Friday, November 28, 2014

Forgotten Books: Hell in the Saddle - Ed Earl Repp

HELL IN THE SADDLE is the story of Clint Buckley, who returns to his father's ranch in the Big Bend of Texas after several years away, only to find that his father has been murdered, rustlers are running rampant, and a mysterious masked vigilante known only as Don Muerto is riding around the Big Bend shooting people. It's up to Clint, of course, to smash the rustlers and avenge his father, with the help of Don Muerto.

HELL IN THE SADDLE, like the other Repp novel I've read, CYCLONE JIM, is melodramatic even by pulp standards, and Repp throws away any element of mystery by revealing Don Muerto's real identity very early in the book. (I like the name "Don Muerto", though.) The real saving grace is that Repp writes good action scenes. The book concludes with an epic battle that lasts for three or four chapters and keeps getting more operatic as it goes on. I wouldn't recommend that anybody rush out and hunt down a copy of this book, but take it for what it is and it's pretty entertaining. (Nice cover on that Hillman reprint, too. The original edition was published by Godwin in 1936.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Judy Crider, R.I.P.

It's hard to believe that it's been 35 years since I first met Bill and Judy, but at the same time it seems like I've known them forever. She was one of the most gracious ladies I've known. I always enjoyed spending time with them at conventions. Rest in peace, Judy, and our deepest sympathy to Bill and the rest of the family.

Now Available: Outlaw Ranger #2 Hangman's Knot - James Reasoner

(Need something to read this afternoon when you're too stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner to get out of your chair and aren't interested in what's on TV? Or this weekend when you're staying as far away from the shopping malls as you possibly can? Well, try a good old-fashioned action Western!)

Hell came to Santa Angelina on a beautiful morning, as the Texas settlement was practically wiped out by vicious outlaws led by the bloodthirsty lunatic Henry Pollard. Now Pollard is in jail in Alpine, waiting on his trial and an all but certain date with the hangman. The only real question is whether an outraged lynch mob will string him up first.

Not everyone wants to see Pollard dance at the end of a rope, however. His gang of hired killers would like to set him free, and so would his older brother, a wealthy cattleman who has always protected Pollard from the consequences of his savagery.

Riding into the middle of this three-cornered war is the Outlaw Ranger, G.W. Braddock, who may not have a right anymore to wear the bullet-holed star-in-a-circle badge pinned to his shirt, but whose devotion to the law means he'll risk his life to see that justice is done!

HANGMAN'S KNOT is another fast-action Western novel from New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner. Brand-new and never before published, it continues the violent saga of the Outlaw Ranger.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Free Story Wednesday: Endicott's Debt - David Hardy

“You lynched the wrong man, Huck!” Stenson stood behind his desk, rigidly straight and eyes glaring. He was a sandy-haired man, with squinting blue eyes. There was something of the soldier about his bearing. He wore his suit like a uniform, a means to identify his status in regards to any he might have to deal with.
“Quit your bellyaching, Stenson,” Huck growled. He was a leathery man, dressed in the garb of a cowhand. A badge pinned to his jacket indicated his position as a deputy sheriff in Tonto County, Arizona Territory. “If you didn’t have the grit to see the business through, you hadn’t oughta got into it.” Placidly, Huck cut himself a chaw of tobacco and wedged it in his mouth. “I took my posse to the dude’s cabin, found him with those rustler friends of his from the CU ranch, and strung ‘em all up. That’s four men off the Stock Association’s list.”
“For God’s sake, Huck! It’s one thing to lynch some rustling cowboys, but that dude you strung up has people back east who are going to want answers. That cock-and-bull story of yours about how you just wanted to talk to the man and then three dozen masked riders overpowered your posse and lynched the men has to be one of the stupidest fictions outside of a damn Ned Buntline dime novel!” Stenson pounded on his desk. A paper bearing the CU ranch’s brand fell to the floor.
Huck shrugged “So what. The Stock Association owns the law in this territory. And don’t lecture me about rustling. If every rustler in the territory dropped dead, wouldn’t be a stockman alive in Tonto County. That includes you, Stenson. You registered the Teacup brand a month after the CU moved in.” Huck scooped the paper from the floor. With a few strokes of a pen he transformed the CU into a teacup.
“That ain’t the same!” Stenson bristled. “Those CU bastards meant to loot me off the range. I had to steal just to get my own back. I am talking about unprovoked rustling!” Stenson ran his fingers through his hair. “I wrote a letter to the dude’s father, George Endicott Senior. He’s some investor back east[DH1] . Has investments in mining. I tried to hint that George Junior had it coming, in a polite and sorrowful way.
“Anyway, the father hasn’t replied, but I got a telegram from the dude’s brother, John Endicott. He’s coming in on the noon stage from Phoenix. He’ll be here to collect the dude’s things. I need to convince him not to make a fuss about his brother getting lynched. You just sit there and don’t say a thing until I tell you to. The story is George Endicott Junior was a cow thief and friend of cow thieves, it’s sad to relate but too late to do anything about it. Then it’s a manly shoulder for brother John to cry on and then he can pull freight for wherever.”
Stenson and Huck had only a brief wait before John Endicott arrived, travelling grip in hand. Endicott was a sturdily built man, with dark, curly hair, and a broad face where cold, gray eyes peered over a thick mustache. After greetings and expressions of sorrow, Endicott explained his errand. “I came as soon as I could. I’m an engineer in one of the mines my father has a part ownership in, and rather than subject my father to the rigors of cross-country travel, I came down from the mining country in Montana.” He spoke with a marked Yankee accent.
“I understand,” Stenson said. “Perhaps it were better for you to hear this than your father.” Stenson began pulling out bills of sale, brand registries, and livestock reports relating to George Endicott Jr.’s ranch. With artful exaggeration, deliberate misrepresentation, and considerable suppression of truth, Stenson began to impeach Endicott as a willing buyer of stolen cattle and an ally of range bandits. John Endicott sat silent through it all, saying nothing until Stenson finished
“I see,” he said at last. “What of the cattle bearing his brand?”
Stenson only shrugged. “They are scattered. You could hire no honest man to round up stock with such a dubious title.”
John Endicott nodded. “And my brother’s land?”
Stenson winced. “He didn’t actually own it. He had filed a claim, which has lapsed with his death. As it happens… I mean…”
“I filed on it,” Huck said, his voice unnaturally loud. “I own the adjoining claim. Your brother’s land is mine now.” Huck’s eyes bored into Endicott, cold as a rattlesnake’s. “I must say you don’t favor your brother George much in looks. You had best differ from him in this too. I reckon you need better sense than he did.” Huck shifted in his seat, exposing the revolver at his hip.
Endicott sighed deeply. “Of course. There is no more to be said. I have made arrangements for George’s body to be shipped east.” He reached for his grip and paused, eyes on Huck. Gingerly, Endicott opened his grip and produced a wooden case. “I suspected much about my brother’s dealings. He was indiscreet and unwilling to listen to advice.” Very gently he set the case on Stenson’s desk. “This case contains a sum of money to distribute to the victims of my brother’s avarice. It is perhaps inadequate, but the best I can do to repay those he stole from.”
Stenson reached for a tablet with receipts, but Endicott waved his hand. “No, that is unnecessary. You are a respected stockman, Mr. Stenson, and you are an officer of the law, Deputy Huck. I will leave the key with you and you can count the money and make appropriate arrangements.” Endicott rose to leave.
“I’ll see you at the stage tomorrow,” Stenson said. “Again please accept my deepest sympathy at your dreadful loss.”
“Actually I’m leaving tonight,” Endicott replied. “I’ve hired a horse. I’d like to survey the ground. Perhaps I’ll be back to stake a mining claim some day.” He placed a key on the case.
“A capital idea!” Stenson beamed. “Arizona means progress. A man like you is welcome any time.”
Endicott shook hands with Stenson and Huck and departed, grip in hand. “Come back any time,” Huck said when Endicott was gone. “I’ll be happy to plant a slug in your belly, you damn greenhorn.”
“Money, eh?” Stenson said. “Don’t think you’re gonna take it all, Huck.”
“Damned if I ain’t getting my share you ol’ cow-thief,” Huck replied. He looked down as Stenson unlocked the case. Huck had just a moment to glimpse the contents of the case. It was not money, but dynamite, packed tightly in sawdust and two-penny nails. As the spring hit the blasting cap, Huck had a fleeting thought that perhaps he had indeed lynched the wrong man. Then Huck and Stenson were blown to atoms.
Despite a diligent search, John Endicott was not located, though a man answering his description was seen boarding a train in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Even stranger to report, it came to light that George Endicott Jr. had no brother John, nor any other brother. George Endicott Sr. had but one son, he who bore his name and came to a sorry end on a cottonwood limb. George Endicott Sr. vehemently denied any connection to the imposter, and further inquiries proved fruitless.
However, a certain foreman at a mine in Montana whose work principally consisted of blasting rock with dynamite, a man with dark curly hair, a thick mustache, and a broad face, retired suddenly and moved back home to Vermont. He had won the lottery, he said. He was seen no more in the mining country, nor ever again in Arizona.
(I think Dave Hardy is one of the best young writers in the business. If you enjoyed this story of his, check out more of his work below.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Noah

This movie was almost universally reviled when it came out earlier this year. Some hated it because it takes so many liberties with the Biblical story of the Flood. Others didn't like it because it's so aggressively dumb. And I'm not here to tell you that it's a good movie. But it's so goofy and over the top that if you can sit back and take it for what it is, it starts to have a certain oddball charm.

How goofy is it? (Possible spoilers ahead.) Well, Noah, as played by Russell Crowe, comes across as sort of a badass vegan eco-warrior, which fits right in with the parts of the movie that seem like one of those Seventies films that only worked if you watched them while you were stoned. He has giant rock monsters who are really fallen angels for sidekicks. (To quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up.) The Ark is attacked by guys with a cannon. Methusaleh is a wizard. The animals on the Ark all get along because Noah puts them in suspended animation. There's a stowaway on the Ark. It's like the guys who made it said, "Okay, we got a guy named Noah, and a big boat, and a flood...but other than that let's just make up a bunch of stuff."

But the special effects are pretty good in places, and the actors all ham it up (no pun intended) and seem to be having a good time, and hey...giant rock monsters. That's got to be worth something.

But the ultimate test...I watched the whole thing and didn't fall asleep once. These days, that's pretty good.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Milestone of Sorts

I realized recently that the last book I finished was my 315th novel, which means I've written a hundred books since the fire in January '08. That's 100 books, plus 30 pieces of shorter fiction ranging from flash stories to 15,000 word novellas, in 82 months. No wonder I'm tired.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Black Mask, March 1935

Not a fantastic cover, but on the other side of it you've got a Donahue story by Frederick Nebel, a Flashgun Casey story by George Harmon Coxe, and novelettes by Theodore Tinsley and Jack Bertin. Pure hardboiled pulp goodness, in other words.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: Western Story, January 28, 1939

You run across "wanted poster" Western pulp covers like this from time to time. I suspect this one illustrates the lead novel, "Tombstone Justice" by Tom Roan. Other authors in this issue are Stuart Hardy, Jay Lucas, C.K. Shaw, Ray Humphreys, and Kenneth L. Sinclair. Not big names, but solid Western pulp authors.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Forgotten Books: In the Hills of Monterey - Max Brand (Frederick Faust)

Originally appearing as a serial in Western Story in October and November of 1924 under the pseudonym John Frederick, this is more of a historical novel than a traditional Western. It seems to be Faust's attempt to cash in on the popularity of Johnston McCulley's character Zorro, who had been appearing in the pulps for several years previously. Set in Spanish California in 1817, the novel features several Zorro-like elements: a masked hero who has a secret identity; a villainous provincial governor; bumbling soldiers; a beautiful heroine; a magnificent horse, etc. Faust throws in some unexpected twists, though, and puts some unusual spins on the familiar in order to make this an interesting, entertaining novel.

Don Francisco Valdez is a young Spanish nobleman who has been brought to California to marry the beautiful Ortiza Tarabel, the daughter of a wealthy, powerful landholder. On the ship carrying Valdez to California is also Colonel Louis Mortier, a French soldier on a mysterious mission of his own. Valdez has a slave with him, a redheaded Englishman called El Rojo who was formerly a prisoner of Moorish pirates in the Mediterranean. (Getting complicated enough for you already? There's more.) Valdez has his horse with him, the great stallion Sanduval. After a fencing exhibition on shipboard where it becomes obvious that the slave El Rojo is really a master swordsman, Sanduval leaps overboard as the ship approaches the coast. El Rojo goes after the horse, but once they reach the shore, instead of bringing Sanduval back, El Rojo rides off into the hills on him, escaping from a life as Valdez's slave.

El Rojo becomes a hunted outlaw and gathers some allies, a band of ninja-like Navajo Indians who have a grudge of their own against the brutal governer, Jose Pyndero. Plenty of intrigue, romance, swordfights, and hair's-breadth escapes follow, along with the introduction of a mysterious English nobleman, Lord Wyncham, who shows up in Monterey and stirs the pot even more. It's all a bit silly and over the top for modern readers, but if you can put yourself in the place of a Twenties pulp reader and not let the obvious plot devices bother you, the novel is great fun as well.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Lawman and the Songbird - Chap O'Keefe (Keith Chapman)

One of my favorite characters in current Western fiction, Chap O'Keefe's freelance range detective Joshua Dillard, returns in THE LAWMAN AND THE SONGBIRD, a novel originally published by Robert Hale in 2005. It's now available in an inexpensive e-book edition and is well worth reading.

This novel delves into Joshua's past, flashing back to his days as a Pinkerton operative when he was sent to a mining boomtown in Montana to corral a gang of outlaws operating in the area. While he's tackling that job, he gets mixed up in the schemes of a beautiful saloon entertainer and is unable to prevent a deadly saloon robbery. The loot vanishes, and so does the songbird.

Years later, after personal tragedy has led him to quit the Pinkertons and embark on a hardscrabble life as a drifting troubleshooter, Joshua returns to that same Montana town, which is still plagued with lawlessness. This time he's hired as the local marshal, and a daring stagecoach robbery is the first act in a chain of events that might give Joshua a chance to redeem himself for his earlier failure—if he can survive a hail of outlaw lead.

As usual, Chap O'Keefe (who is really Keith Chapman) throws in some nice plot twists and packs the yarn he's spinning with plenty of gritty action. The pace never falters, and THE LAWMAN AND THE SONGBIRD delivers top-notch Western entertainment. Highly recommended, as are all of Keith's books.