Saturday, 27 May 2017

Massacre at Red Rock

By Jack Martin
The Crowood Press, May 2017

Liberty Jones is tired of war – he fought hard in the Civil War, saw great suffering and endured much himself. Now all he wants is to be left in peace, but trouble has a way of finding him. He rides into the town of Red Rock to escape a marauding tribe of Indians, but any hopes of safety he may have held are soon dispelled. For the town is under military command and facing a gathering of great Indian tribes who are determined to drive the people from the town and reclaim their land.

Liberty, along with a rag tag band of townspeople, must face impossible odds and soon blood will run deep in the streets of Red Rock.

Massacre at Red Rocks is a very fast paced book that is more or less filled with non-stop action as the mix of Indian tribes launch attack after attack on the town. There are brief explanations as to why the military won’t give up Red Rocks and why the Indians are so determined to destroy the town.

Jones is at first at odds with Captain Roberts but this soon becomes a grudging respect as the fighting ability of Jones becomes apparent to the soldier. There are one or two lighter moments amidst the carnage, such as when Jones and the English gambler, Sinclair, get arrested. This leads to the pair meeting an old-timer in jail which gives birth to the tales' sub-plot.

There are a couple of tips of the hat towards favourites of the author, such as naming the English gambler Lord Simon Sinclair – a mix of names of two of Roger Moore’s famous television characters, Simon Templar (The Saint) and Lord Brett Sinclair from The Persuaders. Knowing that Jack Martin is also a massive fan of the third Edge book, Apache Death, by George G. Gilman, there are certainly nods of the head to that story too. All of this added to my enjoyment of the story.

Jack Martin is a pseudonym used by Gary Dobbs, and he has certainly come up with a very entertaining tale that should satisfy all of us who like stories packed with action.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Borrachón

By Kevin Cullen
Ulysses Media, November 2016

Borrachón is a prequel to the Rio Bravo story, a 1959 film directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne as Sherriff John T. Chance, Dean Martin as Dude (Borrachón) and Walter Brennan as Stumpy.

Kevin Cullen first novel fills in the background to the main characters of Rio Bravo in a very entertaining story. John T. Chance doesn’t have a very large role to play in this fast moving tale that revolves around a cattle drive to provide Stumpy with much needed funds to pay his ranch off. Of course someone doesn’t want that to happen and there’s a lot of violent action as hired guns attempt to stop the drive.

The other main thread of the book follows Dude’s fall from grace as a first class deputy and his new dependence on alcohol which leads to his new name of Borrachón.

Cullen also injects some humorous scenes to lighten the darker elements of his story.

If you’re a fan of the film Rio Bravo or just well told western tales then this is certainly a book you should consider reading, and if you do, I think you’ll be joining me in wanting to watch the movie again to remind yourself of what happens next.


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Way of the Lawless

By P. McCormac
The Crowood Press, April 2017

Butch Shilton and Joe Peters are on the run and think to hide out in a quiet township. The sheriff comes across them on a wanted poster and once again they have to hightail it. Trouble seems to follow the pals and they end up in the confines of the brutal Los Pecos penitentiary. Breaking out they flee over the border into Mexico only to fall foul of the notorious bandit Barca.

They recruit a bunch of escaped convicts to fight Barca only to find they have made a pact with one pack of devils to fight another pack of devils. On top of that the prison guards are out scouring the countryside for the escapees. With enemies closing in on all sides there is nowhere to run. Could this be the end of the trail for Butch and Joe?

Since The Crowood Press took over the publication of Black Horse Westerns from Hale I’ve noticed that many of the books now list not only the previous output of the author but also list the books they've written under different pseudonyms and this is one of those. P. McCormac is the author’s real name and I also discovered he’s written under a few different names too. Even more surprising is that I have never read any of his books whatever the name on the cover.

Butch Shilton and Joe Peters are a very likeable couple of lead characters that often squabble with each other. This, along with their descriptions and fighting with their fists as much as their guns, brought to mind that great Spaghetti western duo Trinity and Bambino and that for me was a very welcome. As the story progressed and Shilton and Peters rounded up small group of convicts to take on Barca to help a small Mexican village as much as for their own revenge I started to think this book was going to be another take on The Magnificent Seven, but I needn’t have worried as no sooner did I have this thought than McCormac added a twist and the tale headed off in its own direction.

The story is filled with action, excellent dialogue and terrific descriptions – particularly of fist fights, so I’ll finish by saying this has to be a book that I believe most fans of westerns should enjoy. 


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Hang Them Slowly

By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, November 2016

Vance Brewster is a hardworking young cowboy. Stovepipe Stewart and Wilbur Coleman are two new ranch hands working at his side. And all three are caught up in a brewing, trigger-happy Montana range war between the Rafter M and Three Rivers. Then the fury suddenly explodes – in a hail of gunfire the three men must show their hands; they’re all hiding their true identities. 

With Vance falling in love with the daughter of the Three Rivers manager, and Stovepipe and Wilbur paid by a tycoon who needs the violence to stop, all three are in mortal danger.
Their real enemies are hiding true identities of their own – and they’re not nice men. The body count is about to go sky high . . . and Stovepipe and Wilbur would prefer not to be on top of the pile.

This is the second book in the new Range Detectives series from the Johnstone’s that follows the undercover work of two cowboys who get paid to find trouble – and to risk their lives to stomp it out. By any means necessary. I’ve not read the first as this series isn’t available in the UK yet, a friend bought this copy for me whilst on a trip to America.

Stovepipe and Wilbur make for an engaging pair of heroes. Stovepipe seems to be the thinker of the two and keeps most of his thoughts to himself until he’s sure he’s right about his assumptions. This causes a bit of friction as Wilbur doesn’t like to be kept in the dark. But the true strength of their friendship comes to the fore when it’s believed Stovepipe has been killed.

Trying to stop a brewing range war isn’t easy when one side is led by a man who believes the only answer is to deal with things by force. Seeing how Stovepipe and Wilbur tackle this problem makes for fascinating reading, and when it’s backed by the mystery of who Vance Brewster really is the book becomes impossible to put down.

Filled with great characters, a gripping storyline that offers plenty of surprise and lots of action, I’d say this book should be enjoyed by all western fans. Me? I’m looking forward to the day I can get hold of others in this series as I’d like to read more about the Range Detectives.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

From the Vineyards of Hell

By Harry Jay Thorn
The Crowood Press, April 2017

When ex lawman Captain Joshua Beaufort, late of Hood’s Texas Brigade, marches clear of the hell that was Gettysburg he has no intention whatsoever of any further engagement in the Civil War; he has, in his own words, killed enough Yankees. But the war has not finished with the Confederate captain and, captured by Union troops, he is given a choice – help to end the war on their terms or spend the rest of it in a prisoner-of-war camp. Colonel Horatio Vallance and the mysterious E.J. Allen persuade him it is in his best interests to cooperate with the North. So, in company with and under the watchful eye of young Corporal Benbow, Beaufort returns to his home state of Texas to old loves, old friends and old enemies. His task, to bring back the head of Buford Post, a notorious warmonger and gunrunner who is in possession of 300 stolen Henry repeating rifles….

A book that is mainly told in the first person, occasionally switching to the third when dealing with events that don’t include the main character, is not that common in Black Horse Westerns. Even less so is the fact that this story is set during the American Civil War and the opening sequences feature the horrors of Manassas and Gettysburg.

Like many books that deal with war this one throws up a few questions about the futility of it all. This includes the mission Beaufort finds himself on, that of trying to retrieve the stolen rifles so the Confederates can’t kill Union soldiers with them so they can then be used by the latter to kill the former. Whichever way round it is it’ll all lead to a waste of life, as is said in a discussion about what will happen to the rifles if Beaufort succeeds in getting them back from the gunrunners, “Does it really matter that much who gets the rifles, the North or the South? They will still kill hundreds of men.”

Harry Jay Thorn tells his tale at a great pace, his descriptions of battle quite graphic at times. Beaufort is not a man without faults, and we even begin to wonder about his motives through a suggestion by a secondary character. Beaufort is also a likeable lead which is good as I’ve seen comment that this book is the first in a new series to feature Joshua Beaufort and if the future books are as good as this one than that is one series I’m looking forward to reading.


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.