Tuesday 9 July 2024


Book 2 of 33
By Paul Ledd
Zebra Books, 1980

On a tip, Shelter is heading into Arizona territory hunting down a man named Plum, a sergeant in the death-battalion who had double-crossed him seven years before.

On his way he takes a job leading a small party of travellers through to Fort Bowie. Much to his surprise and delight, the group includes a luscious-looking young woman named Drusilla, who makes no secret of her availability and desires.

But there is a special reason why the party wants Shelter and deadly guns along: beneath the floorboard of the wagon lies a cache of gold. And when Shelter finds out who hid it there and why – the pleasure trip to Bowie becomes a trip to hell!

The above is the blurb from the back of the book, and the third paragraph isn’t exactly correct as the travellers don’t want Shelter along to protect the hidden gold. In fact, hardly anyone knows it’s there. It always amazes me when book blurbs don’t tie in with the story and I have to wonder how editors allow this to happen.

Hanging Moon begins shortly after the ending of the first book, Prisoner of Revenge. It’s at the end of that story that Shel discovers the whereabouts of Sergeant Plum and it’s also when he met Linda, the girl whose company he is enjoying at the beginning of book two. The Shelter books are classed as adult westerns so that means there are some explicit sex scenes to be found within. After the opening sexual encounter, these scenes don’t take up too many pages and can be easily skipped if you so desire. 

Shel takes a job as a stagecoach guard as the stage is heading in the direction he needs to go. The stage is held up and gold is stolen. Shel manages to get the stagecoach back from the outlaws but not the gold, he’s not concerned about that as the coach driver is badly wounded and needs attention fast. Arriving in town, Shelter is accused of being in cahoots with the outlaws but the law doesn’t have any proof, so Shel leaves town with a small group of Quakers, most of whom resent him for tagging along. Soon Shelter discovers the wagons are being followed but he has no idea who by. Could it be the law who believe he will lead them to the outlaws who stole the gold from the stagecoach, our is it the Chiricahua who are raiding in the area?

The author writes a fast-moving tale filled with action and includes many tense scenes, especially those depicting the crossing of the desert whilst in desperate need of water. He also fills in the reader as to why Shel is so determined to track down and kill the soldiers who double-crossed him, so there isn’t any need to read Prisoners of Revenge before this book. Shelter is an interesting hero in as much as he is only interested in finding the men he is after and won’t be distracted by stolen gold or women. Sure, he’ll enjoy the latter but he’s always going to ride on and leave them behind. Although most of the story played out as expected, the end wasn’t quite as I imaged and that came as a welcome surprise.

Paul Ledd is a thinly disguised pseudonym for Paul Lederer, an author whose work I’ve always enjoyed. I wouldn’t put Hanging Moon up there with the best of his work, but it did hold my attention throughout and entertained me enough to want to read the third Shelter book at some point.

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