Friday 29 September 2023


By Hondo Wells
Cover art by John Hunt
Mews, March 1977
Original: Pyramid Books, 1955, as by Harry White

Clane was cornered by Dardac, the bounty hunter. Dardac wanted the money for his hide and would stop at nothing to get it.

It was no use trying to tell the bounty hunter that he is innocent. To him Jeff Clane was nothing but a wild animal, something to be killed and hung over his saddle, another bounty to be collected…

This is not an overly complicated plot, even though it combines two much used western storylines – that of a man accused of a murder he did not commit and the theme of a greedy rancher wanting to chase homesteaders out of a valley he wants to claim as his own. What raises the standard is how this tale is told. The author’s lean prose and noir feel make this a very readable book.

Clane is guilty of killing the man he is accused of murdering, but he did so in self-defence. No-one seems to care about that though, not least the vicious bounty hunter Dardac. The book starts with a wounded Clane being tended to by a homesteader family whose attractive daughter, Patience, sees Clane as a way to escape her current lifestyle. Clane sees her as the answer to what he has been searching for but refuses to acknowledge these feelings as he knows death is stalking him and will claim anyone around him too. It’s also great to read about a man who has been shot not getting over it within a few pages, suffering from his wound throughout the story.

It’ll be no surprise to see Clane become involved in the range war, standing up against the powerful rancher and his gun-hands even though he wants to go and lead Dardac away from the people who’ve helped him. Things get even more complicated when the bounty hunter falls for Patience too and he won’t take no for an answer which leads to a brutal scene between the girl and Dardac. Most of the characters have to deal with both physical and mental pain and it’s the latter agonies that give this book its strengths.

Hondo Wells and Harry White are both pseudonyms, the man behind them being Harry Whittington. Shadow at Noon is not the best western Whittington wrote, but it is certainly worth reading.

Monday 18 September 2023


Book 15 of 24
By Stetson Cody
Panther Books, September 1963
Originally published by W.A. Allen, 1960

Cattleman, Dan Hollis, is tricked into an ambush by trigger-slammers in the main street of Baxter. It seems only a miracle could save him from an ugly death. To Hollis the intervention of Cactus Jim Clancy at that crisis in his unhappy life might well have been that miracle.

The Cactus Jim Clancy westerns were originally published in hardback, all by W.A. Allen except the last two. The second-last published by Jenkins, and the final book by Hale. W.A. Allen did put some out under their paperback imprint too. Panther Books began a run of five paperbacks starting with Colt Fever. The first Cactus Jim Clancy book appeared in 1949 and the last in 1973.

I guess it won’t be a surprise to anyone to discover that Stetson Cody is a pseudonym. The author behind the name being Leonard Gribble who also wrote westerns as Lee Denver, Landon Grant, Chuck Kelso, and Steve Shane.

Colt Fever is the first book by Gribble I’ve read. 

The story is very traditional. Clancy is a range detective looking out for his employers’ interests and arrives in Baxter to discover why Hollis hasn’t been paying back his loan. The plot is standard fare. It’s a range grab tale with a couple of twists and turns thrown in for good measure. Gribble’s prose is of its time, fairly hardboiled with a lot of western colloquialisms that come from the pulps. These add a neat flavour to the tale.

Gribble mixes the range grab plot with a subplot involving a con-artist and his sister, who are being pursued by an undercover detective. There is also a strong role for another woman, Clarice who is Hollis’ wife. She is sleeping with the Jud Allen, the man who wants to take over the Hollis ranch. Allen also has more problems in that one of his hired guns is attempting to horn in on his business. As various characters set up plans to double-cross each other, so the story becomes more complicated before all the plot threads combine to bring about a satisfactory ending.

I was surprised to find that Cactus Jim Clancy wasn’t in the book that much. Gribble mainly tells the story through the other characters and Clancy just pops up now-and-again to orchestrate the way to deal with problems. He does get involved in some of the gunplay too.

Overall, I found this to be an entertaining enough read to want to read another, but maybe not straightaway.