Monday, September 15, 2014

The Prisoner of Gun Hill - Owen G. Irons (Paul Lederer)

The plot where the protagonist is captured by bad guys and forced to work in their gold/silver mine is a common one in Western novels. I've used it myself. Paul Lederer, a prolific and top-notch author of Westerns, takes a crack at it in THE PRISONER OF GUN HILL, and it makes for a fine yarn with some unexpected twists in the plot.

Luke Walsh is on the run through the Arizona desert after unintentionally shooting a lawman in Tucson (he was tricked into it by a femme fatale). On the verge of death from thirst and heat, he's "rescued" by a couple of men on their way to a gold mine at Gun Hill. They take Luke with them, and as soon as he recovers a little from his ordeal he's forced to go to work digging a mine shaft in the side of the hill. As if that's not bad enough, it turns out that Gun Hill is where a vicious outlaw gang is getting back together to pull a new job. This threatens not only Luke but also a young woman who's being held captive at the mine. Then the soiled dove who got him in this mess in the first place shows up, along with her murderous outlaw lover.

None of that is particularly surprising, but from there things don't turn out exactly as you'd expect. Lederer has a sure hand with his plot and characters, and his action scenes are well-done, too. He was all over the publishing world in the Seventies and Eighties, writing dozens of house-name Westerns as well as series he created (he wrote most of the Shelter books as Paul Ledd and all of the great Spectros series as Logan Winters), as well as several historical novels under his own name. Then he was out of the business for a while but in recent years has made a strong comeback with stand-alone traditional Western novels, many of them under the pseudonym Owen G. Irons. THE PRISONER OF GUN HILL was published last year under that name by Robert Hale as part of the Black Horse Western series, but an e-book edition under Lederer's own name is available from Open Road Media. It's a very entertaining book, and if you're a Western fan you should check it out, along with Lederer's other novels.

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