Paul Wheelahan has to be one of the most prolific writers of all time. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wrote well over a thousand novels, most of them Westerns for the Australian publishers Cleveland and Horwitz, under a number of different pseudonyms, the most common being Emerson Dodge. A few of his books under the name E. Jefferson Clay were published (pirated, most likely) in the U.S. by Leisure, all of them in his series featuring handsome, womanizing gambler Duke Benedict and burly saddle tramp Hank Brazos, one a former Yankee (Benedict), the other a former Confederate (Brazos), who fought against each other during the Civil War but then teamed up, albeit reluctantly, for a long series of adventures in the post-war Old West.
The Benedict and Brazos series is being reprinted from the start by Piccadilly
Publishing as e-book editions and Bold Venture Press as handsome trade paperbacks. I
recently read the first novel, ACES WILD, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It begins
in a Kansas cattle town where the two protagonists run into each other months
after the war is over, then flashes back to their first meeting during a battle
in Georgia, where they fight against each other, then team up to ward off an
attack by renegades not loyal to either side. There’s a wagonload of
Confederate gold mixed up in the affair, and it’s still unaccounted for when
Benedict and Brazos meet after the war.
Along with the missing gold, Wheelahan throws several other things into the plot: a gang of outlaws, a bounty hunter and his beautiful, flirtatious wife, a newly opened bordello, and the leader of the renegades Benedict and Brazos tangled with during the war. The story races along in fine fashion, with plenty of action and interesting twists as Benedict and Brazos not only work together when they have to but also plot against each other when it suits them.
ACES WILD is a really entertaining traditional Western with a pair of likable protagonists, and I’m glad that the books are readily available again. I’ll be reading more of them, you can count on that. Recommended.