is lots of references to them and the western characters they wrote about. Many of the characters names in this story are made up from combinations of these authors names and other people in the book publishing business. For instance, a fair portion of this tale takes place on a sternwheeler and this boat is named the William M. James – the author name fronting the Apache series.

Although Angus Wells wrote most of the books in this series he didn’t write the first three or create the character of Jubal Cade. Terry Harknett started the series, an author probably better known to western fans as George G. Gilman whose hero Edge is a favourite of many readers. Edge appears in person in The Burning Man, stepping out of the shadows to shotgun a man to death, saving Cade’s life. Edge and Jubal have a conversation that references a very well-known spaghetti western character a couple of times, and this exchange of words is one of the highlights of the book for me. 

I once asked Terry if he had anything to do with Edge appearing in this book and he said he couldn’t remember much about how it came about but did entertain the possibility that he wrote this section, or co-wrote it with Angus. If he didn’t, Angus captured the character of Edge extremely well, not just in action but also in his speech and gallows humour. 

The Burning Man contains lots of violent bloody action, something that Well’s excels at in his gory descriptions. With Cade being a doctor Wells has opportunities to describe in detail Cade’s attempts to save lives too. Wells doesn’t give Cade an easy ride of it either, Jubal has to endure suffering, not due to physical wounds, but mentally – to say more would be a major spoiler so that’s all I’m going to reveal here. To add some light-relief to the more brutal scenes, Well’s includes lots of groan-worthy humours comments, mainly coming from Jubal, that had me laughing out loud at times.

The Burning Man is a very good entry into this excellent series. This book is a must read for anyone following the series due to its connections with earlier books plotlines and a character Cade met in book five have roles to play in this story too. The inclusion of Edge in this story makes this book essential reading for fans of George G. Gilman’s most famous character as well as those who enjoy Angus Wells’ work.

Friday, 14 July 2023


By Nate Morgan
Pinnacle Books, May 2023

The most wanted man in the West, Big Bob McGraw has earned his reputation as a thief and killer. With a gang of trigger-happy desperadoes willing to do his bidding, McGraw has robbed banks, stagecoaches, and railroads, raised hell ravaging towns, and left bodies littering the streets in his wake.

Carson Stone rode with McGraw’s gang exactly once, minding their horses during a bank robbery, before quitting. But with the marshal of El Paso, Texas, gunned down in cold blood as the bandits escaped, he’d been judged guilty by association. To clear his name, Carson teams up with bounty hunter Colby Tate to track down the outlaws – now scattered across the frontier – and bring them to justice. And Carson must convince his partner to bring McGraw in alive or he’ll never escape the shadow of the hangman’s noose.

Packed with a great set of characters, this book pulled me in from the opening scenes. Stone’s task seems almost impossible even when he teams up with a couple of bounty hunters as McGraw’s whereabouts is unknown. Will he be able to persuade the bounty hunters to bring McGraw in alive? These questions, and more, kept me turning the pages. 

Nate Morgan, a pseudonym for Victor Gischler, includes plenty of gunplay that is fairly graphic in its description. He doesn’t give Stone an easy ride either as he will soon have to face the reality of double-cross – this twist adding a neat unforeseen surprise element to the story as long as you haven’t read the first published Carson Stone book, Dead Man’s Trail.

Dead Man’s Trail was published in December 2022. I read and reviewed it here. I wondered then if Pinnacle had made a mistake in the order they put these two books out, and I’m convinced of it now. This is such a shame as Dead Man’s Trail has a lot of references to the storyline of A Short Rope for a Tall Man and reading them as published really spoilt the twists in A Short Rope for a Tall Man. If you have both these books but have yet to read them, may I suggest you read them in the wrong order to get the most enjoyment out of them, or just think of it as a prequel.

Having read them both, I can only hope that we haven’t heard the last of Carson Stone. 

Friday, 30 June 2023


By Clifton Adams
Panther Books, December 1963
First published in GB by Robert Hale Ltd, 1962
First published in America by Doubleday, 1960

They called him ‘Dumb John’, mocked him, provoked him – and hanged him from a cotton wood tree. Only then did they discover his true identity – and the whole town recoiled in terror from the stranger who walked their streets with death as his shadow, searching for the men who had lynched his brother.

I think this is the first book I’ve read which carries the authors’ real name. Long ago I read some, if not all, of the Amos Flagg series Adams put out under the pseudonym Clay Randall but I can’t really remember much about them, so I came to this book not knowing what to expect.

The main themes are vengeance, redemption and justice. Lynch law sets the tale in motion and soon the guilt of those who hanged John Salem is the main story thread. Ben McDermit is the lawman who was out of town when the posse strung up John. McDermit is furious that they didn’t imprison John to be tried by judge and jury. A letter in John’s pocket reveals his true identity and that his brother is the notorious killer Jute McCoy. Now fear grips the town and any strangers who arrive are held in suspicion and driven out of town, until a man called Kelso comes to Menloe and refuses to leave.

Matters get worse when Kelso kills two of the posse after they try to force out of town. McDermit jails Kelso for his own safety but a lynch mob demands he’s handed over. McDermit isn’t convinced Kelso is McCoy. The is Kelso really who he says he is or is he actually McCoy is the new question that the whole story now revolves around. Many characters believe he is Kelso and think that by hanging him all their troubles will go away, but McDermit can’t let that happen. This creates some very tense scenes throughout the book as Kelso never says he is McCoy, but doesn’t deny it either.

Adams builds the suspense extremely well in this hardboiled tightly plotted tale. He creates feelings of fear and guilt superbly. Hopelessness too, as McDermit questions whether he can keep Kelso alive long enough to discover if he is McCoy or not. The one female, Leah, is just as strong willed as the male characters. McDermit is secretly in love with her, but struggles to understand her actions – one minute she’s leading a lynch mob out for Kelso’s blood, and then she’s tending to the man when he is wounded. All this makes it impossible to predict how the book will end.

Stranger in Town proved to be an excellent reintroduction to the work of Clifton Adams and I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more of his books. 

Monday, 26 June 2023


By Barry Cord
A Belmont Tower Book

On his first night in the Timberlake County Larry Brennan fought in a street brawl with a young tough, discovered a corpse in his hotel room, struggled frantically in the dark for his Colt .45 and found himself accused of murder.

Brennan had come to Timberlake to deliver six hundred head of cattle to Jeff Halliday, only to find Halliday clubbed to death, and Halliday’s nephew the prime murder suspect.

Caught in the killing crossfire between ranchers and unscrupulous land barons, Brennan made a desperate bid to save the Halliday ranch and the future of the whole valley.

I’m not sure when Belmont Tower published this book as all it says inside is that it was first published in 1948 by Phoenix Press. I bit of internet research reveals that it appeared in Better Publications pulp West – Vol. 69, No. 1, May 1948. The pulp story was titled Boss of the Tumbling H. Whether the paperback version was expanded I don’t know. I do believe it was the first paperback to appear as by Barry Cord, which is a pseudonym used by Peter Germano.

In the UK, Robert Hale published the book as part of its Black Horse Western line in 1995, but used the original title for their version. In 2003 BBC Audiobooks published it as one of their Gunsmoke Western hardbacks under the new title of Gun Boss of Triangle. For some reason the lead character, Larry Brennan had a name change to Jim Carmody. As far as I can tell all the other characters remain true to the original.

The story is very traditional in its plot and you can probably guess how it’s going to conclude. Having said that, the author does spice it up by adding some mystery into the tale, such as the true identity of the town lawman McVail and how he knows the Ace of Spades ranch owner, Allison. These elements of the story I didn’t work out before the author decided to reveal all, and they lifted the book from just being another land-grab tale. Cord’s writing style gives the book a hardboiled tone and the action scenes are particularly well told. 

I’ve always enjoyed Barry Cord’s westerns, and Trail Boss from Texas proved to be just as entertaining as the others, although I wouldn’t say it was his best work, but it is definitely worth a read. 

Friday, 23 June 2023


By Ty Walker
Cover art by Prieto Muriana
The Crowood Press, November 2017

Hunter Lane Chandler returns to Rattlesnake Valley with fresh game to sell to the townsfolk only to discover the town is seemingly empty. In the sheriff’s office, he finds the veteran lawman has been killed. Then in the livery stable he finds the slaughtered body of the blacksmith.

Soon he finds that a deadly bunch of outlaws known as Corbin’s Raiders have not only killed several of the townsfolk, but have also taken schoolteacher Molly Drew with them.

Chandler sets out to rescue Molly. But he soon finds out that hunting men is far more dangerous than hunting animals.

Ty Walker is one of a number of pseudonyms used by author Michael D. George, his most famous perhaps being Rory Black, the name he uses for his Iron Eyes series. Under his own name and his aliases, he wrote over 100 Black Horse Westerns, most of which are series books. George also wrote a fistful of stand-alone titles and Hunter’s Moon is one of those.

George writes in a stylistic and visual way that brings to mind the gritty, harsh violent spaghetti westerns. Men, and women, kill without giving it a second thought. His stories often delve into the darker side of human nature and this one certainly does that. To say more about this aspect of the tale would be a major spoiler. All I will say is that it is fairly shocking.

Chandler makes for an interesting hero. He’s repulsed by what has happened to many of the townsfolk of Rattlesnake Valley and when he finds out Molly Drew has been taken – the girl he secretly loves – he swears to get her back and kill those responsible, even though he has never taken the life of a human being. Will he be able to squeeze the trigger when the time comes?

The author brings the book to a dramatic finale that takes place in the eerie red light of a blood moon giving the ending an almost surreal feel.

Specific Black Horse Westerns can be hard to track down these days, as they were produced for the library market rather than book stores, but they do turn up second-hand regularly. If you’d like to read this one you’ll find it easier to get a copy if you don’t mind reading ebooks, as The Crowood Press made most of those they published available in electronic as well as paper form.  


Tuesday, 20 June 2023


By Kevin Warren
Pinnacle Books, June 2023

Damnable news has reached Fort Verde. Outlaw Jessup Henry and his gang of thugs are raising hell north of Santa Fe, one homestead massacre after another. Now they’re on the run in Arizona Territory evading the law. Cavalryman Tom Skinner’s command: charge south with his patrol and wipe them out. But Skinner knows the land. Military decree be damned, he’s deserting the wayward route – against orders – for the right one. There’s more at risk than his career. In Jessup’ path is the vulnerable ranch of his newfound love, Veronica, and her family.

After a race to deliverance, Skinner arrives too late. Veronica and her brothers are still alive but what his courageous gal’s been through pushes Skinner over the edge. Now it’s a breakneck gallop toward vengeance. Every outlaw on the Mogollon Rim is a target. Every bone-jarring mile is more treacherous than the last. This aims to be the bloodiest road a soldier’s ever tread. For Skinner and his prey, the one who rides hardest will be the last one alive.

According to the bio at the end of the book, this is Kevin Warren’s debut novel. The book reads like he’s been writing for a lifetime. His words and plotting more than matching anything put out by seasoned pros.

The story is set in 1889. Warren’s opening scenes introduce the main characters and easily pulled me into the tale. The book includes a few flashback sequences written in italics that explain how Skinner met Veronica and his friendships with his men, one in particular. Descriptions of landscapes are excellent, giving a superb picture of the harsh land that the story takes place in. Dialogue is believable and the action scenes are hard hitting and brutal at times. Warren obviously knows his horses, and includes lots of detail about riding and caring for them. The plot also contains a bit of intrigue in how Skinner and his men are going to stop his commanding officers’ man, who rides with them, reporting back as to how Skinner failed to follow his orders. There’s a neat twist at the end that helps bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion that left me eager to read book two, The Night Holds Terror, as soon as it is published. 

If you’ve not picked up a copy of this book yet, may I suggest you do so now. Kevin Warren is certainly a western author worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, 13 June 2023


Number 32 of 436 plus 29 Giant Editions
By Tabor Evans
Jove Publications, May 1981

Colorado planned a gala reception for the copper-haired Princess Danica of Hungary. But a band of Slavic rebels had plans of their own for her Highness…

To stop them cold, Longarm goes undercover and, following a hot lead, joins a traveling circus. In the death-defying world of the Big Top, he meets the Golden Lady, a seductive living doll just four feet tall, who shows him that shocking things can come from small packages…

The setting of a circus makes this an unusual western, as do many of the lead characters, most of whom are part of the sideshow of freaks. The author really seems to enjoy himself creating these fascinating people, and it is them that Longarm is going to interact with the most as he attempts to discover just which of the circus folk could be hatching a plot to assassinate the Princess. The vast majority of this book takes place in the circus and at times it’s easy to forget you are reading a western.

The book’s opening scenes are pure western, tense and gritty. This leads to a later problem that blows Longarm’s undercover role and turns friends within the circus against him. They don’t trust lawmen. 

The author writing behind the pseudonym is Harry Whittington, perhaps better known for his crime novels, and elements from those books creep into this one. The hard-boiled approach to his writing, his references to women as being dames to name but two. Whittington also spends quite a lot of time describing characters, really painting visual imagery of them for the reader. I was also surprised at the lack of description when Longarm spends time with a woman, keeping in mind this is an adult western series, there is very little in the way of graphic portrayals of these scenes, most just hinting at these encounters. The story also contains one of the most bizarre scenes I’ve read in a Longarm book, or any other western for that matter.

The book clocks in at 220 pages, each having 40 lines of fairly small print, making this a longer than usual read for a regular sized Longarm novel. It does contain a few blank pages though so all chapters can start on a right-hand page. 

I enjoyed this book a lot, even though I did find the pace a little slow at times. The setting, and the people that make up the sideshow of freaks will stick in my mind for a long time. If you want to read a western that’s a little different to the norm, then this book is definitely worth tracking down.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023


By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, May 2023

John Holt is a traveling gunslinger. He’s been liberating dirty towns west of the Mississippi of murdering outlaw trash ever since the Civil War ended. No questions asked. Payment on demand.

Holt’s latest job is in Devil’s Gulch in Colorado Territory. But wiping out bands of bank robbers is just the beginning. More disorder is brewing, and the skittish mayor has handpicked Holt as the new sheriff. Holt is what the town needs: a mercenary with a badge, a loaded Remington, and a deadeye-aim for trouble.

Devil’s Gulch has the vigilante committee. The man behind it – Joe Mullen, the largest rancher and mine owner in the valley – isn’t keen on an outsider like Holt muscling in on a good thing. Mullen already has his hand in all the crime in Devil’s Gulch. He also triggers it. He likes keeping things wild. With the barbaric Bostrom brood under his command, he’s hoping it stays that way.

Holt quickly finds himself on familiar ground: up against cutthroats on the other side of the only law that counts. Holt’s law. Devil’s Gulch is his town now. And he’s itching to clean it till it sparkles.

Devil’s Gulch is the first book in another new series from the Johnstone’s. If the following books are as good as this one, then the Johnstone’s have yet another hit series on their hands.

John Holt is tough. Real tough. As soon as he arrives in Devil’s Gulch, he begins laying down the law. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like his rules as long as you follow them. If you don’t, you’re likely to be on the receiving end of a fist or bullet. If you’re still alive you’ll find yourself in jail damn quick. It doesn’t matter who you are either. Holt is not here to make friends, just do his job, his way.

To say Holt’s brutal attitude doesn’t go down well with the townsfolk, including those who hired him, is an understatement of magnificent proportions. Seems the only person that likes him is the undertaker who see’s Holt’s methods as good for business. Leading Sibert to say he wants a statue erected in Holt’s honor as he’s better for his business than the plague.

As well as outlawry there is political turmoil in Devil’s Gulch. Different sides vying for control. Even people on the same side are ready to double-cross each other without hesitation. Holt really does have his hands full of trouble, and judges and lawyers give him even more headaches to contend with. 

As you’ll now realize, there is a lot going on in this book. The author weaves his various plot threads in an entwined ball that will take Holt a lot of strength, and bullets, to untangle. There are many other great characters too, strong-willed men and women that are a joy to read about, be they good or evil or somewhere in between. All this makes Devil’s Gulch a gripping read. The author also includes some terrific twists that I didn’t see coming, especially the connection between Mullen and the Bostrom gang. The final few chapters also spring some excellent surprises that really made me wonder how this story was going to end. 

Whoever wrote this book really does know how to ensnare a reader and ensure they keep turning the pages. The closing scenes really left me looking forward to the second book in the series, Shooting Iron, that is set to be released in October. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2023



Book 5 of 29
By Jory Sherman
Cover art by Pino Daeni
Zebra Books, 1980

The journey west to Wyoming had been rough for Gunn. It was the dead of winter and he found danger and death with each turn of the road. Confident, sure, but tense from travel, Gunn was startled to discover the remains of a brutal Indian massacre: a bloody trail littered with mutilated bodies and debris.

Cautiously he rode on, unaware that he was being watched by murdering eyes of the ravaging Sioux. When he came upon frightened Sara Jane, a ripe, young beauty – who was the only one of her family to survive the vicious attack – he promised to avenge their deaths.

On the spine of the book Zebra announce this as an adult western, and that it is, in every way. Gory, graphic violence, explicit sex, and profanities occur regularly during this fast-moving tale. The author also describes locations and weather conditions in poetic words that place the reader right in these harsh landscapes with his characters. 

Gunn’s suspicions are soon aroused after he discovers some slaughtered Crow Indians. Who killed them and why? Shortly after he finds Sara Jane. Piecing together her story and the tracks around the killing sites, Gunn begins to wonder just who is behind the atrocities. Gunn is captured by Sioux, and agrees to bring the leader of the culprits to the Indians, but he has a time limit, and many lives are at risk if he fails. This part of the story provides some tense reading, as it seems Gunn might not fulfil his part of the bargain, especially as the author doesn’t hold back from killing off some of the main characters.

I’ve always enjoyed Jory Sherman’s work, and this book didn’t disappoint. I was slightly surprised at how many pages were taken up by sexual content though. The main plot wasn’t that complicated and offered little in the way of surprises, but did include some hard-hitting scenes, the main one being the death of a leading character that will add to the mental scars Gunn carries. Pacing was excellent and everything came to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2023



By Irving A. Greenfield
Tandem, 1973
Originally published by Dell, 1972

Texas, the 1860s

William Carey has carved out a cattle empire with a Bowie knife and a fast gun … and he’ll go to any lengths to defend it. He fears only one thing in life: the reckless violence that rages in his blood. A violence that his youngest son – the hard-drinking, womanising Thomas Carey — has inherited...

A love-hate relationship simmers between the two men, and when William orders his son to marry Helen Wicker, a woman he doesn’t love, Thomas’s hatred begins to take over. Forced to choose between his heritage and his obsessive love for Lisa Mendoza, a local saloon girl, Thomas is trapped. In his fury and frustration, he sets in motion a terrible chain of events that will cast a shadow over his life – and Helen’s – for ever.

Unable to face the consequences of his actions, Thomas throws himself into the coming civil war as a lieutenant in the newly formed Confederate Army. But will fighting for a cause he doesn’t believe in bring Thomas the peace he seeks? Or is his life destined to end before he’s figured out how to live it?

And who will pay the ultimate price for the fury that rages in the Carey blood?

This is the first book in a trilogy, and all three have been sitting on my shelves unread for many years. Wanting to try an author that I hadn’t read before, I decided to give Irving A. Greenfield a try. 

The book certainly reflects the times it was written in. Clean-cut heroes were no-longer the stars in novels and films. The lead characters had their flaws, and here it is the barely contained rage that flows through the Carey blood. Neither Thomas or William is particularly likeable but do they need to be? Nope, not to me. It’s their rough-edges that make them interesting, made me want to keep reading to discover how their love-hate relationship would turn out.

Supporting characters are as equally well thought-out by Greenfield, and it wasn’t long before I was feeling sorry for Helen. Her self-belief that she could change Thomas, get him to love her, seemed doomed from the very start. What would her destiny be? I certainly didn’t predict what did happen to her. 

At times Thomas seems a little contradictory in his actions. When a ranch-hand is killed, Thomas seeks vengeance and succeeds in his desire, yet, when evil befalls his wife, he lets it go. 

Greenfield certainly captured my imagination with his story and characters. His words creating a great sense of time and place, of mental struggles. The arguments about God and who is in the right regarding the coming Civil War and slave ownership added some terrific tension to the tale. 

When Thomas goes to war, a whole new horrific plot-line weaves its way into the conflict between blue and grey, father and son, one that has me wanting to read book two as soon as possible. 

Sunday, 7 May 2023


By William Terry
NEL, 1971

Revolutionaries massacre a church congregation and destroy its interior. From that day onwards the town becomes known as Bastard.

Some years later Bastard is under the control of bandits masquerading as revolutionaries who kill on the slightest whim. A priest is trying to rebuild the destroyed church and the townspeople live in fear. 

A fancy hearse arrives in town, its female owner searching for the man who killed her husband. The woman promises to pay $20,000 in gold if the man who killed her husband is found and delivered to her so his corpse can be placed in the coffin the hearse is transporting. The bandit leader wants that gold, so sets out to find the unnamed killer. Could it be the mysterious man of legend Aguila? Does Aguila even exist?

Further violence will erupt when a brutal army Colonel arrives on the scene searching for an elusive rebel leader and no-one is safe from his savage methods to find the man he seeks.  

Based on Richard Aubrey’s screenplay for the spaghetti western of the same name, William Terry does an excellent job of capturing the mood and viciousness on the movie. There are a few scenes in the book that don’t appear in the movie and I don’t know whether the author added these himself or they were including in the screenplay and were omitted from the final cut of the film. 

There are some great characters to be found in this story, The Priest, Don Calos, Alvira and her bodyguard, Spectre, to name but a few. Terry captures the harshness of this tale in a very visual way and fleshes the characters out a little more than is done in the film. I seem to remember watching the movie many, many years ago and thinking it didn’t make much sense but the author fills in the gaps so it is much easier to follow. Maybe the censor was responsible for the film being uneven? 

Violence is graphic, and the author seems to have added some sexual scenes that don’t appear in the film to spice the book up, but these aren’t graphic. They do help explain why some of the characters act the way they do. There are a few neat twists to the tale before the book ends as brutally as it began.  

I must say I much prefer the book version to the film, which was also known as A Town Called Hell in some countries. 

William Terry is a pseudonym for author Terry Harknett, perhaps better known for his Edge westerns written as George G. Gilman. 

The movie starred Robert Shaw, Stella Stevens, Telly Savalas and Martin Landau. It was produced by S. Benjamin Fisz and was directed by Robert Parrish.

Sunday, 30 April 2023


Book 15 of 41 published in the U.K.
By Louis Masterson
Corgi Books, 1972
Originally published in Norway by Bladkompaniet A/S 1968
Book 15 of 83

In Kane’s early days as a Texas Ranger, he was given a tough assignment. He had to break a smuggling gang operating between Texas and Mexico. The traffic was in guns, and the gang leader was known as El Halcon – the hawk. Five rangers investigating the gun-running had lost their lives at Sierra Blanca, a little village south of El Paso, a day’s ride along the Rio Grande. Kane set out for Sierra Blanca wondering if he would be the sixth man to die…

At the end of the previous book, No Tears for Morgan Kane, U.S. Marshal Kane had been on the wrong end of a number of bullets during a showdown. This story picks up shortly after that and opens with a dying Kane making it to the home of Linda, a girl he was in love with, and she with he. They had originally met in the first Kane book, Without Mercy. Linda fights to keep Kane alive and as he hovers between life and death his fevered mind takes him back in time to when he rode with the Texas Rangers.

The majority of this book is a flashback tale. Occasionally we return to Kane’s present, but quickly go back to the past. It’s the past that makes this essential reading for Morgan Kane fans as we discover how he became a Texas Ranger, along with a lot more about his life, from the massacre of his parents when he was very young, to becoming a desperado. 

This book tells of Kane’s first job as a Texas Ranger. Going undercover seems to be a good plan but that soon falls apart and Kane is captured and has to endure torture. Escape seems impossible but with the help of a hidden knife, Kane gets free and now just wants to kill, rather than arrest those responsible for the gun-running. Like in most of the Morgan Kane books, he will suffer mentally and physically before completing his assignment. 

What of Kane’s present? That’s left somewhat up in the air. How will his near-death experience have changed him? What of his relationship with Linda? These kinds of questions ensure the reader will be seeking out the next book, Return to Action, as soon as possible.

This book isn’t as hard-hitting emotionally as the previous one, but does contain a lot of brutal action. Between Life and Death is an entertaining book and a must-read if you’ve read No Tears for Morgan Kane. 

Louis Masterson is a pseudonym for Kjell Hallbing. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2023


By Terrence McCauley
Pinnacle Books, April 2023

Thanks to Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeremiah Halstead, Ed Zimmerman has failed to take over the mining town of Silver Cloud, Montana. But now the ruthless, hard-hearted outlaw has his eyes on a bigger prize.

No sooner has Montana become a state than Zimmerman launches a diabolical campaign to turn a remote swath of land into an outlaw kingdom. Some of the richest mines in the West are in Zimmerman’s sights, and he’s rallied allies on both sides of the law to stake his claim.

The corpses are piled high in Halstead’s war with the vicious outlaw, but now Zimmerman proves himself as cunning with a pen as he is deadly with a six-gun. When news of his plot reaches the state capital of Helena, U.S. Marshal Aaron Mackey and Deputy Billy Sunday step into the fray.

Halstead is taking no prisoners to prevent Zimmerman from getting filthy rich off land bought with dollars…and soaked in blood…

Jeremiah Halstead first appeared in Terrence McCauley’s Sheriff Aaron Mackey series and now fights for law and order in his own books. Mackey, and his Deputy Billy Sunday, have had small parts to play in the previous two Halstead novels, but in this one they take on much larger roles and are featured as much as Halstead. 

After Zimmerman escaped justice at the end of book two, Halstead has allowed rage to consume him. He’s a changed man, he only lives to fulfil his need for revenge against Zimmerman. This hate driven desire alienates him to the townsfolk of Battle Brook, the town he is trying to protect from Zimmerman. Soon there’s cries for him to get out of town, especially as a new sheriff has been hired, and Mackey wants Halstead out of Battle Brook too as he hopes this will halt Halstead’s path to self-destruction.

There’s a lot more to the plot than I’ve just outlined in the above paragraph. The new sheriff, Riker, has history with Halstead and both want to see each other dead. Riker has been hired to help Zimmerman take control and to get rid of Halstead. Unknown to Zimmerman, others are plotting against him, including Riker. This all adds plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as to how the story will end.

McCauley has written another gripping tale that takes place over a couple of days. There’s a high body count – something the undertaker is happy about, although he doesn’t have anywhere to store all the corpses. There’s some hard talking to be done too to bring Halstead back to his senses, but this may fall apart again at any moment. Mackey finally gets something on Zimmerman that seems enough to see him face the hangman’s rope, but due to all the double-cross Halstead will soon find himself alone facing heavy odds that leads to a terrific showdown. 

As the book comes to a close it would seem that Halstead has achieved his aim of bringing down Zimmerman, but the author has another hard-hitting surprise waiting for Halstead that left me extremely eager to read the next book, Born to Hang, as soon as it comes out in September. 

For me, Terrence McCauley is one of the best, if not the best, new western authors to have emerged in the last few years.

Sunday, 23 April 2023


Book 2 of 7 to date
By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, November 2016

The train grinds to a halt somewhere in the Indian Nations, and the bandits get onboard. They take everything on the train worth stealing and gun down a guard to make their escape – just another notch on the belt for Ben Trout and Brock Larsen, two of the most savage killers in the west. U.S. Deputy Marshal Ed Pine follows them to Muskogee. There the trail runs cold, and Ed Pine disappears. To save his friend, Will Tanner rides for Muskogee, where justice extends only as far as the range of a Colt .45.

Tanner earned his badge in a blistering gunfight, when he got the drop on a trio of killers and saved the life of a fellow marshal. Now he’ll have to be just as quick – and just as deadly. To bring in Trout and Larsen, Tanner must set his badge aside, and resort to the law of the gun.

This is a straight-forward track them down story. The opening chapters tell of Pine’s attempt to hunt down the train robbers and his disappearance. Tanner is then assigned to bring in Trout and Larsen, which is problematic as he has no idea what they look like or where they are heading. Some readers may find this part of the story a little on the slow side, but I’d urge you to stick with it as the pace really picks up when Tanner meets a woman and her young son and they have an impact on Tanner’s mission.

During his search, Tanner meets some interesting characters, some of whom help him and some that hinder. He also has to face some who’d rather see a lawman dead rather than alive, and these standoffs provide some tense scenes. The author also includes a couple of surprises, especially where Tanner’s love life is concerned. 

The story is very descriptive; landscape and Tanner’s thought process is particular. These give a feeling of place and also help you connect with Tanner as he struggles to bring in the train robbers, sort out his conflicting feelings towards Sophie, and later another young lady. Tanner also has to deal with his desire to complete the job even if it means crossing a state-line where his badge is no longer recognized. 

I found A Stranger in Town to be an entertaining read, perhaps not quite as good as the first novel in this series, but it left me looking forward to reading the third book, Powder Burn, sometime soon.

Thursday, 20 April 2023


Book 9 of 16
By Justin Ladd
Cover art by Gordon Crabb
Pocket Books, August 1989

Hard-fighting, hard drinking Nestor Gilworth once hunted buffalo on the open plain – and now has an open invitation to Marshal Luke Travis’s Abilene jail. While Gilworth is raising hell, a ruthless Sioux warrior party attacks a hideaway ranch of a bank-robbing clan, leaving behind a scene of smoke and carnage. Now the two bands of renegades are locked in a war of hatred and revenge, about to spill innocent blood. When Marshal Travis leads a band of armed citizens to the scene, a cleaned-up, reformed Nestor Gilworth gets there first. On the snow-covered prairie the old buffalo hunter is out to prove himself as a man – or die in a cross fire of rage.

This excellent entry into the Abilene series features a number of characters that have appeared in previous books, including the first, so a new reader may prefer to read those earlier stories first to discover the backgrounds of the various people that this story revolves around. Having said that, The Tracker is a self-contained novel and can be enjoyed on its own as the author, James Reasoner writing as Justin Ladd, includes enough background to explain the relationships the characters have formed with each other before the events of this book.

Cover artist Gordon Crabb also does a terrific job at illustrating some of the people who will end up battling to survive from each other and a deadly blizzard. It’s this Blue Norther that brings the story threads together as the different groups of characters become disorientated and lost in the swirling snow storm. 

The book switches regularly between the main storylines, and when it does the author often leaves some of the characters facing a deadly situation, which urges you to keep reading to find out what happens next. There is plenty of bloody action that includes the slaughter of the people at the bank-robbers ranch and the kidnapping of one of the women, Lucinda Broderick. Her husband, Owen, and his brothers are away robbing a bank when this happens and, on their return, they set out to rescue her and take their revenge on the Sioux. The leader of the war party, Claw, is a memorable character and you’ll soon be hoping he gets gunned down sooner rather than later, but will he?

There are lighter moments within the story too, mainly coming from the two young boys, Wesley and Michael as they compete to be top-dog within Abilene’s orphanage. The newly orphaned Wesley soon heads off for California, and it’s him that Michael and Nestor set out to track down independently of each other. It isn’t long before they all become lost in the deadly winter storm and that’s what brings them into contact with the other groups of characters in a welter of blood and bullets that will add to the already high death toll.

James Reasoner brings everything to a satisfying conclusion and I was left looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The General, as soon as I can.

Friday, 31 March 2023


Book 171 of 430 + 17 Giant Editions
By Jake Logan
Berkley Books, May 1993

Slocum’s working for the railroad, and the advance men are dropping like flies at the hands of marauding Sioux warriors. Slocum doesn’t much like the odds, but he has a job to do.

That job gets complicated when a cavalry troop led by a revenge-crazed officer goes after the Indians. Slocum can’t let the man kill women and children just because they’re in the way. Now he’s got both the Indians and the trooper after him – and no one’s going to rest easy until Slocum’s out of the picture…permanently!

I don’t know who the author is writing behind the pseudonym of Jake Logan for this entry in the long running series, but they created an interesting storyline and their descriptive prose in particular was a joy to read. The opening chapter really painted an excellent sense of time and place, along with some gripping tension.

It's been a while since I’ve read a Slocum book, and I can’t remember reading one that portrays the hero in the way that this author does. Slocum isn’t a very forceful character, doesn’t push his point and agrees to do things that go against his beliefs – partly to stop a full-blown war erupting between the Sioux and the calvary. Slocum also came across as shy where women are concerned. He was described as blushing when it was suggested he spent some private time with the led woman of the story (who is nothing like the lady depicted on the cover). The Slocum I remember is confident in both his abilities and with women. Putting these little niggles aside, this is a very readable western.

The Slocum books are classed as an adult series, yet this one contained very little in the way of explicit sex. Nothing erotic happens for over 100 pages and by that time I’d almost forgotten there would be some scenes of a sexual nature and when they did arrive, they were dealt with over a couple of pages, almost as if the author wanted to get back to the struggle between the soldiers and the Sioux as fast as possible.

Even though the story played out much as I expected I had no idea as to how the Sioux were going to capture the troopers without killing any of them, and wanting to discover how this would be achieved, if it could be, kept me glued to the pages. 

Powder River Massacre proved to be a good entry into the series, one that has me thinking that I should read more Slocum books sooner rather than later.