Thursday 28 March 2024


By Luke Jones
Consul Books, 1961

The three men had been friends for only a short time, but they had formed a strong bond. When Jed Saunders, youngest of the trio, was brutally murdered, Limey and George swore to have revenge. The trail led them to a town living in fear – a town where only one man, Marshal Gruman, dared to speak his mind; and to Old Man Prescott, cattle-king and law unto himself; his weak and crooked son, Johnny; and the beautiful and unpredictable Elvina, who had inherited all her father’s wildness.

Knowing that Luke Jones is a pseudonym for Peter Watts, an author much better known for his westerns written under two other pennames, Matt Chisholm and Cy James, I was expecting a fast moving, tough tale filled with action and that was exactly what I got.

The story contains some neat twists and turns, the best of which being when Limey finds himself accused of murder. Just who he is said to have killed coming as a great surprise, one that turns the plot on its head and made me wonder just how Limey could prove himself innocent.

The Prescott family, and some of their ranch hands, are memorable characters too and they prove to be great adversaries for Limey and George. The fact that the son is out to ruin his father by stealing his cattle adds even more tension to the story. Jed is killed when he stumbles across this rustling operation in the area known as Three Canyons. There are two strong roles for female characters, with Elvina stirring strong emotions within Limey. Packed with plenty of lively gunplay, fistfights, and beatings there is never a dull moment throughout the story. 

Having read many books written by Peter Watts I’m aware that he sometimes kills off main characters, be they good or bad, so the possibility of this happening to Limey, George or any of the Prescott’s was always in the back of my mind, making the ending of this book just as unpredictable as Elvina.

Peter Watts only wrote one other book as Peter Jones, Brasada, and I hope to read that very soon.

I don’t know much about Consul books, or their printer, Racecourse Press Ltd, but one, or both, could have used better quality control as many words are missing letters making me have to guess what it was supposed to be. Frustrating a little but easy enough to work out when reading the whole sentence. Don’t let this put you off tracking down a copy of Three Canyons to Death though as it is a very entertaining read that I believe will be enjoyed by fans of the western genre.

Wednesday 20 March 2024


By Irving A. Greenfield
Cover art by Mike Cole
Tandem, 1973 – reprinted April 1975
Originally published by Dell, 1972

Thomas Carey had come a long way for this moment. For nearly a year he had struggled through a ravaged land, his faith in the gun slung low on his hip, and his only passion the revenge that burned in his heart. The tall, lean hard-bitten Texan had shot his way out of prison camp. Ridden with Quantrill’s Raiders as they fought and raped and plundered. Blazed his vengeance trail through a thousand miles of countryside where every man was his enemy.

Carey’s body was scarred, his brain hot with hate, his hands stained with blood as they curled around his pistol butt. Now at last he was closing with the man he was sworn to kill – his own father . . .

This book has 154 pages and they are divided into four chapters. Each chapter is split into different scenes separated by a line drawing of a Colt, so it is easy to find a place to stop reading if you so desire. I think you’ll get more enjoyment out of this book if you read the first Carey book, The Carey Blood, before this one as it will help you understand the hatred that drives Thomas Carey’s craving to kill his father. Irving Greenfield does include some explanation as to the Carey’s backstory, so the book can be read as a standalone title but I’d still urge you to read The Carey Blood first.

Carey’s Vengeance begins only moments after the end of the previous book and is set during the Civil War. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of Thomas’ attempts to head back home to kill his father. Chapter one tells of Carey’s escape from the prison camp. Chapter two covers his recovery from a wound. Chapter three details his time riding with Quantrill during which he will meet many real characters, such as Frank James, and covers the battle of Pleasant Hill and the attack on Lawrence, Kansas. It’s the fourth chapter that sees Thomas arrive home for the reckoning he wants with his father.

Neither of the Carey’s are likeable men. They will stop at nothing to get what they want with little regard to who they will hurt in achieving their aims. It’s these character traits that make them so fascinating though, made me want to keep reading to discover what would happen when father and son faced off against each other. The author doesn’t hold any punches either. The story is brutal, filled with vicious action scenes and tough dialogue. 

Perhaps not as gripping as the first book, or was that just me wanting to get the first three parts out of the way so I could read what would happen when Thomas faced his father? This was the confrontation I was eager to read about. It didn’t let me down either. Bittersweet in its harshness, it left me thoroughly satisfied, and looking forward to reading the third book, The Carey Gun, to see where the storyline will take me next.

UK readers can get a copy here.
American readers can get a copy here.

CAREY series
1. The Carey Blood
2. Carey’s Vengeance
3. The Carey Gun

Thursday 14 March 2024


Book 10 of 16
By Justin Ladd
Cover art by Gordon Crabb
Pocket Books, October 1989

When former Confederate prison camp commander General Brainard Forsythe arrives in town, marshal Luke Travis and deputy Cody Fisher have their hands full trying to keep the peace. Plenty of folks in Abilene are ready to welcome the “Butcher of Copperhead Mountain” with a noose and a tall gallows. But vicious hardcase McKimson and his gang are after the gold that the general is rumoured to have taken – and no one’s getting in their way. It’s open war on Abilene’s rough streets, and a marshal and his deputy are riding into the thick of it!

The author easily hooked me from the very beginning when it became obvious that the general, his daughter, Marelda, and their friend Varden, were desperate to keep their identities hidden by using false names. Why? It seems that it’s the general’s past that they want to keep concealed, but there’s the extra mystery of whether he really did what he’s rumoured to have done, and if there really is any gold.

Arriving in Abilene their attempts to keep their true identities concealed seems to be working, but one or two people, including marshal Travis, have suspicions about the newcomers. It will take an ex-union army officer, Nicholas Allard, who lost an arm in the Civil War and now runs a stable in Abilene, to unmask them. Hatred drives Allard’s actions and he acts without thinking of the consequences for others, and ruins his chance for romance with Marelda. It’s the growing affection between these two that plays a major part in the storyline and the heartache that the revelation of who the general really is grabbed my attention and made me want to keep turning the pages to see how this shattering news would play out for these likeable characters. 

It’s the discovery of the general’s real name that sees McKimson and his men hatch a plan to steal the gold that Forsythe supposedly has secreted away. Allard has already had a couple of run ins with McKimson when he saved Marelda from him. McKimson would like nothing better than to kill Allard for this and it looks like he’s about to get his chance as he makes his play for the gold. 

The final showdown, played out on the streets of Abilene, is both frantic, desperate and brutal. This bloody gunfight involves all the book’s main characters. Throughout most of the story, Travis and Fisher have remained in the background, but they’ll be needed to bring a close to this latest chapter of Abilene’s history. 

Justin Ladd is a pseudonym used by one of the best western authors still writing today, that author being James Reasoner. As I expected, the book is fast moving, full of terrific characters that will have you wanting to know what happens to them, and has many exciting action scenes. The question of whether the gold exists or is just a fable adds a neat touch of mystery to the tale. 

ABILENE series
1. The Peacemaker
2. The Sharpshooter
3. The Pursuers
4. The Night Riders
5. The Half-Breed
6. The Hangman
7. The Prizefighter
8. The Whiskey Runners
9. The Tracker
10. The General
11. The Hellion
12. The Cattle Baron
13. The Pistoleer
14. The Lawman
15. The Barlow Brides
16. The Deputy

Thursday 7 March 2024


Book 4 of 9
By Peter Brandvold
Wolfpack Publishing, August 2022

Del Norte Town Marshal “Bloody” Joe Mannion and his junior deputy, Henry “Stringbean” McCallister, run down an especially violent as well as beguiling outlaw in the pretty form of Mathilda Calderon. The senorita is just one pretty girl, but she fights like a leg-trapped puma, leaving Mannion with an arm full of buckshot and Stringbean hurting where a man just shouldn’t be attacked, gallblastit! 

Senorita Calderon is wanted for aiding and abetting the commission of a federal crime and to testify against her boyfriend, the notorious border bandito and revolutionario, Diego Hidalgo, who stole three Gatling guns from the U.S. Army, slaughtering a dozen soldiers in the process. U.S. marshals are sent to retrieve the senorita and escort her to Tucson. Bloody Joe believes she will identify Hidalgo as the leader of the gang who stole the Gatling guns and also testify as to the guns’ whereabouts.

Arresting and holding onto Mathilda Calderon is just one of the problems Bloody Joe will have to deal with in this fast moving read. Peter Brandvold sure doesn’t believe in giving his characters an easy time of it and Mannion will not only have to suffer physically, but mentally too, as will Stringbean. As well as defending themselves from people trying to kill them, both have affairs of the heart to deal with. 

As the story unfolds, Stringbean finds himself escorting Mathilda “La Stiletta” Calderon to Tucson alone and there are plenty of dangers for him to face whilst doing so, from both men and animals. The relationship between prisoner and deputy is fascinating to watch unfold, especially as La Stiletta seems ready to kill Stringbean at the first chance she gets. The title of the book, To Make a Man, refers to Stringbean, as Joe believes his deputy will only be successful if he acts like a man, not as the kid he is.

Back in Del Norte, Bloody Joe has to deal with a mystery someone who has sent hired killers after him. Why? Getting to the bottom of this gives plenty of opportunities for Joe to live up to his nickname. To further complicate things his wife wants a divorce. Will Joe agree to this or can they work things out? 

There’s not one dull moment to be found in this story. Peter Brandvold paces the book superbly and fills it with interesting characters and plotlines. Amidst all the violent action there are gentler moments too, and some laugh-out-loud humour. All the story threads are tied up neatly, although not all of them ended as I expected and I was left looking forward to reading the next Bloody Joe Mannion book as soon as I can.

Mention must also be made of Wolfpack Publishing’s attention to their cover illustrations to highlight how they make sure the covers of their books depict a scene from the story and this one shows a particularly suspenseful part of the tale.

UK readers can buy the book here.
American readers can buy the book here.

1. Bloody Joe
2. Revenge at Burial Rock
3. Saints and Sinners
4. To Make a Man
5. All My Sins Remembered
6. Kicked Out with a Cold Shovel
7. Drawn and Quartered
8. Battle Mountain
9. Bloody Joe’s Last Dance