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