Monday, December 31, 2018

Westerns that I read in 2018

Presented in the order that I read them. Much of my reading this year was clearly influenced by online resources, specifically the Men's Adventure Paperback group on Facebook, and the American Westerns group on Goodreads where I am the group moderator.

52 Weeks, 52 Western Novels: Old Favorites and New Discoveries by Scott Harris and others - It's not really accurate to say that I've finished it. I've read it chunks of it multiple times and continue to refer back to it when I come across a book or author that I know is mentioned in the book, or if I'm in the mood to seek out something new. Anyway, it's a superb reference book with 52 terrific reviews of Western novels from a collection of Western fans and authors. Some of the books are quite popular, others very obscure. Pictures of book covers make up a large portion of the book, and since I love paperback cover artwork this is one of my favorite aspects. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Westerns, a genre that is sometimes overlooked, but includes some of the best and most exciting fiction of the past century.

Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard - Leonard was such a great writer. Every story is captivating and original. I especially liked "The Captives" which was the source of one my favorite Western movies "The Tall T".

The Wild Country (The Wild Country #1) by Bobby Underwood - Essentially a revenge novel that is clearly influenced by Zane Grey, with plenty of elegant descriptive prose and several memorable characters. A well told tale, although not particularly original.

Showdown at War Cloud by Lewis B. Patten - Like many Gold Medal Westerns this novel is essentially a crime story that takes place in the Old West. This setting helps to enhance the typical crime story concept in a couple of ways. First, bigotry against Native Americans and the mob mentality that goes along with it drives the plot, and second, the fear of a retaliatory Sioux attack against the town and the sense of impending doom and escalating tension keep the story moving at a crisp pace. The entire story takes place in a 24 hour period. An intelligent, thought-provoking and somewhat grim novel. I liked it a lot.

Hot Lead #1: The fanzine of vintage western paperbacks - by Justin Marriott and others - Slick production, a slew of paperback cover artwork, and nicely detailed info covering the "Piccadilly Cowboy" books of the 70s and 80s make this an excellent addition to my fanzine collection. The "Piccadilly Cowboy" books were a response the sensibilities of Spaghetti Westerns, ultra-violent and sexually explicit, typically in long-running series, and written by British authors who weren't constrained by the conventions and tropes of the American Western writers of that era. I'll be keeping my eye out for many of the series reviewed here in my frequent used bookstore excursions.

Fargo (Fargo, #1) by John Benteen - The book is a blast featuring over-the-top action, multiple double-crosses, and a sizzling fast moving plot. Neal Fargo is a typical bad-ass pulp action hero, the Doc Savage or Mack Bolan kind, with almost limitless skills when it comes to fighting and seduction. Heavily plot-driven books like this succeed based on the strength of the story and this one is a crackling good one. I'm glad to see that Piccadilly Publishing is releasing the series in ebook format.

Blaze! (Blaze! #1) by Stephen Mertz - There are plenty of mystery-solving married couples in modern fiction with their snappy banter and sexual innuendo, but this is the first time that I've read a book about an Old West gun-slinging married couple. This first book in the Blaze! adult western series is novella sized and packed with plenty of action and some mild sexual content. Take out the sex and gore and this would have been a fine Western pulp magazine story. An entertaining and quick read if you're in the mood for an escapist romp where you don't have to burn much brain power.

Blaze! The Deadly Guns (Blaze! #2) by Robert J. Randisi - Entertaining enough sex and saddlebags oater from veteran Adult Western writer Randisi that continues the story of gunslinging couple J.D. and Kate Blaze who are hired to take care of a gang of cattle rustlers - with a few sex scenes tossed in. The ebook edition that I have ends abruptly as if the final chapter was omitted.

High Fury by Harry Whittington - A terrific Western from Harry Whittington, a prolific writer with remarkable consistency. No surprise, High Fury is a crime novel that takes place in the old West. It tells the story of a youth man on the run after being falsely accused of murder who, while tracking the one man that can prove his innocence, rescues a women who was savagely abused and left for dead by perhaps the same man. Things get more complicated when the son of the Cattle Baron who owns the town is suspected of being an accomplice. He soon must confront a town that has been turned against him, aided only by a sympathetic sheriff named Ox Slaughter and a kindly old doctor. The characters all jump off the page. This would make a fine movie.

Head West! by Ben Bridges (Editor) - Great new magazine with informative articles, interviews, and three Western short stories.

Hot Lead #2: The fanzine of vintage western paperbacks by Justin Marriott (Editor) - Several interesting articles in this issue. Paul Bishop's take on Harry Whittington's novelization of the movie "Charro" is spot on. Whittington manages to translate the treatment for what would become a mediocre movie into a really superb novel. The interview with artist Tony Masero, and articles about British Western comics artist Frank Bellamy, and the German Western pulp and paperbacks of the '60s are insightful. I never realized that Westerns were so popular in Germany. Excellent production standards for this fanzine. The formatting and graphics are impressive. I'm looking forward to issue three.

The Shot Rang Out: 52 Western Short Stories by Scott Harris and 51 friends - A fun and remarkable collection of 52 flash/micro fiction short stories, most of them very good, each one different and revealing the unique voice of each writer. I love the concept for this collection and am thankful to Scott Harris for putting this together. I would like to see more of this type of work. Short stories, and especially Western short stories, have been lacking a visible stage for a long time.

Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer - This a wonderful novel telling the story of likable cowboy Monte Walsh and his faithful friend Chet Rollins in a series of vignettes that can be humorous, exciting, or touching. Shaefer provides a truly vivid and likely accurate portrayal of cowboy life in the latter half of the 19th century from the simpler times when ranch and cowboy activity was at it’s prime to when the influx of technology such as automobiles began to signal their coming decline and the end of a way of life. This is a special book that made me laugh and made me cry. It transcends the Western genre, much like Lonesome Dove, or The Time it Never Rained. Highest recommendation.

Slocum and the Family Business (Slocum #365) by Jake Logan - Written by the late Ellen Recknor, a talented writer and storyteller of the Old West. This short novel is light on the action, and heavy on the eating for an Adult Western, not necessarily a bad thing. Slocum attacked by a fella named Goose who accuses him of killing his brother, then meets up with a young kid who thinks that Slocum is his father. The three of them end up working together to track down cattle rustlers at the ranch of Hiram, who feeds them well and in great detail. The sex scenes are less awkward than found in most AWS, perhaps because it was written by a woman. Nicely character driven with authentic prose and dialogue I think that this is a fine entry in the series. Book 366 in the series Slocum and the Rustler on the Run is also written by Recknor and continues the storyline. I've added it to the list of books that I'm looking for.

Slaughter At Buzzard's Gulch (Caz: Vigilante Hunter #1) by Scott Harris - This fast paced and compelling short novel tells the story of Caz, a compassionate bounty hunter, who finds himself in a violent battle with an saloon owner and his team of outlaws when he uncovers forced prostitution in the establishment. Caz is an interesting character and is complemented by a strong supporting cast that included Bess, a young reluctant prostitute, and Etta, a feisty boarding house owner. I liked this novel at lot and am looking forward to reading the further adventures of Caz.

Blaze! Bitter Valley (Blaze! #3) by Wayne D. Dundee - I really like Dundee’s take on this series, adding some humor and playful banter between the gunslinging couple, and sex scenes that seem less gratuitous. The Blaze’s are recruited by a former prostitute who has recently married a rich ranch owner and has been “acquainted” with J.D. in the past, sparking some jealousy from Kate. It seems that the heirs to the ranch are not happy with the new wife and soon an elaborate murder mystery becomes the focus of the book. Solid entertainment and probably my favorite in the series thus far.

52 Weeks * 52 Western Movies by Scott Harris and others - A collection of 52 well researched reviews of Western movies written by those that love the genre. The reviews include many that I've seen and many that I am determined to seek out and watch. This is an exceptional resource for movie lovers who enjoy Westerns.

The First Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone - The first entry in the Preacher series, this one tells the story of how the mountain man called Preacher, a self-sufficient loner, goes against his druthers and helps a wagon train of Eastern greenhorns across the untamed West while being pursued by a violent band of outlaws and getting involved with various skirmishes with Indians. Johnstone knows the time period and places exceedingly well giving the novel a sense of authenticity. Preacher is a fascinating character and I loved the banter between the mountain men and the pilgrims. Johnstone's take on this fairly standard plot is a very good one.

3 comments:

  1. I applaud your grit. I read many westerns, but I use my e-reader, which is difficult to leave more than a line of review. (Old fart with big fingers can't type little screen:-) Keep up the good work. and thanks for keeping this thread alive.

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    1. Thanks Frank. It's fortunate the we have ebooks now since I don't think that many publishers would be interested in the expense of printing a niche genre like Westerns. Ebooks are keeping the genre alive and well for those of us that love them.

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  2. This is a reminder that I should read Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard.

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