Review of ‘Arrival of Evil’
A young boy runs miles into the town of Sabine Valley with frightening news. He has seen a large group of men wearing strange uniforms viciously assaulting two young girls outside town. The sheriff suspects something sinister but is unprepared for the evil that is about to be unleashed on an otherwise peaceful town.
Fred Staff’s Arrival of Evil combines horror with the classic western tale in a story that pegs the fear meter at maximum. A relatively short tail that grabs you by the throat from page one and squeezes until the last drop of blood oozes out. This fusion of two genres is masterfully done. I give it four stars.
Review of ‘Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake
James ‘Bodacious’ Creed, a former U.S. marshal turned vigilante turned private investigator, was killed and then brought back to life thanks to the scientific skills of his daughter, Anna. One night he hears screams and the sound of shots and finds a young Chinese woman dying next to the bodies of two dead men. After the woman dies, Creed discovers that she has strength augmentations like his and later that she was an enslaved prostitute who had tried to escape her bondage. The authorities, overtaxed with other cases, don’t give her case the attention Creed believes it deserves, so he takes it own himself, and soon finds himself at odds with a slavery ring run by the tong, and learns that an old nemesis he thought dead is in fact still alive.
Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake by Jonathan Fesmire is a follow-on to Bodacious Creed and continues the steampunk zombie western style that Fesmire did so well. His creation of an alternate history, with slightly altered physical laws is shockingly realistic, and there’s enough shoot-em-up action to satisfy the most rabid action junkie. Non-stop action from first page to last will keep you turning pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book and give it an easy five stars.
Review of ‘Bodacious Creed’
After his wife and daughter are killed in a fire, U.S. Marshall James ‘Bodacious’ Creed has only his profession—catching criminals—to fall back on. One day, outlaw killer, Corwin Blake, catches Creed by surprise and kills him. Creed awakens in an underground laboratory, resurrected by a mysterious young woman who, in addition to running the town brothel, is an accomplished robotics engineer. Now faster and tougher and before, Creed is conflicted. On the one hand, he is still driven to catch bad guys, but, on the other, he misses the peace of death. When he discovers a secret society bent upon using the techniques of resurrection for illicit purposed, though, he decides that his death can wait.
Bodacious Creed by Jonathan Fesmire is a rip-roaring steam punk zombie western story that will captivate you from beginning to end. Outlandish technology, walking dead, and plenty of black-hat villains, facing off with an undead, and conflicted hero, this story has all the elements of each genre that it represents, all coming together in an unforgettable adventure.
This is the first book in a series that is just begging to be made into a TV series. I received a free copy of this book.
I give it five stars.
Review of ‘Stranger’
Through stubbornness and utter disregard for others, Gavin Roy turned an isolated valley in New Mexico into one of the richest mining and ranching areas in the Old West. He bent everyone, man or woman, to his will—or destroyed them—except for his rebellious son, Clay, and the beautiful woman from New York that he took to his bed after the death of Clay’s mother.
Stranger by acclaimed author Clifford Irving is an epic tale of the western frontier, and the men and women who made it great, told from the point of view of one dysfunctional family and their relationships—among themselves, with others around them, and with the land itself.
Irving, who served 2-1/2 years in prison for his faked autobiography of Howard Hughes, is in fine form in this tale of the Old West with a slightly different take on a beloved genre. There are no white hats versus black hats, and the hero doesn’t kiss his horse and ride off into the sunset. In the real west, people loved and hated, lived and died, and life was sometimes short and brutal, and true to his style, Irving pulls no punches.
Review of ‘Lakota Honor’
Nora Rushton, a 19-year-old, with the power to heal, must conceal her ability lest she be accused of witchcraft and killed. Her father, devastated by the murder of his wife for being a witch, tries to keep her locked away in their house, but her urge to help others causes her to disobey from time to time.
Otakatay, is a half-Sioux, half-white outcast, a bounty hunter, his quest to earn enough money to complete a quest he has set for himself, he has turned into a killer of innocent women at the behest of a white man with a vendetta against witches.
Their paths cross when her father is killed, and the town’s richest man is determined to make her his trophy wife, and someone else has put a price on her head. Otakatay has been hired to kill her, but finds that he can’t, and instead decides that he will protect her, even if it means losing his own life.
Lakota Honor by Kat Flannery is a chilling tale of prejudice, betrayal, and violence, set in the old West. Two people sharing similar stigma as outcasts, take different paths that wind up intersecting, and discover that love can heal old wounds and help in forging new beginnings.
This is not your typical western. Even with the supernatural element, it’s not as vapid as some of the genre-fusion novels, such as Cowboys and Aliens. Trust me, you won’t have to be a western fan to enjoy it.
I give it four stars.
Review of ‘Wanderer of the Wasteland’
Although Zane Grey wasn’t born in the west, he was one of the first authors to make it come alive for readers, beginning with Riders of the Purple Sage. Though panned by critics in his day for his overly vivid, often violent portrayals of the American West and its people, he was immensely popular with readers. His works still stand the test of time, and the way he tied the characters into the land, and the land into the story still serve as models for writers of many genres.
His Wanderer of the Wasteland, the story of a young man who, after killing his brother, flees to the desert to atone, and how he becomes one with the land, is quintessential Grey. Adam Larey was betrayed by his older brother, Guerd, a gambler and wastrel, so he ran away to a mining town. Guerd, in the company of a vicious and unscrupulous sheriff, tracked him down, and in a confrontation, Adam shot his brother and assaulted the sheriff. He then ran away to the desert, feeling that he must atone for the worst mortal sin, fratricide.
In the years that follow, Adam grows into a man, and becomes one with the desert. The land, in all its magnificence and malevolence, changes him, and he in turn changes everyone with whom he comes into contact.
In this story, the land is as much a part of the story as the characters, shaping their moods and actions, and often serving as the arbiter of their fate.
A classic western that will delight fans of the genre. This book was reissued in e-book format. I received a free copy.
I give this one four stars.
Review of ‘Unwanted Dead or Alive’
Buck Hawkins and Dobie Garrett are cowboys who work for a kind boss on the Singletree Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. When a crooked banker steals the ranch and frames them for rustling and horse stealing, they go on the run. Unable to find work, and wanted by the law, they decide they might as well become outlaws. Unfortunately, they know nothing about being desperadoes, and things just keep going from bad to worse. Then, they meet Marylou Kowalski during a bumbled attempt at robbing a stage, and at gunpoint, she forces them to kidnap her and then makes herself part of their ‘outlaw’ gang. Under her tutelage, they decide to go for one big score, rob the bank run by the crooked banker and hightail it to Mexico.
The idea of the western as comedy is not the usual way one looks at the genre. Except for Blazing Saddles, which was a funny, but only so-so movie, and The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, I don’t recall it really being done well. Until, that is, I read Unwanted Dead or Alive by Gene Shelton. This book’s has some serious (pun intended) movie potential. As Buck and Dobie flub one attempt of thieving after another, I found myself laughing so hard I almost wet my pants, or as Dobie would say, ‘peeing my jeans.’ It was just that funny. And, by that, I don’t mean in a contrived way. This was written in an authentic style, but it was seriously funny, and is probably a more credible depiction of the Old West than the vast majority of stuff that’s been written about the golden age of the cowboy.
This is a book that will appeal to both western and humor fans. I received it as a gift.
I give it five stars!
Review of ‘Taking the High Road’
Pinkerton Agent John Yancy was hired by Noah Harper to find his half-sister, Cecelia Powell, who he claims stole part of his inheritance. An agent who always gets his man, or woman, Yancy tracks Cecelia to San Francisco, but as he gets to know her, he starts to wonder if his client has been completely forthcoming with him. But, he’s contracted to do a job, so he reports to Harper where she is. Soon Harper arrives in San Francisco from Boston, and Yancy learns who the real villain is. At the same time, he finds himself developing strong feelings for Cecilia.
Taking the High Road by Morris Fenris is book one in a series of stories about the Yancy brothers who, after leaving their southern home, take different paths in the West, some of them becoming law enforcement officers, others in business, but all with a sense of chivalry and honor that is the stereotypical trademark of the Old West.
Written in the traditional style of the western with the taciturn, honor-bound hero who protects the weak and punishes evil-doers, this book will delight fans of the western genre, even if it’s a bit predictable. Well-researched and colorful, it was a delight to read.
Review of ‘The Sixth Shotgun’
“It is this by which we measure a man, by what he does with his life, by what he creates to leave behind,” – Louis L’Amour. These words describe perhaps better than any the essence of noted western author, Louis L’Amour, the man who set the standard for the western genre.
The Sixth Shotgun by Louis L’Amour, edited by Jon Tuska, contains two of L’Amour’s most famous works, the short work from which the book gets its title, ‘The Sixth Shotgun,’ a tale about a stagecoach robbery and frontier justice, that details in pithy passages the course of justice in many frontier towns of the Old West. The longer work, ‘The Riders of the Ruby Hills,’ is one of L’Amour’s typical range war novels, with lone hero, Ross Haney, facing off against gangs of killers and ne’er-do-wells, while contending for the hand of the fair maiden.
For fans of westerns, Tuska’s editorial notes, giving L’Amour’s biography and discussing his writing style, are fascinating. The fact, for instance, that L’Amour’s novels were often written in first draft with no editing before publication, leading to inconsistencies and errors, was something I was not aware of. Especially considering that the short stories he wrote for pulp magazines were strenuously edited. That said, L’Amour’s stories still stand the test of time. They are full of action, vivid descriptions, as well as his trademark hard-nosed philosophy.
This one is a must-read for western fans. I give it four stars.
Review of ‘Trail Hand’
Bored with life in the little town of San Rafael, Mexico, a lone cowhand seeks work on a horse drive. When he’s ambushed and the herd is stolen, the owner, Don Enrique, and his men, think the cowhand betrayed him. He has to evade them, while fulfilling a promise to Rosa, Don Enrique’s daughter, to get the herd back.
Over the last few years, the western genre has been staging something of a comeback, but nothing beats the style of yesteryear—straight talk, and lots of detail about life in the Wild West.
Trail Hand by R. W. Stone, originally written in the 60s and reissued in 2009, is done in the traditional style; lots of gun and knife fights, loads of western lore, and is the typical story of the lone man fighting the odds in order to survive, who has as much love and respect for his horse as for women.
If you’re a fan of westerns, or are a first time reader, you’ll like this story. It has all the elements of a true western. My only complaint is that the first person narrator, the main character, is not clearly identified early in the story; which makes it a little difficult to get into it right away. Other than that, though, this is a story that rocks.
The author did identify the main character in the book blurb on Amazon.com, but I missed it in the book itself, despite looking carefully for it.
For that reason, I can only give it four stars, instead of the five it probably deserves.
Review of ‘A Dream Unfolding’
Hannah Anderson is married to the man of her dreams. When her husband’s brother gets in trouble with the law, the town turns against them, and they decided to move to Arizona Territory. The way is difficult, and enroute, her husband is killed in an avalanche, leaving Hannah to fend for herself.
When Will Colter’s father dies, leaving his Texas ranch to Will’s older brother, Will decides to take his cattle and move to Arizona to start a new life.
The two paths cross as they face the many trials and tribulations of life on the new frontier.
A Dream Unfolding by Karen Baney is a moving story of two people who through strong faith find their way through life’s perils, and in the process find each other.
A fairly interesting novel, it is often hard to tell which character’s point of view the author is writing, and there is an overuse of characters’ names which is frankly a bit distracting. It’s also a bit too wordy in places, providing information and details that add little or nothing to the story itself.
The author shows talent, and with more experience will be turning out some top-flight work. This one, though, is not quite there yet. I give it three stars.
Review of ‘Harrison’s Valley’
Confederate cavalry captain James McKane escapes from a Union prison camp in Nashville, Tennessee and makes his way back to his family plantation in Clarksville. He finds the place in ruins and what’s left of his family devastated. The crushing blow, though, is that his wife, Kate, and his children, believing him killed in the war, have gone off to Oregon Territory with Kate’s uncle. McKane is determined to find them. In the meanwhile, after Kate’s uncle is murdered by a treacherous business rival, she is facing her own dangers in the as yet untamed west.
Harrison’s Valley by Darrel Rachel tells the twin stories of James McKane’s fight to find his family, a fight against remnants of guerilla bands from the war, against attacking Indians, and treacherous river crossings, and most daunting, against his own prejudices—in particular his relationship with a black mountain man, Wilford Johnson, who he is forced to hire as a guide.
The author does a fine job of describing the social and political upheaval that followed the Civil War, and the mad scramble to acquire land in the west, often at the expense of the Indian tribes who had occupied them for thousands of years. He is best, though, in his treatment of the way characters react personally and individually. In James McKane, he has created a strong, but sensitive character, capable of self-reflection and growth. But, the strongest characters, without whom the book would be uninteresting, are Kate, a southern woman who has to learn to be strong and independent, and Wilford Johnson, a quiet, enigmatic man who refuses to allow society to decide who and what he is, and who demonstrates the loyalty and strength everyone would like in a friend.
Harrison’s Valley is a fantastic story of love, loyalty, determination, greed, and betrayal, in which all characters are credibly portrayed, complete with weaknesses and character flaws. A number of typos and missing words throughout the book, which could easily be remedied by a thorough proofreading, are the only thing in my mind that keep this book from being the best of its genre—it is, nonetheless, among the best of the genre I’ve read in a while.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it three and a half stars.
Review of ‘Riders of the Purple Sage’
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey was originally published in 1912, and is traditionally considered the first true western, a book that shaped the genre for generations to follow.
It is the story of Lassiter, an enigmatic gunslinger from Texas who is hated and feared by the Mormon settlers in northern Utah. Lassiter’s path crosses with Jane Witherspoon, a single Mormon woman, who has defied the edict of the church that she marry the elder in her town.
When Lassiter arrives, a hidden grave on Jane’s property leads him to a quest that he’s been on for a long time—to determine the fate of his sister who had married a charismatic Mormon and fled her home in Texas.
Grey was a master wordsmith who could paint the most vivid pictures imaginable of the Old West and the people who populated it. While some of the narrative and dialogue shows the prejudices against Mormons that existed at the time Grey first wrote the story, it has a sense of veracity and credibility despite its lack of political correctness in modern times.
For fans of the genre, though, this is a book that is required reading, for it helps put all that followed it into the proper perspective.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.
A great Western, but more than the sage is purple. Zane, like many of his generation, was given to purple prose, which is really not my cup of tea, so I only give it four stars.
Review of ‘Hard Wind’
Logan Collins, a former Confederate soldier, was languishing in a Mexican jail. When a group of strange men release him, rather than freeing him, he discovers that they’re taking him to a mysterious ‘government’ man named Lawrence for purposes they will not explain. Collins escapes, but is recaptured. He later learns that this man, Lawrence Rothelson IV, is part of a powerful cabal seeking the means to leave the planet, and that he is the key to them doing so. Collins, a drifter, rebel, and general outlaw, finds his faith tested when he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Claire, also a prisoner.
Hard Wind by Guy Stanton III, is the third in a series of sci-fi/westerns with a religious bent, or what the author calls Christian Speculative Fiction, featuring the traditional shoot ‘em up action, science fiction a la Jules Verne, and a religious message interwoven in the story.
The author writes well, and has a clear understanding of the genres; thus he does an effective job of blending them. At times, though, the dialogue drifts into patterns more appropriate to the late 20th century, and the main character learns things rather more rapidly than is totally credible. The ending, while satisfying as far as it goes, seemed just a tad too pat, and left things hanging. While I found this an enjoyable book, being the third in the series, I expected it to match the level of Ice Wind, and it missed the mark. Having said that, I still recommend it as an entertaining weekend read. I give it 3.5 stars.
Review of ‘Hallowed Ground’
Provender Creed is something of a renegade and outlaw. He lives in the town of Rookwood, a place that doesn’t cotton much to strangers, but he keeps pretty much to himself. Then, a strange group, led by The Deacon, sets up a tent city near town at the mouth of Dead Man’s Gulch, and life changes for everyone—but most importantly, life changes for Creed.
Rookwood was strange before the strangers came, but with them came death and the Devil. Hallowed Ground by Steven Savile and David Niall Wilson is not your typical western. In fact, it’s not your typical story of any genre, containing as it does a bit of everything.
Tight, eerie writing, characters you’d expect to encounter in nightmares, and goings-on that will chill you to your marrow. The Old West was never like this—or was it? Five stars for this story.
Review of ‘Ice Wind’
Taran Collins is a long way from home. Home is Earth, but he finds himself on a strange planet chasing bad guys—or, in his current predicament a female thief, Zayri LaRarque—and he’s stranded in a desert where when it rains, the sand bursts into flame. When it does in fact rain, Taran takes the only escape route, a strange city buried in the sand, and then finds himself on one of the planet’s four moons where he discovers people much like himself who are enslaved by a race of human-animal hybrids. He is given the mission to find Zayri, ally with her, and deliver his people from slavery.
If you’re a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter on Mars, you’ll enjoy reading Ice Wind by Guy S. Stanton III. In this book Stanton has Taran, like John Carter, a Civil War veteran who finds himself on a strange planet far from Earth, facing similar challenges and through his fighting ability and faith, dealing with seemingly insurmountable odds with a combination of humor and derring-do that is typical of the merger of Western and Science Fiction, but, unlike Burroughs, he includes a dose of religion in the story—in a very subtle way that does not at all detract from a nicely structured adventure yarn.
The only negative aspect of this story is some unconventional grammar in the narrative that if cleaned up would elevate it to the top of its class. Unfortunately, because of the grammar issues I have to give it three stars.
Review of ‘To the Gallows’
Cole Winter is an African-American cowboy, who also happens to be a U.S. marshal, one of the first of his race in the Indian Territory. Fast with a gun and incorruptible, he accepts a warrant to bring in Joseph Two Guns, who just happens to be his brother-in-law.
Cole finds Joseph and has to break him out of jail ahead of a lynch mob. At the same time, he frees Jessie Wainwright who has falsely been accused of murder. Together, the three must stay one step ahead of corrupt sheriffs, lynch mobs, and Clement Fournier, a bounty hunter who is on Cole’s trail, as Cole tries to get Joseph to safety and rescue Jessie’s sister, Kaye..
To the Gallows by G. S. Luckett is the legend of Cole Winters, a fictional tale of an African-American lawman in the American West. Filled with gun and knife fights, and plenty of fisticuffs, Gallows is loosely – very loosely – based on a real-life lawman, Bass Reeves. Unlike the real thing, Cole Winter is literate and a Civil War veteran. And, unlike Reeves, who used his wits more than his gun, Cole is not at all hesitant to put a bullet into a bad man.
For fans of classic shoot ‘em ups, this is a book that will please. You’ll be kept entertained and thrilled as Cole and Joseph work out some serious family difficulties, and cheer when another evil-doer bites the dust. I would have liked to see Cole’s character more fully developed, but I’m probably alone in that, as most western fans want to see the action, and the author gives plenty of that. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I give it three and a half stars. With a few fewer typos and errors (e.g., sawn off shotgun rather than sawed off shotgun), I would bump that up to a solid four stars.
Help Turn ‘Frontier Justice’ into a Movie
Help turn Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal into a motion picture. Click http://igg.me/p/the-deadline–4/x/10033849 to support independent film maker Josey Well’s production of ‘Deadline 200 Marshals,’ an adaptabion of my novel about one of the American west’s most famous lawmen.
Review of ‘Rifle River’
Rifle River by Roy LeBeau is a formula western about Frank Leslie, a man trying to get away from his hard-drinking, whoring, gun fighting past. He settles in a green valley to raise horses in peace and quiet, but too many people are determined to see that his life is anything but peaceful.
Billed as an erotic western, it only has a few sex scenes, admittedly pretty graphic, but it has enough gun fighting and fist fighting to satisfy the diehard western fan. The action scenes are models of the genre, and the characters fully fleshed – not the cardboard, cliché characters one usually finds in stories like this.
While it might be a bit too graphic for the faint of heart, or the prudish, it’s sure to please those who like their westerns realistic.
I give it four stars.
Cover Reveal – Buffalo Soldier: Range War
The tenth book in my Buffalo Soldier series, Range War will launch soon. I’d like to share the cover I’ve chosen for this volume, which is the story of Ninth Cavalry Sergeant Ben Carter and his special detachment. They are caught in the middle of a dispute between cattlemen and sheep ranchers – with a gang of hired gunmen to complicate the mix.
There were a few other designs considered (see below), but I thought the stark, simplicity of the one above best illustrated the story.