Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Trailsman #5

as by Jon Sharpe
Signet, February 1981

When a pistol-packing blonde beauty pegged Skye Fargo, the Trailsman, as a hired gunslinger out to get her uncle’s foreman, it was draw first and ask questions later. Yet by the time he’d tamed the gorgeous young spitfire enough to convince her she was wrong, Fargo was trapped into hunting down the desperadoes who were killing her uncle’s men and stealing his cargo from the riverboats.

Lured on by the loving promise of double pleasure from the gloriously golden Amber and her voluptuous, raven-haired sister, April, Fargo had no choice but to ride a river of treachery, where every bend hid another bushwhacker thirsting for his blood…

Jon Sharpe throws so many questions at the reader that it is almost impossible to put this book down until discovering the answers, many of which will only be found out at the end.

The author (who I believe is series originator Jon Messman) places suspicion on just about every character in the book, as to who is behind the plot to put Sam Fuller out of business. And when you think you’re getting close to working it out the writer slips another twist into the tale to keep you guessing.

It’s also interesting to see the differences in this early entry in the series and the books being published today; for instance it isn’t mentioned that Fargo wears buckskins, the Ovaro is referred to as the pinto nearly all the time, and all the women seem to be there just for Fargo’s pleasure.

So in conclusion this is a well written, tough, fast moving, action filled book that should provide gripping reading for all Trailsman fans.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Joe Blade

as by Matt Chisholm
Panther, May 1959

Joe Blade had two passions in life: Sarah, and his horses. Joe and Sarah were the kind of people who started a legend on the flaming frontier of the Old West; Joe was a man who stuck to his word, while Sarah was a woman who stuck to her man.

When someone from her past was crazy enough to touch her and Joe’s horses, it was the beginning of a long and relentless search. Joe was a man who did not know what it was to give up, especially when he was riding in company with Pierre Duclos, the greatest scout the West ever knew.

Joe searched for his horses, his enemies, and for justice. And he found them all.

Matt Chisholm wrote this book in the first person, but not from just one person’s point of view. The book is divided into four parts with the first and last sections being told through the voice of Sarah Blade, the second part through Joe Blade and the third portion as Pierre Duclos. This way of telling the story helps make the book stand-out from any others I’ve read for a long time.

The book is filled with action from beginning to end that makes for some edge of the seat reading, as it often seems impossible for Chisholm’s heroes to survive the dangerous predicaments they find themselves in. And it’s during one of these gunfights, early on, that Chisholm cripples the main hero of the book, Joe Blade, which results in him losing a leg. For a horseman this is devastating, and how this loss of limb is overcome proves to be one of the strong points of the story.

Chisholm’s descriptions of action and landscape are superbly told, you can see events unfold before your eyes, share his characters fears, desperations, and jubilations. You can feel the cold, the heat, and taste the dust. Feel the tension in such life threatening situations as attempting to trade for ponies with Indians.

As the story’s circular path returned to where it began, to finish with yet another brutally savage fight that tied all the plot threads up neatly, I realized I’d once more really enjoyed a book by Matt Chisholm (author Peter Watts), and must again recommend this writer to all fans of the western.

Note: In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Matt Chisholm had a series of twelve books published called Blade, about a man called Joe Blade. At first I thought all these books were about the same man, now I’m not so sure, as the time periods don’t fit, and the series hero has two legs.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Guns of Virtue

as by Peter Wilson
A Black Horse Western from Hale
March 2009

The brutal murder of his lawman father and the memory of a younger brother’s decline into a life of lawlessness set Adam Wade on a quest for revenge on the man he holds responsible. The search takes him to the town of Virtue where the man he is hunting, rich ranch owner Hal Kember, is a pillar of society and a future state governor.

But just when he thinks his search is over and vengeance is his, Adam becomes involved in a web of deceit and murder involving Kember’s beautiful wife, Laura, his errant son, Luke, and a group of stage robbers and killers. Now it will all end in a shoot-out that brings one last life-changing shock for Adam.

To my knowledge this is Peter Wilson’s first Black Horse Western, and what a debut it is. From the first killing, and subsequently watching the Wade family fall apart, which in turn leads to Adam Wade taking to the vengeance trail, the book moves along at an ever increasing pace. Even when the end of Wade’s quest seems to have arrived, Wilson throws in twists and turns that reveal some surprising revelations about many of the superbly drawn characters that this story revolves around. This all means Wade’s hunt hasn’t come to an end and the exposed secrets lead to more danger, deceit, and death, as men switch sides, double-cross each other, and plot for their survival.

Peter Wilson’s writing style is very easy to read, is fast paced, and his descriptions paint some vivid scenes. There’s plenty of action that builds to an exciting final shoot-out, that, although it’s not a surprise as to the identity of one of the characters, does provided a strong and emotional ending for Adam Wade.

If Peter Wilson’s further books are as good as this one then he’s definitely an author worth keeping an eye out for. His second book, Gannon’s Law, is due to be published in August 2009.

Guns of Virtue has a published date of March 31st 2009, so you’d best get your order in now if you want a copy as Black Horse Westerns do seem to sell out fast these days.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Die This Day

as by Dempsey Clay
A Black Horse Western from Hale, March 2009

When their troubled town found itself yet again without a peace officer to enforce the law, the citizens finally agreed on what must be done: forget the cost and risks involved and hire a town-tamer.

The famed marshal seemed to meet all their requirements – until the day gun hell erupted again.

The town looked confidently to their hero to deal with the trouble – while only the marshal himself realized that this town – and this adversary – might prove the one to put him in his grave.

Like the previous Dempsey Clay western I read this is a fast moving and action filled book as marshal Cord Ashton attempts to bring peace to Sugar Creek. Although he faces the usual problems of drunks, rowdy cowboys, and the local gamblers and wannabe gunfighters, Ashton has to face his own demons. Ashton was the law in Sugar Creek once before and left when he ran from his growing feelings for Barbara Kincaid. Barbara’s brother does not want this relationship to be renewed and will do anything to see it isn’t.

Dempsey Clay – author Paul Wheelahan – builds the mounting tension between Ashton and Stirling Kincaid superbly and writes some terrific exchanges of dialogue between the two. This is the plot thread that kept me hooked, eager to find out how all would be resolved, as Ashton doesn't want to have to kill Barbara's brother and face the consequences this could have on his relationship with Barbara.

Die This Day is published on March 31st – although it is possible to buy now through various internet booksellers – and if fast moving traditional westerns are your preferred reading choice then I suggest you get your order in now.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Wilderness #59

as by David Thompson

Leisure, March 2009

Nate and Winona King know the frontier is a dangerous place. Even more so for a family of runaway slaves. The Kings thought they had saved their new friends from the worst of their troubles, a gang of vicious slave hunters. But two of the hunters survived – and have hired a seasoned frontiersman and four killers to track the Kings and the runaways down. Nate and Winona continue to lead their party across the vast prairie to the far distant Rockies. Little do they realize that a pack of two-legged wolves are nipping at their heels…and that eventually the prairie will run red with blood.

This book continues a storyline begun in the previous entry in the Wilderness series, Cry Freedom.

David Thompson (David Robbins) hooks the reader from the word go, his superb use of cliff-hanger chapter and scene endings making it very difficult to put the book down. Not only do the King’s, and the family of slaves they are guiding to a new life, have to contend with a vicious pack of slave-hunters, they also have to deal with the added danger of the landscape and wildlife.

It’s the creatures that inhabit the wilderness that provided some of the most exciting moments in this story, both of Randa’s encounters with buffalo making for gripping reading.

David Thompson also reaches the reader’s emotions really well, as through all the family bickering and battles of wills, and the never-ending struggle for man and woman to understand each others way of thinking, comes a powerful sense of love, none stronger than that that sees Nate King become consumed by rage that leads to a savage and brutal killing spree.

Does the book have a happy ending for the King’s and the runaway slaves? I guess you’ll just have to read it and find that out for yourselves.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Abilene #4

as by Justin Ladd
Pocket Books – October 1988

On a day of searing heat and swirling dust, new settlers arrive in Abilene – dirt-poor farmers in covered wagons, determined to set down roots and make a living from the land. But in the Kansas cattle town that means trouble – angry ranchers, rash threats, and violence just around the bend.

Marshal Luke Travis and Deputy Cody Fisher are fighting a tide of barroom brawls and exploding hate. The farmers are strapping on six-guns to protect their women and their land. But one rancher has a cutthroat streak – and a band of outlaws in his pay. The masked riders strike hard and fast. They raid at night, aiming to kill. And two lawmen must face them in a brutal, final showdown!

There’s plenty going on in this book with various people who live in Abilene getting involved in the struggle to keep the peace between the farmers and the ranchers. Even though the reader thinks they know who is behind the troubles the author (James Reasoner writing as Justin Ladd) has a couple of twists waiting to turn these thoughts around.

For followers of this series most of the main characters you’ll have met in earlier books have a part to play as do some newcomers, such as the school teacher, who one hopes will return in later books. In fact this school teacher provides one of funnier moments in the book at the train station.

Like all great multi-character series many of the developing relationships between these people are left hanging to be carried on in the next books, particularly that of Marshal Travis and Aileen Bloom now that the school teacher may come between them.

I for one am looking forward to reading the next book in this series and if you’ve yet to try the Abilene series then may I suggest you do something about it soonest.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Linda Aksomitis Virtual Tour

by Linda Aksomitis

Coteau Books – 2008

Lucas Vogel is all alone after his parents die in the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. His older brother, Gil, shows up and wants to take Lucas to Montana to work on a cattle drive. And to look for their cousin, Henry, who might be able to give Lucas a home.

Lucas would rather read stories about outlaws and the detectives who trail them – Pinkerton Agents – than spend long days in the saddle in the choking dust of a cattle drive. But in the wild buttes of Montana and Canada’s Big Muddy he finds real outlaws and real danger when he runs into the Sundance Kid and his gang. Gil thinks his brother’s making it up to get attention. Will anyone believe Lucas? And will the boys ever find Cousin Henry?

This book is aimed at a juvenile readership and I think Linda Aksomitis has come up with a great tale to capture the imagination of the young reader. The book is very easy to read and the story moves forward at great speed.

As Lucas learns about being a cowboy, and riding a horse, so too does the reader, as Linda Aksomitis takes care to explain many of these lessons in detail. She also does this with historical information and that of the geography of the locations the story is set in. None of this comes across as a teacher speaking to a class, but it reads as a natural part of the story.

Lucas is a very easy character to relate to, he comes across superbly well as a little boy lost struggling to accept his new life, as we share his hopes, joy, sadness, his despair at not being believed when he tries to tell people about his encounter with the Sundance Kid, and his confusion at understanding right from wrong when getting back the stolen herd of horses.

Overall this book is an exciting and entertain story that should also teach younger readers about life as a cowboy and, hopefully, get them interested in reading more about the West.

As well as reviewing the book Linda has taken the time to answer some questions about Longhorns and Outlaws as part of her Virtual Tour.

Why did you decide to write a book aimed at juvenile readers and what age group would you say this book is targeting?

I've always loved children's literature -- both from my voracious appetite as a child reader, then through eleven years as a school librarian. My many years of experience with young readers showed me that children do the most reading once they reach longer chapter books, at around nine or so, and that's also a point where they love to exercise their imaginations and put themselves into adventures in other times and places. So, it seemed ideal to have my main character be twelve years old, as he'd appeal to these readers. On the other hand, many adults have read Longhorns and Outlaws and loved the story as well.

Why did you decide on the western genre as opposed to any other?

I grew up watching western movies at midnight with my dad -- it was a special "treat" on Saturday nights that my brothers and I were allowed to do, as long as we took a nap earlier in the evening. I loved the excitement and the adventure in those old black and white movies with John Wayne and Audie Murphy, and decided I'd someday write a western myself. Growing up on a horse ranch and marrying into a rodeo family also helped immensely!

How long did it take to write and did it involve a lot of research?

I spent three years writing Longhorns and Outlaws, during which time I did a lot of research, both travelling through the areas and reading related books and newspapers from the turn of the century. I was lucky to find various novels and nonfiction books written at the turn of the century by cowboys, free for download from Project Gutenberg on the Internet. The biggest block of research was a week long trip through Montana where I followed the Yellowstone River along the same course the cattle drive takes (the Interstate highway follows it now), stopping in various towns to visit museums, discover books by local authors, and talk to people.

How are you going about getting the books into the hands of young readers?

I started out celebrating the arrival of Longhorns and Outlaws with a book tour through Alberta, visiting schools in the heart of rodeo and cattle country in September of 2008. In the four days I talked to more than 1000 enthusiastic young people -- it was an amazing reception! I followed up with visits to another dozen public libraries and schools around Saskatchewan. Since then, I've been very lucky to have some great book reviews for Longhorns, and to have both the Appaloosa Horse Club of Canada and of the U.S. agree to review the book in their magazines. At Christmas, our largest Western Canadian bookstore, McNally Robinson Booksellers, recommended Longhorns and Outlaws in their seasonal catalogue, which was an amazing honor as they only list five books for this age group, and Longhorns was the lone Canadian book. During the virtual book tour I'm on now, I have stops with blogs, BlogTalkRadio, a virtual visit with a Texas classroom, and am a guest author chatting at the Institute of Children's Literature. I'm appearing in several conferences in spring 2009 too, so I have another exciting season coming up!

Have you had any feedback from younger readers and what do they think of the book?

Feedback has been very good! The local book launch in Qu'Appelle, where I live, had the library packed to standing room only. Of course, readers who have some experience or interest in horses have the most enthusiastic response, although many young readers -- including my grandson -- who have neither, have enjoyed Lucas's adventure.

Is Ebenezer based on a horse you owned?

Yes, Ebenezer's character is drawn, at least in part, from my first appaloosa horse, who was named Naomi. His coloring and speed, however, are based on his being a direct descendant of Chief Joseph's very famous appaloosa, Ebenezer. Chief Joseph, riding Ebenezer, led a small group of Nez Perce people across 1500 miles in four states with 2000 cavalry behind them, making it to about forty miles from Canada, before they were captured and forced to surrender. While Lucas doesn't discover Chief Joseph's story in this book, he will in a future book.

Are Appaloosa’s your favourite type of horse?

Yes, my family have raised appaloosa horses on the QAR Appaloosa Ranch for forty years, and I've been involved with the breed since I was about ten. Although I stopped riding after I was a teenager, I spent hours in the pastures taking photos for the ranch Web site for about five years while I was their Webmaster, and rediscovered my love of appaloosas.

Which authors have been an influence on your writing?

I taught myself to read before I started school, so read pretty well every book I could find during my early years. In the Western genre I devoured a great many Louis L'Amour titles, and in children's literature I always loved Madeline L'Engle, Elizabeth George Speare, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw's books as a young reader. Now, as an adult, I love the Airborn series by Kenneth Oppel, finding them a perfect blend of beautiful writing and page-turning suspense and adventure for young readers (and we young at heart readers).

Have you further plans to write more westerns aimed at this age group?

Yes, I'm currently completing a sequel for Longhorns and Outlaws, titled Kidnapped by Outlaws, which is based on a true incident in Southern Saskatchewan. My plans are to have several additional titles where Lucas runs into outlaws in other areas of Canada and the U.S. than where he currently is now, in Montana and Southern Saskatchewan. I'm still reading historical books from the period, looking for the outlaw story that appeals to me! I've developed a Web site for the series, which provides information, teacher's guides, and fun links at:
To read more about Linda’s work then check out these other stops on her Virtual Tour:
March 12th
March 18th
March 19th
Week March 16th to 20th

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Crow #1

as by James W. Marvin

Corgi – 1979

“Know what Crow used to say about livin’ by your guns? Said it made him like a kind of alchemist. Said he was the first man in history to turn lead into gold. Yeah. Meanest son of a bitch ever. Crow.”

No other name. Just Crow. Dressed in black from head to toe. The meanest man in the bullet-scarred annals of the West. Nobody ever turned their back on him. A cold voice in the shadows, a vengeful angel of death…

Time was when Crow was a Lieutenant in the Cavalry. A time when he rode against Crazy Horse and the Sioux. Commanded by Captain Silas Menges, a bloated, drunken obscenity of an individual. Even Menges’ beautiful, sensual wife, Angelina, couldn’t make up for the insults Crow took from him. No one crossed Crow and lived. No one…

The Crow series was written by the late Laurence James, one of the authors in the small group known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, who produced some of the most violent and brutally graphic westerns of their time. James perhaps writing the most twisted and sadistic books of them all.

With Crow, James created the coldest anti-hero than any of the others came up with. A man that is very hard to like, yet because of this becomes a fascinating character. How can anyone really like a man, who when we first meet him, kills a child’s pet dog in front of her simply because it took his scarf and the girl couldn’t get it back fast enough for him?

Even if Crow comes across as a heartless and vicious character then what of Silas Menges? The Captain is portrayed superbly and almost makes Crow seem like a warm and caring man. Menges’ foul mouth and demented beliefs soon having the reader hoping Crow kills him sooner rather than later.

Like many of the anti-heroes created by the Piccadilly Cowboys, Crow carries unusual weapons, a sawn down Purdey shotgun carried in a hip holster and a cut down sabre. Both are used to devastating effect.

The book starts, like all the Crow books, with a reporter asking an old man to relate tales about Crow. Both reporter and the old man are unnamed. The next chapter goes back in time and brings forth the shocking killing of the dog and from then the pace doesn’t let up. We don’t learn much about Crow’s past as he prefers not to discuss it, although at one time he does reveal some events from his past, but you’re never quite sure if what he says is true or just said to shock. The fight scenes are filled with blood and descriptive deaths and the body count is high, leading to a savage final torturous confrontation.

The Crow books aren’t going to appeal to all western readers, but for those who like anti-heroes and stories filled with brutal killing then this series is definitely worth hunting for.

Now republished as an ebook.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Long Rider #9

as by Clay Dawson
Charter, March 1990

Long Rider rode into the town of Bancroft along with the beautiful Lucy McCoy. But once he arrived things turned ugly. He saw the Town Company’s office turn out two poor orphans it lured to Kansas with lies. He shooed off two gunhawks trying to force Barney Lamont out of his homestead.

That was bad enough. But when he found out Ezra Bancroft was tricking Chief Antelope out of Ottawa land with a bunch of promises – promises he sure wasn’t going to keep – Long Rider got just one idea in his head: revenge!

This book starts off well enough with Gabe Conrad, Long Rider, arriving in the new and growing town of Bancroft and he soon begins to get suspicious about certain events. Standing up for the homesteaders leads to the hired gunmen setting upon Gabe, his near hanging at their hands making for some exciting reading.

Unfortunately I found the rest of the book lacking. There’s not much action and Gabe seemed to concerned about doing everything by the law - which isn’t how I remember his character from other books I’ve read in the series.

Very little was made of Long Rider’s Indian upbringing and he seemed to have knowledge of things that I found it hard to believe he could have learnt about living with Indians for most of his life - such as knowing how to drive a train.

Overall this is a readable book but one that didn’t prove to be very satisfying.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Interview: Robert Randisi

My next interview is with Robert Randisi, perhaps best known to western readers for having books published under his own name and as J.R. Roberts. But Robert Randisi has had many more books published than those, in fact, to date, the number is around five hundred and forty, and a good percentage of these are westerns.

First I want to thank you for agreeing to answer my questions Bob.

Always my pleasure to talk about western writing, Steve.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 15 years old I not only decided I wanted to write, but that I wanted to write for a living by the time I was 30. I did that.

What was the first novel you had published and if this wasn’t a western what was your first western?

My first western novel was GUNSMITH #1: MACKLIN’S WOMEN. When my editor read it he said, “It’s good, but we’re gonna have to break you of this hardboiled style.” I said, “It’s not hardboiled, it’s hardCASE.”

Which writers influence you?

My major influences were mystery writers, but in westerns I’d have to say Louis L’Amour, the Max Brand Silvertip books, Ray Hogan, Ben Haas (mostly the Fargo series as “John Benteen”, Gordon Shirreffs -- Jory Sherman was a major influence not only as a western writer but as an Adult Western writer. I learned a lot about writing them by reading his Gunn and Bolt series. Also the Foxx series Mel Marshall wrote as “Zack Tyler” and George Gilman’s Edge and Steele series.
(Funny story. I got a call one morning at about 8:30 am—I’d gone to bed at 7:30. This was before any Gunsmiths were published. We were still working on the character. My editor was on the phone, told me they’d had an editorial meeting and decided to call the Gunsmith “Adam Steele.” I said, “It’s okay with me, but you better check with George Gilman. DOESN’T ANYBODY DOWN THERE DO RESEARCH?”)

Having written nearly all the Gunsmith books do you find it easy to keep coming up with a new story each month?

I had some trouble coming up with plots when I got into the 90’s—books, not the 1990’s—but once I made it past 100 I decided to simply have fun each time. That’s why some are mysteries, some are influenced by The Wild, Wild West t.v. show, others are more traditional westerns and many of them feature actual historical figures.

When the Gunsmith first appeared the books were written in the first person, what was the reasoning behind changing this to the third person?

The first thirteen were written in first person. The original publisher, Charter Books, didn’t mind, but when Berkley bought Charter we had a meeting and they suggested the books be done in third person, like Longarm. I had no objection. In fact, it opened up a lot of new possibilities.

Do you see the Gunsmith series running for many years to come?

I didn’t see it going this long. I originally signed for two, then a third, and then nine more before any of them came out. Charter decided they wanted to go monthly. I was hoping to get a couple of years out of it. I never expected to be writing a Gunsmith book every month for 27 years. As for how much further it will go, Berkley seems happy with the way Longarm, Logan, Trailsman and Gunsmith books are doing for them, so who knows?

Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Yes, I usually work on two at a time, one a western and one a mystery or thriller. Sometimes I write three westerns while writing one thriller.

Which western writers would you recommend?

Currently I’d say Ed Gorman, Jory Sherman, Frank Roderus, Johnny Boggs, Elmer Kelton, Marcus Galloway, James Reasoner—many more. In fact, most of these people—and others—are part of an email group of writers we call “The Campfire.” The other day I was in Borders and I counted thirteen of us on the stands, under one name or another. I think we’re keeping the genre alive—us and Louie. I can’t name everybody, and to anyone I haven’t named I say, nothing personal.

Which past western would you like to see back in print and why is this?

I’d like to see the Fargo books back in print. It’s my very favorite series. Leisure is reprinting one of Ed Gorman’s Guild books. I’d like to see them do the rest. Leo Guild is a great character. George Gilman did a series called The Undertaker. I think only one was printed in this country. I’d like to see them all. Other than that a lot of the good stuff—Alan Lemay, Elmore Leonard, Donald Hamilton—is kept in print. Oh, and I wish someone would reprint Luke Short’s books.

You wrote the Angel Eyes series as W.B. Longley, did you alter the way you wrote this series in anyway as it features a heroine rather than a hero?

I didn’t. I wanted her to be tough, not girlie. The series was turned down by many publishers because she didn’t have a male sidekick—like Lonestar and Ki—to save her bacon for her. Paperjacks finally came along and liked the character the way she was.

You wrote the first twelve Mountain Jack Pike books (of fifteen), why did you stop writing them?

I was writing almost two books a month. Something had to give. They wanted to continue the series so I gave my okay to hire them out, and I got a piece of the action, the royalties. I flatter myself that it only ran three more books because I wasn’t writing them.

When Pocket Star decided to stop publishing westerns thus bringing your Widowmaker series to an end after only two books, there was a third announced called Dead Weight. Am I correct assuming that you re-wrote this as the Gunsmith Giant of the same title?

Yes. I thought it was too good a book to waste. I hope the transition was seamless, but it probably wasn’t.

Dorchester has been reprinting many of your books under your own name such as stand-alone titles that originally came out under the pseudonym of Robert Lake, and at the moment are publishing the Bounty Hunter series – without that series title. Can we expect to see more past books published as Leisure Westerns?

They’re doing four of the Bounty Hunters. I have a fifth and I believe they’ll o that, too. I’m trying to get them to reprint the Tracker books that I did as Tom Cutter. The Jack Pike and Angel Eyes books are apparently TOO AW—although I’ve offered to edit the sex down. I have always made my AW’s good stories so they’d stand on their own without the sex.

You’ve masterminded a number of anthologies, is there any chance that there might be more of these in the near future?

I just had that conversation with Dorchester and the answer was no. If I can find an interested publisher I have a few good ideas for anthologies.

Many of your westerns feature people who really lived, Bat Masterson perhaps more than anyone else. Have you ever thought about writing a factual book about Masterson and other real western legends?

No, I leave the non-fiction to others. I’m a fiction writer. The closest I’ve come are THE HAM REPORTER and THE MIRACLE OF THE JACAL, books I wrote about actual incidents in the lives of Bat Masterson and El fego Baca.

Which of your westerns would you recommend to someone who hasn’t read any of your work yet and why?

The aforementioned Masterson book. THE GHOST WITH BLUE EYES. And I’m very proud of the books I did that were anthologies or collaborative novels, depending on how you look at them, LEGEND, THE FUNERAL OF TANNER MOODY and BOOT HILL. I also very much like the two series I recently did for Harper, THE SONS OF DANIEL SHAYE and THE GAMBLERS.

What do you think of the western genre today and what do you think the future holds for the western?

I think the western genre is talent-rich—what there is of it. Those who are writing westerns now are very, very good at it, but in the 80’s there were ten times as many of us doing it. I think the Adult westerns that are still around are the cream that rose to the top. Where once there were forty or more, now there are four. I just wish we had ten times as many readers today as we have. The future? I think there will always be westerns, but the hey day is gone.

Do you think paper produced books will ever be replaced with electronic books?

God, I hope not. I hope people will never tire of the feel and smell of a book. I don’t read any fiction that is produced electronically.

What is your favorite western movie and why?

RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is my favorite. I also like THE SHOOTIST and UNFORGIVEN. Oh, and the Kurt Russell O.K. Corral movie. I have to stop now. Oh, wait, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO. Okay, I’m done. Wait. LAST TRAIN TO GUN HILL! Okay, gotta stop now. BIG JAKE! HOMBRE! No, I’m really done now!!!!! (FIVE CARD STUD!)

Finally what do you read for pleasure?

Everything. All genre fiction except for romance. Magazines. Non-fiction for research.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Stone Garden

The Epic Life of Billy the Kid
By Bill Brooks

Forge – first edition June 2001
First mass market edition, October 2002

The White Sands Region, New Mexico, 1908. It is twenty-seven years after the alleged death of Billy the Kid and rumours abound throughout New Mexico and the United States that the Kid is still alive. Those who believe him dead, are labelling the Kid’s killer, Pat Garrett, a traitor. While Sheriff Garrett expected a hero’s reception for his assassination of William H. Bonney, alias, The Kid, Garrett has become the most despised man in the state. Instead, assassins are now lining up to gun him down. Garrett watched the kid’s exploits become the stuff of legend, of dime novels and myth. And the myth continues that the Kid is alive. When an assassin’s bullet finds Garrett, many secrets go to the grave with him. Among those secrets is the identity of his own killer.

Bill Brooks has written this book in the first person, the story told through the voice of Billy The Kid for the main part, although later he tells part of the tale as Manuella, which makes for some fascinating different points-of-view of events in the story.

The story also moves from its present to the past and back again at regular intervals; one minute you are reading memories of a dead person, the next they are alive. You’d have thought all this jumping around in time would make for confusing reading but it doesn’t, it helps add interest as you don’t know where the story will take you next.

The whole book has a very dark tone as it’s filled with many reflections on dying, on depression, on sadness, and the dead. Having said that Bill Brooks does insert many moments of humour too; such as the river that washes away graves to send coffins and their contents to new resting places.

In the Stone Garden Bill Brooks has really come up with a very memorable, and moving, book and in doing so has added to the many myths surrounding Billy the Kid and his death at the hands of Pat Garrett. This is definitely a book that will stick in the mind for a long time, for not only being entertaining but thought provoking too.

Read more about Billy the Kid here (the Tainted Archive)

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Mountain Majesty #3

Wilderness Rendezvous
as by John Killdeer
Bantam Domain, December 1992

It was a land of harsh beauty and fierce dangers – and the men and women who made their livelihood in the Rocky Mountains had to use every resource of strength and shrewdness to survive there. For trapper Cleve Bennett and his Cheyenne wife, Second Son, their most perilous journey lies ahead – to the great rendezvous where they will trade their winter’s bounty of furs. But between the camp and their destination lie wild rivers and rough mountains. Wilder people, both red and white, inhabit those reaches, and Cleve is hardened to the knowledge that they would as soon kill him and his family as any game.

As Cleve Bennett and his wife, Second Son, head for a rendezvous, they find themselves in a deadly battle with a band of Pawnee from which they barely escape with their lives. The Pawnee leader vows revenge.

And then came the middle section of the story, which just moved from one unrelated incident to another. Although these scenes were as well written as the rest of the book they had nothing to do with the main thread of the Pawnee’s quest for vengeance, coming across as though John Killdeer (author Ardath Mayhar) included them just to fill up the pages.

Even the attempted rape of Second Son, for which both Bennett and Second Son swore to see the perpetrators die, went nowhere, the rapists getting away. Maybe this storyline will continue in a latter book as characters do reappear in subsequent books.

After the first two books left me wanting more I found this one a little disappointing. Shame. I only hope the series picks up again with the next book.