Sunday, 10 December 2017

Bone Treasure

By Paul Bedford
The Crowood Press, November 2017

In a sheltered basin, high up in Colorado’s remote Rocky Mountains, two field collectors discover an awesome array of dinosaur bones. Knowing that two competing and irreconcilably hostile palaeontologists will pay big money for knowledge of such a find, the men realise that they have struck bone treasure. Unfortunately for all concerned, a supposedly extinct race of Anasazi Indians regard these relics as sacred and are prepared to slaughter anyone who tries to remove them.

Only one of the men makes it back to Denver, his hair turned prematurely white by his horrifying experiences, but what he brings with him touches off an unstoppable chain of events.

Joe eagle, a frontiersman desperately in need of money, agrees to lead a large party into the Rockies to plunder the fossil beds, but word of the find has got around and their ruthless competitors are never far away. And, somewhere up ahead, the terrifying Anasazi await them all…

From the opening scenes of almost palpable tension Paul Bedford had me hooked. His story is filled with superb characters, from the out-of-their-depth scientists to tough hired guns, the hard-as-nails Joe Eagle and the savage Anasazi I was soon wondering how many would be left alive at the end. The author also includes elements of mystery, such as why Joe Eagle needs money and who is supplying information to the rival bone hunters?

Once the searchers begin to home in on their prize the book becomes one long struggle to stay alive and the author paints some horrific scenes, not least what happens to one man caught by the Anasazi. As well as this ancient race of Indians wanting to protect what they see as their property they also set out to kill all those who venture onto the land as they need to keep their presence a secret as well as the location of the bones. You’d have thought the white men would have the advantage with their guns against the Anasazi’s stone tipped weapons but the ferocious Indians prove to be more than a match for the bone seekers.

As Joe Eagle’s party is whittled down you have to wonder how the survivors will get out with any bones assuming they get to them, as there is the second group of fossil hunters waiting to ambush them on their return journey.

So are the bones worth the cost in human life? Does anyone survive? Not for me to reveal the answers to those questions here but I will suggest you grab a copy of this book and find out for yourselves and at the same time you’ll discover why I keep reading Paul Bedford’s books and am looking forward to his next. 



Also available as an ebook

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Bugles and Blood

LEW EDEN #1
By Ben Bridges and Brent Towns
Bookends, October 2017

Lew Eden was thirteen when he killed his first man. A lot more died at his hand before he finally had his fill of blood and bullets. Then he decided to enlist in the newly-formed Seminole-Negro Scouts, hoping to do what he could to broker peace between white man and red.

But an Indian-hater named Cramer killed Lew’s Sioux woman. After that, Lew wouldn’t rest until he’d put one last man in his grave. But Fate had other ideas. Scouting for General Crook, he was to take part in the Battle of the Rosebud, where the killing started up all over again …

Two well-known authors in the western genre have teamed up to write a series of novels featuring Lew Eden, a scout first met in their Company ‘C’ series, who they’ve now decided to write a spin-off series about.

The Lew Eden books should appeal to all western readers, either those who enjoy purely imaginary tales or those that put fictional characters into true historical events. It’s the latter category that this book falls into.

The book starts with events that see Eden becoming romantically involved with a Sioux woman, Morning Dove after she nurses him to health after he's wounded in a vicious fight saving a well-known Sioux leader from being killed. After six men rape and murder Morning Dove, Eden is consumed with rage and rides out after the killers but he fails in completing his quest for vengeance and one of the killers escapes his justice and Eden finds himself scouting for Crook only to learn that the man he’s hunting is also a soldier but Eden has to keep his anger in check as more important events unfold as the army rides towards the Rosebud.

There has already been plenty of action in this very fast moving tale but the story now becomes one long fight as the soldiers find themselves facing superior numbers of warriors in a battle that they will struggle to come out of alive. 

The story is now told in chapters that are broken by headings that help keep track of which part of the battle is taking place and who is involved. The majority of characters we now read about were real people and the authors also include a lot of historical fact. The skill of the writers comes to the fore as this part of the tale could read like a history lesson but it doesn’t as they blend fact and fiction together seamlessly in a desperate fight for survival.

So does Lew Eden find the last killer of Morning Dove among all the carnage around him? I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out. What I will add is that the Battle of the Rosebud may come to some kind of conclusion but the war isn’t over yet and the authors leave the storyline open to ensure the reader will be looking out for the second book in the series, Ride to Glory, to find out what happens next, something I for one am eager to find out.

If you have any interest in the Indian Wars and in particular The Battle of the Rosebud then this is a must read. If you just like action packed westerns that feature soldiers and Indian confrontations then grab yourself a copy of this as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.


Sunday, 3 December 2017

A Dark Dawn in Texas

By Richard Smith
The Crowood Press, September 2017

On her deathbed, Laura Peters shocks her son by belatedly revealing that his uncle did not die alongside Paul’s father in the bloody confrontation at Gettysburg in July 1863. She urges Paul to ride west in a quest to find his relative who holds a guilty secret from those dreadful Civil War days. With mixed emotions he takes up the challenge, eventually arriving in the Texas town of Ongar Ridge, only to find himself accused of murdering the man he had been seeking.

Richard Smith’s third Black Horse Western and the second I’ve read. His first book, Revenge for a Hanging proved to be an excellent read so I had high hopes this would be a match for that in quality and entertainment value and it certainly turned out to be so.

Like in the previous book of Richard Smith’s I read this one also features a court case as Paul Peters is put on trial for killing the man he was seeking – although at the time no-one knows this was Paul’s uncle. This all leads to the reader having to wonder how Paul will ever find out what his uncle’s secret was and it soon becomes apparent that Paul will really struggle to discover why his uncle was killed and by whom.

Richard Smith includes plenty of mystery elements as to the killing of Paul's uncle that kept me turning the pages and there were soon a variety of suspects, people who seemed to want Paul out of the way too, but are these for the same reasons his uncle was killed?

There’s mistrust too. Paul only shares his relationship to the dead man with the marshal and it isn’t long before the lawman’s deputy becomes a suspect throwing doubt on whether Paul should even be trusting Marshal Rowland.

The author tells his story in an easy to read style that builds through a vicious beating, ambush and plenty of gunplay, to a final violent confrontation in increasing pace. Along the way you’ll meet a great set of characters of both sexes and those that fall into the good and bad categories of people. Even though Paul often decides to give up on his seemingly impossible quest to discover why his uncle died events keep him in Ongar Ridge and the truth finally emerges in a shocking revelation that I didn’t see coming.

So, as you can probably guess, I’ve been left looking forward to Richard Smith’s next book and can only add that if you’ve never read any of his work then this one could be the perfect place to introduce yourself to his writing.



Also available as an ebook.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

A World of Hurt

By Tim Bryant
Pinnacle, December 2017

Wilkie John Liquorish is an outlaw as unusual as his name, facing trial in 1882 Fort Worth for the deaths of sixty people and eight hundred head of cattle. Is he responsible? Not really. Is he guiltless? Not at all …

For a young man of seventeen, Wilkie John Liquorish has lived one sorry life. From his ill-fated stint in the U.S. Army to a back-breaking job as a gravedigger, Wilkie just can’t seem to catch a break. His latest gig – working a cattle drive from Mobeetie, Texas, to Fort Worth – is no exception. The food-poisoning death of a chuckwagon cook has everyone spooked, and fear spreads like a disease. Wilkie barely makes it out alive. But when he shows up in Fort Worth, he has another kind of death waiting for him – in the unlikely form of Gentleman Jack Delaney …

A fancily-dressed bounty hunter from New Orleans, Gentleman Jack is ready to nail and hang young Wilkie as soon as he arrives in town. He claims the boy is the most wanted outlaw in Texas. If Wilkie can manage to outsmart, outrun, or outgun this not-so-gentle man, he just might go down in history. Or swing from a tree. Or both …

Although Tim Bryant has had a number of books published, this, the first western to carry his name, is my introduction to his writing.

The book is written in the first person and is filled with colourful characters. Most of the story follows Wilkie John’s trial but this is broken up by many flashbacks that tell the sorry tale of how Wilkie has ended in this deadly situation. Tim Bryant builds the tension extremely well and you’ll soon be wondering how Wilkie can possibly escape with his life as Gentleman Jack and a preacher argue the points for either taking or saving his life.

Wilkie John’s backstory is one of adventure, love and violence. Wilkie has a wonderful way of getting round people who get in the way of him achieving his goals, yeap he ups and shoots them. So a white-hatted hero he isn’t.

Tim Bryant tells his story with style and includes a lot of dark humour in both Wilkie’s observations and some of the situations Wilkie finds himself in. Bryant’s descriptions are top class too, painting vivid imagery of both characters and surroundings. The author also has a number of surprises waiting in store too, but to say more would ruin the story for those intending to read it and those readers ought to include all fans of the western genre.

A World of Hurt is the first Wilkie John Western and the second, Dead and Buried is due out in June 2018 and I am certainly looking forward to reading it.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

An Arizona Christmas

By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, November 2017

Like most families, the Jensens gather together to celebrate the holidays. This year, since half the clan is scattered across the American West, they've decided to split the difference and meet up in Tucson. Matt and Luke will be there, for sure, and maybe Ace and Chance, too. That leaves Sally, Preacher, and Smoke Jensen, who've reserved three seats on a westbound stage to make sure they don't miss out on the festivities. What could possibly go wrong? 

Mother Nature is the first to strike, dusting up the trail with a sandstorm as blinding and deadly as any northern blizzard. Then comes an Apache ambush, forcing the passengers and drivers to seek shelter in a cave. Even if Smoke and Preacher manage to shoot their way out of this, they have another big surprise waiting--a ruthless gang of outlaws after the cargo of cash on the stage, happy to slaughter anyone who tries to stop them. If the Jensens hope to save Christmas this year, they'll need to save their own lives first . . .

The seventh Johnstone book set at Christmas and the first one I’ve read. Great to see the author bringing together some of the Johnstone’s greatest characters but as expected the trail to their Christmas rendezvous doesn’t run smoothly.

Most of the story concentrates on the dangers facing Smoke, Sally and Preacher as they journey together first by train and then stagecoach, and it’s whilst travelling on the latter that most of this tale revolves. The stage is also filled with a number of interesting characters too and the author often switches between them as well as those attempting to stop one of them reaching Tucson.

With outlaws, Apaches, and Mother Nature out to destroy the stagecoach and its passengers the book offers plenty of action and there is an impressive body count. Once the travellers are pinned down in a cave the tension mounts as you’ll be wondering just how they can possibly escape.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was the names of some of the characters, Ballard and Tuttle for instance which many long-time readers of westerns will recognize as past authors of the genre. A nod to those old time pulps which is strengthened by the comments in the last part of the story about newspaper reporters and writing for those pulps.

If you’re looking for a fast read that is packed with gunplay then this is certainly worth adding to your ‘want to read’ list. 


  

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Pirates of the Desert

By C.J. Sommers
Hale, December 2015

The locals call the sand dunes of the Arizona Territory south-land a white ocean. One man, Barney Shivers, carries the comparison a little further when he decides to monopolize the shipping industry. Ordering his men to attack any freight shipping that he does not control, goods are stolen and held to ransom on the high seas.

No one dares to fight back until one little old lady Lolly Amos, stands up to the bully. When the local law refuses to help, Lolly contacts her nephew, Captain Parthenon Downs of the Arizona Rangers. Restless to leave his desk duty behind, Captain Downs eagerly takes on the challenge. Little does he realize that his decision will draw him into a war between two bands of pirates, and a young woman with a Winchester rifle….

C.J. Sommers has created a wonderful cast of characters that will find themselves taking part in a lethal game, all due to the price of a bag of sugar.

Good, bad, male or female, the author soon has you rooting for or against them. The plot moves forward at an extremely fast pace and there are a few twists to the tale waiting to surprise the reader with the revelations they bring, not least as to the real identity of some of these characters.

It’s fascinating to see how Parth will bring down these land pirates, even though he knows, or believes he knows, who they are, getting the proof to arrest them is the hard part. Proving their guilt leads to plenty of gunplay as this tale weaves its way to its deadly conclusion.

I’ve read quite a few books by the author behind the C.J. Sommers pseudonym, that person being Paul Lederer who also wrote other Black Horse Westerns as Owen G. Irons and Logan Winters, and I’ve yet to come across one that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve yet to try anything by this author then this book would certainly be a great place to introduce yourself to his writing, and I’m sure after you’ve read it you’ll be hunting for his other books too.


Monday, 30 October 2017

Spanish Gold

BLAZE! #18
By Ben Boulden
Rough Edges Press, October 2017

The only thing Kate and J.D. Blaze had in mind when they rode into the settlement of Unity, Utah, was celebrating their wedding anniversary. But then J.D. is forced to kill a corrupt deputy in order to save a woman’s life, and suddenly the Old West’s only husband-and-wife gunfighters are plunged into a deadly mystery involving a sinister albino, missing men, and a lost treasure in Spanish gold.

This is Ben Boulden’s second entry in this fast moving series and it’s every bit as good as his first (#15: Red Rock Rampage).

The Blaze! books aren’t very long, this one coming in at 140 pages, but Ben Boulden still manages to pack a lot of action and intrigue into his story. His characters are well thought out and all have important parts to play during the search for Emma’s husband - Emma being the young woman J.D. saves from the unwanted advances of the deputy at the beginning.

Kate Blaze is just as tough as her husband and it’s often her that makes the major decisions as to just what trail they will follow in order to solve their current problems. She also has a tender side as we find out when they take a young boy under their wing.

The Blaze! books are marketed as being an adult western series but please don’t let that put you off trying this one if you don’t like explicit sex in your reading material. There is only one short chapter that deals with this aspect of the tale and that can easily be skipped without ruining the rest of the story.

Ben Boulden writes in a very readable style, never letting up on the rapid pace that leads to a gripping final gunfight that answers all the questions that have risen before this deadly confrontation. Once again I’m left looking forward to Ben Boulden’s next entry in this series.