Monday, May 10, 2021

GET OUT OF TOWN

 

GET OUT OF TOWN

An Aaron Mackey Western

By Terrence McCauley

Pinncacle Western

341 pgs

This is book three in Terrence McCauley’s series featuring ex-Cavalry Captain Aaron Mackey and is black former Sergeant, Billy Sunday. If you haven’t read the first two entries, we’d advise you to put this volume back on your bookshelf and go do that right now. We can wait.

Okay, we’ll assume books one and two have now been devoured and you are all wondering what comes next. At the end of book two “Dark Territory” the corrupt politician James Grant had been elected the mayor of Dover Station Montana; a fast growing community thanks in large part to the arrival of the railroad. Annoyed that Mackey and Sunday are on to his illegal activities, Grant attempts to have them dealt with by doing away with the sheriff office in favor of a formal police department to be headed up by a former Texas Ranger named Underhill. Whereas Mackey, having been informed of Grant’s ploy ahead of time, sought the aide of a rich railroad financier named Rice, who in turn had a federal judge swear in Mackey as a U.S. Marshal, thus trumping any mayoral decrees from Grant.

Book three opens with Marshal Mackey chasing after the viscious Hancock gang run by Henry Hancock whose base of operation is a nearboring township named after his family, Hancock. As most of the citizens are in one way or another related to the clan headed by the cruel and brutal Mad Nellie Hancock, Mackey is well aware he’s riding into a rattler’s den in which he’ll receive no assistant from any of the residents. But his luck holds true and he manages to locate the gang before reaching the hamlet. What follows is a bloody shoot-out. McCauley is adept at these and there are never any shortages of such scenes in his books.

While Mackey is dealing with the Hancocks, Deputy Sunday finds himself caught up in a brutal and mysterious affair. The bodies of three Chinese prostitutes were discovered in a newly constructed building among the once raucous tent city inhabited by cattlemen and minors flocking to Dover Station to enjoy its many gambling house and bordellos. All three victims had their throats slit. Mayor Grant wants Sunday and Underhill to make the killings known immediately to stir up publicity and give himself a platform from which to rouse his constituency. Billy Sunday is no one’s fool and suspecting a deep ulterior motive behind the Mayor’s request, opts to forestall any such announcement until he has had time to further investigate the murders. All of which leads him to a deadly confrontation with the mad killer and his blood stained blade.

Like the previous two books, “Get Out Of Town” is a wonderfully plotted story with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. McCauley’s characters are rich and extremely well defined. They all invoke a strong, frontier flavor giving us a glimpse at just how difficult life was in the years after the Civil War and the toll it exacted on the men and woman who went west in order to tame a country and start new lives. Westerns don’t get any better than this series. As ever, the climax is fitting but McCauley’s holding back an ace for that final volume and we can’t wait to see how he’ll play it.

 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

RELENTLESS

 

RELENTLESS

A Gray Man Novel

By Mark Greaney

Berkley

512 pgs

Imagine the cloak and dagger finesse of Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novels blended with Tom Clancy military techno-thrillers and you get the Gray Man. Author Mark Greaney, according to the publisher’s promotional write-ups, traveled the world to research the locations of his books at the same time studying military strategies and weapons and battlefield medicine with specialist in those respective fields. All to bring a clear authentic background to his wonderfully outrageous pulp hero, the Gray Man.

The Gray Man is the codename of Courtland Gentry, one of three unique and deadly spies known as the Poisoned Apples. They often operate independently of any official government agency, though their Spy Master is the Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA, Matthew Hanley. Gentry’s colleagues are Zach Hightower, codname Romantic and former Russian agent Zoya Zakharova, codename Anthem. Each is a professional provocateur resigned to the life they have chosen for themselves. Each possesses a high moral center, but is not averse to killing those they believe pose a threat not only to America, but the entire world.

In this, the tenth book in the Gray Man series, a cunning Arab Prince has crafted an ingenious plot to manipulate the U.S. into going to war with Iran. His goal is to totally destroy the Shia caliphate. Thus he assumes convinces the current Washington Administration that he is their ally and threw a series of deft clandestine operations prepares to launch his final gambit.

Thick books today tend to put off casual readers. Be aware at 501 pgs, this is not an overnight read, unless of course you are into speed-read. Otherwise prepare to enjoy a full course meal, as Greaney throws in not only his main plot but several juicy subplots each intriguing and complete realized. In all his narrative is a complex quilt filled with tons of exactly written action sequences comparable to any ever done on the silver screen. This is action-adventure with capital As. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the Gray Man and we think you will too.

Monday, April 19, 2021

SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK


 SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK

A Caleb York Western

By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Kensington Books

Available April 27 - 2021

222 pages

 The sixth chapter in the Caleb York series picks up where the fifth ended, with the people of Trinidad New Mexico dealing with the aftermath of the worst winter recorded in the west. Many of the local ranchers, having lost most of their stock, have packed up and left the territory, while Willa Cullen, owner of the big Bar-O, is struggling with a decimated herd and a lack of clean running water to support them. The only unfouled source is Sugar Creek which sits on neighboring Circle G land.

As the story opens, the once abandoned ranch is bought by a beautiful widow named Victoria Hammond, who entertains grandiose plans to become the richest, most powerful figure in the county. Events get off on less than desirable footing when Sheriff Caleb York is forced to shoot and kill Victoria’s youngest of three sons for raping and savagely beating a local working girl. Upon meeting the woman to respectfully report the circumstances of the shooting, York discovers that she has no intentions of allowing any other ranchers access to Sugar Creek. She is also planning on buying out Willa for pennies on the dollar. No stranger to past range wars, York finds himself in the precarious role of peace-keeper, between the woman he loves and the ambitious widow Hammond. 

Along about this time, we found ourselves musing over Collins’ ingenuous plot with its echoes of a several classic television settings. Thus far the adventures of Caleb York and Trinidad have seemed much like Matt Dillon in the popular Gunsmoke series. Whereas with this book, he offers up a dark-mirror image of another well known oater, The Big Valley; what with Victoria Barclay (note the same first name) and her three boys. That the two, York and Victoria Hammond are on a collision course is obvious from their first scene together. Then, in his usual masterful touch, Collins ups the ante and violence erupts quickly towards the tale’s second half leaving blisters on our fingers. We simply could not put it down. The end was so Mickey Spillane, it was eerie.

We’ve enjoyed all the Caleb York books but this one clearly stands out as a high mark. Nobody spins a yarn like Max Collins. Nobody.

 

Monday, March 29, 2021

BENEDICT & BRAZOS #2 - A Badge For Brazos

 

BENEDICT & BRAZOS

# 2  Badge For Brazos

By E. Jefferson Clay

Bold Venture Press

Yank Duke Benedict and Reb Hank Brazos need a stake to continue their hunt for outlaw Bo Rangle who knows the whereabouts of $200,000 dollars stolen at the end of the Civil War. To that end they come to the small town of Harmony run by a loud-mouthed, over-sized Madam named Dutch Amy. She and her partners have discovered that the silver mine in the nearby hills actually has new, richer veins of the ore as yet untapped. Whereas the local mining camp of Whipple Creek believes the mine to have been played.

Fearing the miners will learn of the undug riches, she and her men begin a campaign of terror in hopes of forcing them to abandon the territory. This in turn creates several gun battles between the cowboys and miners that threaten the entire township. Upon seeing Brazos fighting skills, Dutch Amy appoints him Sheriff thinking him a stupid yokel she can easily manipulate. Alas, much to her chagrin, Brazos takes the job seriously and soon, along with Benedict’s assistance, he begins to investigate the recent rash of killings.

All of which leads to a violent gun-blasting confrontation between the two saddle partners versus Dutch Amy’s small army of hired gun. Once again Jefferson Clay demonstrates his flair for writing fast paced, colorful western action that moves across the pages like a runaway stampede of Texas Longhorns. This is Wild West at its Wildest!! Not to be missed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

EVOLUTION MAN

 

EVOLUTION MAN

By Charles E. Millhouse

Stormgate Press

265 pgs

Young Caidin Wells is thrill seeker. Anything from fast cars to skydiving, he willing signs regardless of the risk. Only in his twenties, he thinks himself invulnerable. Then one day his hand slips off a mountain face and Caidin plunges hundreds of feet to the earth. He awakens in a hospital miraculously alive thanks to his mother, Carol Wells, a microbiologist working on human nananites. Nananites are tiny little robots capable of traveling through a person’s blood and repairing any bodily harm done no matter how severe the injury. Although not given the green light by her employer for human testing, Carol realizes the only chance her son has to survive is by injecting him with the nanobots. He does survive and soon discovers his body is a whole lot more than just healthy, it’s on the cusp of being supercharged.

Now if this sounds all familiar, author Millhouse never hides the fact that his hero is in fact his version of the sixties television series “Six Million Dollar Man.” In fact his use of the Christian name Caidin is a respectful tip of the pulp fedora to writer Martin Caidin, the writer who created Steve Austin, the test pilot virtually rebuilt by science.

Millhouse’s use of nanonites is not at all that far-fetched as modern science and medicine are actually testing these microscopic agents today in research labs around the country. Once having accepted this familiar tale, we’re left with two primary plot objectives. The first is how will our young hero adapt to his brand new body? That’s a foray into the character’s personality, his strengths and his vulnerabilities and is extremely well handled throughout. The dynamics between Caidin and his mother, plus other supporting figures is believable on so many levels.

Whereas this is a pulp adventure, we have a second plot; that of the billionaire villain, Armand Devereux, Carol’s employer. He wants to control her discoveries and ultimately build a private army of nano-charged super mercenaries. Devereux, like all good villains, yearns not for cash, but for power. All the power in the world. 

In the end, we thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it highly. Millhouse is a more than capable writer and his actions sequences precisely laid out. But there remains an unsatisfying finale. Sure we knew going in this would be the first of a series, but of the two objectives we mentioned earlier, the only one comprehensively dealt with in this opening chapter was that of Caidin’s adjustment; which will obviously continue in subsequent volumes. Whereas the second is left way too much unresolved. Really?

Friday, March 19, 2021

BARSTORMERS Book Two

 

BARNSTORMERS  Book Two

By Matthew Bieniek

Available at Amazon

207 pgs

College grads Kristina “Kiki” Hansen and Bridget Doyle continue their adventures as high flying barnstormers while continuing their undercover work as agents for the international police agency known as ICPO. In this volume the girls find themselves in gangster-ridden Chicago still chasing after the mysterious villain known as the Belgian. Frustrated with their constant interference in his schemes, he wants nothing more than to see the girls eliminated permanently.

Along the way Kiki finds romance in a handsome young man and ends up crossing paths with Al Capone’s chief assassin, Frank Nitti. Managing to survive their stay in the Windy City the girls then travel to St. Louis to find work with another Flying Circus and this time encounter an aviator named Charles Lindbergh.

Once again Matthew Bieniek offers up a wonderful look back into America’s past when daring young men and women saw aviation as the nation’s future with boundless economic potential. They were the pioneers of the clouds and living large was their way of life. None more exciting and colorful than Kiki and Bridget.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

THE BLOODY SPUR - A Caleb York Western

 

THE BLOODY SPUR

A Caleb York Western

By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Pinnacle Books

270 pgs

This is the third of Max Collins’ five Caleb York adventures. York was a western character created by the late Mickey Spillane in a movie script possibly intended for his pal John Wayne. Collins adapted that script into “The Legend of Caleb York” and had it published. Happily the editors were taken with the book’s reception and asked him to do more featuring this new cowboy hero. Collins obliged by writing another four books. Obviously we’d have preferred to read them in the order in which they appeared but that not being possible, we were still determined to obtain all five books; read and review them.

Having settled comfortably in Trinidad, New Mexico, Sheriff Caleb York senses trouble brewing when an odd series of events transpire with days of each other. The first being the arrival into town of Alver Hollis, a notorious gunfighter named the Preacherman and his two saddle pals. Familiar with the man’s deadly history, York believes him to be a paid assassin who disguises his killings under the label of “self-defense.” The question plaguing York is exactly who is the Preacherman’s target in Trinidad. The second affair is the public hue and cry in regards to the Sante Fe Railroad proposing to build a spur line from Los Vegas to Trinidad. Whereas most of the towns leading merchants see the spur as an economic boon to the community, blind rancher George Cullen disagrees. This poses a serious hindrance as Cullen’s spread is the largest in the territory on which the railroad needs to cross to build their new spur. Naturally Cullen makes it known he is not about to grant them that right-of-way. It also doesn’t help that the stubborn old man is the father of Willa Cullen, the young woman York is smitten with.

 

Things begin to heat up and before Willa can convince her father to change his mind, the old man is found dead with evidence indicating he was murdered. What we truly loved about this particular entry in the series is how Collins skillfully shaped it into a western detective story and York proves to be as capable an investigator as he is a peace keeper. The clues are there, as Collins always plays fair, and we happily admit by the book’s finale, he’d smoothly misdirected us. That doesn’t happen often. Thus “The Bloody Spur” is another winner in this series. So, what do you say, Max Collins, got a sixth brewing in that wonderful imagination of yours? We really hope so.