The Ghost ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Ghost
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 23
Words: 6K



Synopsis:

Publishers Description

The gold strike which led the fortune-hunters to Murrayville brought with them the usual proportion of bad men and outlaws. Three months after the rush started, a bandit appeared so consummate in skill and so cool in daring that all other offenders against the law disappeared in the shade of his reputation. He was a public dread. His comings were unannounced; his goings left no track. Men lowered their voices when they spoke of him. His knowledge of affairs in the town was so uncanny that people called him the ‘Ghost.’

My Thoughts:

Oh, this was a fun little story! The town drunk is just playing a part but it’s obvious from the getgo so no spoilers there. What makes this really interesting is how he manipulates the townsfolks and the manhunter hired to catch him. It is masterfully done and you can hear the laughter in the background the whole time.

These short stories of Brand’s are working out perfectly for me. Good stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Trailin’! ★★★☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Trailin’!
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 247
Words: 71K



Synopsis:

A young man, Anthony Woodbury, longs for adventure but his father is determined to see him lead the idle life of a rich gentleman. When Woodbury Senior is shot in some sort of midnight duel, he reveals that his last name is actually Pard and that Anthony’s mother died giving birth to him. Anthony Pard sets out west to track down the man who killed his father, a man named Drew who Pard was once partners with.

Along the path of vengeance, Anthony tames an untameable horse, romances several women, faces down outlaws and in general shows manly western qualities. Drew is desperate to talk to Anthony but knows the young man won’t give him time to talk, so he sets out his best man to capture Anthony alive. This fails and leaves the hunter with the bitter taste of defeat in his mouth. Nash, the hunter, then gangs up with the outlaws Anthony faced down and attempts to kill Anthony and the woman Nash was interested in, who appears to have fallen in love with Anthony.

At a final standoff in an abandoned cabin, Anthony is preparing for a final charge against the desperadoes when Drew rides up and under a flag of truce, tells Anthony the true story of why Drew killed Woodbury/Pard. Anthony is Drew’s son, who Pard kidnapped because he couldn’t have the woman who Drew married.

Nash and the outlaws leave and Anthony is reconciled to Drew and ready to marry the girl.

My Thoughts:

This was enjoyable while being a bit on the flowery side for me. Anthony Pard is definitely a Gary Stu but the author makes no bones about presenting him that way. The whole point is that his natural abilities come from his biological father, ie, the blood will tell.

Once Anthony went from Woodbury to Pard, it didn’t take long to realize he’d also be going from Pard to Drew by the end of the book. It was more of a will Drew get the chance to tell his son the truth before Pard guns him down in cold vengeance than anything.

Most of the flowery stuff came when Pard was interacting with the girl. A girl who was a restauranteur and not pretty but beautiful to every man who saw her. I rolled my eyes so much I’m surprised they didn’t fall out. Thankfully, those sections weren’t real big so it was possible to wade through them without getting bogged down. Part of the Western Genre is the Mystique of the Feminine and while I have no problems with that per se, sometimes Brand lays it on a little thick. Sometimes he uses a delicate paint brush, but sometimes he uses a trowel. This book was more trowel than paintbrush.

Even with that and the average rating, nothing here made me want to stop reading Brand’s books. So I’ll keep on trucking.

Ps,

that stupid title! Do you know how difficult it is going to be in the future to track this book down based on title? I’m never going to remember to drop the “g”, add an apostrophe and the exclamation mark. Sometimes authors think they are clever and all they are doing is complicating their readers lives. I feel very put upon at the moment and life is barely worth living because of this. * sulks *

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Riders of the Silences ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Riders of the Silences
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 224
Words: 64K



Synopsis:

Pierre Le Rouge, an orphan, was brought up by Jesuit priests. Not only was his mind trained but his body as well. His instructor meant for him to conquer the Northern Parts of Canada and it would take a tough man to do so. Pierre finds out he isn’t an orphan in a message from his father, saying he’s been shot by McGurk, the legendary gunfighter and the father wants to see Pierre before dying. Pierre is the bastard of this man but quits everything and rides off to see his father. He is given a cross by his Instructor, one that has brought him luck.

Pierre finds his father and ends up wounding McGurk in a card game. McGurk had never been touched before in a gun fight and no man had survived before Pierre. Pierre also killed some other men and went down the road of outlawry. He runs away from the law and in a blizzard finds a young girl trapped beneath a downed tree. A landslide occurs and Pierre thinks the girl is dead. He is rescued by a gang of blood thirsty outlaws and joins their gang.

One of the gang, young Jack, turns out to be Jacqueline, the leaders daughter. She falls in love with Pierre but he’s too dumb to realize it. Pierre becomes the best of the gang, best of fighting, best of planning, best of shooting. During this time McGurk has disappeared. Pierre, now known as Red Pierre, ends up going to a dance with Jacqueline and there meets the girl he thought had died years ago. Jacqueline is jealous and makes the girl think she is living with Pierre.

The gang, made up of seven, begin to disappear one by one and they realize McGurk has returned to exact his vengeance on them all. The girl chases Pierre into the mountains, Jacqueline chases Pierre into the mountains and Pierre is chasing McGurk. Jacqueline realizes Pierre will never love her and finds the one surviving member of the gang, who had always loved her. Pierre and the girl get together after Pierre faces off against McGurk and strips him of all manhood and dignity, by not killing him.

My Thoughts:

I was ready for a full western novel and I got one! Hurray!!

While this had elements that had me rolling my eyes (the “lucky” cross pendant being the most obvious), I still had a lot of fun reading this. Part of that fun though, was me imagining Red Pierre and McGurk as Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber (see my Currently Reading post to get the images if you missed it). Imagining Bob the Tomato as a Jesuit Priest in Training had me in stitches and Larry as the menacing McGurk just made me slap my hand to my forehead.

You can’t go into this expecting deep world building, complex characterization and intricate plot lines. What you are getting is an action/adventure story in a western setting with bigger than life people and situations. Of course, with what is being put out today, I question whether what is in this book can even be described as bigger than life anymore.

Another thing in this book’s favor is its brevity. At just over 200 pages, I was able to devour it quickly. Sometimes a book needs to be like a bag of chips. Open, eat, done. No 3hours of prep work, no 72 minutes of sticking in the oven at 324degrees, no setting the table and bringing out the cut crystal and good china. Nothing but instant gratification. As long as you don’t live on chips, or their literary equivalent, you’re all set.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hole In The Wall Barrett ★★★☆½


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Hole In The Wall Barrett
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 18
Words: 5.5K



Synopsis:

A tough guy lawyer defends a murderer who poisoned his own uncle. The lawyer does this because his wife asks him too and tells him the defendant is her lover. The lawyer wins the case, apologizes to his wife for making her think he didn’t love her and promises to do better if she’ll come back. She does. The lawyer then has a “private” meeting with the defendant in his soundproof room, which we see him in warming up a poker and oiling up a whip.

My Thoughts:

Brand starts out the story by clearly defining who the villain and hero are by how they look. You can tell he is being over the top sarcastic and ironic. It’s not immediately obvious he’s being sarcastic, but by the end when it fades out just as the husband is about to horsewhip the murderous scum who dared mess with his wife, it’s all there in black and white.

How the lawyer makes the jury think his client is innocent by drinking the poison was rather neat. How he makes sure it doesn’t affect him by eating raw eggs beforehand and having a doctor right outside the courtroom to pump his stomach, well, that is going above and beyond the call of duty. But he gets his client acquitted. Of course, Justice is served. That had me pumping my fist and exclaiming “Oh yeah!!!”

I am finding that these short stories by Brand are working great for me. It is just enough of a different taste from my typical SFF/Classic that it cleanses the palate but without being long enough to give me a literary tummy ache.

Technically, the title is Hole-in-the-Wall Barrett, but if I ever go searching for this title by search, there is no way I’m going to remember all those stupid hyphens. You’re welcome, future me.

★★★☆½

John Ovington Returns ★★★☆☆

johnovingtonreturns (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: John Ovington Returns
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 20
Words: 6.5K

Synopsis:

John Ovington returns to his ancestral home in Connecticut, to find a series of letters between his Great Grandfather and his fiance. Great Grandfather goes to war, the girl marries someone else and Great Grandfather vows he’ll get the girl in the end.

John Ovington finds out he has a new neighbor, who looks exactly like Great Grandfather’s fiance and that she is running off with a beau. She writes a series of letters exactly the same as the Great Grandfather’s fiance and history begins to repeat itself.

John Ovington gets the girl and breaks the cycle that Fate had ordained for him.

My Thoughts:

For some reason, almost all the editions show this as being a full novel at over 500 pages. It is just a short story at 16-20 pages and I sure do feel bad for anyone who bought it (even for 99cents) thinking it was a full book.

The synopsis pretty much says it all. This is some sort of love, ghost, thingy, story. I tagged it western, but considering it takes place in Connecticut, probably “frontier” might have been more appropriate. I’m guessing this was for a magazine back when it was first published. It has 3 chapters and that fits with a serial short story in a magazine spread over 3 issues.

It was actually nice to read something so short and then be done. I spent 30 minutes or less reading it and then bam, finished. Truth be told, I’ve probably spent more time searching out the correct page number and writing this little piece than I did reading. While it feels like cheating (I’ll including this as a “book” in my monthly roundup numbers), I think that including my Page Count numbers more than makes up for it.

Giddy’up!

★★★☆☆

Above the Law ★★★☆☆

abovethelaw (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Above the Law
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 83
Words: 22K

 

Synopsis:

Black Jim is a notorious outlaw known for robbing stage coaches of their payload of gold. Ruthless and a deadshot, several small towns have banded together and offered a big reward for his capture, dead or alive.

An out of work actress conceives a plan to have her partner pretend to be Black Jim, “capture” him, take the reward money and then once she has left, have her partner reveal he really isn’t Black Jim. What could go wrong with that? Of course, the real Black Jim shows up and takes the actress prisoner and also the other actor.

Black Jim is living in a community of outlaws, who are “Above the Law” and when he brings a woman into the mix, things get heated. The actor devolves and fits in with the other outlaws and they plan to kill Black Jim, steal all of his stolen gold and take the Actress for themselve.

Black Jim and the actress are married, make a daring escape and decide to go legit.

 

My Thoughts:

A classic “woman finds out outlaw has a heart of gold”. Not as mawkish as I was afraid it might be at the beginning. However, the short length saved it from becoming tedious.

This is my 3rd foray into the western genre. While L’Amour I would consider a success (in my reading I mean), Zane Grey was a complete flop. Based on this story, ol’ Max Brand is going to fall squarely in the middle.

Honestly, I’m hoping to read as much of his stuff as possible just to change up my reading.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Last of the Plainsmen ★★☆☆½

lastplainsmen (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Last of the Plainsmen
Series: ———-
Author: Zane Grey
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 237
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Grey “chronicles” a time he supposedly had with a man named Jones, a hunter and trapper who tried to trap the animals he hunted so he could domesticate them, whether they were mountain lions or wild ox. Anything but bears.

 

My Thoughts:

This was very much a Man VS Nature story that happened to take place out West (in the United States) and wasn’t what I think of when I think “Western”. There isn’t a single showdown with pistols, no bare knuckle fights, no Indians trying to scalp anyone, no scheming cardsharps, no damsel in distress, no wily saloon keeper with a hidden shotgun behind the bar. None of that.

This is just a boys adventure story about a man who has a lust for trapping animals and domesticating them. The main story was about Grey and Jones and the group Jones had gathered, trying to catch some mountain lions. During that hunt (which lasted several months if not longer) Jones tells stories about himself hunting other animals. Wild stallions, some sort of Indian ox that they considered sacred, bison, etc. There was a lot of adverse Nature conditions which provides most of the tension of the story.

This was not a “bad” book, but once again, Grey doesn’t give me what I was expecting in a Western and as such, I am done reading him. Maybe next year I’ll try Max Brand? I’d like to keep some Westerns in my reading rotation, but I am not willing to sift through L’Amour’s standalones.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Betty Zane (Ohio River #1) ★☆☆☆½

bettyzane (Custom).jpgThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Betty Zane
Series: Ohio River #1
Author: Zane Grey
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western?
Pages: 263
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Betty Zane has come to the frontier to live with her brother and his family. Pretty, head strong and used to getting her way, Betty lives life her way.

A young man comes to the settlement and because he doesn’t immediately bow to Betty’s beauty she “hates” him. Of course, they fall in love with each other but between both of them being young, full of pride and just generally stupid, things don’t go easy.

Then Indians and some damn British Red Coats attack the fort. The brave men and women and children hold them off and win a great victory.

Betty Zane and her fella done get hitched and produce a heap ‘o chillens.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, after I was done with the Sacketts, I figured Zane Grey was next. This is NOT an auspicious start, that is for sure.

This isn’t what I’d think of as a Western, but more of Frontier Fiction. There are no cowboys, no West, it’s all East of the Mississippi river and it is sappy as a Janette Oke book. I was NOT expecting that.

I also wasn’t expecting deeply insightful characters either but almost everyone portrayed came across as a cardboard cutout slapped with a coat of brightly colored paint. I felt like I was watching clowns at a circus.

The story telling itself was tedious. First Zane would do a chapter of “history” where he just spells everything out. Then we’d jump into the story where he would then tell that exact same history but using the characters and making a story of it. He bleeding spoils his own thing and pretty much just puffs up his word count. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

I have an omnibus edition of Grey’s works and I’ll be skipping the next Ohio River book. Of course, without an actual index I’ll have to flip through 200’ish pages to do that. This is why you shouldn’t buy $2 omnibus books on Amazon.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Lonely on the Mountain (Sacketts #17) ★★★☆☆

lonelyonthemountain (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Lonely on the Mountain
Series: Sacketts #17
Author: Louis L’Amour
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 224
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Tell, Orrin and Tyrell Sackett get a note from their cousin Logan that he needs a herd of cattle driven to some place or other and that if the herd isn’t delivered before the snow falls he’ll hang. The Sackett brothers begin.

They gather a herd, realize they have enemies to deal with and have adventures. The herd gets scattered in a stampede, a girl is seeking her brother and no one has heard from Logan again.

The Sackett brothers overcome all, find Logan and rescue a small group of settlers that are being starved out by desperadoes searching for gold.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, this was the final Sacketts book written by L’Amour, chronologically speaking. I enjoyed my time reading this book but it did rather meander, much like a cattle drive and the ending was so quick that I blinked and whammo, I was done the book.

That is ok because it gives me more room to talk about this series as a whole in wrapping things up.

I started reading the Sacketts almost 3 years ago with Sackett’s Land. More of a historical fiction than western, it set the tone for Clan Sackett. Loyalty, responsibility, a high regard for education and the written word, a love of honor and all things Right, a respect for the Law even when you thought it was wrong. The Sackets also did whatever they set their minds to. They didn’t give up or allow their circumstances to dictate their actions. They were what Real Men want to be. Personally, while I would love to emulate men like those portrayed in the series, I’d be ok with a little less gun play and a LOT less fisticuffs. I’m just too pretty 😉

I think L’Amour used this series to showcase how great he thought America was. He didn’t believe it was perfect or had sprung forth full grown, immaculately conceived. The birth of America was a bloody and dirty event and it’s growing up years were just as tumultuous. But it was glorious (!!) and L’Amour wanted to show that glory in the examples of the best of the men and women who forged this country. In many ways this series was a Love Letter to America. It was also a reminder to the up and coming generation that everything they had was built on the backs of men of character and what their forefathers had sweated blood for they, the current generation, better not take for granted. Yes, these stories were romanticized, but what do we all dream of that isn’t? We dream for a reason, because reality is gritty and full of failure and despair. We dream because we know in our very souls that there MUST BE something better.

On a less salubrious note, this series also showcased all of L’Amours strengths AND his weaknesses. He was a franchise writer and he had deadlines and he’d recycle story lines and not worry about keeping things completely straight. If a character was going to get married at the end of one book, L’Amour saw that as no impediment to making said character be single in a later book. There was very little cohesive narrative beyond Names. I might be reading my own meloncholia into things but sometimes it felt like L’Amour was foretelling the fall of America. If men stopped being men of character, then the whole country would suffer.

The other thing I’d like to talk about, for just a sentence or two, is the covers. Since these started out in the 60’s and finished up in the 80’s, with multiple re-releases and the latest installment coming out in ebook in the early ’10’s, they showcase the era in which each was published. It is an education to look at various publications to see what was expected from a western novel throughout the decades.

Overall, while I never rated these above 3.5, I still enjoyed the time I spent reading. Ride the River would probably be my pick of the litter if I had to choose one to elevate above all the others. I just checked though and I gave Lando 4 stars. Mainly for the macho boxing fight at the end. I’d still recommend Ride the River in general, as mano-a-mano isn’t for everyone.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Ride the Dark Trail (Sacketts #16) ★★★☆½

ridethedarktrail (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ride the Dark Trail
Series: Sacketts #16
Author: Louis L’Amour
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 167
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Logan Sackett is on the run from a posse and in possession of a stolen horse. He takes a rest in a small town and is trying to eat a meal in peace. A young woman enters the bar looking for work, as the man she had been working for is trying to force her to marry him since her father is dead. Logan gets involved, comes across the man running the town and learns that an Emily Talon is needing some help. He takes the young woman out to Emily’s ranch and finds out she is a Sackett and under siege.

He doesn’t like the boss man in town, a relative needs help and a pretty young girl has already relied on him. It’s a no brainer that Logan sticks around. He sends out some feelers for Emily’s two sons and begins doing what a Sackett does best, ie, stand their ground.

Logan and Emily take on a whole gang and when Em’s two sons do return, Logan is wounded, left on a mountain and then has to go rescue Emily who has been taken captive by the Boss. Showdown ensues, bad guys die and Logan thinks about moving on to California.

 

My Thoughts:

An enjoyable read that kept me entertained for a day. None of these Sackett books truly depend on each other. Change the names of the characters and you could have any standalone western that you wished. I guess that could be viewed as a weakness and in the right (or wrong perhaps?) mood I could definitely go that way. But these are just tales of adventure showcasing the Spirit of America.

L’Amour obviously loved America and thought that the men and women who bled and died during its growing up period deserved to be thought of as heroes. Not superheroes or impossible icons, but heroes in the fact that they did the right thing and just wouldn’t give up.

This checked off most of the boxes I expect from a Sackett book: the hint of romance with the girl, rugged individualism, a mountain, a rain storm, tricky and brutal badguys, relatives saving the day.

I would say this is a typical L’Amour book and you’ll either enjoy it or not depending on if you like him as an author or not.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)