Monday, February 17, 2020

Review: Hot Lead, Cold Justice

Hot Lead, Cold Justice Hot Lead, Cold Justice by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
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.

Buy it on Amazon

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: A Woman For Henry

A Woman For Henry A Woman For Henry by Allen O'Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tensions between moon-shining swamp brothers Henry and Del are heightened when Del brings home salacious saloon bride Morna from New Orleans, and a complex plot to ruin Henry's operation begins to unfold. Morna is a formidable femme fatale, brimming with overt sexuality and a boldness that Henry finds difficult to resist, although he secretly pines for local good girl Joanne. Well written enough to make me seek out another book from this very obscure author. Great cover art by Barye Phillips.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Movie Review: Range War (1938)

William Boyd
Not really a range war per se, but rather a greedy land baron trying to sabotage railroad construction that threatens his toll range business model. There's no Gabby Hayes or Andy Clyde here, just horndog Lucky Jenkins and Speedy, a fella that talks slow and who provides some comic relief. Hoppy is engaged by the railroad to track down the bandits that have been stealing the payroll and no surprise, they are under the auspices of the greedy land baron. Like all Hopalong Cassidy movies this one is fun and entertaining, and perhaps more a little more violent than most.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review: The Searching Rider

The Searching Rider The Searching Rider by Harry Whittington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A farmer named Kraylor mounts a lone, suicidal revenge mission against a trio of outlaws that murdered his young son. His wife Hetty implores old flame Matt Logan to go after Kraylor before he gets himself killed. This revenge novella is a razor sharp page-turner set amongst the backdrop of a compelling love triangle. Matt Logan is seriously conflicted. Letting Kraylor die would leave Hetty to himself, and of courser Kraylor wants no help from his wife’s former flame. This emotional turmoil propels a fairly standard revenge plot into something transcendental. The action-packed climax is a highlight as well. Recommended.

I don't see this Ace Double half being reprinted anytime soon so I created ebooks from scanned images that I found online in the name of digital preservation. Download them here:

EPUB - The Searching Rider - Harry Whittington.epub
MOBI - The Searching Rider - Harry Whittington.mobi

Friday, January 24, 2020

A new ebook project


My friends at the Paperback Warrior blog had high praise for this Harry Whittington story - THE SEARCHING RIDER, which made up half of Ace Double D-510. I was able to find a really good scan of the story online and I converted the images to text using an OCR program called Tesseract. After running the text through a Perl script to remove page numbers, titles and linefeeds I then copied the text into MS Word, did a few Replace All changes to fix some oddball characters and ended up with a pretty clean document. I'll still have to go through the painstaking process of comparing the source scan to the Word document and fixing a lot of other stuff. The best part of that is that I get to read the book, plus it will be digitally preserved in a true book format. Anyway, the screenshot above shows the source image on the left, and the target document on the right. I'm a bit constrained on time so it might take a while.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Review: The Law at Randado

The Law at Randado The Law at Randado by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young and and inexperienced deputy sheriff named Kirby Frye has his skills tested when a rich and arrogant rancher and some citizens of Randado conspire to entrust themselves with lawmaking and executions while he’s away. The narrative is nicely dialog driven with plenty of colorful and insightful conversations, especially between Kirby and his mentor and his boss Sheriff Danaher. The descriptive prose is taut and compact so get ready to use your imagination when it comes to how the characters and locations look. There were several tense sequences with a fair amount of gunplay, although I found the final conflict a bit strained. In general an exciting and propulsive read that I recommend.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Review: Mac Detective Series 06: You've Got Him Cold

Mac Detective Series 06: You've Got Him Cold Mac Detective Series 06: You've Got Him Cold by Thomas B. Dewey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many years of simmering secrets and blackmail explode in a sudden burst of related murders in this complex private eye mystery from the reliable Thomas B. Dewey. The P.I. known only as "Mac" deftly investigates and unravels the puzzling clues that include several seemingly unconnected characters while butting heads with the police as their investigations overlap, and Mac is forced to evade and withhold information to protect a girl in his care. Dewey's exceptional plotting and prose stands tall amongst the bevy of 1950s PI writers and if you can weather the head-swimming number of characters and names then the rewards are substantial. Highly recommended.

Buy the ebook here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Review: Death Train

Death Train Death Train by Gordon Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Top-notch military fiction taking place in France during the Nazi occupation and telling the story of Sergeant Mahoney, his soldiers, and a band of French resistance fighters attempting to blow up a bridge to cut off the Nazi supply lines to the beaches at Normandy on the eve of the Allied invasion. Of course nothing goes as planned and the heroes have to dig themselves out of several unexpected situations. Mahoney is a fascinating character, an outstanding soldier, and also a complete asshole. Major Richter of the Gestapo is a vile and terrifying villain. Several other memorable characters. A nice blend of actual historical events and people are smoothly integrated into the main narrative. A very entertaining page turner from the great Len Levinson writing as Gordon Davis.

Buy the ebook here

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Westerns that I read in 2019

Again presented in the order that I read them. A lot of my reading this year was outside the genre, adding more vintage Fawcett Gold Medal crime books, and Men's Adventure books to the mix. In case you missed my last two years of reviews here are the links

Westerns that I read in 2018
Westerns that I read in 2017

And here are the Westerns that I read in 2019:

Beyond the Outposts by Max Brand - An exceptional coming-of-age story telling the tale of Lew Dorsett, a boy who grows into manhood influenced by the quest to find his outlaw father, his high adventures living with Sioux Indians, and his relationship with his best friend Chuck Morris. I would have to say that this is now my favorite Max Brand book.

Massacre at San Pablo by Lewis B. Patten - This short novel covers a lot of bases. It’s a coming-of-age tale with Apache attacks, humble Mexicans, gunfights, bounty hunting scalpers, and a forbidden romance. Young Mark Atkins is consumed by revenge after the brutal slayings of his parents and then his adopted parents. The violence in his heart sends his budding romance with the perceptive Susan askew and now Mark has to deal with unrequited love on top of his quest for revenge. A fast-moving and interesting plot with solid characterizations make this a real page-turner.

Boot Heel Range by Edwin Booth - Booth was another respected author of pulp westerns who turned to paperback originals when the pulp market died. This early novel tells the story of a young rancher trying to fill his dead older brothers shoes in the eyes of his crippled father who fears losing the ranch, since he has little respect for his younger son’s ability to manage the ranch and lead a cattle drive. I like that the young man uses smarts instead of guns to dig himself out several perilous situations as a deadly range war brews and then bursts, throwing the cattle drive into turmoil. This book is really good. Too bad that Booth is virtually unknown these days. He's a fine writer

Coyote Courage by Scott Harris - A very solid and well written traditional western introducing Brock Clemons, a young man traveling the West by himself, in search of something that is explained much later in the book. Brock is not a typical gunslinger, more altruistic and sympathetic than violent. Supporting characters are well drawn, especially the love interest Sophie, the valiant boy Huck, and the main villain Kurt. A story told with enough tension to keep my interest, and a satisfying ending that neatly wrapped up the loose ends. My only qualm is that it runs a bit long after the climax and it can be a bit wordy at times.

Texas Vigilante by Bill Crider - The sequel to the outstanding revenge classic Outrage at Blanco is just as captivating, telling the story of Ellie Taine, the avenger in the first book, now threatened by a psychotic escaped prisoner named Angel Ware who is looking for revenge against those that Ellie loves the most. Ellie now knows what achieving revenge can do to a person, and the shift in perspective is a nice touch. The late Bill Crider was a marvelous author, a master craftsman of writing, and the short novel is perfectly paced with many memorable characters and dialogue. The last third of the book is relentless and impossible to put down. It saddens me that there will never be another Ellie Taine book. This book, and well as OUTRAGE AT BLANCO, are both highly recommended.

The Buff Runners by Jory Sherman - Gunn, the protagonist of this series, and his pal Jed Randall ride into San Antonio and sign up to crew for a buffalo hunt with John Masters, a long-time hunter who happens to have a beautiful wife and a couple of hot and horny daughters. A rival crew that is consumed by hated towards Masters intends to use any means necessary to sabotage the hunt in their favor. They are also infuriated by Gunn and vow vengeance. The author Jory Sherman writes wonderful prose and the first half of the book is terrific, however it meanders into a lengthy exposition of the buffalo hunt with a few sex scenes and a couple of sniper attacks tossed in that don’t add much value - effectively turning the second half into a real slog. The brutal buffalo killing is described in great detail with excessive gore that I found especially distasteful. An exciting climax pulls it out of the mire, but unfortunately too late for redemption.

Deadman's Lament by Linell Jeppsen - Young Matthew Wilcox, orphaned and in the care of a shopkeepers family is orphaned again and captured by a group of violent outlaws. One of the outlaws named “Top Hat” is exceedingly psychotic and kills and sodomizes without conscience. Matthew manages to escape and vows vengeance on Top Hat. Many years later Matthew is now sheriff and word of Top Hat’s location sets the stage for a showdown. The book is a well written revenge tale. I can’t say that it breaks any new ground, although the Top Hat character is one of the most vile antagonists that I’ve read in a Western. Plenty of violence and gore, so not recommended for the faint of heart. Overall an enjoyable book.

The Legend of Roxy Doyle by J.R. Roberts - The first book in the Gunsmith Adult Western spin-off series tells the origin story of Roxy Doyle, a.k.a Lady Gunsmith, a pistol-packing beauty in search of her estranged bounty hunter father. The author does a nice job of portraying the young Roxy as being a bit rough around the edges, in contrast with the mature Roxy, a polished and confident gunslinger as he navigates the two timelines that make up the novel. The dialog driven narrative will be familiar to readers of the Gunsmith books, although the female perspective only serves to make the three required sex scenes seem even more nonessential and awkward. I really liked the surprise appearances of Belle Starr, and Frank and Jesse James and how they were integrated into the story. The plotting, pacing, and dialog are the author’s strong points and they are on display in this short novel making it hard to put down. An easy and entertaining read.

Apache Rising by Marvin H. Albert - A taut and violent short western that finds young Jess Remsberg, consumed with avenging the rape and murder of his wife, scouting for an Army wagon train that finds itself outnumbered in a brutal cat-and-mouse battle with a band of merciless Apaches. The tension remains high as the brilliant Apache warlord Chata matches wits step for step with young and ambitious Army Lieutenant McAllister who is close friends with Jess. I really liked how their friendship was portrayed. The love interest is a married woman victimized by Chata’s men, and mother to a half-breed whose abusive husband scorns her. A superior and very brutal military strategy tale, encapsulated within a revenge story, with a little romance thrown in. Recommended.

Avenging Angels: Vengeance Trail by A.W. Hart - A superior take on the classic Western revenge story that introduces Reno and Sara, twin teenagers who use the Bible to justify their exceedingly violent vengeance upon the Devil’s Horde, a band of confederate raiders that savaged and murdered their family. The characters are well-drawn and very memorable, especially the roguish Ty Mando and his children. The linear narrative races at a breakneck pace with some nice twists and a satisfying conclusion. No cussing or sex, plenty of violence. Highly recommended for folks looking for a new Western series to read, or for fans of revenge stories in general.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Review: Avenging Angels: Vengeance Trail

Avenging Angels: Vengeance Trail Avenging Angels: Vengeance Trail by A.W. Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A superior take on the classic Western revenge story that introduces Reno and Sara, twin teenagers who use the Bible to justify their exceedingly violent vengeance upon the Devil’s Horde, a band of confederate raiders that savaged and murdered their family. The characters are well-drawn and very memorable, especially the roguish Ty Mando and his children. The linear narrative races at a breakneck pace with some nice twists and a satisfying conclusion. No cussing or sex, plenty of violence. Highly recommended for folks looking for a new Western series to read, or for fans of revenge stories in general.

Buy a copy here