Wednesday, January 29, 2020

#7: Contract in Cartridges by Ben Elliot

A gun-hand trying to retire gets pushed into a gunfight he doesn't want, and when a manhunt ensues he ends up recuperating at a struggling ranch run by a brother and sister.  When he falls for the sister, and a nearby rancher begins to crowd the land, he straps his guns on again in Ben Elliot's Contract in Cartridges.

This was on the flip side of an Ace Double with Don't Cross My Line by Tom West,  an author I wanted to read.  But at that point I didn't realize that Ben Elliot was actually Ben Haas, who wrote two tough-minded series I really enjoyed, Fargo and Sundance (as John Benteen).

By any name, this is a really great western, and begins to almost slip into noir territory towards the end, when the various relationships, and the lies they have told each other, begin to come out.  It has a downbeat but very rewarding ending.

I was glad I picked this one up at a used bookstore, and it continued to cement Ben Haas' reputation as a top western writer in my mind.  Recommended for fans.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

#6: The Siberian Dilemma by Martin Cruz Smith

Renko is a world-weary Russian detective, but is moved to action when the love of his life--an investigative journalist writing a story about oligarchs and oil in Siberia--is suddenly in danger in Martin Cruz Smith's The Siberian Dilemma

Renko is the star of a long-running police procedural series, beginning with Gorky Park, which has charted the changes in the Soviet Union right in step along the way.  Renko has also accumulated a handful of supporting characters, including a quasi-foster son/chess wizard, a drunken but philosophical partner, and a scheming politically-sensitive boss.

These novels are always solidly plotted, with interesting characters, and in an interesting setting.  I always look forward to the next one.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it quickly.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

#5: The Gun is My Brother by Cy James

Sam Spur is a hired gun who is forced to kill a preacher, and finds an entire poisonous town turned against him, in Cy James' first Spur novel, The Gun is My Brother.

James was actually Matt Chisholm who was actually prolific Australian writer Peter Watts, an author who wrote multiple western series at a breakneck pace.  His Blade series is pretty action-packed and mindless, his McAllister series is much more serious and hard-boiled, but this Spur novel is probably darker and bleaker still.

Spur gets bushwhacked and shot up near the outset, and spends a lot of the novel just trying to stay alive, until he is finally pushed into gunplay that shrinks the size of the town by some measure.

I have read a number of McAllisters but will definitely get another Spur novel soon.  I got this for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

#4: Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores by Massimo Carlotto

A melancholy, blues-loving criminal called The Alligator and his crew hunt a murderous snitch, and take on sex traffickers, in Massimo Carlotto's Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores.

Carlotto is an Italian author who writes very hard-boiled novels, as the title of this one might suggest.  I like his style and find his writing, though uncompromising, enjoyable and often surprising in its twists and turns.

The Alligator lives in a world where the criminals have honor and a code, and the cops and prosecutors can't be trusted. 

At the outset, his crew becomes outraged when they are framed and then blackmailed by the cops to hunt a killer they can't reach, even though his crew justifiably belongs in prison and they wanted to kill the person anyway.

A globe-trotting chase ensues, with a pretty downbeat ending.

This is part of the World Noir line that I have enjoyed for a long time.  World Noir sent me an advanced copy of Carlotto's latest, and I will look forward to his next adventure with The Alligator.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

#3: Don't Cross My Line by Tom West

An outlaw poses as a lawman to sneak back from Mexico, then needs to go undercover as an outlaw (?!?!) to roust a dangerous gang, in Tom West's Don't Cross My Line.

Tom West was actually a British writer named Fred East, and has a following as a western scribe.  West packs enough plotting in this one for about a dozen westerns, but plenty of action smooths over the hazy motivations of the characters.

This was one half of an Ace Double with Ben Elliot's Contract in Cartridges on the other side, which I am eager to read after learning this was actually Ben Haas (who wrote most often as John Benteen).  Most Ace Doubles I've read are pretty light, and this one lighter than most; though I continue to enjoy Tom West when I find him.

I got this one in a big lot of Ace Doubles from a friend and read it quickly.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

#2: A Noose for Slattery by Steven C. Lawrence

Slattery comes to town to join a cattle drive, but the town's boss takes to murder to keep it from happening, in A Noose for Slattery by Steve C. Lawrence.

Slattery seems to want to make his money in normal ways, but being a lightning-fast gun hand ends up being his stock in trade.

I had never heard of this author or series when I found A Noose for Slattery in a three-for-a-dollar box at a flea market in Frankfort, Indiana. 

Thus I was genuinely surprised to enjoy the writing in this one, and probably more surprised that more experienced reviewers than myself don't seem to have the author and series on their radar.

Not I'm on the hunt for more Slattery books after finding this one quite enjoyable.

Friday, January 3, 2020

#1: The Black Jersey by Jorge Zepeda Patterson

A French cyclist begins to realize that a series of accidents and mishaps on the Tour de France are anything but in Jorge Zepeda Patterson's The Black Jersey.

Our reluctant hero is former military, and thus is forcibly recruited to investigate, all the while feeling the threads unravel on an old friendship with the Tour's front-runner, a Hollywood-ready American.

His girlfriend, an old mentor, and the colorful collection of other cyclists make up a fully-realized cast in a thriller that moves, literally, at deadly speed.

This was an entirely refreshing novel with a unique setting and characters, and a great way to ring in 2020's reading challenge.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana and read it quickly.