THE TARNISHED STAR, the debut novel by Gary Dobbs of The Tainted Archive (writing as Jack Martin), is out now, and I’m happy to report that it’s a fine traditional Western novel. It’s the story of Sheriff Cole Masters, who runs afoul of the evil Bowdens, father and son. Wisely starting in the middle of the action, Dobbs takes a page from the movie RIO BRAVO and has Masters waiting for the arrival of the circuit judge so that the prisoner in his jail, Sam Bowden, can be tried for the murder of a prostitute. Sam’s father, wealthy and powerful cattleman Clem Bowden, has a different idea. He plans to free his son, no matter what it takes.
From that point, Dobbs veers off from the expected and spins a yarn of violence and redemption in gritty, tough-minded prose. Cole Masters is hardly an infallible hero. He can be indecisive at times and dangerously impulsive at others. He never loses his devotion to the law, however, and before the book is over, the title reference to a tarnished star takes on more than one meaning.
THE TARNISHED STAR is an entertaining, fast-moving story, as are all the books I’ve read from the Black Horse Westerns line. From the pulpish cover to the final showdown in which plenty of bullets fly, it’s a fine, action-packed Western that still manages to be character-driven. You can order it from an assortment of places, including Amazon and The Book Depository (which offers prompt, free shipping worldwide – hard to beat that deal, which is why I ordered THE TARNISHED STAR from them), and if you’re a Western fan, you want to get your hands on this one.