Tuesday 31 October 2023

WESTERN STORY - January 1958

WESTERN STORY January 1958
British Edition Vol. 13, No. 1

The four tales within this issue of the British Edition of Western Story were all originally published in the American pulp Star Western Vol. 49, No.2 published in July 1950. The covers of both of these pulps share the same foreground characters in different settings and the girl also has a hair colour change. I’ve posted the Star Western cover below.

The opening story, which is billed as the featured novelette, is Siren of Shamrock Ranch by Joseph Chadwick. Chadwick’s tale held my attention throughout as the outcast Kincaid attempts to prove a man set to hang is innocent by finding the real killer.
Kincaid has received a letter from an unknown party asking him to help. Half a thousand-dollar bill is included with the letter too, with the promise of the other half when he finds the real killer. Kincaid’s investigations are complicated by two young ladies who seem to hate each other and his feelings for them.
Siren of Shamrock Ranch was a fun read spoiled by the publisher’s inclusion of a line drawing at the beginning of the story that gives away the identity of the bad guy, although it does capture a scene from the tale well.

Next comes the first of three short stories, although why Worth Her Weight in Bullets! By Bob Obets is referred to as a short story when it’s two pages longer than the featured novelette I’m not sure – in Star Western it is called a novelette. This is a tale of a partnership welded by blood spilled in battle and endless cruel days on the trail that becomes strained when both Tom McCabe and Turk Buckley fall for the same nester girl, which will see them on opposite sides in a cattle rustling plot.
I wasn’t as keen on this story as the previous tale, as it seemed to take forever to get to the meat of the story and I did contemplate giving up on it after a few pages. Worth Her Weight in Bullets! ended as expected.

Girl Gun-Guard for the Devil! by Clifton Adams is a fast-paced short story about Morry Rockland who had sworn to kill a man and was within inches of doing so when he met the lush and tempting woman who, in her turn, had sworn the hunted killer must not die.
This was easily my favourite tale within this issue of Western Story as both Rockland and the girl have valid reasons to either kill or defend Jay Holland, and the story becomes a battle of wills.

The last tale, The Girl from Boothill by Francis H. Ames, is about a man searching for his brother’s killer. He hopes to find the truth in Pima Valley’s Boar’s Nest and conceals his identity behind a pseudonym. Trouble is a waitress recognizes him, although she keeps this to herself, but there is always the fear she will expose him for who he really is. Things are soon complicated by another young woman and there are some shocks to uncover about his brother. Everything is resolved neatly in a swift shootout.

The only author in this collection that I’ve read before is Clifton Adams. Of the others, Chadwick and Ames entertained me enough to want to read more by them. Obets’ story didn’t grab me enough to make me want to search out more of his work.

Overall, this was an entertaining enough pulp that is worth reading if you can find a copy.

Sunday 15 October 2023


By Steve Hockensmith
Rough Edges Press, October 2023

The A.A. Western Detective Agency takes on a new case in 1894 Wyoming, a land of bandit gangs and rustlers, when a group of scientists come to town in the hopes of rustling up something very different – dinosaur fossils. 

With Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer on protection duty, Old Red's obsession with Sherlock Holmes is forced to take a back seat. Until a human body is shockingly discovered during an excavation, that is. 

As the mystery deepens, these cowboy detectives must put their sleuthing skills to the test to catch a killer stalking their client's dig site. 

With death lurking around every corner, can the Double-A Western Detective Agency catch the killer before it's too late?

It's been a few years since the Amlingmeyer brothers last rode the range, so it’s great to see them return in a new adventure involving rival groups of palaeontologists squabbling over the discovery of the bones of the largest and most complete diplodocus ever found. It’s the remains of this dinosaur that the Amlingmeyer’s have been hired to guard, but when Old Red unearths a much newer corpse buried in the dig site the job becomes much more complicated as a murderer has to be unmasked. Old Red is soon in his element as he sets to discover just who the killer is and why, using methods learnt from reading how his idol, Sherlock Holmes, goes about identifying murderers. 

The story is told in the first person, through Big Red, and his humorous observations are a delight to read and gave me many laugh-out-loud moments. Big Red’s relationship with one of the other operatives from the A.A. Western Detective Agency, Eskaminzim, also had me grinning as the Apache proved over and over again how easy it would be to kill Big Red.

It doesn’t take long for Steve Hockensmith to make readers suspicious of all the characters. Any one of them could be the killer. Old Red mostly keeps his deductions close to his chest, unless he needs to reveal one of them to get a reaction that could lead to another clue. This puts both him and his brother is some very sticky situations that could easily lead to their deaths.

I gave up trying to work out who the murderer was and what was the motive behind the killing, and just read the book for pure enjoyment as I became captivated by the twisting plot and marvelled at how the smallest observation could become a major clue in solving the case. 

Although this story is mainly a murder mystery tale, it keeps a western feel throughout, and includes some excellent gunplay. The end of the book resolves everything neatly and also sets up another case for the Amlingmeyer brothers to solve. Hopefully I won’t have too long to wait before that story is published and, in the meantime, I’m off to munch on a nut butter sandwich.