Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Ponderosa War

THE GUNSMITH #30
By J.R. Roberts
Charter Books, July 1984

They called it Battles Mountain, but it belonged more to the bank than to the Battles family. Now, they have to get their timber down the mountain fast enough to stop the bank from reclaiming the land.

Clint Adams is just passing through North Dakota, but when the Battles brothers help him out in a fight, the Gunsmith feels obliged to return the favour – especially since they have a big, good-looking sister. Helping to fend off the unscrupulous “banker,” Clint comes head to head with a gunslinger out to make his reputation – over Clint’s dead body!

Like all Gunsmith books this is a fast paced tale that is dialogue driven. There’s plenty of action but it’s the showdown between Adams and the gunslinger, Wallmann, that provides the tension and anticipation that kept me turning the pages.

The author also manages to include a lot of information about the timber business and the various jobs that have to be done to get the trees down the mountain. None of this comes over as if you’re reading a how-to manual but as a natural part of the story that provides knowledge to the inquisitive Clint Adams.

With this book being part of an adult series there are a few explicit sexual encounters, but these are easily skipped if you don’t like to read this kind of thing and doing so won’t ruin the story. And this is certainly a very enjoyable tale that finishes with a neat ending as Wallmann and Adams come face-to-face.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Gunpowder Empire

By Matt Cole
The Crowood Press, July 2017

Raw hatred ravaged the range land!

Luke Bragg – a man with a dark past – has come to claim the sheep ranch his uncle left for him. Only once he arrives in Preston Gulch, Bragg soon finds himself in the middle of a range war with the valley’s two biggest cattle ranchers. This clash of interests, which Bragg tries to avoid, just escalates and he is the one the town thinks is the reason why. The cattlemen try to bolster their position by claiming that his sheep kill the grass by nibbling it too close and trampling the roots with their sharp hoofs. Then when the daughter of another rancher comes to town after the murder of her father, the truth about his murder sends the valley into chaos and threatens the empires that they had established with gunpowder.

This is Matt Cole’s third Black Horse Western and the first I have read. It is also the first BHW that I have read that begins with two poems. These are both about sheep and written by Arthur Chapman (June 25, 1873 – December 4, 1935). They set the mood for the book perfectly.

Matt Cole has created a great set of characters and surrounds them with mystery, the main one being who killed the rancher Flynn and why. There is also some mystery as to Luke Bragg’s past. All this grabbed my attention and encouraged me to read more.

There is plenty of action, and Bragg soon proves he’s a capable man when it comes to gunplay. Slowly the truth behind the murder is revealed and desperate men take drastic measures to keep their part in the killing hidden. Bragg has to be silenced, permanently, and a hired gun is brought in to do this which leads to an interesting proposition.

The story builds well to its violent final showdown where the truths are exposed and western justice is served, and all the story threads are tied up neatly. The final lines leaving me grinning and thinking it’s about time I caught up with Matt Cole’s two previous books.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Coyote Creek

BROCK CLEMONS #2
By Scott Harris
June, 2017

Brock Clemons leaves Dry Springs – and the people he’s grown to love – in search of his father, but his plans are altered when a brutal and shocking discovery in a creek bed leads him to new adventures, new friends and more than one near-death experience. As Brock navigates a series of eventful encounters with Indians, gunfighters and wealthy landowners, it leads him to evaluate where his heart truly lies. What did Brock find in Coyote Creek, and will he survive where it leads him?

This story is told mainly in the first person, through Brock Clemons, but every so often the author switches to the third person when telling his readers what other people, or animals, are doing. This allows him to introduce new characters to the series, some of whom have major parts to play in this tale, and others, I presume, that will have more significant roles in the third Brock Clemons adventure.

I mentioned animals in the previous paragraph, and as readers of the first book will know Clemons has a wild companion in the form of a Wolf and it’s great to see that this creature is still with him.

There is plenty of action and some tense scenes such as when the captive Clemons is taken into a Ute camp. Author Scott Harris isn’t above killing off some of his main characters either and there is one surprising and shocking death for Clemons and his new friends to deal with.

There is also a lot of soul searching for Clemons to do regarding his quest to find his father and his loyalties to those he’s left behind in Dry Springs and Scott Harris writes these mental battles as well as his action passages.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, but in doing so new challenges are set, thus leaving the way open for the third book in the series, one I am certainly looking forward to reading.


Friday, 4 August 2017

Midway

THE LANDON SAGA #10
By Tell Cotten
Solstice Publishing, July 2017

All Yancy Landon wants is to get married. However, there’s always somebody eager to ruin a good day, and several misfortunes occur before the big event. Throughout the day, Yancy and Cooper get tangled up with a drunk, a rebellious youth, someone looking for revenge, a shy wife, a disgruntled cowman, and a disgraceful husband.

Told in the first person through Cooper Landon this book contains the usual mix of excitement and humour, the later mainly appearing during conversation in witty one-liners, that I’ve come to expect from Tell Cotten. Combined with his well-crafted characters and excellent plot-lines makes this a must read series. If you’ve yet to try the Landon Saga books may I suggest you start with the first one and read them in order as story-threads often continue from book to book.

I also find Tell Cotten’s writing very visual, and had a great big grin on my face as I imagined Yancy’s appearance when he arrives at the church for his wedding.

There are some excellent action scenes too, including a tense and violent showdown with the person looking for revenge.

We also get to meet a few new characters, a couple of which I hope there will be more about in future books.

The Landon Saga books aren’t long, meaning they don’t outstay their welcome. In fact I find them hard to put down tales that I usually read in one or two sittings. On finishing this one, like those that have gone before it, I find myself hoping Tell Cotten won’t take too long in writing and publishing the next one.

Tell Cotten is definitely one of the best western writers working today.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Six Bullets Left

By Barry Cord
Consul Books, 1961
Originally published in 1959

Something was wrong, dead wrong! The Texas Ranger called Solitary felt it before he was ten seconds inside town. Minutes later he knew it for sure – when the honest sheriff who’d sent for him tried to gun him down on sight.

And within the hour Solitary found that almost to a man the whole town hated him, sight unseen . . . even though he was their only chance to survive the terror.

Something was wrong indeed.

And Solitary Jackson was going to find out what it was!

I’ve read quite a few books by Barry Cord and this one was just as enjoyable as any of them. Told in a tough style the story really grabbed my attention from the opening sequence in which a man is killed by a strange arrow that is unrecognized by the townsfolk. So where did this arrow come from? Why was this man killed, after all he was just a tenderfoot Easterner dish washer in the local hotel wasn’t he? What was the note he threw into the Sheriff’s office just before his death? And as the story unfolds these aren’t the only questions that will need answering.

Barry Cord, a pseudonym used by Peter Germano, is a master at writing tense scenes, you share the frustrations, fear, anger and joy of his well-drawn characters who are often hiding their real identities. His pacing is superb as his plots twist their way to their satisfying conclusions. Six Bullets Left contains all these elements and left me wondering if there are any more Barry Cord books featuring Solitary Jackson.

One disappointing thing to note about this particular publication of Six Bullets Left is the amount of typos and the book even has a couple of lines missing in a gunfight that was a little frustrating – although it was possible to work out what had happened by what came next. Of course this isn’t the authors fault but that of the publisher, so you may prefer to find a different pressing to the one shown above and hope it doesn’t contain the typos this one does.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Half-Breed

ABILENE #5
By Justin Ladd
Pocket Books, December 1988

White Elk, a famous Indian Scout, is searching for his father on the bullet-strewn streets of Abilene. A half-breed, he runs into trouble when a band of Kiowa braves tracks him down, vowing vengeance on the man they call traitor.

The U.S. Cavalry arrives to keep the peace, but it’s up to Marshal Luke Travis and Deputy Cody Fisher to safeguard their hair-trigger town. One cavalry sergeant vows to settle his own score with White Elk – any dirty way he can. Forced to fight for his life, the half-breed becomes a lightning rod for slaughter. As Indians attack the Kansas boomtown, it’s a war to the bloody end!

Although many of the people who have appeared in the previous Abilene books have parts to play in this one too, they become secondary characters to White Elk and those directly involved in his quest to make peace with his father and those who are out to kill the half-breed.

Justin Ladd builds the suspense as to just when the Kiowa will hit town and also includes a secret that could explode at any time – something White Elks father is hiding from his son. And what of the seemingly growing attraction between the half-breed and his father’s new wife? That is something else that can only end in disaster surely? Sergeant Drake and Rita Nevins further complicate matters, the latter’s jealously perhaps about to lead to more deadly trouble for White Elk. So, as you’ll realize, there is plenty to keep the readers interest and to make you want to discover how it will all turn out.

The violence is hard-hitting and brutal at times, leading to a sad death for one of the characters. The final showdown with the Kiowa is a desperate struggle for White-Elk but as to why this is I can’t reveal here without spoiling that part of the story, so I guess you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.

If you enjoy series westerns, particularly those that revolve around a town and the people who make up its population then I can’t recommend this book, and the series, enough. Of course the fact that the man behind the pseudonym of Justin Ladd is James Reasoner should also tell you that you’ll be in for an excellent read if you can find a copy of this book.


Sunday, 2 July 2017

LeRoy U.S. Marshal

By Neil Hunter
Piccadilly Publishing, May 2017

No matter the odds, U.S. Marshal Alvin LeRoy always completed his assignments. That’s why they sent him after the Reno bunch. LeRoy was single-minded once he was on the trail. He wouldn’t back down and had a fearsome reputation for always finishing what he started.

His pursuit took him across southwest Texas, where he faced up to bushwhackers and the aftermath of a massacre as he relentlessly tracked down and dealt with the worst bunch he had come across in quite a while.

Following a trail of deception and danger, he eventually ended up in New York. Here he faced the menacing top man of the crime syndicate who was behind the whole affair, and didn’t stop until there wasn’t a man left standing.

Neil Hunter has been writing westerns for many years, most notably his Bodie the Stalker series and the Brand series. This, LeRoy U.S. Marshal, is the first in a new series, although readers of the book ten in the Bodie series will have already met LeRoy. Hunter also links Bodie and LeRoy in another way in this story but I can’t reveal the why and how here without spoiling the tale for those who’ve yet to read it.

As expected Neil Hunter has written a gripping story that is filled with action, tough characters and descriptive prose that paints vivid imagery within the mind’s eye. Hunter also includes a little of LeRoy’s backstory to explain what motivates him.

Neil Hunter has also chosen to present this fast paced tale without chapters, instead just relying on scene breaks when changing location or from one character to another.

On the strength of this book I’m hoping LeRoy will return in many more stories and that I won’t have to wait too long between books.