Tuesday, 28 March 2023


British Edition Vol 3, No. 4

The four tales to be found in this British edition of Western Adventure were all originally published in the American pulp Western Story, Vol. 196, No. 5, January 1942. The cover art was done by H.W. Scott but whether he redid it or someone else copied it for the British edition I don’t know. If you study both covers, you’ll see many subtle changes. You can view the American cover at the end of this post.

The first yarn, and featured novelette is Wolf of the Toltecs by Philip Ketchum. This is the much-used landgrab story, with one man, Ben Broadman seeking vengeance on those who killed his friends. It’s a tough tale that sees Broadman become a wanted man and he soon seems to care for nothing other than getting his revenge, no matter who gets hurt along the way. It also seems the story can only end with Broadman’s death. I enjoyed reading this tale, although the ending was a bit of a let down for my tastes – I’d have preferred a much harder hitting conclusion. I will, however, be seeking out another of Ketchum’s tales to try soon.

H.A. DeRosso was the author of short story Death Stacks the Deck. This has a wonderfully dark atmosphere, and was the second entry in this pulp that seemed to be heading for a downbeat ending. Ex-gambler Harvey Howell sees the only way to payoff his ranch is to play one last game and loses his home in a crooked game. Howell is then offered a chance to reclaim his ranch by playing another game to cheat the biggest rancher in the area out of his ranch. What doesn’t sit well is the fact that this rancher’s daughter is Howell’s wife. Cheating also goes against all of Howell’s beliefs. With all hope gone Howell plays the game and wins. After this the author includes a small twist that, like in the Ketchum novelette, turned things around in a way that gave the tale a happy ending that didn’t seem to fit the rest of the tone of the story to me. Having said that, the ending won’t stop me reading more of DeRosso’s work.

Rodeo Reckoning by Seth Ranger – which is a pseudonym used by Frank Richardson Pierce – came next. This short story is about a rodeo champion who wants to retire and run a horse ranch, but finds himself back competing to prove he’s still the greatest. That is about the entire plot and it worked out exactly as you’d expect. In fact, I got bored with it half-way through and decided to speed-read it to the end. If it had been longer than ten pages, I’d have probably not finished it.

The last short story was Hep Meets the New Year by Glenn H. Wichman. Wichman wrote 65 tales featuring Hep and this was the first time I’d read one. Hep decides to make some new year resolutions and gets four other people to do so too. The question is will any of them stick to these decisions? This is a comedy western, its light-hearted tone was fine, and it contained a couple of slap-stick situations at the end. Covering twelve pages was enough for me though as it didn’t have enough plot to hold my attention and I’m not sure I’ll be reading the other Hep Gallegher stories I have in my collection any time soon. 

There are also two factual features by Jim West, that I didn’t bother reading.

I’m hoping to try and read pulps more often as there are certainly some gems to be found within them. 

Saturday, 25 March 2023


By Dusty Richards and Matthew P. Mayo
Pinnacle Books, March 2023

Mackworth “Mack” Harrigan’s family legacy burned to the ground in the spring of 1849. The Ohio mill that brought them prosperity was now cinder and ash, and his ruthless father had perished in the flames along with their fortune. If the Harrigan’s have a future, it lies out west in open country where they can build whatever lives they choose. Mack knows his wife, Ell, and their children Kane, Meghan, and Fitch are more than capable of overcoming the challenges of their journey.

The untamed frontier is full of seriously deadly battles. From a rough river voyage to wagon train travel across desert lands plagued by dust storms, the Harrigan’s encounter desperadoes and merciless killers who view them as little more than prey. As Mack and his family adapt to their merciless surroundings, they realize they must enforce their own laws and dispense their own justice…

Sadly, Dusty Richards died in January 2018. He wrote numerous westerns under his own name and pseudonyms. Like has been done with William W. Johnstone, Pinnacle Books have decided to keep his name alive by continuing to put out new work under his name which is written by other authors. Unlike on the Johnstone books, Pinnacle have added the real author’s name to the cover, something that will be greatly appreciated by many readers.

I have read a few westerns written by Matthew P. Mayo and enjoyed them all, so I was pleased to see his name on the front of this book. That was what made me buy it and I’m glad I did as I found it to be an excellent read.

The Harrigan family are easy to relate to. It was fascinating to see how they’d adapt to surviving in the west as they really are fish out of water. They need help and get both good and bad advice. Mack’s stubbornness doesn’t help either which is why they end up joining a small wagon train guided by a drunk. They also set out on their journey at the wrong time of the year and snow is also going to be an obstacle they’ll struggle to overcome.

Matthew P. Mayo writes some terrific scenes packed with tension, deadly situations that you can never be sure how they’ll turn out. Scenes such as Mack trying to rescue his father from the mill fire and a desperate race for survival from the hungry flames of a prairie fire. I don’t want to highlight anything else for fear of spoiling this gripping tale for those who are planning to read this book.

I wasn’t sure how the story would end and Matthew P. Mayo had a couple of surprises waiting in store for the closing scenes which left me both grinning and looking forward to reading the second book, A Need for Violence, which has been announced for an August 2023 release.

Sunday, 19 March 2023


Number 178 of 436 plus 29 Giant Editions
By Tabor Evans
Cover art by Joe Lombardero
Jove Books, October 1993

Longarm has swept his share of hardcases off the face of the earth. But the quest for four missing archaeologists puts him in the way of cold-blooded murder in a pit at the very bottom of the world…

In a bottomless chamber somewhere below New Mexico territory lies a fortune in Spanish gold. Bushwhacked shortly after he jumps off the train, Longarm follows a trail of corpses to a glittering cache – only to find it’s a lot easier to fall into a treasure trap than to make his way out…

This was the first book in the Longarm series to be written by James Reasoner under the pseudonym of Tabor Evans and it was based on an outline given to James by series creator Lou Cameron. James turned this plot into a gripping read full of terrific characters, tense scenes, plenty of action, and some excellent twists and turns – especially as to where the gold is hidden. It was also great to see that James had included Longarm’s regular sayings, such as eating an apple one bite at a time, and his habit of using a matchstick to determine if someone had entered a room without permission. Sadly, these traits slowly disappeared as the series progressed and were only mentioned now and again.

Longarm is an adult western series so it contains explicit sex but these parts can be skipped if this kind of action isn’t to your taste. I suggest doing this as this Longarm story is a superb entry in the series that will keep you on the edge of your seat as Longarm struggles to piece together just what is going on and who is behind the disappearance of the archaeologists.

As this was James Reasoner’s first Longarm book it was also interesting to note that he’d either done his research on the series, or was a reader of the series before being commissioned to write for it, as he includes mention of previous Longarm assignments. For instance, there’s mention of when Longarm found himself involved with other archaeologists. He also portrays Longarm’s relationship with his boss, Billy Vail perfectly.

It's been a while since I read a Longarm book and this one really makes me want to read more, although they will have to be those written by other authors as I’ve now read all those penned by James Reasoner.

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Book 2 of 10
By Steven G. Lawrence
Ace Books, 1961

For Tom Slattery, the Rio Grande country was bad news. His mother had died here and he had now come to bury his father and brother beside her in Boot Hill. After that he was going to clear out.

But on the Mexican side of the river, a revolution was in the air and someone was running guns across the Rio to the rebels. Unexpectedly Slattery became a witness to the smuggling. 

Slattery thought the law would side with him. The questions he answered too late were who was behind the law – and who was holding the carbine that was aimed at his back? 

Tom Slattery first appeared in this Ace double book, it is backed with the first book in the series, Slattery. It’s interesting to note that Ace called the author Steven G. Lawrence and did so on the next two Ace doubles that featured Slattery tales too. Subsequent reprints and new stories saw the authors name become Steven C. Lawrence. Bullet Welcome for Slattery had its title shortened when reprinted and became Bullet Welcome. Steven G/C Lawrence is a pseudonym used by Lawrence Agustus Murphy.

Discovering a wagon in trouble and the following disaster that befalls it is what exposes the rifles it is carrying. A quick exchange of gunfire sees the wagon driver dead and Slattery wounded. Slattery is helped by a woman and her young son; the latter having witnessed the shooting and having seen the crates of guns too. The gunrunners are soon set on killing both Slattery and the young boy.

The rest of the fast-moving plot revolves around a siege of a jailhouse where Slattery and the sheriff are holding one of the gunrunners prisoner. The gang want him back and Slattery dead, then they plan to kill the boy and they won’t stop at anything to achieve all their aims. There’s plenty of tough talking and gunplay that play out in some tense scenes. There’s also a twist as to who’s side one of the characters is on, but that wasn’t hard to see coming before the author revealed it.

Bullet Welcome for Slattery is a traditional western that played out pretty much as I expected it would. The only downside was the number of typos the book contained. Some of these made me go back and reread a paragraph to understand it properly as they mixed speech from different characters making it hard to work out who said what and to whom. Overlooking these spelling and layout mistakes, the book proved to be a quick and entertaining read and I look forward to reading the third one soon.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023


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

Captain Peter Joseph Kellerman was once a promising career soldier who’d proven his mettle in battle time and again. Now he’s fighting a battle with a whiskey bottle. He’s also in charge of Fort Benjamin Grierson, located west of hell, deep in Arizona Territory’s Mohawk Valley on the arid edge of the Yuma Desert. The men under his command aren’t fit to wear the uniform. Killers, thieves, and ravagers condemned to death but who’ve chosen to serve, holding down the hated Fort Misery.

Santiago Lozado, the most wanted bandit on both sides of the border, has set his sights on Fort Misery. He wants vengeance against Kellerman for killing his son and has raised an army of brutal Apache and Comancheros to slaughter every man wearing Union blue – only to encounter a wild bunch of desperate men unafraid of shedding blood and fighting to the death . . . 

Johnstone brings together a captivating bunch of soldiers to face a much larger force of bandits and Apache in a story full of seemingly hopeless situations and disillusioned officers and troopers. Most of these characters imbibe in alcohol to see them through each and every day. When a clerical error sends a fresh-faced officer straight from West Point to the fort, he is aghast at the situation he finds himself in. 

The author switches regularly between his cast of characters, be they soldiers or their enemy. This allows the readers to follow what each side is doing, how they are planning to attack or defend Fort Grierson and this also helps build reader anticipation for the assault on the fort. The bandits, scalpers and Apache all seem set on double-crossing each other too. Other people get involved in this battle as well; a couple of prisoners who’ve escaped from the prison wagon taking them to Yuma, and a marshal looking to track them down. 

Action scenes are described superbly and they are often quite brutal in their depiction. The harsh landscape surrounding Fort Grierson is beautifully portrayed as are feelings of despair, nerve jangling tension, and hatred. Amongst all this the author injects many moments of humour, mostly found in conversation, adding some welcome relief to the deadly situations the soldiers find themselves in. 

It would be unrealistic to expect all your favourite characters to come out of this unscathed. I also liked how the author wasn’t averse to killing off some of them too, making it impossible to predict who would be left alive by the end. 

The last couple of chapters nicely set up what I assume will be the plot for the second book in the series and I’m looking forward to reading that with much anticipation. 

Saturday, 25 February 2023


By Peter Brandvold
Wolfpack Publishing, May 2022

When constable Jeremiah Claggett is murdered by Frank Lord, the kill-crazy leader of a dozen wild outlaws, Bloody Joe has to come to grips with the fact that he’s inadvertently to blame. Mannion had turned Frank’s brother, Billy, over to Claggett for safekeeping, setting off the chain of events that end his friend’s life. Mannion is the kill-crazy one now. Not realizing he’s being shadowed by forces unknown, Mannion sets out on his vengeance quest.

In typical Bloody Joe style, he storms Lord’s gang single-handedly, which nearly proves his undoing – until he’s set upon by a mystery ‘Man of the Lord’ and given…something. Whether that something is good or bad Mannion has difficulty discerning.

Peter Brandvold has commented that Bloody Joe Mannion is one of his favourite characters and I’m very much in agreement with that statement. I really like how Mannion allows his anger to determine his actions, how he pushes aside everything else in his life as he relentlessly hunts down his prey. Mannion will suffer both mentally and physically before the conclusion of this tale.

Bloody Joe isn’t the only great character in this series, but the regulars that have had large parts to play in previous books only have small roles this time around. Mannion’s wife, Jane, has some decisions to make when a man she hasn’t seen for many years arrives in town which leads to a powerful scene at the end of the story.

The vast majority of the book follows Mannion’s attempts wipe out the Lord gang. During this Bloody Joe will have to struggle with unsettling changes within his person. Why did he decide to bring in Billy Lord alive instead of just killing him? This seems to be a new side of him that Mannion is not sure he likes, especially as it leads to the death of his friend, Jeremiah Claggett. Mannion isn’t the only one who has to deal with self-blame, there’s Claggett’s daughter too, who also sets out to kill Frank Lord.

The action scenes are hard-hitting, brutal at times, as Mannion deals out justice. There are elements of mystery too, such as who is the lone rider shadowing Bloody Joe and why is he doing so? The Man of the Lord makes for a fascinating character too, can he really summon powers unexplained to help him ’feed the beast’ or is there a more rational explanation? All this combines to make a gripping read that left me eager to read the fourth book in the series as soon as possible. 

Sunday, 19 February 2023


By John Benteen
Leisure Books, 1973

The Appaloosa horses bred by Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce Indians were the finest anywhere. That’s why the Army wanted to get its hands on the herd—so it could breed up top-quality remounts and ride the Indians down even easier. To do it, they hired a sadistic horse-trader named Luke Drury.

There was just one problem. Jim Sundance had no intention of letting Drury or the Army get their hands on the Appaloosas. Instead, he planned to sell them to an English aristocrat and have them taken out of the country.

But Drury played rough … up to and including cold-blooded murder. So now it became a race against time. Hunted every step of the way, Sundance, and the beautiful Lady Bucknell, had to get the horses to the relative safety of Mormon country, and then get them shipped out to England. But they were going to have a fight on their hands … one that could only end in wholesale slaughter …

Most of the early Sundance books are based on real historical events. This one has some of that in it, but I believe the main storyline about hidden stallions is fictional. The author does include real people, such as Calamity Jane, and gives the reader loads of background about the Nez Perce and their treatment by the white man, the U.S. Army in particular. 

There’s also the question of where this book fits into the series. As you’ll see my copy (pictured above) doesn’t carry a number and I’ve seen it recorded as the seventh book in numerous lists. However, I have seen the exact same cover with a number six printed on it. Figuring its place in the series becomes even more complicated when you read the book as there is a lot of reference to The Battle of the Little Bighorn and Sundance’s involvement in Custer’s death. In fact, the book reveals just what did happen between the two men. None of this has yet turned up in a Sundance book if read in listed order, as the book usually said to be number nine, Taps at Little Big Horn, covers Custer’s last stand. To confuse things even more, my copy of Taps at Little Big Horn has a large number seven printed on it. Many of the Sundance books have been put out by Piccadilly Publishing as ebooks, and they’ve altered the originally order so the books run chronologically by storyline, thus their Taps at Little Big Horn is number five and The Wild Stallions is number seven. I suggest you use Piccadilly Publishing’s order to get the best enjoyment out of the early entries in the series.

John Benteen is a pseudonym for Ben Haas, although later other authors would take over the series. Haas mixes historical fact seamlessly with fiction in an exciting storyline that sees Sundance and Lady Bucknell struggle to get the horses to safety. 

The book starts with Sundance riding into Deadwood to meet Lady Bucknell’s husband so a deal can be made to sell the stallions to the Englishman. Sundance is the only person who knows where the horses are hidden. Things don’t go to plan and soon Sundance and Lady Bucknell are prisoners, held captive by Drury and his gang. I must admit how Sundance and Lady Bucknell escape stretched my belief somewhat as I just couldn’t see how certain elements of the escape could possibly happen. 

Once Sundance and Lady Bucknell head out to retrieve the horses the story really picked up and became a gripping read. Haas introduced some excellent Nez Perce characters and the problems they all faced in getting to the horses and then driving them to Mormon country meant I found the book hard to put down. Haas includes some neat little plot twists; some terrific action scenes and the story had a great ending. All this left me looking forward to reading another Sundance book soon.

And just to mess with your head some more after my thoughts on when this book should be read in the series, I’ll finish with this note. For some reason Leisure published The Wild Stallions again in the series, but under the name of Ride the Man Down, the 22nd book in the series. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2023


Number 139 of 398 plus 7 Giant Editions
By Jon Sharpe
Cover art by Jerome Podwil
Signet, July 1993

Skye Fargo came to western Kansas to find that vast sea of grass drenched with blood. Kiowa and Cheyenne were at each other’s throats, enraged by savage killings of their braves. No whites were safe, from the beautiful madam of a legendary house of pleasure to a trader grown too rich for his own good. And looming over the carnage was the king of the buffalo hunters, Duke Manning, a man-mountain whose brain was as awesome as his brawn, and whose ambition was bigger still. Only Fargo could rip apart the veil of mystery, and stand up to a titan of terror…as the roar of guns drowned out the thunder of buffalo hooves…. 

This is a very fast paced story that revolves around a great set of characters, be they white, Cheyenne or Kiowa. Fargo has to discover why the two tribes have begun killing each other after living peacefully for years. This adds some mystery to the tale, although most readers will probably work this part of the book out easily. It doesn’t take Fargo long either, but then there’s the problem of proving what is happening.

There are many terrific action scenes involving fists and guns. The subplots all combine, such as that of the girl kept behind walls, who eventually escapes to become the bride of the king, Duke Manning. Now Fargo has to save her too, whist trying to stop a mass Indian battle that will also see many whites fall victim during the war. 

Being an adult western series there are a few graphic sex scenes, but these don’t take up many pages and can be skipped easily if you don’t like this kind of explicit writing in your westerns. It would be a shame if you passed this book by because of them as it turned out to be an exciting fun read.

I’m not sure who was behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe this time, although I have seen it credited to J.B. Keller. There has always been some confusion as to which books she wrote, some naming series originator Jon Messmann as being the author of some of the books credited to her and vice-versa. 

One thing I’ve always liked about the Trailsman series is that the cover art depicts actual scenes from the story and Jerome Podwil has illustrated them superbly.

Thursday, 9 February 2023


Book 2 of 18
By Will McLennan
Cover art by Bill Dodge
Jove, September 1989

The War Between the States was long over. But the fighting spirit lived on in Matt Ramsey – and kept him roaming for five restless years. So, when his old friend Knox Wapley signed him on as a ranchero, Matt was glad of the chance to stay in one place for a while and keep out of trouble.

But trouble is something that just can’t leave a Ramsey alone – and Matt soon finds himself dodging bullets in a full-blown range war. Only this war is one that Matt Ramsey isn’t going to lose!

The first three books in this series were written by Gary Clifton Wisler. Three other authors then wrote behind the pseudonym of Will McLennan, these being Ed Gorman, Robert J. Conley and John Legg – the latter writing most of the books. 

This story takes place over a number of months and sees Matt enjoying being in one place, becoming friends with Wapley’s family. Matt invites one of his younger brothers, Bucky, to join him and the Wapley’s. Life seems peaceful but Matt senses that there is something Knox hasn’t told him. It soon becomes clear that a neighbouring rancher, Nash Emery, is trying to buy the Wapley ranch and various mishaps are causing problems. Matt also gets on the wrong side of a gambler known as the Kansan. 

It isn’t long before the bullets begin to fly, fired by snipers mainly. Even though Matt knows who is behind the attacks he can’t prove it, as Emery is always seen elsewhere when the shooting takes place. It isn’t long before Knox is killed, and Matt decides to stay and protect Wapley’s wife, Gail, her children, and Knox’s father. But can two men, a woman, and a bunch of children take on Emery and his riders, especially when he hires himself some gunfighters? 

Wisler’s tale begins on a slow burn, the tension mounting as the pace increases, building towards the inevitable showdown. There are some hard-hitting action scenes and some surprising victims, but other than that this is a traditional range war western – and there’s nothing wrong with that. I find Wisler’s writing to be very readable and I’m enjoying seeing the character development of the Ramsey brothers. On finishing the book, I was left looking forward to reading the next one as soon as I can.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023


By Scott Connor
A Black Horse Western from The Crowood Press, April 2018

When Sheriff Cornelius Doyle is killed, his estranged son Kane sets out to find the culprit, hoping to reconcile with a family that doesn’t want to know him – but he soon discovers that his father’s apparently honourable life was a lie.

The sheriff had become a legend when he killed the notorious outlaw Jesse Sawyer, but Kane discovers that the facts are at odds with the legend as Jesse is still alive. With the sheriff’s murder apparently being connected to the events of ten years ago, Kane hopes that Jesse can lead him to the killer. Instead, he uncovers a dark secret that will not only put his life in peril, but could make it impossible for his family to ever accept him.

Right from the opening scenes, the author had me hooked into his fast-moving story that is filled with intrigue. Twists and turns come at breakneck speed as Kane’s hunt for his father’s killer brings more mysteries out into the open. How Kane hopes to win his family over into accepting him seems impossible as their hatred for him grows.

Kane’s brother is also a lawman, and he warns Kane off, doesn’t want him looking for their father’s murderer, but that doesn’t stop Kane. This brings the brothers into conflict with each other, as much as Kane tries to avoid this. Kane teams up with a couple of ranch hands who bring their own troubles to the plot, as they owe a large amount of money to someone, and that man wants it back or he’ll kill them. Jesse Sawyer wants to kill Kane too, so the story soon has multiple sides helping, hindering, and fighting each other. There is plenty of action, from well described fist fights to lighting fast gunplay.

I’ve read a number of Scott Connor’s westerns and I’ve always found them enjoyable. His twisting plots always keep me guessing, and like many of his other books, I couldn’t work out what was going on and was often surprised when truths were revealed. Everything built up to a great climax that had some shocks waiting in store for those who had survived to the end. 

Friday, 27 January 2023


Number 4 of 4
By Max O’Hara
Pinnacle Books, January 2023

When train robbers hit the Boot Hill Express – so called because of all the people riding it who have ended up dead – with a head full of steam, Wolf Stockburn makes quick work of them. But the gun smoke has barely cleared when a second gang attacks, catching Stockburn by surprise. In a hail of hot lead, he falls from the train and the thieves kill two guards and make off with the cattle the train was hauling.

Now it’s a matter of honor and payback as he trails the outlaws – his only clue a hoofprint showing a faint star shape. Dodging a deadly bushwhacker, Stockburn, hell-on-wheels angry, teams up with a beautiful half-Comanche hellcat and follows a twisted trail of bullet-ridden corpses to a final reckoning in a Mexican ghost town – where bad men end up dead . . . on the wrong side of the tracks.

Right from the start this tale is all action. Sure, there are moments when Stockburn manages to catch his breath, but even then, he’s in constant danger from an unknown sniper who could take a shot at any time. Stockburn soon has many more questions than he does answers, such as who is stealing the cattle and why? Who is the sniper? Can the various lawmen he meets be trusted? One of these officers of the law seems to want to put a hole in Stockburn’s head – can Stockburn talk him out of this? 

Readers of the previous Wolf Stockburn books aren’t going to want to miss this one. If you’ve not read any of the earlier books it doesn’t matter as the author fills you in on any background information you may need, especially as one of the characters that appeared in the first Stockburn novel has an important role to play in this book too.

It isn’t a secret as to the identity of the author writing behind the pseudonym of Max O’Hara, and that man is Peter Brandvold. This book contains all the qualities he is known for – a twisting gritty plot, descriptive prose that places you right in with the action, hard men and equally tough women, and some graphic violence. There is a notable lack of bad language and the book doesn’t contain any explicit sex.

One thing I’d like to highlight is the book’s blurb (which you can read above) which isn’t completely correct as Stockburn isn’t on the train when the second gang strike and none of the part after ‘hell-on-wheels angry’ is part of the storyline. I certainly wasn’t disappointed that these elements weren’t to be found in the book, as what does happen makes for some very exciting and gripping reading.

I’ve seen comments from Peter Brandvold indicating that this is the last Wolf Stockburn book. I think that is a shame as Wolf Stockburn is a great character and I think he deserves a longer run. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the publisher contracts some more. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2023


Number 3 of 15
By William S. Brady
Cover art by Robert Adams
Fontana, 1979

Jared Hawk rode into Santa Maria on the trail of a Mexican outlaw with a $1,000 bounty on his head.

He didn’t know he was riding into a revenge war between the Mexicans and the Apache Nation – until the people of Santa Maria offered him one thousand dollars American to get them out to safety. Down a trail that was lined with blood-hungry Indians.

Hawk took the money and gave his word – and he wasn’t the kind of man who went back on a promise. Even when it meant losing a woman to the harsh code that demanded blood for blood . . . and a life for a life.

William S. Brady is a shared pseudonym. The two authors writing behind that name are Angus Wells and John B. Harvey. To start with, they alternated books, but later the majority were written by Harvey. This was due to a second series being launched under the William S. Brady name with the same two authors writing the books, although it was Wells who wrote the most of them. 

Death’s Bounty was written by Wells and it has all his trademarks. Tough, brutal characters fighting to stay alive in a hostile environment. Here’s it’s the cold and snow. The story takes place over Christmas. Hawk is a heartless anti-hero, a man who looks out only for himself, but here he seems to mellow a little when around a certain young lady. Could he be falling in love? He even considers ending his career as a hired gun and settling down with her. His infatuation with Manuela Ortiz leads to more trouble though, for she has a protective brother who soon swears he will kill Hawk. Juan Ortiz and Hawk put their differences aside, promising to face each other once the people of Santa Maria have been led to safety. Trouble is there’s a hell of a lot of Apache’s out to stop them.

Wells describes the many violent deaths in as much gory detail as he can. As followers of this series know, Hawk carries a sawn-down Meteor single barrelled shotgun in a special belt holster. This weapon gets used numerous times and Wells relishes describing what happens when its charge tears through the human body. This story has a massive death toll and it isn’t long before you’ll be wondering just who will be alive by the end.

Hawk doesn’t know about the massacre that starts this tale or why this was done. Even when he does know, he doesn’t really care. All he wants is to stay alive and collect his pay, perhaps start a new life with Manuela. 

Wells also includes memories that explain why Hawk is the man he is, why he wears a black glove on his left hand and why he carries that Meteor shotgun. 

Like many of the books that come from this group of authors, these days known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, this story contains plenty of gallows humour and also mentions characters from other series, for instance a man who carries a razor in a pouch behind his neck gets a name-check.

For me, this has always been one of my favourite books in the Hawk series and I really enjoyed re-reading it after all this time. It must be some 30 years or more since I last read it. The Hawk books can still be found in used book stores but they can take some searching out. If you don’t want to take time hunting for them at sensible prices, you’ll be pleased to know that Piccadilly Publishing are currently putting the series out as ebooks. For me, it’s a shame they haven’t managed to secure the rights to use the original artwork as I always thought Robert Adams captured the likeness of Hawk perfectly.

Saturday, 21 January 2023


Number 13 of 16
By Terry C. Johnston
St. Martin’s Paperbacks, May 1998

They came from the fires of the Civil War, from the rolling hills of the Eastern states, and some from out of the West’s rugged mountains. For two decades they fought for an open land, and earned the name The Plainsmen.

The U.S. Army’s goal: wipe out the remnants of scattered starving people on the frontier’s Northern Plain. But before Colonel Nelson A. Miles, the Bear Coat, launched his Spring campaign into the heart of Indian country, the commander took one last stab at negotiations – and called on a Cheyenne woman and the famous half-breed pony scout named Johnny Bruguier. Together, they travelled to the valley of the upper Rosebud River to urge the Sioux to surrender. But a personal grudge exploded in the ranks of the U.S. Army. Now, as a man and a woman risk their lives for peace, the culmination of the great Sioux War is set in motion, as the Bear Coat takes on the last of the fierce Lakota warriors…

This series is billed as historical fiction, and reading these books certainly makes you admire the amount of time Terry C. Johnston put into researching his novels. They are packed with historical detail and most of the characters are real people. There are a handful of fictional characters, and in this book, we get Seamus Donegan, his wife Samantha and their son Colin Teig – the latter being extremely young and this book features his christening. Seamus is Johnston’s linking character in most of the Plainsmen books.

The vast majority of this book deals with peace talks as Miles tries to convince the Indians to lay down their arms and surrender. The various bands of Indians discussing their options means a lot of the story is told through them. Their conversations are fascinating, but also became a little tedious as the author includes so many different bands of Indians having almost the same deliberations, with pretty much the same outcome. 

Johnston starts many of the chapters with historical telegraph messages telling of events happening in the West, mainly to do with the attempts to get the Indians to surrender, but also includes other interesting news such as what was happening in Deadwood. These notes help give a period flavour to the book.

Johnston adds many footnotes at the bottom of a lot of pages that explain the meaning of Indian terms and names, along with notes as to which Plainsmen books earlier events can be found in. In fact, there is quite of lot of past reflection in the story as both Indian and white men remember previous battles and struggles.

It takes around three hundred pages before we get to the Lame Deer Fight which took place on May 7th, 1877 which marked the end of the Great Sioux War. I’ve always thought Johnston described his battles in excellent prose and the Lame Deer Fight certainly fits with my belief. The descriptions of panic, fear, bravery and cowardly acts, are grippingly told and you can clearly visualize the horrors of combat. 

If you’ve been reading this series, this book is certainly one not to miss as it does draw some kind of conclusion to the Sioux War that has been taking place over the entire series so far. 

One observation I will add, is that the book contains maps and lists of characters at the beginning. I’d advise against reading the character lists as they highlight those who die, both Indian and white man, and could spoil some of the tense life and death scenes if you have no prior knowledge as to who lived or died. I’ve always wondered why such list aren’t added to the end of the book rather than the beginning. 

If you have an interest in true events, in this case the struggles between white man and Indian, then I can’t recommend this series enough.