book reviews

More Westerns Reviews …

I’m expanding my reading beyond Westerns, but they are still my comfort food. Here are a few more I enjoyed:

  1. Brannigan’s Land–justice in the old West
  2. Disturbing the Peace--Deputy US Marshall Halstead must face a crew of outlaws led by a man he thought he’d killed
  3. Axle Bust Creek–a Civil War vet ends up in a lawless mining town to protected the claim of his uncle
  4. Settling his Hash–chuck wagon cook and gunslinger–what could be better
  5. Slaughter at Wolf Creek–this time it takes the saloon owner, town sheriff, and a renowned gunslinger to handle trouble at Buzzard’s Bluff
  6. Cruel Winter of the Mountain Man–another great Smoke Jensen story
  7. Old Cowboys Never Die–but they do get stupid, at least if Casey and Levi are an example
–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Brannigan’s Land

by William Johnston

4/5

William Johnston’s Brannigan’s Land (Pinnacle Books 2022), Book 1 in the series, Brannigan’s Land Western, starts out as a pretty typical excellent Western story. MacKenna Brannigan, daughter of a wealthy well-established rancher, falls for a seeming cad cowboy with the singular skill of being about to talk to horses–gain their trust. The two are engaged, but he leaves her to father a child by a neighboring rancher’s daughter. MacKenna wants to hate him, but her heart won’t cooperate. As she is still healing, he is accused of killing the father of that girl though he swears he didn’t.  MacKenna believes him and begs her father (Ty Brannigan), a former lawman with an excellent reputation for truth and justice, to prove the boy’s innocence. Ty reluctantly agrees, but his efforts are complicated by two events. One, thugs are trying to kill him–why he doesn’t know–and two, a former girlfriend shows up in town to warn him he is in danger.

This story has all the pieces of a great western, but something I can’t quite put my finger on is missing. Drama? Charisma? Not sure. It is well written, but I found it too predictable. Nothing surprised me and I found myself hurrying through pages I should have savored. Maybe that’s my fault, because I’ve read too many westerns. Check out these lines:

“Way, way back . . . deep into a past he hadn’t thought about in years. A past he’d never thought he’d plumb again.”

“Stalcup winced, twitching his right brown eye and lifting the same left corner of his dark-mustached mouth.”

Are they ordinary or great prose? If the latter, I should have given this 5/5 instead of 4/5.


Disturbing the Peace

by Terrence McCauley

In Terrence McCauley’s second of the Jeremiah Halstead Western series, Disturbing the Peace, (Pinnacle 2022), Deputy US Marshal Jeremiah Halstead is sent by US Marshall Aaron Mackey to the Territory of Montana on another almost-impossible job of keeping the peace in post-Civil War US. The outlaw Ed Zimmerman is a man Halstead thought he’d killed, wished he had because he is one of the smartest, most conniving outlaws he’s faced in his short career in law enforcement (Halstead is only 25ish). Zimmerman and his crew of about twelves lawless outlaws is robbing banks and using the money for a much bigger goal than just women and booze. Halstead has only his partner and a town sheriff to combat this group and he’s pretty sure that won’t be enough.

I know from reading Book 1 in this series, the Sheriff Aaron Mackey series, and several other of McCauley’s Westerns that this author has the exemplary ability to weave multiple plot lines together and never lose sight of the story goal. Have you ever read a book and wondered what Plot X has to do with Plot Y and how the heck do they matter to the main Plot Z? You won’t say that with the Jeremiah Halstead series. It is fully featured and believable. I’m rooting for Halstead no matter his mistakes or problems. The only hiccup was a rather unsatisfying ending (no spoilers). It left me angry, but I hope it will be resolved in the sequel. Darn.

Click for my review of McCauley’s Dark Sunrise, Get Out of Town.


Axle Bust Creek

by John Shirley

John Shirley’s Axle Bust Creek (Pinnacle Books 2022), Book 1 in the Cleve Trewe Westerns, takes place in Axle Bust Creek, a Nevada mining town with few amenities beyond bars, stables, and itinerant miners. There is no legitimate law though the locals and the miners set up vigilante justice courts to maintain some semblance of justice. It is here that former Union officer Cleve Trewe’s uncle was almost killed trying to defend his gold mine from claim jumpers. Cleve decides it is his familial duty to get the mine back for his Uncle. Cleve has the legal documents showing him as owner but the swindlers have done a good job of making his documents look questionable enough to muddy his claim. To complicate matters, the claim jumper is a weak man with a beautiful and brilliant sister who seems to know little about the illegalities of her brother. Cleve is falling for her and doesn’t want their fragile relationship to be destroyed.

Claim jumpers, lawless towns, bad guys taking advantage of good guys, boy falls for beautiful girl–lots of common plot lines. What makes this excellent–5/5–is the pacing, the Old West atmosphere, and the well-built characters readers can’t fail to like. A good read. I’ll definitely read the next in the series.


Settling His Hash

by William Johnstone et al

In Settling His Hash (Pinnacle Books 2022), fifth in the Chuckwagon Trail Westerns, Dewey ‘Mac’ Mackenzie has finished a job that took him to California where he’d always thought he wanted to settle. But after spending time there, he realizes it isn’t his dream home after all. Having finally been cleared of a murder he didn’t commit, he heads back to Texas, unsure what he’ll do next. He loves cooking for large groups so maybe he’ll run the chuck wagon for a ranch. He’s always been happy doing that. As he and his faithful horse make their way back to Texas, he stops to help a ranch crew who oddly is in need of a cook after theirs was fired for a lot of reasons, the least of which was poor cooking. Mac signs on to help them get home and is such a success, he entertains the idea of joining their brand when they reach their Texas home. As often happens to Mac, trouble finds him. In this case, it’s the ambush of a small rancher and his two daughters. The entire crew decides to help get them back on their feet after a series of setbacks. One of them is an ongoing rustling problem involving not just this rancher but a lot of the locals. Mac ends up in the middle of tracking down the thieves and finds he is falling for one of the daughters.

Yes. That is a lot of action, but if you’re familiar with the Mac Mackenzie series, you’ll expect no less than non-stop action, clever solutions, and Mac saving the day when it seems impossible. Highly recommended for Western genre fans.


Slaughter at Wolf Creek

by William Johnstone et al

William Johnstone’s Slaughter at Wolf Creek (Pinnacle Books 2022) is another excellent old west story by the master of that genre. Ben Savage, retired Texas Ranger and now owner of the local saloon in Buzzard’s Bluff, is one of my favorite of Johnstone’s well-established characters. He does help the town sheriff on occasion and this time, it’s when a band of outlaws try to rob the town bank. They are arrested by the Sheriff and Ben before they accomplish their goal, but turns out, they are only part of the gang. When the rest of the band comes to town to free their incarcerated members, the two lawmen need more help, which comes in the form of a retired gunslinger renowned for his skill.

Great story with lots of likeable characters. I will definitely read more of this series.

 


Cruel Winter of the Mountain Man

by William Johnstone et al

In William Johnstone’s latest Smoke Jensen book, Cruel Winter of the Mountain Man (Pinnacle Books 2022), Smoke gets a letter from an old friend asking him to come for a visit. Since this former town sheriff had never before asked that, Smoke went right away. He arrives to find his friend close to death from cancer, but surrounded by people who love and respect him. Smoke decides to stay as long as his friend needs him and ends up involved in the robbery of the towns bank by a scouting group of a dangerous, brutal band of owlhoots. Smoke and the current Marshall manage to stop the robbery but he is killed and Smoke agrees–at the insistence of his friend–to stay on as acting Marshall until the town can find a replacement. This puts him right in the middle of the second half of the bank robbery, by the notorious band of outlaws known as much for their brutality as success.

Smoke Jensen is one of Johnston’s stand out characters. He has a sordid history, starting barely on the legal side of the law, but now solidly one of the West’s outstanding citizens. The stories in this series are always engaging and page turners. This is not exception.


Old Cowboys Never Die

by William Johnstone et al

4/5

In William Johnstone’s Old Cowboys Never Die, Casey Tubbs and Levi Doolin didn’t plan to become outlaws in their later years. They finished a cattle drive like many before it in their cowboying career, but this time, the owner failed to pay them. Nothing fair about that so Casey and Levi decided to rob the train that carried their wages and take just what was owed them plus a little extra for their effort. They’re both tired of pushing cows so decided to partner up, find something new to do. That of course required supplies so they steal a pack horse. Money quickly becomes an issue so they figure robbing a bank solves that problem.

You see where this is going. It gets really exciting when the law starts to chase them even though its hard to believe two old codgers are doing all this law breaking.

A fun story with nothing expected about it.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Man vs. Nature saga, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the acclaimed Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Summer 2022

67 thoughts on “More Westerns Reviews …

  1. Hi Jacqui – I’d love to get off ‘my horse’ and just relax and read … one day that turn of events will come around … but in the meantime I’m always happy to know your suggestions – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have quite an expansion of your western, Jacqui! I thought the western world is in the past, therefore, the western books are about the past. I didn’t know there are modern western books. It’s interesting. Thank you for the book reviews, Jacqui! You’ve read so many of them! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I don’t usually read many Westerns, but your reviews are compelling Jacqui 😀 I think there are going to be some additions to my TBR XD Hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some of these books sound absolutely hilarious; a blend of the old west alongside some snappy humor! I particularly love the sounds of Settling His Hash, Old Cowboys Never Die, and Disturbing the Peace. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It appears you’ve enjoyed a lot of fun reading with these books. I may have to get back into Westerns as I’m not sure when I am going to get out there again now my son has moved to the midwest 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Howdy Jacqui I live in Lubbock, Texas where the West still exists. I walk into the local grocery store and see men in dirty work boots, heavy overalls or jeans, and big cowboy hats. There is a bandana around their neck too. Dirt blows everywhere here. Once a week I vacuum two cups from the floor. Westerns in books are romantic. The reality is farms are dry with no rain for at least a year. One of my friends whose family has six farms said they are raising cattle now instead of cotton because of the weather. We have the best beef you have ever tasted. Come to Texas and see the real cowboys. They tip their big brim hats and say, howdy ma’am.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good morning, dear Jacqui,
    thanks for these reviews. They are always like a window into another world for us.
    I have to admit that my father used to read Westerns. As I come from a highly intellectual family, I was ashamed that he didn’t read “good literature”. You changed my view about Westerns and my father, thank you very much.
    We all wish you a wonderful weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • I had the same attitude before I read my first western. They are more about tough people doing what seems impossible rather than growing the cerebral mind so I suppose that appeals to the genre I write in. Thanks, Klasubernd.

      Like

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