Sunday, July 5, 2020

Review: Valley of Violence

Valley of Violence Valley of Violence by Edwin Booth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clay Nichols comes back to the family ranch just in time for an outlaw family to kill his father, shoot him and leave him for dead, and then take over the ranch. Clay falls in love with the woman who nurses him back to health not knowing that she is the daughter of the outlaw that killed his father. The author does a fine job with pacing and plot as Clay has to figure out how to confront the outlaws without alienating the lovely daughter. I really loved the dynamic of the nearby town filled with believable characters and the fascinating perspective of the outlaw family, with half of them gone corrupt and evil, and the others weak and complacent. Booth wrote for the pulps and was a very skilled writer. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Review: Last Gun at Cabresto

Last Gun at Cabresto Last Gun at Cabresto by Ray Hogan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rancher Cole Rinnegar is summoned to a distant town by his brother who is being secretly cared for by a beautiful bakery owner. His brother explains that he has robbed a bank and hidden the money before three outlaws critically wounded him. His dying wish is for Cole to retrieve the money and give it back to the bank. The outlaws and others know that Cole’s brother has the money hidden and they are clever and ruthless in seeing if Cole has the money, or is going to get it. Lot of nice twists and action keep the mere 89 pages flying as Cole accepts his mission and finds out that it is far more complex and dangerous than it seemed. Ray Hogan was a top-notch Western writer and this is a fine example of his work.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Review: The Slime Beast

The Slime Beast The Slime Beast by Guy N. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s like a novelization of a silly ‘70s monster B-movie that never existed. An entertaining, albeit simplistic plot, is hindered by characters without depth, clunky dialog, and sex scenes more awkward that any Adult Western. I’m willing to overlook all this however as long as it’s a story worth reading, and it is. Sure, it’s not well written at all, but it's short, easy to read, and a lot of fun. I liked it okay.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Review: The First Quarry

The First Quarry The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The First Quarry doesn’t dwell on an origin story but rather shows the young hitman being fully formed as a cold-blooded and intelligent killer as he accepts his first assignment after being recruited by The Broker - killing a college professor and destroying his manuscripts. The story takes place in Iowa in the early 1970s, the years that I came of age, and I was impressed and highly amused by all of the pop culture references from that era. Quarry is an amazingly likable anti-hero, he’s smart, funny, personable, and can be a complete smart ass. He’s also ruthless, amoral, and calculating. Loved the dialog and the plot, which throws curveball after curveball in a startling sequence of twists that make the book nearly impossible to put down. Reading the rest of the books in this remarkable series is high on my list. Recommended.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Review: Hot Lead, Cold Justice

Hot Lead, Cold Justice Hot Lead, Cold Justice by Mickey Spillane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Burn ‘Em” Burnham, a psychotic protege of Quantrill, has a vendetta against Trinity Sheriff Caleb York. He plans to rob a Las Vegas bank with his cohorts, kill York, and then hide out in Trinity during a deadly New Mexico blizzard. Faithful deputy Tulley is gunned down, accidentally mistaken for Caleb, and York seeks vengeance. Spillane created the resourceful, noble, and somewhat mysterious character of Caleb York and he’s in great hands with Max Allen Collins. Love interest Willa Cullen and other colorful characters of Trinity are back giving the story great depth and heart. The blizzard was almost a character itself, infuriating travel, and causing havoc, death and devastation. This tightly written page-turner should appeal to all readers of crime and thriller novels, not just fans of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Review: Battle At Rattlesnake Pass

Battle At Rattlesnake Pass Battle At Rattlesnake Pass by Tom West
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mike O’Brien's father is accused of rustling cattle and is killed. Hot-headed O’Brien shoots the fella that killed his father and gets himself tossed into Yuma for five years. Upon release he heads home to Jackass Wells where he is branded as a rustler and shunned. When cattle starts disappearing everyone assumes that it’s his doing. O’Brien befriends a crippled gunslinger and falls for a sheepherder’s daughter as he tries to defend his honor and identify the rustlers. This half of an Ace Double was written by Tom West, who wrote a lot of them. Although copyrighted in 1965 his use of cowboy lingo and vernacular is impressive, much like the pulpsters of a earlier era. Good story and well written. Definitely a throwback to to pulp novellas, even ending with a wedding. Good enough to keep me reading more from Tom West when the mood strikes me.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Review: Hell Harbor: The Battle for Cherbourg

Hell Harbor: The Battle for Cherbourg Hell Harbor: The Battle for Cherbourg by Gordon Davis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sergeant Mahoney and his team are ordered to prevent a harbor from being blown up in Nazi occupied Cherbourg, France. One important thing that sets The Sergeant books apart from other military action stories is that Len Levinson, writing as Gordon Davis, in no way glorifies the war or fighting. The fighting is a necessary evil and the war is an utter atrocity. A highlight for me was the long sequence of Mahoney and his seduction of an army nurse. Rather than an impersonal and sleazy seduction, as found in most action books, it spoke to the desperation and loneliness of the men and women fighting overseas for a cause bigger than themselves. Mahoney looks back with longing at his short time spent with Shirley and what might have been if it wasn’t for the damn war. Sure Mahoney is still kind of an asshole, he’s human and with the failings of many of us, but he’s also loyal and honorable and that goes a long way to make him a compelling character rather than a macho military caricature. Another excellent entry in the series.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Review: Longarm and the Voodoo Queen

Longarm and the Voodoo Queen Longarm and the Voodoo Queen by Tabor Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The US Deputy Marshal called Longarm is assigned to an undercover operation to solve the murder of a lawman who was investigating smuggling activity in New Orleans. A bit of good luck brings Longarm into the employ of one of the two warring smugglers, and the company of a seductive and wealthy woman - and unfortunately her unseemly brother. Longarm befriends an alluring Cajun swamp woman who becomes his ally and lover, a very likable and amusing character. Lots going on here with warring smugglers, zombies, a Voodoo Queen, and Mardi Gras festivities all nicely tied together into a propulsive and cohesive mystery plot. This novel was written by James Reasoner, a writer whose work I admire, and surely one of my favorites in the series.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Review: A Key to the Suite

A Key to the Suite A Key to the Suite by John D. MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dark, disturbing and brutally insightful look at corporate politics and business conventions that mostly continues to ring true to to these current times. Most remarkable is the cast of characters that are all flawed to various degrees and the terrific dialogue between the characters that really bring them, and their agendas to light. A compelling and memorable read.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Review: Northfield

Northfield Northfield by Johnny D. Boggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An original and brilliant retelling of the James-Younger gang assault on a bank in Northfield Minnesota in 1876. Each chapter is told in the first person by a different person that was somehow involved in the failed robbery that resulted in several deaths and injuries. I love how Boggs was able to give a unique voice to each of the characters, from a little girl who’s father was killed in the robbery to the violent outlaws, some of whom were surprisingly intelligent and utterly fascinating. You can tell that Boggs did a lot of research to make this as historically accurate as possible. A remarkable achievement and a terrific read. Recommended.