Sunday, 22 April 2012

10 recent reviews on Amazon

Reviewers sometimes post reviews of Black Horse Westerns on Here's the reviews for ten recent westerns:

This is a good read for summer holidays. It is a western and has all the murders and beatings-up that one would expect of this genre,but it also about a young man finding out what his "pa" was really like, and in so doing finding out a little more about himself. The author M.M.Rowan creates the atmosphere brilliantly - we can almosy feel the thirsty desert and see the small town with its saloon, "meeting house" and corrupt Sheriff. Even for a non-western aficionado, it is a good yarn.

This is a fast-paced Western that grabs attention from the first page. There is a strong thread of loyalty and pay-back throughout the book, as Carson seeks to avenge the killer of an old-timer who saved his life in the wilderness. Along the road to the climax he encounters others on both sides, or straddling, the thin veneer line of civilisation in a town where law and justice has been displaced by anarchy. Codes of honour in this book clash with those who seek to dispense with these in favour of brutal self-interest - and who will kill anyone who gets in their way. The action sequences are handled well; look out for one involving an induced stampede, where the night adds to the sense of confusion and danger. The dialogue is taut and spare, and serves well to advance the action and to illustrate the traits of each character. If you like your westerns to move at a brisk pace, with a mixture of characters, both traditional and independently quirky, you will enjoy this book.

Laurel Baker's husband is killed in a freak accident and her two sons are burned to death in the blaze that destroys their home by Paradise Creek. Grief and guilt and a deep emptiness engulf her. So when logging magnate Dunn comes by to buy her land, it's an opportunity to sell up and move on. Despite the darkness that has entered her soul, she won't give up. Her men are buried on this land and it's going to stay hers. When fence constructor and widower Finn and his two boys pass through Paradise, Laurel invites them to stay to fence in her land. This new family lightens her darkness.

Dunn is plain stubborn, however, and as his dreams seem to dissipate in the bottom of a whiskey bottle, he determines to be rid of Laurel Baker once and for all.

Tyrell has deftly sewn a tragic and moral tale. Even the bad guys aren't all bad. Dunn keeps taking reluctant steps to his doom, shoved by circumstances and his pride. As ever, the subsidiary characters seem to live - whether that's good neighbour Seth, friendly Apache chief T'Pone, or town marshal Webber.

This is a first for the writer, a female protagonist, and he captures the character well. She's feminine yet tough, gentle yet firm. She's a match for Dunn and his cronies. A match that she lights to blow them to hellfire in Paradise.


This is an enjoyably meaty western..well-written, with some unexpected twists and turns.You sense throughout though, that all is leading, inexorably, towards a traditionally violent showdown.when it comes it doesn't disappoint..there are murderous vilians here..whiskey-swilling, cattle -thieving, double-crossing "jiggers".There are two beautiful and feisty women,the unwitting sources of a lot of the conflict.There's a tough but guilt-ridden hero, trying to fashion a new life for himself and to observe a moral code.there's a bromance of sorts, a lot of action and plenty of blood all hangs together convincingly, and the happy ending feels well-earned.highly recommended.

Grim stuff, this. After more than 20 years away, Delta returns to the ranch he started with Etta James. He upped and left, itchy to make it rich elsewhere. He always planned on coming back - but it took him over two decades to get around to it. The main reason probably had something to do with the bullet lodged in his chest, working its way towards his heart. Delta was on borrowed time.

When he learns that he has a son by Etta, and the boy's running with the wrong crowd, Delta finds a reason for living. If only for a little while longer - so he can seek redemption and turn the boy away from the road of crime.

Jack Martin's third novel is sombre affair about lost chances. There's some good writing in here, too:
"With death peering over a man's shoulder, its icy breath felt on the back of a man's neck, everything was enhanced. The cobalt sky was saturated and the landscape vividly exaggerated."

Etta has problems, it seems, not only from her wayward son. Despotic Maxwell King owns half the town and now wants to own her. Which isn't too surprising, since Etta's "beauty was more than physical. It came from within, a radiance that positively shone in her eyes."

There's also a humorous cross-reference to the earlier novel, Arkansas Smith.

Delta is a man of few words, but, despite his days being numbered, he won't compromise on right and wrong. He'll fight for what is right. Which makes him a dangerous man - since he has nothing to lose.

Jeff Rand, a feared and vengeful gunslinger since his family were murdered, is persuaded by Jim Miller to give up his gunning and join him in peaceful gold mining. All goes well until one day Jeff returns to camp to find Miller murdered and the gold stolen.

Jeff rides off in a black mood of revenge. But after a saloon fracas, he is forced by gunmen to take part in a bank raid. Then the raiders are ambushed, and though Jeff escapes with half the gang, they accuse him of informing and beat him up.

Can Jeff extricate himself? Can he clear his name and can he bring the murderers to justice? Lead must fly before he can find the answers.

The story is full of hard men, many taking another life just to prove they have the ability to draw and kill someone faster than others. The main character, Jeff Rand, fits this mould too, but we also get to share his fear of some of the faster gunmen in the outlaw gang he reluctantly finds himself riding with. The author creates an air of loneliness and despair in Rand extremely well, making the reader care about Rand, want him to succeed in his quest to find out who killed his friend, Jim Miller, and fulfil his need for revenge.

The outlaw gang is full of strong, and memorable, personalities, all seemingly waiting for the simmering mistrusts to explode in violent acts at any moment, which they frequently do, in fast brutal action.

Due to the story's age (it carries the copyright date of 1957) some of the words used by the author would, perhaps, not be used so often today, for instance Rand has many `queer feelings' about many things, and there's some old-time cowboy language used too, but not as much as I was expecting. For a long time I also thought there wouldn't be any female characters turning up in the tale, but a couple did, eventually, but only briefly.

I found Gunhawk to be an entertaining read, full of gritty action that sees much of its story examining the darker side of life, of human nature. So if you enjoy the more hardboiled approach to your reading then this could well be the ideal choice for you.

A gritty, warm-hearted and fiercely loyal hero, a beautiful and vulnerable widow, psychopathic baddies, guns, horses, wild country and a fast moving plot: the perfect ingredients for a page-turning Western. Masero is a master craftsman in keeping up the pace, making you read just one more page to find out how the characters deal with the latest nastiness of the villain - in this case, the Western standard of an evil landowner taking over a town and its law to satisfy his lust for power and the luckless heroine. The eponymous Jake is a very attractive character. Like all memorable Western heroes, he is the understated, tough but deeply moral man most of us everyday suburban males would like to be and we root for him, his sidekick Sam and Kitty the lonely widow throughout the action. Masero also adds in curious notes of authenticity, such as Jake's unusual Mauser pistol and the first appearance of a very early "horseless carriage" shocking a horse-centred world. For all Western fans (and anyone else who likes a good story) this is a great read.

Gillian Taylor's eleventh novel for the Black Horse Western imprint is yet another splendid evocation of the Old West.

Manhunter Jonah Durrell is handsome, dresses well and appears vain but actually he doesn't take himself too seriously. Accomplished with his fists and his two six-guns, he is fair-minded and deadly, but not averse to self-mockery. But he doesn't take kindly to men abusing women - `no man worth his salt lays hands on a woman' - and is determined to bring such bullying low-life to justice.

We first meet Jonah tracking Spencer, who had taken a knife to a prostitute, through the mountains and snow. And we can feel the cold and experience the wide open spaces. Jonah gets his man, but that's just the prelude to more action and danger.

Deciding to rest up at the mining town of Motherlode, Jonah makes the acquaintance of Miss Jenny, the madam who runs the town's `parlour-house'. While getting to know Miss Erica, Jonah is disturbed by a scream. A woman in one of the other rooms is brutally murdered. It seems to be an isolated if rather gruesome incident.

But it isn't long before Miss Jenny and her girls are again in danger. And attempts are made on Jonah's life too. It seems that someone is trying to run Miss Jenny out of town - and it has nothing to do with religion since there isn't a church in this place. The graveyard on the nearby hill starts to fill up. The denouement is fast and furious, an exciting shoot-out which also involves Miss Jenny's girls.

This is a fast read with plenty of action and character development. Jonah Durrell figured in the latter half of Gillian's earlier book, Navajo Rock and looks set to be around for a while yet and I for one welcome the next appearance of this good old-fashioned hero.

There is a sadness about Arkansas Smith that I found unsettling and yet compelling. He has a "void deep inside himself that felt on times like a cavity in his soul. It was a need for identity that would always be there and would never be fulfilled." He's a man of few words and when he smiles, it's a grim smile that hints at a lot of tragedies played out in the past. He is an enigma who keeps his personal history to himself and who doesn't offer up too many explanations. While we are caught up in the dilemma at hand, we are never allowed to forget that we are dealing with a mysterious man here who has a few bones to pick with the world. In the post-modern world, he would be diagnosed as clinically depressed. In the 19th century western, though, he's simply trying to deal with the hand that's been dealt him

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it works on just about every level. Not only is it a fabulous adventure story told with a hint of understated romance, it also happens to be one of the strongest and most enjoyable traditional westerns I've read in quite a while.

Following a shoot-out in which he received a bullet-graze to the skull, Sam Harper lost his memory. Now, some months later, he still doesn't know who he really is, or why he was involved in a shootout. He's pretty handy with a gun, though - and definitely a man to have around in a tight situation, as English heiress Virginia Maitland discovers when she is set upon by a mysterious assailant in the middle of a violent snowstorm.

Rescued by Sam, Virginia reveals that she is en route to Bannock, Montana Territory, where persons unknown have been sabotaging her various business interests. Since it has now become clear that Virginia herself is also a target, she decides to hire Sam to get her safely to her destination.

The bulk of the novel is taken up with their journey through the high country, and it is here that the author really excels, for not only do Sam and Virginia have to contend with the weather (and the storm scenes are beautifully handled), they also find themselves pursued every step of the way by Virginia's enigmatic enemies. And in between dodging bullets - which is something he doesn't always manage to do successfully - Sam's memory finally begins to come back to him.

HIGH MOUNTAIN STAND-OFF is told in a punchy, cinematic style, with great pace and some cracking, hardboiled dialogue. The action scenes - and their aftermath - are handled vividly and with absolute realism. The book's single greatest strength, however, lies in its two attractive principals. They're so well-realised that you really do want them to come through it all in one piece.

As near as I can tell, this is John C Danner's first book - unless of course he's an old hand writing under a new name. As such, it is an extraordinarily assured debut. HIGH MOUNTAIN STAND-OFF reads as if he's been writing westerns - and good ones, at that - for years.

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