Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Couple of Ben Haas Reviews

(Since I'm on a Ben Haas kick right now [the psychologically inclined among you will have noticed that I can be a bit obsessive], here are a couple of old reviews I excavated from the archives of the WesternPulps Yahoo Group. I wrote these reviews in March 2002, almost ten years ago.)

BIG BEND, Richard Meade (Ben Haas)
Doubleday, 1968

Sam Ramsey owns a horse ranch north of the Big Bend in Texas in 1914, at a time when there is much unrest and revolution across the border in Mexico. Ramsey is a loner and doesn't get along with his neighbors because of lingering resentment directed at his late father, a Union Army officer who commanded black soldiers posted in the area following the Civil War. When Ramsey's horse herd is stolen by outlaws who plan to take them across the border and sell them to Pancho Villa, he goes after the thieves on his own, despite the heavy odds against him.

Those odds are improved a little when he meets the giant black soldier of fortune called Concho and a young widow named Nora, who are on a mission of revenge of their own that takes them into the Big Bend. The trio of adventurers face a great deal of hardship and danger from Anglo outlaws and Mexican revolutionaries as they try to survive the badlands on both sides of the Rio Grande and catch up to the men they are pursuing.

Ben Haas is one of my favorite series writers (Sundance, Fargo, and at least one Lassiter as Jack Slade). He also writes excellent stand-alones, and this book is a prime example of that. Though the basic plot is made up of standard Western elements, Haas throws in enough wrinkles to make the book consistently interesting. The more modern-day setting allows the use of telephones, machine guns, and airplanes, but there's still plenty of traditional Western action. Haas gives his characters depth and writes such smooth, fast-moving prose that his books are always a pleasure to read.

Highly recommended.

CARTRIDGE CREEK, Richard Meade (Ben Haas)
Doubleday, 1973

Will Leatherman is as tough as his name, a former trail driver from Texas turned land developer, who comes to the railroad-owned town of Cartridge Creek, New Mexico, to size it up and see if he and his partner want to buy it from the railroad. Unwittingly, Leatherman has walked into a war about to erupt between two rival saloon owners, Fate Canady and Goldtoothed Bob Rigsby. Leatherman doesn't want to take sides in this trouble, although after a run-in with one of Rigsby's hired guns, both men try to hire him, thinking that Leatherman is a gunfighter himself. Leatherman's growing friendship for Tom Brand, the man who founded the town, and Bettina Grady, the pretty young widow who runs the local boarding house, finally forces him to take a hand in Cartridge Creek's troubles.

CARTRIDGE CREEK is not as good as Haas's BIG BEND, which I also read and reviewed recently, but it deserves a high recommendation anyway.

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