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.