Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Upcoming Books for August and September

For August 2009
Gunsmoke Masquerade
Peter Dawson
Five Star Western Series Hardcover

Guns of Dodge City
Tom Curry
Wheeler Large Print Western Hardcover

Someone had betrayed an Army battalion of innocent men — and now they lay dead, massacred, with useless guns in their hands. Captain Bob Pryor, sometimes known as the Rio Kid, followed the bloody trail to Dodge City, where the all-powerful gun lords were plotting an even greater evil.

The Rio Kid was heading for a cattle town shootout — with the deck stacked against him.

Shadow Riders
Les Savage, Jr.
Five Star Western Series Hardcover

Vendetta Canyon
Stan Lynde
Center Point Large Print Hardcover

The venerable Rick O’Shay and Latigo cartoonist turned to writing western novels about a decade ago. This is his seventh.

Sheepman Abel McKenzie and cattleman Zack Rainford were once the best of friends, but are now, in 1887 Montana Territory, mortal enemies. Their escalating feud threatens to throw the people of Meriwether County into a bloody range war. Three ranchers have already been killed, and the investigation into the homicides received only cursory review. One of those three men was McKenzie's employee. Deputy United States Marshal Merlin Fanshaw is sent to investigate and enforce the law. Shortly after his arrival in Meriwether County, Deputy Fanshaw's assignment is complicated by the activities of a corrupt sheriff, a mysterious range detective, and a clandestine romance between the shepherd's son and the cattleman's daughter. Deputy Fanshaw accepts the burden of their secret and becomes an ally to the young lovers. If the two young people get married, it could help unite the feuding families, or it could light the fuse on the lethal powder keg. With conditions in the area becoming more strained, the McKenzie and Rainford homes become armed camps, with malice running rampant between the cowhands and sheepherders. Can Deputy Fanshaw prevent any further bloodshed? What will it take for him to put an end to the Meriwether County War?

Master of the Mesa
William Colt MacDonald
Center Point Large Print Hardcover

Hawk Nielson was quick-on-the-draw, ruthless -- and the most powerful man on the range. His holdings spread over thousands of acres and his power spread from one end of the Mesa to the other. His enemies were plenty -- all those he had cheated and crushed. Vard Whitlock had more reason to hate him than most. Land and money were the things Hawk cared about, until he had a son. Then his pride almost matched his greed. At last, Vard knew how to strike back at Hawk Nielson -- he just had to wait for the perfect opportunity. When the time was just right, Vard kidnapped the baby and hit the trail, where he began to work out the revenge demanded for Hawk Nielson. It took twenty-five years, but when the showdown finally came, it caused the most violent fight the Mesa had ever seen.

Trails of Rage
Todhunter Ballard
Wheeler Large Print Western Hardcover

Confederate guerrillas disguised as Indians are carrying out vicious and deadly attacks on stagecoach stations between Kansas and Colorado, trying to stir up trouble and cut the West in half. And the only man who could stop them Captain Jack Price of the Union Army — a prisoner of the Rebs …

The Curse of Montezuma
Les Savage, Jr.
Ulverscroft Large Print, Sagebrush Westerns

Rustler’s Range
Bradford Scott
Wheeler Large Print Western Hardcover

Jim Woodard’s lungs were bursting! He was trapped … hemmed in between the blazing canyon walls and the fire-crazed herd. There was only one possible escape — through 300 searing, suffocating yards to the canyon mouth. Could he reach it? Could he whip the panic-stricken cattle through the curtain of fire? Or was he doomed to perish in this hellish trap which the rustlers had set?

Black Aces
Stephen Payne
Leisure Books

To prove himself worthy of his sweetheart and impress his neighbors, a down-on-his-luck rancher sets out to unmask the Balck Ace Gang, a group of blackmailers terrorizing the town.

After losing both his ranch and his sweetheart, Tedro Ames has a choice: become the laughingstock of Swiftwater, or figure out a way to redeem himself in the eyes of the town. And then he gets the Black Ace, the calling card of ruthless blackmailers who have been terrorizing the area. This is Tedro’s chance. Unmasking the Black Ace Gang would make him a hero—even if he has to give up his life to do it.

Acres of Unrest
Max Brand
Leisure Books

Ross and Andy Hale were twin brothers who couldn’t have been more different in temperament. Ross firmly believed in sending his young son, Peter, back East for a proper education—even though he had to nearly bankrupt the ranch to do it. Meanwhile, Andy grew prosperous and taught his son, Charlie, everything he needed to know about roping and ranging.

Peter’s return from school is hardly triumphant—an accident left him without the use of his legs. But Peter is far from the crippled man his father thinks him to be. He’s still got his mind. And when mounted on a horse, he’s more than the equal of any cowpuncher. As Peter starts to rebuild the family ranch, Charlie’s bitterness and resentment grows. But neither man is exactly what he seems, so when tensions come to a head, it will be the ultimate showdown.

For September 2009
The Good Badman
Max Brand
Thorndike Large Print Western Series

In “Speedy’s Desert Dance” a young drifter runs into trouble after overhearing two outlaws plan a murder and kidnapping. A gripping story set during the War Between the States, “A Watch in the Wilderness” finds Marse Robert’s company in a trench as a sharpshooter in a tree above starts to shoot them, one by one. “The Good Badman” is Ed Garver, known in the ring as Kid Denver. It was hard luck that finished his fighting career, and that hard luck seems to follow him.

T.T. Flynn
Leisure Books

To save his hometown, reclaim his lost love, and clear his name, Jim Tenant will have to face down the very men who tried to kill him years ago.

The Mexicans call him Ponchito, Little Mild One. Buckshot Bledsoe knows the six-foot, scar-faced, blue-eyed man named Jim Tenant may look calm on the outside, but he’s burning with vengeance inside. Buckshot’s counting on that need for retribution to convince Jim to come back to San Angelo. Things there are bad and only getting worse. But to save the town, reclaim his lost love, and clear his name, Jim will have to face down the very men who came so close to killing him the first time—and he may not be lucky enough to survive twice.

Gunning for Trouble
L.L. Foreman
Center Point Large Print Hardcover

Two relentless forces were at work in the Principe range, and Wade Forrest was caught smack dab in the middle of them. When Wade's gun made too much trouble for Deac Shanter, ramrod of the T Anchor ranch, he was ordered off the ranch by sundown. But Forrest was privy to secrets that could ruin Arne Bassett, so Bassett posted his gunhawks along the trail to see that Forrest never made it out of the country alive. It would seem that no matter which way he turned, his number was up. It was up to Wade to decide which man would have the first crack at killing him!

Gunsmoke Justice
Louis Trimble
Thorndike Large Print Western Series

It had been a long ride — all the way from the Bitterroot mountains of Montana. Brad Jordan was a big man, leathery and saddle-tough, but he was tired now and feeling mean, knowing the girl was waiting for his answer . . . knowing it meant killing. It was good country, worth fighting for. There was room enough in the valley, but Ike Quarles didn’t think so. He and his hired killers had served notice on Brad — drift or die. But Brad had decided: he was through drifting.

Shafter Range
T.T. Flynn
Five Star Western Series Hardcover

The Plains of Laramie
Lauran Paine
Leisure Books

Frank Travis had no idea why he was being chased. He might not have been able to get away from the posse thundering after him, but no way in hell was he going down without a fight. And sure enough, he managed to drown one of his pursuers…before being killed himself.

Parker Travis vows to get vengeance on the vigilantes when he hears his brother was murdered for a crime he didn’t commit. He doesn’t care that the man Frank drowned was the sheriff of Laramie. And he doesn’t care that the dead man’s brother has taken over as the new sheriff. Because no one is above the law, and Parker is determined to see justice is done.

Smoke Tree Range
Arthur Henry Gooden
Leisure Books

Lee Cary goes against the patriarch of his family when he champions the rights of a young woman to help keep her ranch out of the greedy clutches of his grandfather.

Lee Cary came through the swirling dust and grit of a bitter sandstorm just in time to save Nan Page’s life. Yet his chivalry might have been all for naught. Lee’s grandfather, Jim Cary, is looking to expand his already impressive Smoke Tree Range, and he wants Nan’s land…at any cost. For the first time in his life, Lee will have to take a stand against his own family—to rescue Nan, to do what’s right, to become his own man.

Hired Guns
Max Brand
Center Point Large Print Hardcover

Billy Buel didn't look like a man who could inspire fear. He was a slight man with boyish good looks and a gentle manner, but he was also a fearsome fighter with hands or guns or knives. Billy Buel was one of those rare men who had learned from every defeat he'd ever been handed. For nine years a feud had raged between the Benchleys and the Camps. At last, they decided on a two-man duel to settle their grudge. Now Billy Buel, hired by the Camps, faced Ames Benchley for the showdown. "Choose your signal for the draw," Ames declared. "You heard that owl hoot;" Billy Buel asked, "The next time he hoots we go for our guns."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bloody Good Prairie

Blood on the Prairie
Wayne C. Lee
Leisure Books, May 2008

There is an overarching conceit that the author uses to create dynamic tension and spark events that must be accepted to fully enjoy the book. If you do, then this Ace Double-style novel is a pip.

Written in 1963 and published by Arcadia House (not Ace), Blood on the Prairie is a revenge story on a slow burn. Wade Harper has been searching for Herman Dack, a slick hombre who killed Harper’s partner and got away clean. Dack has settled in a town called Paradise, a place engineered by Wade Harper’s father, Jason, and is now home to the old man and Wade’s sister, Jennie. Dack has made himself into a respected and important citizen, a man who is beloved by Jason and engaged to Jennie.

Lee’s conceit builds off this situation and directs the actions of all the characters. In short, no one believes that Dack is evil and a killer. Not even Wade’s father or sister. This has an alienating effect; it puts Wade on the outside and unwanted in the community.

Undaunted, Wade refuses to give in. He spies on Dack, takes a beating from the "businessman’s" gunhand friends, and is stymied at every turn from finding proof of the man’s past guilt and current plans to take over the valley. For his part, Dack continues to smile infuriatingly and keeps his hands clean.

Things turn, as they will in such potboilers. Dack’s greed and evil nature eventually get the best of him. Wade’s persistence wears down Dack so that he cannot help but show his true nature. While the end comes quickly (and Jason and Jennie’s change of opinion snaps around whiplash fashion), the action carries the reader to a satisfying – if not unexpected – conclusion.
In fact, this good old-fashioned, leather-slapping, gun-crashing, fist-crunching yarn is a sheer pulpy pleasure.

Lee’s writing is crisp. He moves the story along at a fine pace. Unlike other short Ace Double-style novels, Blood on the Prairie does not feel as if a few scenes are missing that would make the plot work. Lee’s story is sharp, and if some of his characters and situations are familiar, it doesn’t matter. We read these old oaters for the sheer fun they impart.

Lee writes both dialog and description with energy and interest. He’s a welcome addition to Leisure’s publishing schedule – a company I often applaud for reprinting many pulp era and classic paperback era westerns each year. Hopefully another Lee work will be seen very soon.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Merry #@%^&!! Christmas, Skye Fargo!

North Country Cutthroats
by Jon Sharpe
The Trailsman #314
Berkley Books

While I haven’t read many Trailsman books, it isn’t hard to imagine that North Country Cutthroats is about as Christmasy as it gets for series hero Skye Fargo.

It’s a few days before Christmas and Skye has gotten caught by a snowstorm in Brule City and has taken a job as a shotgun rider for a stage company. It happens that an old friend of Skye’s is the driver for the stage, a big brute of a fellow named Grizzly Olafson. Olafson is a broad, brawling character, full of deep laughs, bear hugs, and endless appetites. But he’s a loyal friend.

The story is straightforward. The pair have to get the stage to Devil’s Lake by Christmas despite heavy snow, delivering a few passengers and a strongbox filled with the payroll for the nearby Army fort. This month’s anonymous "Jon Sharpe" adds a touch of mystery by adding a Russian beauty to the passenger manifest, a woman whose constant furtive glances and sudden reactions lead Skye to believe she’s running from someone.

Driving in thick snow can be problematic. I’ve never had the opportunity to be on a stagecoach in winter, but the author and I seem to agree that you just can’t do it with wheels. So he has Olafson remove the wheels and attach heavy skis to the stage. Maybe this was done at some point in history, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter, though, as it’s just a devise to move the plot forward.

As usual, there are four or five sex scenes in the book. What I like about these scenes is that the women are as mercenary about sex as is Skye Fargo. Whether driven by lust or other motives, they all but rape our hero.

The Russian gal runs hot and cold toward Skye, though, depending on what has spooked her at that moment. The wife of an Army lieutenant has designs on our hero almost from the start. But after he rescues her from a clumsy rape attempt by some rough edged cowboys, she cannot wait to yank down his drawers.

Turns out, though, she isn’t married to the soldier, and he isn’t a lieutenant. They are on the stage to rob it of the strongbox. And while she says she wanted to bed Skye before killing him, she just can’t bring herself to pull the trigger. It’s a fatal mistake. When Skye catches up to her, he has no trouble drilling her with his .44. No euphamism in this.

Other adventures await on the trip. The strongbox is a considerable magnet for thieves, despite the fact that Olafson says he’s never had trouble on the stage run. Skye handles all problems that arise, although it isn’t easy for him. Rather than being a superman, he works hard to stay alive and fulfill his charge, overcoming setback after setback.

The end is worth forgetting, however. Turns out the Russian gal is being followed. Other Russians want her dead, and want to get her large, heavy trunk. (Again, no euphamism here.) Skye figured there was some sort of treasure inside the trunk. Instead of gold, though, the Russian girl has been hauling dirt from the motherland. She wants to grow the finest roses, just like her mother had done, and so she has taken dirt from her flower bed, and rocks from her rock garden, to use in the new country. Of course, why the Russian bad guys have been chasing her and trying to kill Skye is never explained. Maybe, like the Christmas "theme," it just doesn’t matter.