Saturday, 31 December 2016

Westerns read during 2016

This year other interests have filled much of the time I’ve previously had for both reading and writing reviews which is something I hope to balance more evenly in 2017. I also hope to post my thoughts on those books I’ve read this year and haven’t managed to review yet. Clicking on a number will take you to the review.


1. The Kerrigans: A Texas Dynasty by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
2. Outlaw Town a Ralph Compton novel by David Robbins
3. The Spanish Bit Saga #23: Child of the Dead by Don Coldsmith


4. The Corrigan Brothers #1: Ride Away by Cotton Smith
5. Bodie #7: Desert Run by Neil Hunter
6. Broken Lance by Frank Gruber

MARCH READS – 2 books

7. The Derby Man #7: North Chase by Gary McCarthy
8. The Times of Wichita by Bruce H. Thorstad

APRIL READS – 4 books

9. Shawn O’Brien #3: Better off Dead by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
10. The Gunsmoke Serenade by Thomas McNulty
11. Fury at Bent Fork by B.S. Dunn
12. Wanted by the Western Writers Group

MAY READS – 4 books

13. Tell Slash B Hell’s A’Comin’ by Elliot Long
14. The Landon Saga #8: Warpath by Tell Cotten 
15. Terror in Tombstone by Paul Bedford
16. Stories Along…The Hungry Trail by Christine Matthews

JUNE READS – 2 books

17. The Forgiveness Trail by Brent Larssen 
18. Emmett Strong #2: Strong Suspicions by GP Hutchinson

JULY READS – 2 books

19. Blaze #12: Bloody Wyoming by John Hegenberger
20. The Mexican by Lee Clinton

AUGUST READS – 3 books

21. Quarter to Midnight by Ned Oaks
22. Hard Ride to Glory by Harry Jay Thorn
23. The Bloody Trail to Redemption by Paxton Johns


24. Lakota Justice by Will Durey
25. The Legend of Caleb York by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
26. The Danville Stagecoach Robbery by Frank Chandler
27. Blast to Oblivion by Chap O’Keefe


28. 100 Golden Eagles for Iron Eyes by Rory Black
29. The Landon Saga #9: Fastest Gun Around by Tell Cotton
30. Guns across the Rio Grande by Jack Tregarth


31. Brother’s Keeper a Ralph Compton novel by David Robbins
32. The Boot Hill Breed by Ned Oaks
33. The Badman’s Daughter by Terry James


34. Bitter is the Dust by Scott A. Gese
35. Brolin by B.S. Dunn
36. Wilderness #69: The Avenger by David Robbins

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Guns Across the Rio Grande

By Jack Tregarth
The Crowood Press, September 2016

When Captain Barnabas Quinnell, late of the defeated Confederate army, decides to smuggle rifles into Mexico, it seems like a simple, straightforward and profitable enterprise. He hasn’t counted, though, on the Mexican officer who had been charged with putting an end to such gun-running. When Colonel Lopez and Captain Quinnell come face to face, only one of them with emerge alive from the bloody confrontation.

Although this is the first book published under the author name of Jack Tregarth I've read, it is not the first I’ve read by the man behind this pseudonym; Simon Webb. Webb writes under a variety of pen-names and I’ve read only a handful of his output but so far have enjoyed them all, and that includes this one.

The story switches regularly between Lopez and Quinnell, both well drawn characters as are some of the men serving under both. At no time are you ever sure of whom will be victorious when they meet as destiny brings them to a river crossing for a prolonged and well written final battle that takes place over the last thirty pages of the book.

Like other stories I’ve read by this writer the tale moves forward at a very swift pace. There’s a couple of surprises as the main characters attempt to fulfil their dreams and neither are above using a little deception to achieve their goals even when they know it could lead to their deaths without warning or mercy.

Guns Across the Rio Grande left me feeling thoroughly entertained and looking forward to reading more by this author.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fastest Gun Around

By Tell Cotten
Solstice Publishing, October 2016

Rondo Landon is on his way to Midway, Texas, when misfortune strikes. Meanwhile, Lee Mattingly and Brian Clark have their own problems as they meet their new business partner.

It isn’t until their paths cross that they realize their troubles are connected, and they join forces. Along the way, they encounter new enemies, revenge, relationships, and an odd horse.

With every release, Tell Cotten’s army of fans increases, all of us eager for each new book and once that is read we immediately anticipate the next in this exciting series. Yes, the Landon Saga is a series, one that carries some storylines over into the next book, that often refers to what has gone before, meaning it is probably best if you read them in order. Having said that Tell Cotten does include a little background to his characters before the story begins thus meaning you can read, and enjoy this book without having read the rest.

This story follows the continuing fortunes and misfortunes of Rondo Landon and Lee Mattingly, with most of the tale told in the first person through Rondo. When switching to scenes that don’t involve Rondo, Cotton tells his story in the third person. The blend from first to third and back again is so smoothly done you don’t notice it’s happened.

Filled with plenty of action, how-they-going-get-out-of-that situations, twists and turns, some comical laugh-out-loud moments in both dialogue and the antics revolving around the odd horse (which the author explains in a note at the end) and you have everything anyone could ask for in a western.

Once again Tell Cotten proves to me that I am right in saying he is one of the best Western writers working today and if you haven’t read him yet then I’ve got to ask why not as I’m sure all fans of this genre will enjoy his stories and then be joining me, and countless others, looking forward to the next in the series, Midway.

Available as an ebook too.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Blast to Oblivion

By Chap O’Keefe
Rough Edges Press, September 2016

In Denver, a shotgun blast brutally ends a man’s life and sets in motion a deadly chain of events that threatens Joshua Dillard, drifting detective and former Pinkerton agent. Hired by a beautiful woman to untangle the mystery of her brother’s murder and bring the killer to justice, Joshua’s investigation takes him to the raw and dangerous mining town of Silverville, where he finds a web of deception, greed, lust, and violence. Aided only by an eccentric hermit, Joshua will need all his cunning and gun-skill to avoid being blasted to oblivion himself!

Originally published by Robert Hale as part of its Black Horse Western line in 2009, Blast to Oblivion is the seventh (of nine) books following the adventures of Joshua Dillard. Included in this revised edition for Rough Edges Press, Chap O’Keefe has added an afterword titled From Deerstalker to Stetson that explains how this story was inspired by the classic Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear.

Having read many other Chap O’Keefe books I knew I would be in for an entertaining read with this one, and as it turns out it is one of the authors’ best. You don’t need to have read any of the other Dillard books as it is a self-contained novel that is full of twists and turns, great characters of both sexes, and moves forward at a terrific pace.

The mystery elements will keep you guessing as Dillard has to sort deception from the truth before a final dramatic shoot-out in a location that could become a death-trap for all involved.

If you missed this book the first time it was published then now is your chance to rectify that by grabbing a copy immediately as I’m sure all who enjoy well-told westerns stories will find much to appreciate in Blast to Oblivion and will then be on the lookout for the other Joshua Dillard tales.

Availabe as an ebook too.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

100 Golden Eagles for Iron Eyes

By Rory Black
The Crowood Press, September 2016

Bounty hunter Iron Eyes is heading south to Mexico in search of outlaws Bodine and Walters, but is himself being hunted down by his erstwhile sweetheart Squirrel Sally. Then Iron Eyes learns that Sally has been kidnapped by landowner Don Jose Fernandez, and rushes to her aid. But Sally, Iron Eyes and the outlaws are all just pawns in a much larger game, with an enemy more deadly than they can imagine, and Iron Eyes has to use all his courage and skill to survive.

The 26th book in the Iron Eyes series offers everything long time readers of these books would hope for, a fast pace, plenty of violent action, and one or two twists to the plot. 

As we have discovered in the past, we once again find out what the only thing is that Iron Eyes fears, yeap women, particularly Squirrel Sally and her devotion to him and her desire to be his woman. No matter how much he tries to lose her she somehow manages to trail him wherever he goes, which scares the hell out of him.

We also find out something else about Iron Eyes, that perhaps he does have a heart, some kinda feelings, that see him not just gunning down Don Jose Fernandez for kidnapping Sally when they first meet but see a plea reach into his blackened soul – and that is all I can reveal about this part of the story so as not to spoil it for those intending to read it.

There is also a neat twist right at the end that could see a turnaround at the beginning of the next book, and again I can’t say what that is here.

What I can say is that for fans of Iron Eyes then make sure you read this book, and for those who have ever never read about this deadly bounty hunter then this is as good a place as any to start and I’m sure it will have you looking for the previous novels. Me? I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Danville Stagecoach Robbery

By Frank Chandler
The Crowood Press, September 2016

Jason Colebrook hasn’t travelled to Nebraska looking for adventure – he wants revenge. Travelling on the Danville stagecoach as a young lad, he survived the robbery but was badly wounded. Twenty years later, determined to uncover the truth, he gets a lead to a frontier town where he finds the townspeople are being cheated by a man running for election. Jason soon falls foul of a local gang, but also falls for a beautiful redhead only to discover she is entangled in a network of corruption, evictions and underhand dealings. Although help arrives unexpectedly from the local hotel owner’s daughter, Jason has to use all his cunning, determination and gun skills to unmask his quarry and see justice is done.

As far as I can tell this is the first Black Horse Western to front the author name Frank Chandler and the book he presents the reader with is filled with twists and turns, surprises and action.

The book opens with a couple of encounters for Colebrook that paint a clear picture of the kind of man he is, someone who will step in when help is needed without a second thought to his well-being. One of these face-offs is referred to a few times during the story with humour.

The author also keeps the tale of what actually happened on the Danville stagecoach and the reason the young Colebrook was shot a secret until near the end of the book. The reason behind this being just one of the hooks that kept me eagerly turning the pages. Another was the mystery of just who would turn out to be the men Colebrook was hunting.

The political corruption forms another storyline that may be tied in with Colebrook’s mission for vengeance or not – you’ll have to read the book to find that out for yourself. And then there’s the added complication of the two women, both very strong characters who know what they want and will go out and get it rather than wait for it to come to them.

Overall I found this to be a very entertaining read that easily held my interest throughout with its fast-moving pace and twisting plotline. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Legend of Caleb York

By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Pinnacle, May 2016

Trinidad, New Mexico, is an oasis of civilization in an untamed desert ruled by outlaws, bank robbers and horse thieves. Sheriff Harry Gauge rules his town with an iron fist, a fast gun, and an unbridled thirst for power.

George Cullen sweated blood to carve a ranch from the wilderness. He’d rather take a bullet to the gut than give in to the greedy sheriff’s land grab. But a cattle empire isn’t all Gauge wants – he also has his eye on Cullen’s beautiful daughter Willa.

Cullen gets word out that he’s hiring the fastest gunslinger money can buy to take on the sheriff. When a stranger rides in, townsfolk wonder if this is the rancher’s hired gun. Wherever he came from, wherever he’s going, two things are clear – the stranger won’t be pushed…and his aim is deadly.

Originally published in 2015 as a hardcover this story is based on a screenplay, The Saga of Caleb York, written by Mickey Spillane for his friend John Wayne around 1959. It never made it to film due to Wayne’s production company struggling due to the losses his film The Alamo made. You can read much more about this, and how Max Allan Collins came to turn the screenplay into a novel at the beginning of the book. Collins is perhaps best known for his graphic novel Road to Perdition which inspired the Oscar winning film starring Paul Newman and Tom Hanks, 

Collins has written a book that is extremely readable. Due to when the screenplay was written you can easily imagine it as a film from the 1960’s or perhaps the 1970’s. Having said that Collins has adapted it so it doesn’t appear dated. Occasionally it has the feel of one of those hard-hitting detective films full of tough men and equally as hard women that Spillane wrote about in his Mike Hammer novels. All this, and some fairly graphic violence, mix perfectly to result in a top class western read that should please all fans of the genre.

There’s a couple of neat twists, and some great mystery surrounding the Stranger’s identity, surely he is Banion, the man who killed Caleb York? Sheriff Gauge, a lightning fast gun himself doesn’t care who the Stranger is, just knows he’s a man to be got rid of in any way possible. The Stranger also has two women to deal with but can the fact that he is a killer be overcome by one of them so her true feeling can emerge?

For the seasoned western reader the plot falls under the banner of traditional but there’s nothing wrong with that, especially as I’ve already said the book is so well written by Max Allan Collins that it is a pleasure to read. So much so that I am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Big Showdown, that is already available as a hardcover and is due out in paperback next March.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Lakota Justice

By Will DuRey
Crowood Press, August 2016

The stagecoach from the north has failed to arrive in the small settlement of Laramie, and when two men ride in fresh from a fight in the southern long-grass country, the inhabitants begin to fear that the rumoured unrest among the Sioux following the discovery of gold in the Black Hills has become reality. Their concerns are relayed to the nearby fort, where visiting wagon-train scout Wes Gray agrees to join an army patrol party sent to find the missing coach. Although doubtful that the Sioux have begun hostilities, he is compelled to investigate the matter for the safety of those travelling west in the nearby wagons, but the discovery of an empty coach is only the first step along a trail which includes murder, kidnapping and inter-tribal warfare, and subjects Wes to extremes of personal violence and humiliation.

This is the third in the Wes Gray series, a fourth is due out in November of this year. It is the first I’ve read about this scout but not the first book I’ve read by Will DuRey.

Not having realized the book was part of a series I found that the story read well as a stand-alone tale. What I took to be fleshing out of Wes Gray’s back story I can now see would be told in greater detail in the earlier books, and my enjoyment of this one certainly has me wanting to read those first two.

Fast moving and action packed, and including a number of how-will-he-get-out-of-that situations such as the humiliation and torture that Gray endures, the story definitely holds the readers’ attention from beginning to end.

DuRey has created a great set of characters in all the races you’ll encounter in this book, be they good or bad, male or female. When justice is delivered it could mean grave consequences for those left alive and Gray has to think fast for a solution that won’t see the plains erupt in an all-out bloodbath.

Once more Will DuRey has left me feeling thoroughly entertained and looking forward to his next book, which just happens to be the next in the Wes Gray series and that’s a story I’m looking forward to reading.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Bloody Trail to Redemption

By Paxton Johns
Crowood Press, August 2016

English aristocrat Born Gallant is riding to Dodge City to meet up with old friends, when he is attacked and left to die. Initially relieved when rescued by a lawman and his posse, Gallant’s fortunes take a turn for the worse when his apparent rescuers accuse him of murder. A witness has sworn that he saw him stab the Kansas senator, and it seems certain that Gallant will hang for a murder he did not commit.

Gallant’s old friends newspaperman Stick McCrae and lawyer Melody Lake are able to rescue him from his predicament, but disaster after disaster befall the trio as it becomes increasingly apparent that several people want him dead. A web of political intrigue and vengeance is uncovered, but will Gallant be able to unmask the true murderer before he himself becomes a victim?

This is the third book to feature Born Gallant and although it is a self-contained story it does reveal a lot about what has happened in the previous stories, so it may be worthwhile tracking those down and reading them before this one. Whichever choice you make I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Paxton Johns is a thinly disguised pseudonym used by John Paxton Sheriff for this series about Born Gallant. I’ve been a fan of Sheriff’s work for a long time (he writes under a fistful of other names too) and always enjoy his twisting plots that offer plenty of surprises.

This book grips from the opening scenes and will have you struggling to work out what is going on along with Gallant and his two companions. Every time they seem to be getting somewhere someone else pops up with a gun, a threat of jail, or a comment that destroys their theories. All this makes for a very entertaining read that left me hoping we haven’t seen the last of Born Gallant even though the last paragraph of the story perhaps hints that we have.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Hounds of Hate

By David Robbins
Mad Hornet Publishing, July 2016

The feud between the Shannon family and the Harkey clan continues. Chace and Cassie Shannon head to New Orleans to put the bloodshed behind them. But the Harkeys have other ideas, and bring along a pack of bloodhounds trained to kill to track the twins down. 

Brought to bay hundreds of miles from their kin, Chace and Cassie must rely on their wits and each other if they’re to survive the vicious hounds of hate.

Way back in October 2010 Signet published a book by David Robbins called Blood Feud, this story introduced us to Chace and Cassie Shannon and told of their blood feud with the Harkey clan. Although this was a great stand-alone novel it did leave the way open for a sequel and that has finally happened with the publication of Hounds of Hate.

The story begins where the previous book finished with Chace and Cassie and their followers heading into New Orleans. Chace has a plan but keeps everyone in the dark about it, something I’m going to do too so as not to spoil this aspect of the tale.

The book contains plenty of action that often comes without warning and in one case proving how cold and vicious Chace can be. Dialogue is believable and often had me laughing out loud, as did some of the antics of Tallulah, a young girl who is one of the Shannon gang, with her dreams of marrying Chace someday, making her fiercely protective of him, much to the astonishment of others and Chace in particular. 

David Robbins switches from character to character regularly and often leaves them in peril at a chapter end encouraging you to keep reading. The story flows smoothly towards its final showdown between Chase, Cassie and the Harkey’s that have trailed them to New Orleans, the hounds giving a viciously deadly twist to this last gunfight.

Everything concludes neatly and satisfactorily but, like before, the story does leave the way open for another book. Let’s hope David Robbins doesn’t keep us waiting quite so long to find out what happens next.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Hard Ride to Glory

By Harry Jay Thorn
Crowood Press, August 2016

Griffin Boone is happy in his Wyoming valley; he has his Arrowhead ranch, his close friends, a good stock of cattle and a job as a part time deputy sheriff in the county of Liberty. Boone has ridden through the battlefields of the Civil War, served throughout with John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade, he has survived the horror of battle and found peace and solitude with a woman and a shared past. That long-ago trail they once unknowingly rode draws them ever closer together until their lives are threatened by Heck Thomas and his outlaw crew of gunfighters and vagabond thieves. Ride with Boone from the peaceful town of Liberty to the ruins of Glory, a ghost town in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains where past meets present in a blaze of gunfire. Griffin Boone is a quiet, unassuming man, a gentleman – but make no mistake, you cross him at your peril….

Harry Jay Thorn takes the unusual approach of writing this story in both the first and third person point of view. Thorn blends the two types of storytelling so smoothly I hardly noticed the switch from one to the other.

Most of the characters are likeable in some way, and that includes Thomas’ outlaw band – I did say most as it’s one of them, Huck Flynn who is the odd one out and it will be him who causes all the problems, including a falling-out among the outlaws that will see Boone determined to bring them to justice.

The book contains plenty of fast, bloody action and a few surprises too, including one at the end of the final showdown.

Harry Jay Smith is one of a number of pseudonyms Chris Adam Smith uses, alongside his real name, for writing his Black Horse Westerns and my collection contains quite of few of them. On the strength of this book I think it’s time I dug out some more of his work.

Black Horse Westerns are now available as both hardbacks and ebooks.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Quarter to Midnight

By Ned Oaks
Crowood Press, July 2016

Steve Karner was attacked one night in the woods outside Stayton, Oregon. Beaten nearly to death and thrown in the river, he hadn’t been seen in years, and everyone assumed he was dead. But then the men who tried to kill him started dying, one by one, and it soon became apparent that Karner was not only alive, but riding a vengeance trail that wouldn’t end until he had found the mastermind behind the attempted murder.

There are many dangers to be faced along the way, however – a tough town marshal who wants the truth, a cunning young millionaire who will use all his family’s power to protect his secrets, and a cold-blooded hired killer who’s been paid a very tidy sum to kill Steve Karner. It all comes together in a brutal final showdown in which the truth is revealed…and only one man is left standing.

This is Ned Oaks second Black Horse Western and the first I’ve read.

Filled with well thought out characters the motives that drive them had me hooked immediately as did the desire to discover just why Karner had been attacked. Karner’s vengeance on those who beat him and threw him in the river is dealt with fairly quickly making the reader wonder where the rest of the story will go.

With Karner in jail and a killer closing in the already fast pace of the story shifts up a gear and the book becomes very difficult to put down. Tension, more deaths, swift gun action, and a great twist leading to a final confrontation brings the book to an exciting ending.

On finishing this story I found myself wishing I’d read Ned Oaks’ previous book, The Drygulch Trail, but finding a copy of that can wait as I already have his third book, Rimrock Renegade, that has been published by Crowood this month and I will certainly be reading that as soon as I can.

If you’d like to find out more about Ned Oaks you can read an interview with him here.

In case you missed it, Black Horse Westerns are now available as ebooks as well as hardbacks.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Bloody Wyoming

BLAZE #12:
By John Hegenberger
Rough Edges Press, July 2016

All J.D. Blaze wanted to do was celebrate his wife Kate’s birthday, but when you’re the Old West’s only pair of husband-and-wife gunfighters, trouble is never far away. A savage attack and a dangerous injury not only threaten Kate Blaze’s life, she also finds herself a captive of twisted killers and unsure of her own identity. But J.D. will battle with his wits, a pair of rock-hard fists, and a blazing .45 to find Kate and free her before it’s too late! 

This is the first book I’ve read in this series and it’s the first written by John Hegenberger. Blaze was launched to fill the gap left by the now finished Longarm, Slocum and The Trailsman series, and like them is written by a variety of authors, but here the writers name is on the cover rather than hidden behind a pseudonym. Like those three much missed series the Blaze books have adult content as the cover states.

Not having read any of the previous books I don’t know how well John Hegenberger has captured the characters of J.D. Blaze and Kate. Kate isn’t in this one that much, it’s more about J.D. and his attempts to free her from her captors. J.D. also allows his temper to drive his actions which will see him follow false leads and get into numerous deadly scrapes.

Adult westerns often offer the reader well thought out, entertaining action-packed reads and this book certainly falls into that category. The sexual content sandwiches the main story and can easily be skipped if you don’t really go for that part of this kind of story without spoiling the rest of the yarn.

On the strength of this tale I think it’s time I caught up on the previous books. I’m not sure why I haven’t already done so as there are some great authors working on this series which looks set to run until at least the end of 2017 with book 13: Night Riders by Michael Newton being released at the beginning on September.

Available as both print and ebook.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Mexican

By Lee Clinton
The Crowood Press, July 2016

Frank Nester is a small time criminal who manages to pull off an almost faultless railroad robbery, except for a burnt hand when he grips a stovepipe to steady himself. This injury points to his presence in the mail car and sees him taken into custody. But luck is on his side and the jury find him not guilty, much to the annoyance of special agent Rodney D. Dodd. So when an almost exact duplication of the robbery occurs two years later for a haul of cash that is nearly forty times greater, Dodd sets his sights on Frank. However, this crime includes a killing. A Mexican jeweller by the name of Don DeLuca, who was travelling in the first class compartment, was hit by a stray shot. Dodd says it’s murder and that Frank should hang. Frank knows he had nothing to do with the heist. So who did? And what has happened to the body of Don DeLuca?

Lee Clinton has certainly come up with an excellent story that offers plenty of twists and turns as Frank begins to piece together who did the crime he has spent years in prison for. Frank will be helped by his old partner and his lady. In fact it is this lady, Sarah, who is the driving force behind Frank’s attempts to solve the mystery of the robbery, killing, and missing body.

Sarah seems to know all the questions they need to find the answers for and when Frank asks her how she knows this, her answer put a big grin on my face and knocks Frank’s confidence in her a little. I’m not going to spoil her reply here, you’ll have to read the book yourself if you want to know.

As each lead throws up more puzzles, and a major breakthrough seems to present itself, only to die in front of them before revealing the answers they were hoping for, you have to wonder if the mystery of the robbery will ever be solved.

Throughout the story Lee Clinton inserts little clues and red-herrings that’ll make you think you’ve worked out the who and why but then you’ll find yourself changing you mind again and again.

The story builds extremely well to a final bloody confrontation the ties up all the story-threads and once again left me looking forward to Lee Clinton’s next book.

Some of you may have noticed that the Black Horse Western line is no longer published by Robert Hale and are now being published by The Crowood Press. Crowood are now publishing all these books as ebooks too.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Strong Suspicions

By GP Hutchinson
The Hutchinson Group LLC, March 2016

After pursuing a cold-blooded murderer all the way to Nevada, Texas Ranger Emmett Strong is returning home to San Antonio—but not alone. He’s found a girl he longs to marry. Finding someone to tie the knot for them is proving to be a challenge, however, owing to the fact that she's the daughter of Chinese immigrants. 

Along the way, there's a ruckus in El Paso's Wild Hog Saloon, and by noon the next day, folks are convinced it was Emmett and his compadres who robbed the saloon owner and beat him unconscious. They want Emmett on the end of a rope. 

Meanwhile, a bested enemy, set on revenge, hires the notorious fast gun "Three-Finger" Ned Cage to dispatch Strong, his amigos, and even his girl. 

When the only way out of trouble is to head smack-dab back into the middle of it—beautiful young woman in tow—a cool-headed pistolero like Emmett Strong becomes a force to be reckoned with. But will the vicious array of enemies prove to be too much this time, even for Strong?

GP Hutchinson once again comes up with the goods in this, his second Emmett Strong western. It begins shortly after the last book ended and continues the threads left hanging at that books conclusion. Once again the theme of racial prejudice plays an important role throughout the story and Hutchinson puts this over well. If that isn’t enough of a problem for Strong he also has to try and clear his name of robbery and then there are those coming gunning for him he doesn’t know about. All these storylines grab the readers’ attention effortlessly making sure you’ll continue turning the pages.

“Three-Finger” Ned Cage is a well thought out character who proves to be an excellent adversary for Strong. If you want to know why he’s called “Three-Finger” you’ll have to find out by reading the book.

Although this book can be read, and enjoyed as a self-contained novel it might be advantageous to read the earlier book, Strong Convictions, first so you know exactly how the characters came to be in the position you find them in at the start of this one.

On reaching the final page I was once again left looking forward to discovering what GP Hutchinson has in store for Strong in the next book of the series.

GP Hutchinson recently won the Western Fictioneers 2016 Peacemaker Award for Best First Novel (Strong Convictions).

Friday, 17 June 2016

Wanted: A Western Story Collection

By The Western Writers Group
Solstice Publishing, April 2016

Seven bestselling western authors join forces in the time-honored tradition of the old West to deliver a collection of short stories featuring their most popular and beloved characters. Read about the adventures of Steve Dancy, Gideon Johann, Shad Cain, Lee Mattingly, the McCabes, Hunt-U.S. Marshal, and Jess Williams.

These seven authors are all having a lot of success with their various western series. This collection is the perfect way to introduce yourself to some of their heroes in a set of short stories that haven’t been published elsewhere.

I’ve read a couple of these writers before, most notably Tell Cotten and it was the inclusion of his story about Lee Mattingly, from his excellent Landon Saga series, that made this collection a must read for me and for readers of that series you really need to read this as we discover something about one of the main characters that may be returned to in the series.

It is also quite amazing when you realize just how many books some of these writers have put out, for instance there are around forty Jess Williams stories by Robert J. Thomas.

At least one of the stories seems to continue quiet closely to events in the main series but the author in question gives just enough explanation so a new reader isn’t confused by events mentioned.

I’ve always believed this kind of short story collection is a great way to find new and exciting authors and this group of writers doesn’t disappoint in any way. There’s plenty of action, suspense and humour to be found within the pages and that makes for a winning combination in my opinion. I’m pretty sure most western readers will find some, if not all, these stories to be worthwhile reads and who knows, may also find themselves a new series or two to catch up on like I intend doing.

The Grizzly by Brad Dennison
Cain Finds a Princess by Lou Bradshaw
The Mirror by Tell Cotten
The Shepherd by Robert J. Thomas
The Vigilante by W.L. Cox
Snake in the Grass by James D. Best
A Step Ahead by Duane Boehm

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Forgiveness Trail

By Brent Larssen
The Crowood Press, May 2016

After spending forty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Ezekiel Cartwright has just one thing on his mind: he sets out to track down the men who set him up and then tell them, before he dies, that he has forgiven them.

So begins one of the strangest stories of the old West; the tale of a man who set out on the forgiveness trail. Cartwright finds that forgiving the men proves a lot harder than he could have guessed and, before it is all over, he has been compelled to take up a gun again and deal with the sons of the men who so cruelly wronged him all those years ago.

This is the first Black Horse Western I have read that carries the author name Brent Larssen but it is not the first I have read by Simon Webb who writes behind the Larssen pseudonym and a number of others. That I have read other westerns by this writer and still read one when I can confirms the fact that I find his work entertaining and this book is perhaps the best so far.

The idea of such a badly wronged man riding to forgive those who set him up is an interesting hook by itself but the author soon has you wondering just what the sons of the men Cartwright is seeking are up to which adds another intriguing story thread to this fast moving tale.

We find out just how Cartwright ended up in prison through a series of flashbacks told through not only Cartwright but the outlaws too during which we witness double-cross and some vicious killings.

Cartwright’s trail doesn’t quite follow the path he expects and offers a couple of surprises, not least one about Cartwright himself.

All the story threads come together in one final bloody gunfight that resolves everything neatly and perhaps not how every reader would expect and that can only add strength to this excellent tale.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Stories Along...The Hungry Trail

By Christine Matthews
Western Fictioneers, February 2016

A frontier con man who claims he can raise the dead...a prisoner desperate to escape from the hellhole of Yuma Prison...a legendary Texas Ranger...a famous gunfighter and peace officer turned newspaperman...a family that's both dangerous and strange...

Stories Along…The Hungry Trail is a collection of eight short stories, all of which have previously been published in a variety of western anthologies. Now these tales have all been brought together in one excellent collection with a change of author name – real to pseudonym. I’d read two or three of these stories before and on the strength of those I was looking forward to reading the others.

Whilst reading these extremely well written tales it soon became evident that most of these stories revolved around graves – raising the dead from them, witnessing burials and remembering how the dead came to be in them, digging into them to steal from the remains and offering an idea on how the dead filling the many graves marking endless trails came to be there.

Filled with fascinating characters these stories provide gripping reading and even though I’m not normally a fan of cross-genre tales I really enjoyed the two that combined western and supernatural elements, one of which was possibly my favourite in the whole collection.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the cross on the front cover inscribed with the name Tanner Moody, and for those who have read the book The Funeral of Tanner Moody (written by a variety of different authors) you might like to know that two of the stories in this collection feature him.

The Resurrection Man – previously published in Best of the Midwest 1993
The Tailor of Yuma – previously published in Tin Star 2002
Planting Lizzie Palmer – previously published in Boot Hill 2002
Don’t Never Fall in Love with No Whore – previously published in Guns of the West 2002
The Last of the Ranger Chieftains – previously published in Texas Rangers 2003
Poor Ole Moody – previously published in The Funeral of Tanner Moody 2004
The Hungry Trail – previously published in Six-Guns and Slay Bells 2013
Odds on a Lawman – previously published in Livin’ on Jacks and Queens 2014

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Terror in Tombstone

By Paul Bedford
Crowood Press, May 2016

Former lawman Rance Toller and his lover Angie Sutter foil a stagecoach robbery just outside the frontier settlement of Tombstone, Arizona, and in the process capture the notorious gunfighter Johnny Ringo.

As a result, Rance is persuaded to accept the vacant position of town marshal, formerly held by one of the famous Earp brothers. Unfortunately, he soon falls foul of the Big Silver mining operators led by E.B. Gage, who want the law on their own terms.

With the dubious help of his new friend, Doc Holliday, Rance has to fight for his life against Gage’s ruthless enforcers, as well as take on a band of murderous cattle rustlers and the vengeful Ringo, who has escaped a jail cell with mysterious ease. It is not long before brutal bloody violence explodes on the streets of Tombstone.

Paul Bedford combines both real and fictional characters in this, the third, book of his to feature Rance Toller and Angie Sutter, the others being The Devil’s Work and The Outlaw Trail. The inclusion of people who really lived is not something new in Paul Bedford’s work as most, if not all, of his seven Black Horse Westerns have also had roles for them too. What I like about this one, is that Rance has no idea who Ringo, the Earps, or Doc Holliday are and is certainly not in awe of their reputations.

Ringo’s attempt at getting revenge for being captured and jailed by Rance sees an escalation in violence as Toller’s life becomes a mission to bring Ringo down. The town of Tombstone will erupt as dynamite and bullets fly almost non-stop making this an action-packed story.

Terror in Tombstone is a fast-paced read that thoroughly entertains and leaves me looking forward to Paul Bedford’s next book, The Deadly Shadow, due out in August.

Sunday, 22 May 2016


By Tell Cotten
Solstice Publishing, April 2016

When Rondo Landon discovers his wife has been taken captive during a daring Indian raid, he’s determined to find her. April Gibson is also taken, and the Landons, Lee Mattingly, and others take out after them. 

Along the way, they encounter someone from the Landon’s past, a war chief out for blood, a thunderstorm, relationships, and tough decisions.

Once again Tell Cotten has written a very difficult to put down book. Split into a number of different parts and told in the third person Tell Cotten often switches between the various characters, more often than not leaving them in a dangerous situation that will ensure you keep reading.

The previous books have always had very strong female roles and this continues that tradition with Rachel Landon and April Gibson having to find hidden strengths to survive being kidnapped by the Apaches. The why is something the Landon men will have to struggle to understand but of course this is less important than getting their women back.

Lee Mattingly will also have to fight another battle, that of admitting his love for April and having to compete with another posse member, Jeremiah Wisdom, for her heart – if they succeed in getting her back alive.

Tell Cotten fills the book with action, be it gunplay or a deadly storm that produces some life-threatening flooding. Dialogue is believable and often laced with humour. There’s also a couple of neat twists, not least the introduction of a new Landon family member – but can he be trusted?

Like the earlier stories this one can be read as a stand-alone novel as the author includes enough information on what has gone before to fill new readers in on the events that continue those begun in previous books. To really appreciate all the relationships and past struggles I would very much suggest you read the whole series in order.

In my opinion Tell Cotten is right up there with the very best western authors writing today, or in the past, and I am really looking forward to book nine in the series.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Tell Slash B Hell's A'Comin'

By Elliot Long
Crowood Press, April 2016

Mort Basset – the powerful owner of the Slash B ranch – thinks he and his men have got away with the killing of the Cadman family, when the corrupt Broken Mesa court finds them not guilty. But Basset and his men sound find that this is not to be. The men involved in the murders begin to be hanged or shot dead by an unseen avenger, and they soon find that the man they are after is a deal cleverer then they anticipated, and the killings continue. Where will it end?

I’ve only read a handful of Elliot Long’s thirty plus Black Horse Westerns and I’ve enjoyed them all. Tell Slash B Hell’s A’Comin’ certainly enforces my thoughts that Elliot Long is a writer worth taking the time to read.

The story begins with the Slash B dealing out what they see as range justice, even though their foreman, Jim Alston, tries to stop the killing and also fails to stop the murder of the rest of the Cadman family. Elliot Long then introduces a handful of other characters, all of whom are sickened by the fact that the court finds the Slash B crew not guilty of murder, and you’ll soon be wondering if one of them is the person avenging the Cadman’s deaths.

Elliot Long sure knows how to pace a story and I soon found myself unable to put the book down because of my desire to find out who the mystery killer was. The story is mainly told through Jim Alston but does occasionally switch to one or two of the other characters, such a lawman Talbot Dixon who’s doing his best to stop the assassination of the Slash B crew yet also seems to think, and support the fact, that they are getting nothing more than they deserve. Of course this line of thinking causes friction amongst the posse members which is a mix of townsfolk and Slash B riders.

As you read the story you might think you’ve worked out how the tale is going to end and it’s there that Elliot Long springs the biggest surprise of the tale that left me cursing and grinning and nodding in satisfaction that the book just couldn’t end any other way could it?

If you get the opportunity to read this book then don’t hesitate to do so and once you’ve finished it, like me, I'm sure you’ll be left eager to read more of Elliot Long’s work.