Forgotten Books: Bloody Hoofs - J. Edward Leithead
This is Ace Double D-2, the second book in the famous, long-running series of Westerns, mysteries, and science fiction. Despite the fact that the copyright date is 1952 and the cover says "An ACE Original", I suspect it's a reprint of one of Leithead's pulp stories from the Twenties, when his work appeared regularly in ACE-HIGH and other pulps. The style is a little long-winded and formal in places, somewhat different than his work in the Thirties and Forties for RANCH ROMANCES, WESTERN ACES, WESTERN TRAILS, and assorted other Western titles. But it's still a fairly entertaining, fast-moving story. Horse wrangler Bret Kane rides into West Texas carrying a dead man's saddle. The saddle belonged to rancher "One-Shot" Lowrie's prodigal son Bob. Bob Lowrie had become a tinhorn gambler after leaving home, and after being mortally wounded in a fight over a card game, Bob convinced one of the bystanders--Bret Kane--to return his saddle to the old man. What Kane doesn't know is that he is riding into a three-cornered range war between "One-Shot" Lowrie and neighboring ranchers Rufus Overholt and Jim Catlin. That's pretty much the plot of the book. Kane throws in with Lowrie and helps him in his battle to save the Circle O ranch. There's a horse race, some double-crosses, and a lot of shootouts. No romance at all; in fact, the only female characters even mentioned are some anonymous saloon girls. What saves the book for me is Leithead's colorful way with an action scene and the sense that he's enjoying himself. Leithead did better work in some of his other stories, but this one is okay.