Thursday 29 February 2024


Book 6 of 6
By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, January 2024

Ben Washington and his gang of murdering prairie rats have been terrorizing Wyoming Territory for quite a spell: rustling cattle, robbing stagecoaches and railroads, and slaughtering settlers. When Sheriff Buck Trammel of Laramie learns that Washington and his killers have been terrorizing an innocent family, he and his deputy ride out and bring Washington in the hard way – at the barrel of a gun.

When word spreads fast of Washington’s capture, gambler Adam Hagen begins taking wagers on the outlaw’s fate and quickly finds himself sitting atop a mountain of cash. Hearing of the large sums being bet on Washington’s fate, the LeBlanc Brothers come to town posing as cattlemen. Gorged with greed, the LeBlanc Brothers team up with Washington’s gang of cutthroats. It’s up to Buck Trammel to not only defend the town from hell bursting loose, but to also keep Ben Washington right where he belongs – at the end of a rope.

With the majority of Buck Trammel’s problems in Laramie tied up at the close of the previous book, This Man Must Die, it seems life could get easier for the lawman. That is not to be, as a new gang of outlaws or two are about to pose a serious threat to a peaceful life in Laramie. There is also nowhere near as much political wrangling in this story as there has been in the pervious books, but you don’t need that as there is more than enough trouble for Trammel to deal with in this story. 

The main plot revolves around Washington, but he is more or less a background character as he spends most of his time locked in a cell. It’s his gang, and the LeBlanc Brothers, that are going to cause the perils that Trammel will have to face. The LeBlanc Brothers being responsible for a massive death toll that sees Laramie shaken to its foundations, that will also change the life of some of the main characters in the series. Trammel also gets some news that will alter his life too.

The author really piles the pressure on to Trammel and his deputies. There’s a powerplay as the lawmen argue over how best to defend Laramie against these new threats. Adam Hagen has a part to play in both causing one of the disasters that befalls the town and in trying to stop the outlaw gang achieving their aims.

Trammel and the outlaws try to bluff and counterbluff each other, which leads to plenty of violent exchanges of gunplay. Tension mounts as Trammel has to decide whether to let Washington go and save the town or hang onto the outlaw and see Laramie destroyed and many of its citizens killed. How Trammel solves these problems provides a gripping climax to the story.

Once again, the author has written another excellent story that keeps the Buck Trammel series going from strength to strength. I can only hope there will be another one soon, but as there hasn’t been another book announced by the Johnstone’s, I will just have to keep my fingers crossed that one may appear eventually. 

1. North of Laramie
2. Bury the Hatchet
3. The Intruders
4. The Fires of Blackstone
5. This Man Must Die
6. Killers Never Sleep

Sunday 25 February 2024


By D.B. Newton
Cover art by Jerome Podwil
Berkley Medallion, 1962

Jim Bannister hoped he wouldn’t be recognized when he rode into the tiny town of Antelope, Colorado, but he had to take the risk. His life depended on Syndicate Agent Boyd Selden whom he hoped to find there . . . 

A few months earlier he had busted out of a jail in New Mexico, and there was a $12,000 price tag on his head . . .

Things were going smoothly enough – until he accidentally got pulled into a fight over Kelsey Harbord, daughter of the murdered ex-foreman of the powerful Buckhorn Ranch . . .

Jim knew that he was getting involved in a potential range war – but he couldn’t help feeling that this was his only chance to convince Selden that he had murdered in self-defence . . . 

I have a few books by Dwight Bennett Newton and a handful of short stories in my collection. I think I’ve only read one of them though, and that was a long, long time ago, so I had no real recollection of reading him before I decided to read On the Dodge. I’d never wanted to start this series until I owned all 11 books, and I’ve still got four to find, but having given up on finding those absent books at a sensible price, I thought I’d give the first one a try. 

Newton doesn’t tell the reader why Bannister is wanted for murder straight-away, or why he’s intent on tracking down Seldon who works for the syndicate that has placed the bounty on his head. This adds an air of mystery to the story which pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. Newton does eventually reveal why Bannister is on the dodge but I was still left wondering whether Seldon would help him or have him arrested and their meeting didn’t turn out as I expected. 

The story is fairly straight-forward, and mixes plots that have turned up in many westerns, such as helping a damsel in distress and getting involved in a fight that isn’t one of the heroes making. Newton manages to make it all feel fresh and new though with his strong storytelling and believable characters that are flawed – Bannister often makes mistakes that could see him arrested or killed. Newton’s dialogue is well done and the whole tale has a tough edge to it. The story moves forward at a great pace and never had a dull moment.

On the Dodge is a very well told traditional western that easily held my interest, and left me looking forward to reading the second book (which I have) as soon as I can. 

1. On the Dodge
2. The Savage Hills
3. Bullets on the Wind
4. The Manhunters
5. Hideout Valley
6. The Wolf Pack
7. The Judas Horse
8. Syndicate Gun
9. Range Tramp
10. Bounty on Bannister
11. Broken Spur

Wednesday 14 February 2024


By Steve Hockensmith
Rough Edges Press, November 2023

Saddle up for adventure with the eccentric cowboy detectives, Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer, as they embark on a thrilling journey to establish their dream detective agency in the Wild West.

In this action-packed collection of five stories, join the brothers as they navigate disastrous homecoming trips, strange newspaper feuds, supernatural kidnappings, deadly Christmas celebrations, and a high-stakes conspiracy threatening to tarnish their budding careers.

With their Sherlock Holmes-inspired wit and determination, can they crack the cases and outsmart the culprits?

Partners in Crime
My Christmas Story
Curious Incidents
Bad News
Can the Cat Catch the Rat?

This is the second collection of short stories featuring the Amlingmeyer brothers, the first collection being Dear Mr. Holmes. Four of the tales were originally published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, with the other being a brand-new story. Like before, each tale is told through a letter written mainly to Big Red’s editor Mr. Smythe of Smythe & Associates Publishing, Ltd., who publish the Amlingmeyer stories in Smythe’s Frontier Detective Magazine. 

One of the greatest draws for me in this series is Big Red’s humorous observations in his narration of the brothers’ latest cases and the words he speaks during these events, which had me laughing out loud often. 

The title story takes us back to their hometown in Kansas and readers are filled in a little more about their past, before they became cowboys, which in turn lead to them becoming detectives. 

Each of the five tales offers a very different storyline, one changing quite dramatically mid-way through. Not all their cases involve murder either, which helps keep the stories fresh and individual. I don’t really want to say anything more about the stories as I don’t want to spoil what happens in them, other than to say there are some great twists to some of the plots. There are also lots of references to Sherlock Holmes and his methods of investigating a crime, with Old Red trying to use Holmes’ approaches to solve their own mysteries. 

Partners in Crime is another extremely entertaining read from Steve Hockensmith, and I can only hope he has many more adventures lined up for his fans. 

Thursday 8 February 2024


By Harriet Cade
Hale, March 2015

Mark Brown is hoping to become a minister of the church, but for now he is teaching the elementary school in the little town of Barker’s Crossing in Wyoming.

When a local landowner begins to terrorize the homesteaders around Barker’s Crossing, Brown realizes that it is time to act. He has not always been a teacher; in fact, he was a lawman for over ten years.

Now, before he can fulfil his ambition of becoming a minister, he must take up his gun one last time and fight to defend the helpless.

This is the first book I’ve read written under the penname of Harriet Cade, but it’s not the first I’ve read by the author behind that nom de plume, whose real name is Simon Webb. Webb wrote for the Black Horse line of westerns under 10 pseudonyms plus his own name, which I’ll list at the end of this review.

Simon Webb’s plots move forward at a fast clip and usually contain a twist or two. This book is no exception and in this one it’s how some of the main characters die that took me by surprise. Overall, though, the storyline is very straightforward and it’s easy to predict how everything will turn out – except for one or two of the deaths as I’ve already mentioned. 

Brown’s mask of being a teacher and wannabe minister is easily seen through by his elderly landlady, and it’s through her urging that he straps on his gun again. Brown finds that the majority of the men in Barker’s Crossing won’t stand by him as he faces the rancher and his hired guns. Brown is only backed by a young kid and an old-timer, which is typical of many westerns. Everything comes to a neat ending, if predictable, and even offers a nick-of-time rescue.

Webb does have a writing style of his own, which can take a little getting used to. This is mainly in the speech. Here’s an example: “I see a mort of dust being kicked up over yonder. Less’n I’m greatly mistook.” 

Simon Webb’s Black Horse Westerns aren’t those I pick out that often to read from the many I’ve got. But if I want a quick easy to read traditional western then he is someone I’ll consider.

Here's the list of pseudonyms Simon Webb wrote Black Horse Westerns as:

Clyde Baker
Harriet Cade
Bill Cartwright
Jay Clanton
Ethan Harker
Jethro Kyle
Brent Larssen
Ed Roberts
Fenton Sadler
Jack Tregarth

He also wrote BHW’s under his own name.