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.