I've read at least some entries in just about every Western series Bob Randisi has written over the past forty years--and there have been a lot of them. But I realized I never read any of his Tracker novels, a seven-book series that he wrote for Avon in the Eighties under the pseudonym Tom Cutter. Since these are available now in e-book editions under Randisi's name, I picked up the first one, THE WINNING HAND, read it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tracker (we never find out any other name for him) is a man with several other mysteries about him, such as his background and profession. As this book, and the series, opens, he wins a San Francisco hotel in a poker game and sets out with his con-man friend Duke to find out what he's won. Tracker himself lies low and lets Duke pretend to be the hotel's new owner, since Tracker hasn't decided whether or not he wants to be in the hotel business.
One factor that may influence his decision is that if he stays, he'll have a partner: the beautiful blond daughter of one of the former owners. As if that's not enough of a complication, Tracker also runs afoul of one of the local big shots and gets involved in a boxing match where one of the combatants is the big shot's son--and he'll stop at nothing to win, including murder.
Randisi spins this yarn in his usual fast-paced, dialogue-heavy style, and it's a whole lot of fun. There's plenty of action, Tracker is a likable protagonist, and by the time the book is over, things have been set up for an excellent series. It's hard for me to believe that this book came out 37 years ago. That really makes me feel old. But at the same time, it's an early gem in Randisi's legendary career, and I'm glad I finally got around to this series. Highly recommended.