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.