Steven C. Lawrence – Saddle Justice (1957)


Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #29
TBR #150
Date Finished: December 29, 2018

An army sergeant rides down from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory to Nebraska to investigate the lynching death of his younger brother, who was involved with various business deals and the Mexican-American community. The sergeant finds the town riled up against the Mexican-Americans and faces some of that prejudice himself as he tries to find out the truth in a town ruled by a cold-hearted rancher and his gunmen.

A fast-moving Gold Medal paperback original that has a more-or-less standard plot and characters, this is nevertheless entertaining enough for a day’s read.

And with that one off the TBR pile, I’ve reached 150 for the year and achieved Mt. Olympus.

Ernest Haycox – The Last Rodeo (1956)


Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #28
TBR #146
Date Finished: December 27, 2018

This is an outstanding collection of ten Ernest Haycox short stories that were first published in the slicks, especially Collier’s during the 1930s. Haycox is a master of the form and quickly sets the setting and characters when telling his stories. It is obvious why he graduated out of the pulps to the more general circulation magazines of the day.

Big Book of Western Action Stories (1995)


Vintage Western pulp reprints
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #25
Deal Me In Challenge: 2♦️, 3♦️, 5♦️, 3♣️, 9♣️, 3♥️, 4♥️, 5♥️, 6♥️, 8♥️, 3♠️, 4♠️
TBR #124
Date Finished: November 2, 2018

I read this over quite a long period, so won’t individually review very many stories, other than those identified for the Deal Me In Challenge. Other than one story, all appeared in various western pulp magazines from the 1920s to the 1950s and all are of high quality.

Here are my brief notes on the Deal Me In Challenge stories as I read them:

5♥️ “Lawmen Die Sudden” by Will Cook, Big-Book Western, November 1953: A sheriff who has been used to a fairly quiet town has to deal with a murder and the ramifications it brings to his town. Solid.

3♣️ “Saddlebum’s Bondage” by Dwight Bennett Newton, New Western, September 1945: a 10-pager but develops characters quickly and well.

2♦️ “Showdown at Anchor” by Peter Dawson, Fifteen Western Tales, November 1947, as “A Man For Hell’s Canyon”: A man enters a small foothills town and gets involved with a pretty girl, her obstinate rancher father and their shady ramrod. Good action but feels very familiar like many other stories or movies. Four chapters but feels like it should have been a full length novel in order to flesh out the characters and put some more plot obstacles in the hero’s way.

9♣️ “Border Man” by Frank Bonham, Dime Western, January 1950: Exciting action along the Mexican Border with a strong female character. All characters well defined within just a few pages. Very good.

5♦️ “Wild Was the River” by Giff Cheshire, New Western, May 1946: Unconventional western set in the Northwest as a construction engineer fights to save the lock system he is building around the falls while harboring a hatred for a man who may have been responsible for his father’s death. The anger drives the plot but is a bit much.

6♥️ “Mama Rides the Norther” by Lewis B. Patten, Thrilling Western, March 1953: A man desperate to homestead rather than work his whole life in a feed store takes his city wife and young children out to the prairie, eight days east of Pueblo. After leaving them at the homestead while he goes to town for lumber a blizzard hits and the wife finds her inner strength to overcome her doubts and fears and survive. Well done, realistic tale.

3♦️ “Powder Smoke–Guest of Faro Flats” by W. Ryerson Johnson, Ace-High Western Stories, July 1939: Quick, disguise centered story of Len Siringo, range detective and series character clearing up a town. Simple but good.

3♠️ “Trail of the Lonely Gun” by Les Savage, Jr., Action Stories, Spring 1946: A fighting newspaperman and friend of the Indian fights to clear his name, while battling political interests and dealing with Hopi, Apaches and other tribes in Arizona. Exciting, pulpy, and far-fetched. Good read, though.

3♥️ “The Feminine Touch” by Dan Cushman, Zane Grey’s Western, October 1952: Story of a miner and his mail order bride who isn’t everything as advertised, though neither was he. Humorous.

8♥️ “The Victim” by Ed Gorman: A much more recent story written specifically for the volume tells of a new reluctant gunfighter and the older one who wants to die. Not exactly new ground but well done.

4♥️ “Banker Clayton’s Interest” by Robert Easton, Collier’s, December 9, 1950: Short. During a drought, cattle are sacrificed to save half a herd on a banker’s idea. Not much characters, just written around one clever idea.

4♠️ “Death Rides This Trail” by Steve Frazee, Western Story Magazine, October 1953: Good coming of age story, examining fear and courage. Could have been expanded.

Will Ermine – Singing Lariat (1939)


Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #27
Monthly Key Word: Sing
TBR #134
Date Finished: December 8, 2018

A former fur trapper, returning from the Civil War, brings a herd of beef cattle from Texas to Nebraska Territory, building his ranch and his standing, while fighting those who want to take it away.

An interesting setting, at least from this former Nebraskan, though the whole aspect of stealing land from the Native Americans tribes is done without much questioning of its appropriateness. The majority of the book deals with fighting off scheming white men, with the standard plot developments. Could be worse.

2018 Monthly Key Words 2018-12-08

Frank Castle – Dakota Boomtown (1958)


Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #26
Monthly Key Word: Town (November)
TBR #129
Date Finished: December 1, 2018

A young man comes to a Dakota Territory boomtown that is serving miners and others headed to the gold field in the Black Hills. He wheels and deals, makes some friends and some enemies, but always working for himself, until he learns some important lessons.

This reads a bit more like a big business scheme than a western, though his business dealings are of a western type, such as cattle, saloons, and mining supplies. The learns-his-lesson plot is rather predictable, but the writing is good enough, though I would have preferred more South Dakota flavor.

2018 Monthly Key Words 2018-12-01

Fifteen Western Tales – May 1944


Vintage Western Pulp
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #24
TBR #123
Date Finished: November 24, 2018

Quantity over Quality perhaps should have been the slogan for Fifteen Western Tales, though I like the publication overall. The small print crammed as many stories in as possible to justify the title, including counting the one-page editor’s column and a quiz included as a “stories.”

The lead is “Guns of the Owlhoot Stage,” a novel by Tom W. Blackburn. This story has an unusual setting of building a California stage business against a competing tough firm. It has good action and is well written.

Blackburn is the most well-known name here, with the other longer stories by Lance Kermit, Rod Patterson, and Chuck Martin, all unknown to me. So, not groundbreaking in any way, but still enjoyable.

Dudley Dean – Song of the Gun (1955)


Vintage Western
Wild Wild West Reading Challenge #23
TBR #110
Date Finished: November 2, 2018

Rancher Carse Boling, minority owner in a Dakota cattle ranch, has to face his partner over rumors regarding Carse and his partner’s wife. Spreading those rumors is a shady cattle dealer, his gunman partner, and the rest of the town. Meanwhile the partner is being blackmailed by those shady characters over a death sentence that he has been on the run from for many years. Carse has to straighten out his feelings for the partner’s wife, as well as for the sister of the shady cattle dealer, while combating all these factions.

I found this to be quite enjoyable, with a better-than-average number of female characters, four, than many other westerns from this period. Dean is a solid-enough writer to make this story move along quickly, fitting well in the Gold Medal style of tough, fast-paced action.