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.