Monday, May 25, 2015

Noteworthy Reads: THE TITHING HERD by J.R. Lindermuth



THE TITHING HERD is an ambitious, exciting, multi-layered Western adventure. The title comes from the practice of cash-strapped Mormons, back in the middle and late 1800s, to gather up a herd of cattle to take to market in order to pay their annual tithe to the Church.
At no cost to the momentum of the book, a number of historical Mormon facts such as this are interwoven into the plot and subplots, giving this tale some distinct “learning” aspects that are quite interesting. Make no mistake, however --- there is plenty of action and suspense to propel these facts and all else along at a rate that will keep the reader eagerly turning pages.

At the core of everything is the character of Luther “Lute” Donnelly, a former lawman carrying around a pack of guilt over past deadly events that he feels responsible for allowing to happen. Said events cost him the life of his brother and also cost him the love of his life --- a Mormon widow he was ready to marry but instead ran away from due to his shame. In the interim he has been getting by on money earned from racing his prize horse but otherwise staying out on the edge of things. In his gut, though, he carries a thirst for revenge on the man who killed his brother and in his heart he still carries his love for Serene, the woman he abandoned.
Coming across a young man left double-crossed by some bandits he’d innocently fallen in with serves as a catalyst to draw Lute back into many of the things he’d been on the run from. From the lad, Tom Baskins, he hears the name “Spanish” --- the outlaw leader responsible for the death of Lute’s brother. And then, after taking Tom back to make amends with the rancher (an old friend of Lute’s) he had inadvertently wronged while in bad company, one thing leads to another and Lute suddenly finds himself not only reunited with Serene but also committed to helping her son take their tithing herd to market. Part of this is as a favor to Serene, but perhaps a greater part is that Lute expects Spanish and his gang to try and rustle the herd, thus providing the former lawman the chance he has been waiting for – to once again confront Spanish.

All of this is told in rapidly cutting-back-and-forth scenes involving numerous characters and settings, everything skillfully handled by author Lindermuth’s sure hand. You will find action, adventure, suspense, romance, and even a touch of mysticism --- interlaced with more than a few twists and surprises --- that will leave you cheering for Lute and the rest of the “good guys” and hoping to see more of them.
Strongly recommended

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Noteworthy Reading/Viewing: LEGENDS & LIES - THE REAL WEST



Anyone dismissing this book or the tie-in series of TV documentaries due to a bias toward Fox New and/or Bill O’Reilly, risks missing out on some interesting and entertaining reflections on several of the Old West’s most prominent characters and events.

The TV features (as of this writing there have been four --- Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickock, Kit Carson – with Davy Crockett due in a week) are formatted much like previous works done on the Discovery and History channels. Which is to say there are narrated cinema re-enactments of the subject matter, augmented with inserted commentary by historians, authors, and related ‘experts’.
The production values of the re-enactment vignettes this time around are, in my opinion, somewhat higher than on some of the previous work. Not saying the historic facts are any more accurately detailed, just that it appears there may have more money spent on the visuals. They are actually quite good.

The corresponding book, despite the prominence of O’Reilly’s name on the cover --- BILL O’REILLY’S LEGENDS & LIES: THE REAL WEST is the complete, rather cumbersome title --- is actually written by one David Fisher, a veteran novelist and author of various non-fiction works. O’Reilly does write a lengthy Forward to the book and also speaks in a number of the commentary pieces on the TV features; using his name so prominently is clearly in recognition to his stature at Fox News and to the success of his previous mega-bestselling books.
Mr. Fisher’s writing, as it turns out, stands just fine on its own.
As might be expected, the book is more richly and completely detailed than what is covered in the TV features. The complete Table of Contents for the book (I’m not sure if all of these will appear on TV) is as follows: Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Black Bart, Wild Bill Hickock, Bass Reeves, George Custer, Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Billy The Kid, and Butch Cassidy. A wealth of photographs (many not commonly seen before) is also included.

Inasmuch as I had already read and learned a good deal about the factual Old West, I can’t say that I learned a whole lot of new things from this book or the TV features I’ve seen so far. But, by the same token, neither did I find any glaring errors or sharp contradictions to what I’d previously encountered … although some of the TV features (due to time constraints, I suppose) skim over or totally skip certain incidents; the book, however, does not.
At any rate, the presentations here --- in print and on screen --- are well done and entertaining and I doubt anyone with an interest in the Old West would come away disappointed.
I recommend both.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WESTERN FICTIONEERS Nominations for Fifth Annual (2015) Peacemaker Awards


This year's nominees (final results to be announced on June) are as follows:

BEST NOVEL:
THE BIG DRIFT - Patrick Dearen (TCU Press)
BUST OUT – W.M. Shockley (Western Trail Blazer)
MORGAN – Frank Roderus (Wolf Pack Publishing)
THE PIANO PLAYER – Carolyn Niethammer (Oak Tree Press)
DESPERATE STRAIGHTS – Janet Squires (Whiskey Creek Press)

BEST INDIE WESTERN:
HANGMAN’S KNOT - James Reasoner (Rough Edges Press)
OUTLAW RANGER – James Reasoner (Rough Edges Press)
LEFT HAND KELLY – Elizabeth Foley (Second Sentence Press)
FUGITIVE TRAIL – Wayne Dundee (Bil-Em-Ri Media)
TRAIL REVENGE – Wayne Dundee (Westward Tide Productions)


BEST SHORT FICTION:
THE 2ND BEST RANGER IN TEXAS – Kathleen Rice Adams (Prairie Rose Publications)
LAW DOG – Wayne Dundee (Western Trail Blazer)
THE RESURRECTION– McKendree (Mike) Long (La Frontera Publishing)
THE BUFFALO RUNNERS – D.B. Jackson (La Frontera Publishing)
GUNFIGHTER’S GIFT – Vonn McKee (Western Trail Blazer)

BEST FIRST NOVEL:
PRODIGAL GUN - Kathleen Rice Adams (Prairie Rose Publications)
COMANCHE TRAIL – Carlton Stowers (Signet)
CATTLE DRIVE – Big Jim Williams (High Noon Press)
THE PIANO PLAYER – Carolyn Niethammer (Oak Tree Press)
THE CALLING – James P. Hanley (5 Prince Publishing)



Also of note is the announcement of James Reasoner as the recipient of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Monday, April 13, 2015

RON SCHEER'S EMPTY SADDLE







Ron Scheer’s death this past Saturday (4/11) left another empty saddle, and a mighty conspicuous one, amongst those of us who appreciate and still ride the trails of the Old West—if only in our imaginations, or perhaps on the screen or the pages we read and sometimes write.
Nobody appreciated that bygone time—the stories, the people, and most of all the words and unique terminology—more than Ron. He wrote about these things, along with book and movie reviews, on his blog, Buddies In The Saddle.
Like so many others, I got to know Ron largely through this blog … augmented by exchanges on my own blog, Facebook, e-mail correspondence, and my writing (which he read and insightfully critiqued). Plus, we had the “Nebraska connection”—I relocated here and fell in love with it, he originated here and never lost his love for it.
During the past year or so, after being diagnosed with cancer, Ron’s blog also became his personal journal. Much of it read like poetry—all of it rang with inspiring courage.
It saddens me to think about Ron being gone … But I’m sure glad I got to know him while he was here.
So long, buddy. Know you’re fillin' a mighty fine saddle now … Let ‘er buck!

Upon Ron’s passing, his wife Lynda communicated the loss with the following, which needs to be shared:
Ron left us early yesterday morning. A blessing to know that he has flown high--like the hawk Anne recently watched in the desert, wheeling and turning on the wind--away from pain and struggle. My heart is shattered. He was the love of my life, but he meant so much to so many people. It is comforting to know my loss is shared with all of you who knew and loved him. Anne and Jeremy are on their way here, to the desert and the enormous sky Ron loved and took so many wonderful photos of, and I look forward to a little time with them, remembering.
Thanks to you all for your kind messages.
[For years Ron has supported the Behrhorst Clinic in Guatemala, where he spent a college summer volunteering. Should you wish to make a donation, the foundation's website is aldeaguatemala.org/]

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Available Now: GUNFIRE RIDGE (Bodie Kendrick - Bounty Hunter #4)





For the bounty on their heads and for the sake of personal vengeance, Bodie Kendrick is finally closing in on the notorious McLory brothers. Their trail has led him far from his normal stomping grounds down in the Southwest and brought him to the remote Pine Ridge region of northwest Nebraska.
 
The danger awaiting him when he at last faces the McLorys is bad enough.
 
But, in addition to that, he’s also under threat from members of the fiercely determined Cardiff clan who are hot on his trail in order to deliver some vengeance of their own.
 
And then there’s the pretty gal he’s become responsible for since she risked her neck to try and help him.
 
Not to mention the renegade Indians who’ve begun raising hell throughout the territory directly in their path …

Everything converges and then erupts into a violent climax on the powder smoke-shrouded heights of Gunfire Ridge!

Another gritty, action-packed adventure from Peacemaker Award-winning author Wayne D. Dundee.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Re-Pricing/Re-Branding for the WESTWARD TIDE series






















Effective immediately, the first two titles in the Westward Tide series (TRAIL JUSTICE and TRAIL REVENGE) are now available at the bargain price of only 99-cents each. Also, the byline on these books has been changed from "Jack Tyree" to "Wayne D. Dundee writing as Jack Tyree".
The Tyree name did not seem to be connecting with readers. Hence, Mel Odom (who also will be writing forthcoming titles in this series) and I decided that, going forward, we will just use our own names on the respective titles that we do. I opted to put the "writing as Jack Tyree" tag on these particular ones because they'd previously been available under that name and I wanted to avoid confusion and the risk some reader might make a new purchase thinking it was a different story because the author's name had changed.
If you aren't familiar with this series yet, I hope these changes will influence you to give it a try. The tales are exciting and filled with a big cast of colorful characters meeting challenges and adventures on the Oregon Trail.
For those who have read TRAIL JUSTICE and TRAIL REVENGE and have been waiting for more, just hold tight. As soon as Mel and I get our calendars cleared of other obligations later this summer, we surely intend to have more available.




Monday, March 23, 2015

Another Look: THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE (1956 Western, starring Glenn Ford)



Here is an often overlooked Western that foregoes the wild, wide open spaces and much of the action to be found in most “oaters”. That is perhaps why it does tend to get overlooked and is seldom included on lists of Best or Favorite Western films.
Nevertheless, it is quite a good feature. It’s heavy on atmosphere and drama, features very little in the way of humor (except in an early barn dance sequence that includes a prolonged and awkwardly out-of-place dance number by Russ Tamblyn, showing up here in between appearances in bigger, splashier movies like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and West Side Story), and boasts several fine performances by a number of veteran actors.

The plot is centered around quiet, unassuming store clerk George Temple (Glenn Ford) who, along with his wife Dora (Jeanne Crain), has been running the general store in Cross Creek for the past four years. What no one else knows is that George has a tortured past. His father was a notorious gunfighter turned lawman who taught George how to handle a gun until the kid became faster and better at it than his teacher. But when his father was killed from ambush, George discovered that, no matter how good he was with a gun, he lacked the fortitude to use one against another man, not even the killer of his father. His guilt over this has kept him running ever since, spurred on by periodically displaying his gun prowess to others only to have to move on immediately afterward for fear of the fast guns that will inevitably come flocking to test him.

When frustration causes George to once more reveal his secret to the stunned citizens of Cross Creek, the inevitable then must follow: Word will spread, fast guns will start showing up, the quiet little town will be disrupted and threatened, and George will have to start facing the challenges … or again slink away.
This time, the townsfolk convince him to stay. They do so by promising --- actually swearing to it in church --- to keep his secret. Almost immediately, however, that promise is broken in an unexpected way and exactly as (in a rather wild coincidence that stretches credibility mighty thin) a notorious, nearly psychotic gunfighter named Vin Harold happens to be passing through. Naturally, Harold insists on a showdown to see who is fastest. He threatens to literally burn down the town if his challenge is not met.
I can’t say too much more without spoiling what is a surprising, wholly satisfying ending with a nifty twist.  

In addition to Ford, Crain, and Crawford, the cast contains a whole host of recognizable character actors including such stalwarts as Noah Berry Jr., John Dehner, Leif Erickson, Paul Birch, Dub Taylor, Virginia Gregg, and John Doucette. Ford is typically low key which is especially effective here, Crain looks a little too beautiful for a small town storekeeper’s wife but does a nice underplayed acting job, Erickson and Gregg are solid, and Dehner damn near steals the whole picture as one of Vinnie Harold’s cronies. Noah Berry, who almost always does a fine job, is disappointingly flat here. And Academy Award-winning Crawford (no, not for this film) over-acts to the point of practically making his character more comic than menacing.

The Fastest Gun Alive was directed and co-written by Russell Rouse. His co-author for the screenplay was Frank D. Gilroy who originally did a version of the story as a teleplay.
Worth checking out as a slightly offbeat, though still reasonably traditional, Western.