Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Texan by James B. Hendryx

I'll start right off by giving this novel five stars, which it deserves in my opinion. I say, if you like stories about a cowboy from Texas now living in Montana and may be or may not be looking for a wife and has a French-Canadian metis for a partner, this book is for you. Oh, yes, and it is written in the vernacular of a cowboy that twists his words and prolongs the sentence endings by adding typical colloquialisms of an earlier time. It reminds me of Wolfville by Alfred Henry Lewis and is just as humorous.

The story begins in a saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he meets the half-breed, and quickly moves on to a small town in Montana. There is a train wreck nearby and the regularly scheduled train has to pull aside and wait for the tracks to be replaced. On the train are two easterners, a man and a woman, and the woman wants to experience the real west, but the man only yearns to return east. It so happens that they've come upon a day of celebration and a perfect excuse to partake of some local color. The man (called a pilgrim throughout or a tenderfoot by the cowboys) stays on the train and the woman walks into town and gets ready to watch the rodeo. She finds a seat on a pile of lumber just as a breeze carries way her white handkerchief. The Texan and another cowboy happen to see it flutter to the ground and they race to pick it up and that's the first meeting of the Texan and the lady.

The story moves on with the pilgrim getting himself in a terrible fix only to be saved and taken from the town by the Texan with the woman tagging along.

The tale becomes more complicated as it wends its way to the end and it kept my attention to see what was going to happen next. I found it to be funny, suspenseful, interesting, and a break from the usual modern day western. Mr. Hendryx certainly did a fantastic job putting all that old cowboy talk together.   

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Hard Life

In Crossing Purgatory by Gary Schanbacher we have a man who suffers terribly over the death of his wife and two boys who died from cholera in 1858. They lived in Indiana and the man was a landowner and farmer, but he wanted to increase his holdings so he pays a visit to his father to get some money. When he returned from this failed mission, he found his sons already dead and his wife critically ill and he feels guilty that he failed them for naught. He heads west with a small wagon train in the charge of a Captain Upperdine and is amazed with all the vacant lands just setting there waiting to be farmed.

But he cannot get over his guilt feelings and has nightmares over them and worries continually that he should never have left his family alone. He manages to make friends with the Johnsons, Obadiah and Hanna and their son Joseph and a freed black man. Prior to reaching the confluence of the Arkansas and Purgatoire Rivers, they are attacked by Missouri raiders and Obadiah and the black man are killed with Joseph injured and Hanna taken advantage of sexually. The man has more guilt for not showing up soon enough, but he does run the attackers off and save Hanna and Joseph.

Upperdine has a wife and many acres of land not too far away from the last incident and the man, Thompson Grey is his name, decides to hang around there and see if he wants to continue on west in the future. He helps a Mexican family take care of Upperdine's and the Mex's farmland and continues in his funk unable to get his past out of his mind.

There is much more going on in this story, but it is a portrait of one farmer and his devotion to the land that reads to me like a Russian story; one dark, depressing, yet inspiring and positive that you hope will end on a positive note. This is an e-book published by Pegasus Books LLC and distributed by Open Road Integrated Media.

The author, Gary Schunbacher, is a terrific writer here and I delighted in reading the book. It kept me enthralled all the way through, even though there isn't much dialogue, just enough to keep the plot moving; a stirring narrative of one man's struggles to maintain his sanity in this barely populated land..

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tough Country by Frank Bonham

Cowboy rancher Jim Canning is released from Huntsville Prison and returns to his hometown of Frontera, Texas. He plans to regain his land and become an upstanding member of the little community that found him guilty of assaulting Ed Wingard and permanently injuring one of Ed's hands that was now practically useless. Although he acted in self-defense, the jury found him guilty.
The land he was going to reclaim was once the Wingards' ranch, but Mott Wingard lost it in a poker game to Canning's father, who named the land the Three Deuces Ranch. When he left for Huntsville to serve his time, Jim leased the land back to Mott Wingard, Ed's father. Mott Wingard doesn't want to give it back to Canning and that's where the rub comes in and partly to get back at him for maiming his son.

The story is written in a gritty style and even the sheriff is against Canning, so it seems. Sheriff Hawk Adams is a rough, tough hombre and takes his duties seriously. It appears as if everyone is against Canning except the doctor's daughter Ann Neeley, and he has an uphill battle with the town to restore his good name.

Frank Bonham, the author, is one of my choices for the best western writer. His stories are written in a gritty style that keeps things hopping right along with lots of action. Tough Country is a Dell First Edition pocket book, the one I read, published in 1958. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Escape to the Country by Patsy Collins

Escape to the Country is not exactly a western; it is not even set in the U. S. West, but somewhere in the United Kingdom. So, it certainly doesn't qualify as a western, but it does have a farm with the usual suspects - cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, mud, lotsa mud when it rains, and bulls as tall as a human.

What happens is, this young lady named Leah Tilbury is accused of wrong-doing on an account she manages at her work at a company called Prophet Margin. The company suspends her while they investigate, and she leaves London and her boyfriend, who works for the same company, and visits her Aunt Jayne in the country.  There is a bit of crime involved in her life, but her story is mostly a romance when she meets a fellow called Duncan on the neighboring farm. She gets stuck in the mud, literally, with a borrowed pair of Wellington's that are too large for her and she can't pull them out of the mud. This Duncan fellow espies her and rescues her by lifting her and her boots out of the mud and sets her down on dry land. The story revolves about this romance and her life with Aunt Jayne and life on the farm. She must find herself free from fraud at work and free from her boyfriend that she shares a flat with for the romance to blossom into something else. There are some surprises along the way and a fine ending that wraps things up nicely.

I plead guilty to reading this mostly romance story and also to maybe reading one or two other books classed in the romance genre for which I will not apologize. I found Ms. Collins novel entertaining, humorous, and well written overall. I thought there was some repetition or over-explaining in the narrative, but not enough to detract from the story. Her style was consistent throughout and she takes Ms. Tilbury through her trials with Duncan and the office problems and a crisis with her Aunt in a way which kept me engrossed and glued to the book to see what would happen next.

Patsy Collins, of course, lives in the U. K. and writes in the very English language of which she is accustomed to doing, well-educated with a wide vocabulary and great enthusiasm. She enjoys traveling around in her van with her husband of a few months and taking photographs of the scenery in addition to her writing and blogging on the net. She has written numerous short stories and a few novels and won many prizes for her writing. On her blog, she provides links to many competitions and tips on writing. Check out her blog at titled Words About Writing and Writing About Words..

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Nemesis by L. J. Martin

The last in this set from Western Fictioneers is Nemesis by L. J. Martin. It is a revenge story that takes a little while to get going and picks up steam when it does. A man named McBain sets out to find the killers of his sister's family. There were her husband and two small daughters and herself that were rubbed out that day by the ruthless killers and McBain had made up his mind to find those skunks and kill 'em all, all five or six of 'em.

He rides into the small town of Nemesis near the ranch where the killers had come from, and soon found himself to be the town sheriff for killing the Everette brothers, even though they weren't the ones for whom he was looking. He didn't get along too well with the County Sheriff Wentworth, with whom he shared his office, but being a lawman, he had better access to the killers on the Lazy Snake Ranch owned by Mace Dillon. Dillon wanted the land that his sister's ranch sat on.

I really enjoyed this story as McBain finds the men he is looking for and gives them the justice he thinks necessary. It carried me right along and had a surprise or two as the author got closer to the end. I recommend it to all readers of westerns.

(Note: This set of novels looked as if it had been published in a hurry as the proofrerading part of the editing process was not carried out to perfection. All-in-all, it didn't detract too much from the storylines of the set, and I can't say they weren't entertaining.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Texas Glory by Robert Vaughan

The battles for a free and independent Texas is woven into and around the events in the life of a man named Hunter Grant. It begins with Grant in Texas seeking contracts for cotton produced in Louisiana and he gets involved in the Battle of Gonzalez that sent Santa Ana packing back to Mexico to get serious about kicking the Americans out of Texas.

Upon returning to his home in New Orleans, Mister Grant gets stuck in a duel with a Mexican Colonel, a friend of the family of the girl he plans to marry, and things begin getting complicated when the Mexican doesn't show up for the duel and Grant's best friend is required to stand in for Colonel Sanchez. Another friend of Grant's, Sam McCord leaves for Texas, and unbeknownst to McCord, leaves a pregnant woman behind.

Grant is hired to find the young woman and bring her back home after she takes off to find McCord and marry him. And the situation tends to get further complicated as Santa Ana is building up his forces to make a run on the Alamo and Colonel Sanchez is with him. And the fight takes place at the Alamo and again in the Battle of San Jacinto afterward. Grant falls in love with the young woman, but cannot talk her into returning to New Orleans and she marries McCord who is killed in the Alamo.

Mister Vaughan writes a detailed and compelling story of the Texas confrontation and the love affair that maintained my interest throughout even though I found it to be a little long and wordy in the details. I would still recommend it to all readers of the Western genre and give it four stars.  I liked Brandywine's War better, but it takes place during the Viet Nam war..

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another Year Bites the Dust!

And it is time to wish everyone a Happy New Year!  May it be prosperous and productive for you!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian"

The full title of this novel is Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West. It was first printed in 1985, so it has been around a few years. The copy I have is the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition and I can't believe it has taken that long for me to discover it. On the front cover Michael Herr says "A classic American novel of regeneration through violence. McCarthy can only be compared with out greatest writers, with Melville and Faulkner, and this is his masterpiece." I'll take his word for it.

The story is about a runaway from Tennessee, who leaves home at the age of fourteen. The violence starts right here in the first chapter and doesn't end until the last. The kid becomes a member of  Captain Glanton's volunteers while in a Mexican jail and the murder and blood really picks up steam as Glanton gets contracts to kill the Apaches, which his gang does, and even some Mexicans are thrown in since no one will know the difference. Glanton has a warrant out on him from both the Texans and the Mexicans, but that doesn't stop him from murdering about anyone they see, including some innocent men, women, and children in the bloodthirsty search for Apaches or Mexican bandits or Mexican troops out on patrol. They go looking from deep in Mexico to the lower Arizona country for their victims. Reaching the Yuma area, they take over the Yuma ferry and charge whatever the traffic will bear to cross the Colorado into California or vice versa. Their killing continues until the Yuma Indians slaughter most of them. And in all the killing, hunger, desperation, and misery there is regeneration for  some of them after each battle until the Yuma Indians nearly wipe them out, and it doesn't end there..

Mr. McCarthy is a great writer with his extensive vocabulary and in the way he throws the words around and together, it makes for interesting reading. His descriptive writing is magnificent to me and the story moves right along. I will be reading some more of his books as time goes by. He reminds me of the early English and American writers who used a lot of words in their stories. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

A holly jolly hearty Merry Christmas to everyone! May your day be filled with fun, kids, entertainment, a hearty meal, and many presents!!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Horsemen by Gary McCarthy

I haven't read anything by Gary McCarthy that I remember, but this book, The Horsemen, came in the box set that I am reading now. This is the first book in the Horsemen series and I felt like it had left me in the middle of the stream at the end of it. It begins at the Wildwood Horse Farm owned and run by the Ballou family in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. The horses are all Thoroughbreds and are bred and trained to race, but their life is severely disrupted with the war. And here comes a Captain Denton of the Confederate Army needing horses for the war effort.

Denton doesn't leave a very good impression with the Ballous even though one of the Ballou sons, Mason, is riding with him. Denton tells them they must let the horses go to help fight the war and two more of the Ballou boys, Rufus (Ruff) and Houston, go with him to deliver the Thoroughbreds, mostly pregnant mares. Ruff and Houston were supposed to oversee the horses and bring 'em back home, but Denton steals a stud and another one comes up missing. The hunt for these animals and keeping track of the others is almost an impossible job, and it gets them mixed up in fighting for their lives as they try to find the missing animals. Their adventures kept me on the edge of my seat, so to speak, right up to the end. The ending left me wondering what was going to happen next as they were at an Aunt's tobacco farm in Mississippi and were going to the Cherokee Nation to escape the desperadoes who were after them.

The story provided entertained aplenty, fun, and excitement and it's getting four stars from me.

Gary McCarthy is a Spur Award winner, too, and has many westerns under his belt.