Friday, 5 May 2017

Review: To The Death! (A Company 'C' Western Book 2) by Brent Towns

TO THE DEATH!

They fought like demons in a Mimbreño stronghold …

Captain Nathan Kelso was on the brink of drunken oblivion. He’d lost the respect of his commanding officer, and Company ‘C’ had been unofficially disbanded.

Now, with both bronco and Mimbreño Apaches raising hell throughout the territory, Company ‘C’ is finally called back into action – as an escort detail under the command of Major Matthew Hackett.

But things go wrong from the get-go. A patrol under a green lieutenant is all but wiped out and an incident involving two rabid coyotes sees Hackett badly injured. At least now, Kelso is back where he belongs – in command of the best damn’ company the cavalry has to offer.

When things go from bad to worse, however, Kelso has to lead his men into the Santa Rita Mountains on a do-or-die mission to save five female prisoners of the Apaches. It’s a trail that will see Kelso and Company ‘C’ fighting – to the death!

This is part of a series with characters created by Ben Bridges. The book is edited by Ben Bridges.

I enjoyed this book from page 1.

Brent Towns always writes with a large cast of characters, each one important to the plot and given the requisite amount of space needed to carry the story. His portrayals of their qualities and flaws seems very well balanced and realistic. However, he is not afraid to kill them off so it pays not to become attached!

Every scene is alive with detail and ambience, yet it never becomes bogged down. As I have said before when reviewing this author's books under different pseudonyms, I can see every scene and action as though it were playing out on a cinema screen. The flow of the writing moves the story forward at a good pace but it never feels rushed or negligent.

Once again, I am happy to recommend this book and look forward to reading more from Brent Towns (also Sam Clancy, BS Dunn). Luckily for me, he is a rabid writer and never leaves me waiting for long.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Author interview: Andrew McBride

Please join me in welcoming Andrew McBride. I recently came across Andrew when his blog came to my attention. Like me, he is a Brit writing westerns and doing his best to champion the genre. Here's what he had to say when I asked him a few questions.

How many books have you written?
A bunch of unpublished ones, in various genres! I’ve had 6 published, all westerns. 2 – THE PEACEMAKER & SHADOW MAN – are currently available. The other 4 – CANYON OF THE DEAD, DEATH WEARS A STAR, DEATH SONG (spot a theme?) and THE ARIZONA KID can still be found in libraries but haven’t been on sale for a long time. However Crowood Press are about to re-issue them as e.books, so maybe I’ll be able to talk to you about them soon.

What is your latest release called, what’s it about and what inspired it?
THE PEACEMAKER. The idea came from an episode of the 60s TV Western series ‘The High Chaparral’, although what was on screen would cover only the first part of my novel. I used that as a springboard for what I thought could be a great adventure story. The hero is an 18-year old youth in Arizona in 1871, who, for various reasons, knows a lot about Apache Indians. The Apaches are at war with the white man at this time. The hero is basically conned into taking a U.S. government representative to the stronghold of the great Apache chief Cochise, to talk peace with him. Along the way the hero falls in love with an Apache girl, and they find themselves caught up in the middle of this war, under threat from both sides.

Who is the publisher and where can we buy it?
Sundown Press. You can find it on Amazon and the other usual outlets.

What’s your latest writing project?
It’s so much a departure from what I normally write, I’m keeping it a bit of a mystery, in case talking about it hex’s it! I have just finished a novel about Robin Hood. I think I may have done something amazing there (pardon my immodesty); i.e. I think I found something new to say on the subject of Robin Hood! Let’s see if publishers agree!

(Jo - I'm interested to know more about this since Robin Hood was from my neck of the woods)

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns?
How about: ‘You must be crazy, don’t do it!’ Anyone attempting to make a living at writing fiction is taking on a massive challenge, and writing in a relatively uncommercial genre like the western doubly so. But, if you love the western and want to write them, nothing’s going to stop you.

What advice would you give to a would-be western writer?
Don’t lazily re-cycle clichés from movies and TV, do some research into the real west and see if you can find something new to freshen up familiar territory. In my experience, truth’s not only stranger than fiction, it’s better. For example, the first time I ever wrote a scene in a western saloon I could have watched a few episodes of ‘Bonanza’ or whatever and given the reader swing batwing doors, tinkling pianos etc. Instead I researched and found a saloon in frontier-era Montana that had this written on the wall: DON’T FORGET TO WRITE TO MOTHER. SHE IS THINKING OF YOU. WE FURNISH PAPER AND ENVELOPES FREE, AND HAVE THE BEST WHISKEY IN TOWN. That had to go in my novel!
 
How many books do you generally read in a month and what are you reading now?
I’ve been ultra-busy of late and I’m ashamed to say my reading has suffered accordingly, so it’s more like I manage a book every 2 months. I’ve only really been active on Social Media for the last 5 months and in that time I’ve made the Facebook acquaintance of some fine writers whose work I plan to pursue – Ralph Cotton, Robert Vaughan, Lorrie Farrelly, Patrick Dearen and others. There’s a western writer called Terry James I plan to check out. Right now I’m reading a highly entertaining thriller called ‘When Somebody Kills You’ by my FB friend Robert J. Randisi.

Is there a book you’ve read that you wish you’d written and, if so, why?
Hmm. Tough one. As an adolescent I really enjoyed Ian Fleming’s Bond books. I’ve read some of the recent Bonds by Sebastian Faulks & William Boyd etc. and would have liked to have been given the commission to update Bond to the swinging 60s – I actually wrote, for my own amusement, part of a novel where Bond gets kidnapped by hippies and carried off to San Francisco in 1967!

Which of your books would you recommend to a first time reader? Why have you chosen it?
THE PEACEMAKER is my favourite of my books. It’s my first published one where I could write at length, get into character in depth, Native American culture etc. It’s not just dependent on pace and action, it also has what John Ford called ‘grace notes,’ quiet, reflective bits. I also liked the challenge of writing a love story inside the framework of what is still a tough western.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which book, song and film would you like to have with you?
Book: SWORD AT SUNSET, Rosemary Sutcliff’s epic re-telling of the Arthurian legend; song: BROWN-EYED GIRL by Van Morrison (Although it’s a great song, it’s not my favourite. However, I’d want it if I was stuck on this island as it always cheers me up.) FILM: THE ALAMO – the 1960 John Wayne version. Not the best film ever made, it’s a flawed masterpiece I think, but it is my favourite. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say the film has a tragic ending, but it always leaves me feeling uplifted.


Thank you and good luck with that Robin Hood story.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Author Interview: Chris Adam Smith

It's been a while since I did this and I'm very happy that fellow Black Horse Western author Chris Adam Smith has agreed to be my first victim - ahem - guest for 2017.

I've read a few of Chris's westerns, under different pen names, and recently gave some favourable feedback on A Man Called Crow, which I'm sure has led to his amazing sales - or maybe not, who knows. Anyway, Chris is very successful and it's my pleasure to hand my blog over to him. Enjoy.

Tell us who you are.
My name is Chris Adam Smith – there used to be a hyphen between the Adam and the Smith which I dropped as it confused people. Freelance writer, independent bookseller of modern first editions mostly signed, ex journo and, sadly, a widower. Father of two grown-up and very bright children. I have a blog if you really want to know more…

What names do you write under?
For Black Horse Westerns, I mostly write under the name of Harry Jay Thorn because, unbelievably, there is another BHW writer named Adam Smith which confused some of my readers. When in publishing (Video Today, Which Video, The Dark Side, Movie, Video Buyer and Photoplay among others…) I wrote several short stories under various names, my favorite of which was Bradley Storm, and I write a regular column in the local paper under the name of Whispering Smith.

How many books have you written? What genres? Over what time period?
I have been writing for most of my adult life and have several ‘modern westerns’ still looking for a publisher and a couple of crime novels, one of which is already on Kindle called Within a Walk to The Sea, and another ‘very hard to pigeonhole’ novel awaiting my daughter’s help to publish as I am, sadly, not very technically minded. I have written fourteen BHW with two more to be published this year. I also contribute a short, light and I hope amusing story to the BHW website each month.

What is the name of your latest release, what’s it about and what inspired it?
The next one is From the Vineyards of Hell, and is out this month. It features a Confederate soldier who goes to work for the Union in order to facilitate an early end to the war. As a POW, he is recruited by Allan Pinkerton to stop a shipment of Henry Rifles falling into the wrong hands and I aim for it to be the beginning of a series, the second of which has been accepted and a third nearing completion.

Who is it published by and where can we buy it?
Crowood Press and either direct from BHW or on Amazon, both as an eBook or hardcover.  

What’s your latest writing project?
Finishing this third book in the new series and then, who knows? Another or, if I can begin to fathom the world of self-published eBooks, get some of my modern day westerns up there. I do have some help here from a fellow BHW writer who understands these things, it’s getting me to understand them is the difficulty. I think both my son and daughter have given up on me. When I asked my son where ‘The Cloud’ was recently, he said ‘in a galaxy far far away is all you need to know’. My daughter rolls her eyes and says, ‘you’re not really listening to me are you…’ It’s not a question! Not very good with instructions. More of a monkey see, monkey do man really.

Do you have an unusual writing habit?
I write very late at night (I have trouble sleeping!) or when the mood takes me. I sometimes begin a book from its ending and work back towards a beginning that brought about that ending…

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns?
I don’t recall anyone giving me any advice but my own advice is write what you would like to read in the style you would like to read it… If I write a lot and if I do not like it after reading it through I dump it. Someone once told me if it sounds like rubbish the first time it likely will the second time. My granny used to say you cannot make a silk purse out of pig’s ear. Both opinions are valid!

How many books do you generally read in a month and what are you reading now?
Only a couple now, usually classics rereads - currently Raymond Chandler - or a new James Lee Burke. I mostly watch movies, especially old ones. I’m currently rereading Lorna Doone which I have always seen as a western, and have been working on such a transfer for some time but abandon it often, always thinking someone else must have done it already…

What authors or books have inspired you and why?
James Lee Burke is the king but Robert B. Parker has a style I love. I am also a big fan of Elmore Leonard, who I once had the pleasure of interviewing for a movie magazine. Loved Justified the tv series. Raymond Chandler is always worth a revisit. All four very strong on dialogue, I love the spoken word...



Which of your books would you recommend to a first time reader and why?
Any one of them really. A Man Called Crow is doing very well as an eBook with over 780 sales and I particularly enjoyed writing Long Ride to Serenity. My BHW journey began with Hard Ride to Primrose so the reader could ride along with that one. Ride a Long Shadow is another favorite of mine.

If you were stranded on a desert island, after the basic necessities, which book, song and film would you like to have with you?
Probably John Fowles’ The Magus. One of my all-time favorite western movies is the Tom Selleck remake of Monte Walsh, he was the embodiment of the spirit of the west. Song? Too difficult but probably something from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson or Placido Domingo…

Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to have some fun with my questions. I'll be looking forward to reading your next book soon.

*links to books and blog included in the text/pictures - just click away.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Review of The Badman's Daughter

Steve M at Western Fiction Review has kindly reviewed my latest release The Badman's Daughter. Here's what he had to say...

It's been five years since the last Terry James Black Horse Western appeared, so the question is has it been worth the wait?

To find out, read Steve's review here.


Books I read in March

Here are the books I read in March. I've decided I read too many westerns and from now on I intend to include at least one other genre each month. As usual, I've included comments that are just my opinion.


Westerns

A Man Called Crow - Chris Adam Smith (also writes as Harry Jay Thorn)
Comment: I really enjoyed this. Unusually, it's written in first and third person point of view but this didn't bother me as the transitions were smooth. With lots of characters all adding to the story and plenty of action, I finished this in a few days and am looking forward to reading something else by this author.


The Guns of Skeleton Ridge: Laramie Davies no. 5 by BS Dunn
Comment: I love the Laramie Davies books and this one didn't disappoint. He's a no-nonsense gunslinger and that leads to action and excitement in bucketloads. By far my favourite character from this author.

Riding The Line - Will DuRey
Comment: I really enjoyed this. Good guys, bad guys, Indians, senseless shootings, injustices, wrongs righted. It had it all and I was on tenter hooks until the end wondering what the outcome was going to be.

Non-western

Frenchman's Creek - Daphne DuMaurier
Comment: I'm no stranger to DuMaurier, having read several over the years. I enjoyed it, although the ending was bittersweet and I find the style a bit slow. I love the depth of her characters though and that's very important to me.

See you for another update at the end of April.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Books I read in February

Here are the westerns I read this month. I've included links to those that I've already reviewed and comments to those I haven't.

The Enforcer (A Bannerman the Enforcer Western Book 1) – Kirk Hamilton
Comment: My first time reading a Bannerman book and I enjoyed it.

A Gun is Waiting (A Clay Nash western) – Brett Waring
Comment: I'm working my way through the Clay Nash books and finding them all equally enjoyable.

Long Ride To Serenity – Harry Jay Thorn
Comment: Unfinished - it just wasn't for me.



See you for another update at the end of March.

Read and Reviewed: Valley of Thunder by Sam Clancy


Josh Ford was the best man the Marshal Service had, so when the Governor of Montana needed someone to look into the disappearance of wagon trains in the Bitterroots, Ford was the man they chose. What he found was a brutal autocrat who ruled with such terror, the like of which had never been seen by Ford. From Helena, Montana, to the Bitterroot Mountains, then on to Seattle, Ford fights for his life and the lives of others against a maniac and his small army. When a final twist puts it all in jeopardy, Ford realizes that the badge he wears may be the difference between law and justice.

I've given this book 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads and deservedly so, in my opinion. It's a rich story, well told and nicely written. From the outset I found it difficult to put down and, unusually for me, I finished it in three easy sittings. I enjoyed the short, pacy chapters and the way each one left me breathless to read the next. The descriptive writing is superb and I saw each landscape and action sequence in full technicolour as though it were playing out on a cinema screen. Each character was drawn with enough detail to substantiate their part in this fast moving tale. I believed I was there. I felt the pain. In my opinion, there was no fat in this story, no padding. It promised sweeping adventure and it delivered in spades.

I know this author quite well, we chat regularly, he's a nice guy and I like him and it could be argued I'm biased. It's true I've read and enjoyed everything he's written (barring the very latest, which I have to catch up on soon) but in his own words to me '...5 stars.You must have enjoyed it...you don't give them up without a fight'. I have been a fairly harsh critic of his writing in the past, never his storytelling which is always fantastic, more a lack of attention to typos, grammar and the like, but for what it's worth I believe the author writing as Sam Clancy, BS Dunn and Jake Henry has done what we should all be doing as writers and honed his craft so that he can now take his place among the best known and well loved western authors out there.

If you only read one book this month, read this one.