Saturday, November 26, 2011

Noteworthy Reads: RANCHO DIABLO - Dark Horse by Colby Jackson

Here's another terrific Western by another good friend, James Reasoner. This is the latest entry in the popular Rancho Diablo series and if you're not familiar with what I'm referencing then you've got some serious catching up to do. 
This fifth entry in the popular Rancho Diablo series maintains the high standards set by previous titles and continues the promise of more to come. As most everyone knows, these books are written in a sort of round-robin style by Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and Mel Odum. This time out it is the always-dependable Reasoner taking another turn and, as already indicated, he does not disappoint.

The arrival in Shooters Cross of a beautiful blonde young woman leading a beautiful (albeit in quite a different way) black stallion draws a lot of attention right off the bat, none more intense than from young Duane Beatty, a hired hand at Sam Blaylock's Rancho Diablo ranch, who happens to be in town that day getting supplies. And, as luck would have it, the opportunity for the young cowpoke to do more than just gaze longingly after the lovely stranger soon presents itself when the blonde beauty is accosted by three hard cases in the local livery and Duane is on hand to intervene.
From there the momentum of the story picks up steadily as it turns out that the blonde — whose name is Lizzie Payton — has plenty of trouble on her lovely tail and getting involved with her may not turn out to be so lucky (unless you count the bad kind) for Duane after all. But Duane, having ridden with Sam Blaylock for a lot of years and having been in on the building of Rancho Diablo from the beginning, is no stranger to trouble. Same for Sam and the other Rancho Diablo riders. And once it is clear how Lizzie has been wronged and how much danger she is in, Duane and the others are ready to back her all the way.
There's action aplenty, a handful of subplots complete with a twist or two, a colorful cast of characters including the kind of villain you love to hate and his assortment of hench-men, a taste of sweet romance, and an exciting horse race featuring Lizzie's "Satan", the dark horse of the title … all presented in Reasoner's easy, assured writing style.
Lots to like. Leaves you sorry to reach the last page and anxious for the next installment of the Rancho Diablo series.
Strongly recommended.

Persevere --- WD

Friday, November 25, 2011

Noteworthy Reads: GHOST COLTS by Peter Brandvold

Another highly recommended book - this time a Western with supernatural elements. Peter Brandvold is a friend of mine who lives in Colorado. He is one of today's best and most popular Western writers. If you haven't read any of his work before, here is a mighty fine place to start.
Peter has been one of my favorite Western authors for a number of years now, and this exciting new novella from Western Trail Blazers is a good example why. Peter writes wonderfully descriptive passages that plant his settings and a sense of time and place firmly in the reader's mind. With that he combines crisp dialogue and action sequences told with so much energy and detail that you almost want to duck from the hot lead flying through the air!

In GHOST COLTS, Brandvold also introduces (and I'm not giving anything away here that the title doesn't already suggest) some supernatural elements. To escape a raging blizzard, Ranger Tim Armstrong and his wounded prisoner, Renfrow, hole up in the saloon of a desolate town. Renfrow's gang is on their tail but hopefully the blizzard has forced them to hole up somewhere themselves. As the night settles in and the blizzard rages on, Armstrong remains vigilant in case the gang didn't halt their pursuit … and it is by means of this vigilance that the ranger slowly comes to realize that something is not quite right about the desolate little town and the curious collection of patrons who are gathered at the saloon where he has taken a room for himself and his prisoner. He begins to wonder if the threat of Renfrow's gang is the only danger he needs to be concerned about.
There are points as this story unfolds where you will think you have things figured out … but you don't … not quite.
When the conclusion comes it is exciting, unsettling, and ultimately satisfying yet haunting.

Western action with a little something extra. Don't miss it!

Persevere --- WD

Noteworthy Reads: 13 SHOTS OF NOIR by Paul D. Brazill

I don't read a whole lot of horror/suspense fiction --- which these stories are, collected under the broad umbrella of "noir" --- so when I do I try to be selective. Having run across a number of Paul's stories here and there and enjoying each of them, I was anxious to check out this anthology. Plus, Paul is another buddy from the HC Collective.
In any event, diving into 13 SHOTS and devouring its contents pretty much in one setting, I did not come away disappointed.

This collection of stories by short-fiction master Paul Brazill is a nifty, nasty mix that covers the gamut from noir to crime to suspense to horror to black humor, and then back again.

Most of the stories are set in England and Brazill's descriptions and use of colloquial language are spot-on and highly entertaining in and of themselves. He sets his scenes deftly and then plunges into the characters and situations and the reader each time is hurtled along, mesmerized to read the next passage in order to find out where the tale is going—and, more often than not, the conclusion arrives with a neatly unexpected twist.

"Tut", the opening tale of the set and a 2010 Spinetingler nominee, is probably my favorite of the lot. It's an expertly paced telling of slowly escalating madness. But there is plenty of madness—and menace, to be sure—in the rest of the stories as well. Like I said at the outset: A nifty, nasty mix that should not be missed.

Persevere --- WD

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Noteworthy Reads: FELONY FISTS by Paul Bishop

This is the first entry in the new Fight Card series created by Paul Bishop and Mel Odum. The Fight Card titles will be short (approximately 25,000 words) novels inspired by the boxing/fight stories that used to run in the old sports pulp magazines of the '30s and '40s. These Fight Card stories will be set in the 1950s, with different characters and settings all over the map, but with the commonality of the central protagonist having some connection to St. Vincent's Asylum For Boys (referred to as Our Lady of the Glass Jaw), a Chicago orphanage run by Father Tim, the fighting priest.
            FELONY FISTS, written by co-creator Bishop, is a rousing tale set in L.A. and centered around Pat "Felony" Flynn, a former Navy boxer, now a uniform cop striving to make detective while at the same training and boxing in undercards simply because he loves the sport. A series of unexpected events finds Flynn on the fast track not only to having a chance at making detective on the city's famed Hat Squad but also to fight in a ranked bout against gangster Mickey Cohen's up-and-coming contender for the light-heavyweight crown.
            The action is fast and furious, the characters are colorful, the setting and time period are captured perfectly, and the writing is spot on. Reads like a black-and-white period movie from Warner Brothers. FELONY FISTS scores a KO right out of the corner and sets the stage nicely to make readers look forward to upcoming titles in this exciting series.
            Strongly recommended.

Be sure to check this one out. I enjoyed the  heck out of it and am sure you will, too.

Persevere --- WD

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Dundee Western - HARD TRAIL TO SOCORRO

I'm pleased to announce that my new Western novel, HARD TRAIL TO SOCORRO, is now available on Amazon Kindle and also through Smashwords in various other eBook formats. In a few weeks, a print version will be available as well --- more on that when it is officially out.
This is the first in a planned series from Western Trail Blazer featuring Bodie Kendrick, bounty hunter.
The publisher's blurb for HARD TRAIL is as follows:
Bounty hunter Bodie Kendrick apprehended his prey without too much trouble. Claiming the reward, however, turns out not to be so easy.
First there is Veronica Fairburn, the beautiful woman who has her own business in Socorro and insists on sticking with Kendrick when he sets out to return there with his prisoner … Then there's the gang of tough ranch hands dead set on relieving him of the prisoner in order to dish out their own brand of personal revenge … Add in the Mexican desperado stalking the woman, and the band of renegade Apaches raiding throughout the region—and Kendrick has his work cut out for him.
Complicating matters even more are the feelings developing between Kendrick and Veronica.
But the greatest challenge of all may come from the daring passage they must attempt over the Jornada del Muerto—the Journey of the Dead, awaiting them in the merciless White Sands desert.

I think that sums up the storyline pretty well.
All I can add is that this is a good, old-fashioned Western adventure with grit, lots of action, and a dash of romance. I hope you'll give it a try --- I think you'll enjoy it.

Persevere --- WD

Saturday, November 5, 2011


In the past couple of weeks, three very significant anthologies have been released.
All have disparate themes yet all contain some of the sharpest, most powerful genre writing being done today. They would be worth your attention at any price, but the fact that each is available in eBook format for a very modest cost is only added incentive for you to seek them out.

DEVILS NEST is a collection of eight stories set in Nebraska of the 1880s. Most of these stories are centered around a drifter named John Coburn, who is also known as The Peregrine (a traveler or wanderer). There is a sense of mystery, perhaps even a trace of mysticism about Coburn. He is good with a gun, although not a gunslinger per se`, and he also keeps a Ponca knife in his boot for tight situations when a surprise edge can mean the difference between life and death.
It is upon returning to his hometown of Red Horizon and finding it obliterated that The Peregrine's real journey begins … a search for answers on the harsh frontier and, ultimately, a hoped-for reunion with any surviving family members. Richard Prosch's writing is spare yet vivid in its descriptions of place and characters and his plot twists take familiar territory and gives it a distinct spin that is all his own. The informative "In Old Nebraska" introduction by Ron Scheer provides a solid foundation for the stories that follow.

THE LOST CHILDREN is a collection of 30 stories that is noteworthy for two reasons: First, the quality and theme of the stories are powerful and important; Second, the proceeds from this undertaking all go to two worthwhile charities—PROTECT (The National Association to Protect Children @ and Children 1st Scotland @ If you are unfamiliar with either of these organizations you should follow the links and check them out.
 The collection of stories presented here came about as a challenge issued by editors Thomas Pluck and Fiona Johnson on Ron Earl Phillip's (the third editor of this anthology) Flash Fiction Friday website. Pledges by Pluck and Johnson for each story submitted resulted in an initial $600 being generated for these worthy causes. The idea for this follow-up anthology soon materialized and THE LOST CHILDREN is the result. The haunting cover by Sarah Bennett Pluck and Danielle Tunstall instantly sets the tone and the flash fiction-style stories that follow are equally haunting and powerful and as painfully timely as today's headlines. The stories are not pleasant and few punches are pulled, but the message driven home again and again demands to be heard: The abuse and neglect of our young is not only horrific and damaging to them as individuals but, unchecked, it threatens the fabric of our souls and our future as a so-called civilized society.

BEAT TO A PULP: HARDBOILED presents (fittingly) 13 tales of mayhem, murder, betrayal, and brutality. All the good stuff. Lean, gritty prose from a wide range of authors telling tales set against a wide range of backdrops and set-ups, this is the kind of entertainment we used to get from the best of the old pulp magazines. And why expect anything less when it comes from editor/contributor David Cranmer, aided this time out by Scott D. Parker, also doing double duty as contributor/co-editor? Cranmer's Beat To A Pulp web magazine consistently—and to increasing praise and recognition—presents these kind of tales on a weekly basis.
Full disclosure: One of the tales in this collection is by some character named Dundee. The only thing I'll add beyond that is that I'm proud to be part of the line-up David and Scott have assembled here.
The price is right, the stories are righteous. You won't be disappointed.

With winter weather and snowbound days just around the corner (or already here, in some places) it's a good time to start stocking up on your reading supplies and you can't miss with any or all of these terrific anthologies.

Persevere — WD