Wednesday, 16 August 2017


Highly-successful western author Brad Dennison (who shares my admiration for A.B. Guthrie’s THE BIG SKY) does have a personal favourite of his westerns. It’s RETURN OF THE GUNHAWK, the 3rd in his McCABE series. The story follows Johnny McCabe, the ‘gunhawk’ of the title - former Texas Ranger and gunfighter turned cattle rancher - to California and a reunion with a brother he hasn’t seen for 17 years.
For images I thought of westerns based around brothers, from TV shows like BONANZA, 



 to movies like THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER.

Johnny McCabe’s role as a Texas Ranger who became a cattle baron reminded me of the legendary CHARLES GOODNIGHT (1836-1929.)


Goodnight served as a ranger, helping rescue Cynthia Ann Parker from the Comanches in 1860. Later he blazed the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail between Texas and Colorado with his partner OLIVER LOVING, killed by Comanches in 1867. 


Goodnight founded the first ranch in the Texas Panhandle, the JRA Ranch, in 1876, and is credited with inventing the chuck wagon.


Whilst THE LONG TRAIL (which I blogged about recently) has a mere 110 5 star reviews, the last time I looked, RETURN OF THE GUNHAWK has 156! Reviews:
‘This series can be compared to Lonesome Dove.’
‘Great story-telling… hard to put down.’
‘This series of books is so good I feel like I know the characters.’
‘I wanted to turn the pages, but didn't want the story to end! … I plan to read the series and hope all are like this story!’
‘Brad Dennison writes the best stories. This should be a T.V. series… Characters are so well developed.’
 ‘This whole series was fantastic! Brad, you are an amazing writer. You stand with the greats, Zane Gray, Louis L'Amour.’

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


It’s becoming the norm when I ask authors which is the favourite of their books for them to pick 2! (It’s a tough call, I know, like asking which is your favourite pet, your cat or your dog.) Brad Dennison does have a personal favourite of his westerns, which I’ll post about shortly. However he tells me it’s really best to start with THE LONG TRAIL, the first of his McCABE series. Brad says: ‘The McCabes aren't really stand-alone novels. There are story arcs that weave their way through more than one novel.’

THE LONG TRAIL begins with Dusty, who grew up on the frontier never knowing who his parents were. Coming into young manhood he decides to find them. His quest takes him first to Nevada (where he encounters a woman in danger at a lonely stage station, resulting in a cracking shoot-out in Chapter 1.) Dusty discovers his father is still alive – former gun fighter Johnny McCabe, now a rancher in Montana. Arriving at his father’s ranch, Dusty has to adapt to his new family - not only his father, but his step-brother and sister. And while he’s about it raiders strike - men Dusty knows all too well from his childhood.
Here’s a real way-station in Nevada

and another at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

And here’s two prominent Montana cattle ranchers:
GRANVILLE STUART (1834-1918) a rancher (and also author) who started cattle ranching in Montana as early as 1857. 

And German-born CONRAD KOHRS (1835-1920) who started ranching in Montana in 1866 but suffered mixed fortunes: ‘I guess I’ve been broke oftener than any man in Montana.’

The theme of the prodigal son/ sons finding out his/their absent father is/was a big rancher naturally made me of 2 TV Western series: THE BIG VALLEY

 Lee Majors in 'THE BIG VALLEY'


The Montana ranch location also reminded me of THESE THOUSAND HILLS, a film based on a novel by A. B. Guthrie Jr., a writer who both Brad and I admire.

Finally the woman in danger at the remote way-station brought to mind Karen Steele in the Randolph Scott western RIDE LONESOME (1959.)

The last time I looked THE LONG TRAIL has garnered 110 5 star reviews!
‘A classic western.’
‘The best western I’ve read in a long time.’
‘Found myself sitting up late at night not able to put it down.’
'In the vein of the late Louis L'Amour.'
'Great book, never goes stale.'
'Some good characters and some very fine writing.' 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017


ARLEY DIAL has lived most of his life in the U.S. Southwest and feels a deep connection with the land he calls home and the people who make it what it is. He tells me his favourite of his novels is NAGODZAA: THE WARRIOR’S ELEGY about the pursuit of Apache raiders by the 10th U.S. Cavalry, the famed 'buffalo soldiers.' Specifically the pursuit of war chief Ka'edine by Lt. Willard Riley and his troop, in the Arizona Territory of 1880.
The 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry were the U.S. army units comprised of black enlisted men and white officers. Their nickname may have originated with Plains Indians - buffalo hunting tribes. ("We called them 'buffalo soldiers' because they had curly, kinky hair... like bisons.")

Buffalo soldiers, a 10th Cavalry chaplain observed, 'are possessed of the notion that the coloured people of the whole country are more or less affected by their performance in the Army.' 
These regiments enjoyed high re-enlistment rates and - in contrast to much of the frontier army - low desertion rates.
In 1874 General Sherman said of them: ‘They are good troops, they make first-rate sentinels, are faithful to their trust, and are as brave as the occasion calls for.’

Despite this, black regiments were the subject of what Robert M. Utley, in ‘Frontier Regulars’ calls ‘searing racial prejudice.’ Utley writes: ‘The black regiments endured discrimination in both the quantity and quality of supplies, equipment and horses, and for 25 years they remained without relief in the most disagreeable sectors of the frontier.’

Buffalo soldiers have featured in film westerns like John Ford’s ‘SERGEANT RUTLEDGE’ (1960.)

On TV they were featured in shows like ‘THE HIGH CHAPARRAL’ (‘The Buffalo Soldiers’, ‘Ride the Savage Land.’)

High Chaparral episode: Ride the Savage Land.’


‘Excellent… I highly recommend Mr. Dial's books to anyone who loves a good western or just a well told tale.’
‘Believable, highly readable, and engaging… As with his previous novel, PLEWS, Mr. Dial is at his very best in giving us the climactic battle scene. It is a dirty, gritty, horrifying event with little romance and utterly no mercy. If you just want a good, well-researched read that faithfully reconstructs and presents an historical period, this is your book.’

Hostile Apaches during peace talks 1886 

‘More realistic than your usual western. Gives both sides of the story of Indian and White man.’
‘Dial is still a great writer. I've read all three of his novels to this point, and I'm anxiously looking forward to his next.’
‘The writing reminded me of Louis L'Amour's books.’ 

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