Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Legend of Roxy Doyle

LADY GUNSMITH #1
By J.R. Roberts
Speaking Volumes, February 2017

Roxanne Louise Doyle, is Lady Gunsmith, the daughter of Gavin Doyle. The early legend of Roxy Doyle begins when her mother is killed on a wagon train, leaving her father to raise and care for his little girl. Before her father disappears, he leaves his daughter to be raised by a Mormon family. At age fifteen, Roxy leaves her foster family to find her father. In time she learns the hard truth that her father has become a famed bounty hunter who is now thought to be dead.

Roxy continues her relentless search and at age twenty she meets the famous Gunsmith, Clint Adams, who trains her as a gunfighter. Still searching for her father, Roxy meets the notorious Belle Starr and her handsome husband, Sam. Together they fall into an intrigue involving other legends of the West. Does Lady Gunsmith find her father? Does she live up to her legend with a gun in the final draw?

With over four hundred books published in The Gunsmith series it would be hard to believe that there aren’t any fans of the western genre that have not come across the author name of J.R. Roberts, or don’t know that it’s a pseudonym used by Robert J. Randisi who has authored more than five hundred published books. Now he turns his attention to a series featuring a heroine, Roxy Doyle.

Fans of the already mention Gunsmith series will have to add this book to their reading list as Clint Adams features quite prominently in this book, and it’s due to the tag of Lady Gunsmith that Adams decides to teach Roxy the art of using a handgun effectively. The story starts earlier than this though, and like any origin tale, often jumps back in time to tell of Roxy’s mother being killed and her troubled upbringing, and rise to legend.

Lady Gunsmith is classed as an adult series, and yes, it does contain a fair amount of explicit sex. What I found interesting is how Roxy soon learns that her beauty makes men crave for her and how this can be used to her advantage from an early age. This has a downside too, in that her stunning looks lead to a lot of unwanted attention that it turn leads to a number of deadly situations that are often resolved by gunplay.

Right from the start of The Gunsmith series, Robert Randisi, included many real life characters on both sides of the law, and this book continues that trend. I’m not going to mention who Roxy comes into contact with (other than those mentioned in the above blurb) so as not to spoil the surprise that is revealed at the end of the book.

If you’ve never read any of Robert Randisi’s other westerns you get what you’d expect from him, a very fast moving, dialogue driven tale that combines real and fictional characters in a plot that contains a touch of mystery that will keep you turning the pages and will leave you entertained and, like me, looking forward to the publication of the second Lady Gunsmith book, The Three Graves of Roxy Doyle, in May.


Friday, 14 April 2017

Bothers in Blood

By Lee Lejeune
Crowood Press, March 2017

As young Stubbs ‘Sunshine’ Shining is riding West, he hears shooting, and sees four gunmen firing at a homestead. He fires a couple of shots to scare them off, and discovers that the person defending the property is a middle-aged woman named Bethany Bartok. She invites Sunshine in and gives him food and drink. He learns that her husband has died, her son Bart has gone off in search of his fortune, and her daughter Elspeth has travelled East to be educated. Sunshine decides to stay on at the farm for a short spell. But soon things get complicated. Bart has been kidnapped and the local Cutaway brothers are determined to get their hands on the property for some reason. Then Sunshine becomes even more deeply involved in the fate of the Bartok homestead when Bethany’s daughter Elspeth returns.

Sunshine soon gets a reputation as a gunfighter, but that’s only the beginning. Why do the Cutaway brothers want the farm? Who is holding young Bart captive? And where is he being held? Sunshine starts to untangle the thread that leads him into very dangerous territory.

As you’ll realize from the above blurb there’s a lot going on in this book and the author includes a few mystery elements to hook the reader right from the very start. As the story develops so more questions are raised that need answers and most of these will only be revealed towards the end of this very fast moving tale. I took a few guesses at who was holding Bart and was only partly right in my assumptions, as I was to why the Cutaway brothers want the farm, so the writer had a few surprises in store for me.

I’ve read a couple of Lee Lejeune’s other Black Horse Westerns and noted that they have strong female characters and this book also contains major roles for equally tough women who aren’t afraid of taking up arms against their enemies.

Brothers in Blood is a story that mixes gunplay, mystery, and memorable characters in a thoroughly entertaining read that left me eager to read another Lee Lejeune western very soon.


Monday, 3 April 2017

Golden Spike

THE IRON HORSE CHRONICLES #3
By Robert Lee Murphy
Five Star, July 2017

The driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit in Utah on May 10, 1869, almost didn’t happen. None of the history books mention this crucial event. Only five people were aware of the incident. Will Braddock knew. He was one of those five.

Paddy O’Hannigan is still seeking revenge and kidnaps Jenny McNabb in an attempt to lure Will to his gun and also to fill his pockets with dollars. The kidnapping doesn’t work out as intended and Will escapes with Jenny and O’Hannigan is broke again.

A desperate O’Hannigan sees an opportunity to get rich by stealing the Golden Spike and does so, stabbing Will’s friend Homer in the process and races away on Will’s horse. Will must pursue O’Hannigan again and regain the spike before the railroad officials discover it missing. If he fails, Jenny, Homer, and Will stand to be accused of being the thieves.

Golden Spike is the concluding book in Robert Lee Murphy’s Iron Horse Chronicles trilogy and thus ties up all the loose ends that have continued from book to book. As the fictional parts of the series take place during real events there are many people who lived at this time included in the stories and Murphy mixes both truth and fiction with believable ease.

As well as dealing with O’Hannigan, Will and his friends, face uncertainty with their futures as the building of the transcontinental railroad is completed. What will they do next? Will must also examine his feelings for Jenny, and she for him.

Like the previous books this is a very fast moving story full of deadly situations that make for some gripping scenes. Most of the characters, both real and imagined, that have survived the first two tales, have roles to play in this monumental part of American history.

Robert Lee Murphy brings everything to a satisfying conclusion and closes the book with some historical notes that make fascinating reading in their own right.

The Iron Horse Chronicles is a trilogy that should be on everyone’s reading list that enjoys stories set against the backdrop of the building of the transcontinental railroad, books that combine fiction and truth, or just those who seek fast-paced action-packed tales set in the American West.

As you’ll see from the publishing date above this book has not been released yet but it is now available for pre-order.


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Cotton's Inferno

By Phil Dunlap
Berkley, February 2014

No one within fifty miles of Whiskey Crossing, Texas, could match Carp Varner’s skill with a sidearm. No one could match his murderous temper either. But when his half-cocked bid for mayor yielded only one vote in his favour – his own – his fury razed the tiny town to the ground in a blaze of flames and hot lead.

Showing up in Apache Springs to offer his services as a gunsmith, Varner even gets on the good side of Sheriff Cotton Burke. But when Burke learns of Varner’s true nature – and past crimes – he unleashes an inferno of his own to see justice done.

Cotton’s Inferno is the fourth and final book in the Sheriff Cotton Burke series.

Phil Dunlap writes fairly short chapters and these are split into a number scenes. Often switching between the main characters in each of these scenes, as all converge on Apache Springs.

If you’ve read any of the previous books you’ll have already met a number of Apache Springs’ citizens and like before a number of them have leading roles in this one. Then there’s the evil Varner and the youngster, Johnny Monk, tracking Varner from the destroyed town of Whiskey Crossing, aiming to kill him for his horrific deed. Johnny will meet a young girl on his journey and she joins him on his vengeance hunt.

There’s plenty of action and some moments of humour too as the story races to its conclusion that could just see Apache Springs fall to the same fate as Whiskey Crossing and, as the flames begin to devour Apache Springs, it becomes a question of whether Burke can save the town, stop Johnny from being killed and take down Varner at the same time.

Cotton’s Inferno is a traditional western that should be enjoyed by all fans of the genre. On finishing the book I was left feeling disappointed that there aren’t any more in the series. 


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Incident at Pegasus Heights

By I.J. Parnham
Crowood Press, March 2017

When fossil-hunter Jim Dragon is on this way to Bear Creek to sell his latest discovery, he goes to the aid of a woman in distress, Elmina Fay. Unfortunately, Pierre Dulaine takes advantage of the situation and steals his fossils.

Jim vows to reclaim his property and Elmina offers to help him, but only if he’ll do something for her. She has heard a tale about the bones of a winged horse being found nearby and she wants Jim to find Pegasus for her.

At first, Jim is sceptical about embarking on such a mission, but before long he discovers that the truth behind the tale is even stranger than he could ever have imagined.

Ian Parnham has created a great set of characters for this story, people who all seem to have secrets, and these along with the mystery of the flying horse make this a hard-to-put-down read.

Even though no-one really seems to know what it is they are trying to find, all sides are determined to discover it first and will do anything to make sure it’s them. As all converge on an outcrop on which sits a wagon which defies all logic as to how it got there – unless a flying horse truly deposited it there – the author has great fun with explanations both true and false and includes plenty of fist fights, before everyone gets involved in a deadly gunfight that will eventually reveal the answers to all the puzzles.

So, once again for me, this author has come up with a very entertaining read that left me hoping one or two of the surviving characters may return another day. In the meantime I’m left looking forward to Ian Parnham’s next book. 


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Coyote Courage

By Scott Harris
December, 2016

Brock Clemons rides into the small town of Dry Springs simply looking for a place to grab a cigar and a good night’s sleep. Instead, he finds a town being strangled by a band of hardened outlaws, a young boy named Huck who is bravely facing challenges far beyond his years, and Sophie, a woman of captivating strength and beauty. Brock decides to stay beyond the one night he had planned, but will his intelligence, courage and unmatched skill with a gun be enough to save the town, help Huck and win Sophie’s heart?

When beginning this book you’d be forgiven for thinking the story is being told in the first person, for it isn’t until fifty-five pages in, and the start of chapter ten, that the author switches to the third person, and from then on alternates between the two.

Scott Harris includes a few mystery elements to hook his readers, such as what is Brock Clemons' backstory and what has really happened to Huck’s father.

Clemons also has an interesting pet, a wolf that has a major role to play when its human companion is wounded and in need of protection.

Well-developed characters, vivid action scenes, visual descriptions and a fast-moving plot, all told in an extremely easy to read style, offer everything a western reader could want from this genre right down to a tense and dramatic final showdown in the streets of Dry Springs.

The cover states that Coyote Courage is a Brock Clemons Western, so I can only assume that there will be more to come, and I for one am looking forward to the next in the series. 


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Red Rock Rampage

BLAZE! #15
By Ben Boulden
Rough Edges Press, February 2017

J.D. and Kate Blaze ride into the settlement of Small Basin, Utah, on the trail of train robbers but soon discover that the town and the surrounding area are ruled by the iron fist of a renegade Mormon patriarch—and he has his eye on two beautiful young women he intends to make unwilling brides. Hired killers, corrupt lawmen, and brutal kidnappers mean a heap of trouble for the Old West's only husband-and-wife gunfighters. Forced to split up, Kate and J.D. have to battle their way back to each other to survive!

This is Ben Boulden’s first entry into this multi-authored series and what a terrific addition it is. Filled with action from the word go the author weaves a twisting plot that sees both J.D. and Kate facing many deadly situations. J.D. in particular when he finds himself captive with little hope of escape, making this part of the story a race against time as Kate attempts to find him.

Ben Boulden’s descriptive writing puts you right there in the thick of the action and his characterization of both good and bad is very well drawn, enabling you to share their emotions.  

The Blaze! series is billed as adult reading but Ben Boulden doesn’t include much of this, just the one detailed scene and he only devotes a few paragraphs to this too, meaning it is very easy to miss this section out and enjoy reading the rest of this fast moving tale that ought to please all fans of westerns.

Hopefully this won’t be the only entry into the series from Ben Boulden.