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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Review: Kill Me a Husband

Kill Me a Husband Kill Me a Husband by Tedd Thomey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Femme fatale and latent sociopath Alma convinces her meek and alcoholic lover Ward to help kill her husband, but their plan is clumsy and the book turns into a courtroom drama. Bordering on sleaze, the story is mainly interesting for the portrayal of Ward as he falls hard for Alma’s blatant sexuality, and his descent into obsession and alcoholism. The story oddly takes place in the 1920s although it was written in 1960. The writing reminded me of Orrie Hitt’s work - 8th grade reading level and noirish, although this is darker and grimier. It should appeal to Hitt admirers.

Reprinted by Wildside Press. Buy a copy here

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Review: Death of a Citizen

Death of a Citizen Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first book in the series tells the story of Matt Helm’s regression from a staid family man to the violent and dangerous bad-ass that he was many years in the past. Hamilton’s writing is superb with snappy dialog and observations, and a startling number of plot twists that serve to illustrate how shockingly ruthless Helm really is under the slim veneer of a law-abiding citizen. I would like to imagine that I’m a secret bad-ass underneath my baldness and flab, however I’m surely not, so that’s part of the vicarious appeal of the book too. I’m really looking forward the the other books in this series.

View all my reviews