Thursday, 17 January 2019


JAMES D. BEST is a best-selling author who writes across genres. He tells me his second favourite of his own novels is THE SHOPKEEPER because ‘it was so much fun to write.’

THE SHOPKEEPER is the first appearance of James’s hero Steve Dancy, who leaves his New York shop in 1879 to travel the west, recording his experiences in a journal he hopes to expand into a novel.

Dancy's infatuation with another man's wife soon embroils him in a deadly feud with Sean Washburn, a Nevada silver baron. Pinkerton detectives and hired assassins add to this exciting tale, which James salts with playful humour.

The writer out west theme reminded me of MARK TWAIN (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) who travelled in California and Nevada in the 1860s.

MARK TWAIN in 1867

He was depicted by Frederick March in THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (1944.)

Twain in Nevada features in no less than three episodes of BONANZA, including ‘Enter Mark Twain’ with Howard Duff.

And the eastern ‘dude’ finding himself in rough, not to say dangerous, company out west naturally brought to mind James Stewart in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

Mining camps in the Nevada remained rough ‘frontier’ places even into the early 20th Century, when the Tonopah mining district was developed.


‘One of the best western books I've read in a long time.’ 

 In structure, with short chapters, crisp dialogue, and lots of movement, it's reminiscent of a thriller ... you'll certainly find enough twists and turns to provide an entertaining and exciting story.’

‘If you are a fan of great westerns from authors like Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurtry, then you need to get on board with James Best and the Steve Dancy series. Great stories, interesting and diverse characters and plenty of action!’

‘The film noir like writing provides plenty of unexpected twists and turns.’

Mr. Best shatters the mold for western novels.... This is a western unlike any I've ever read. The scenery and description of the towns, trails, people and the trails they travel is exquisite and historically accurate.’

‘Not your usual gun totin shoot-em-up bang bang western. Shopkeeper is a turn off the TV compelling read that includes politics, gunplay, intrigue, and a hint of unrequited adoration.’

Thursday, 20 December 2018


John Whalen (writing as John M. Whalen) is the author of ‘hybrid’ novels where the western meets the future, or the lone gunman hero is as likely to encounter vampires or monsters as regular bad guys.

John tells me he likes THE BIG SHUTDOWN because ‘it was my first attempt at a Space Western… It gave me room to stretch out.’

Across the desolate Planet Tulon Jack Brand, former officer in the Tulon Security Force, is on a lone search. Seven years ago his sister, Terry, was kidnapped by the Wilkersons, a nomadic outlaw gang. Brand has sworn never to leave Tulon until he finds her. But time is running out. The energy conglomerates that own Tulon are shutting the planet down, although it’s still rich in oil. Soon the last ships will leave for Earth.

Brand travels from desert wasteland to steaming jungles, from a city at the bottom of the sea to a desert town run by alien gangsters. He battles the many perils of Tulon with his quick wits, fast reflexes, and the Electro-Pistol holstered to his hip.

Ostensibly re-running the 1960 Randolph Scott western COMANCHE STATION in space, John soon whisks us off into completely new territory.

Also included is an additional story from John's "This Raygun for Hire." series, featuring Frank Carson, a futuristic trouble shooter for hire.

Nancy Gates and Randolph Scott in ‘Comanche Station (1960)’

A lost sister – kidnapped by Comanches - features in THE SEARCHERS (1956), of course.

Brother and sister (Jeffrey Hunter and Natalie Wood) re-united in ‘The Searchers

And in the world of TV Westerns the whole premise of the 1976 series THE QUEST was about two brothers searching for their sister after she was carried off by the Cheyenne.

 Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson search for their lost sister in ‘The Quest

Once again I’d reference my contender for best TV Western episode ever: THE HIGH CHAPARRAL episode ‘Ride the Savage Land.’ Having rescued one white girl from the Apaches holding her captive, the High Chaparral crew attempt to rescue her sister (Claire Wilcox, pictured) from them also.    

The dystopian future elements of THE BIG SHUTDOWN reminded me of movies from MAD MAX (anarchy in a society depending on oil)

Mel Gibson in ‘Mad Max’ (1979)

to OUTLAND (1981.)


‘Readers are in for a rootin' tootin' fun ride… will remind readers just why pulp fiction, westerns, and ray guns belong together.’

‘Quick, thrilling, and at times quite thoughtful.’

‘Recommended for space opera/space western fans of all ages.’ and

Wednesday, 12 December 2018


You can’t pigeon-hole Wayne D. Dundee! He writes westerns (winning a Peacemaker award), mysteries (nominated for numerous awards), crime novels, a novel about vampires, a boxing-meets-the-underworld novel…

Many of his books feature PI Joe Hannibal. Wayne tells me he likes GOSHEN HOLE, because it essentially re-invented the character when he re-located from Illinois to Nebraska.

Joe investigates the disappearance of a friends’ ex-wife with the help of William Thunderbringer, mercenary turned bounty hunter; they clash with a drug-dealer aptly named Matanza, `The Bloodletter'.

A PI (or cop) with a Native American sidekick reminded me of the 1992 film THUNDERHEART,

Val Kilmer and Graham Greene in ‘Thunderheart’ (1992)

or Burt Reynold’s 1966 TV series ‘HAWK.’

Reviews of GOSHEN HOLE:

‘One of the very best of the Joe Hannibal novels… a no-nonsense full-tilt-boogie romp.’

‘Dundee hits all the high points of a good PI novel, fuelling the mystery with testosterone and gunfire.’

‘Plenty of action, good dialogue and just enough humour to sweeten the pot.’

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


You can’t pigeon-hole Wayne D. Dundee! He writes westerns (winning a Peacemaker award), mysteries (nominated for numerous awards), crime novels, a novel about vampires, a boxing-meets-the-underworld novel…

Many of his books feature P. I. JOE HANNIBAL. Wayne tells me AND FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEAP is probably his favourite Hannibal novel: ‘It came closest to getting down exactly what I set out to do.’

When Joe investigates a murder in a small Wisconsin summer resort, he encounters the hostile-community-hiding-a-guilty-secret syndrome of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.

Robert Ryan, Spencer Tracy and (definitely having a bad day) Ernest Borgnine in ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ (1954)

Wayne acknowledges a debt to Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, but the lakeside resort location reminded me of my favourite Raymond Chandler novel THE LADY IN THE LAKE.

Cloris Leachman and Ralph Meeker (as Mike Hammer) in ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ (1955)

Mickey Spillane

Robert Montgomery as P. I. Philip Marlowe in ‘Lady in the Lake’ (1946)

Raymond Chandler


‘This is Joe Hannibal at his best. Prime crime fiction.’


‘The Hannibal tales have a sort of wild, rough energy and two-fisted swagger to them that just hits the spot.’ and

Thursday, 29 November 2018


I was recently interviewed by acclaimed western author SCOTT HARRIS for his ‘Friday Forum’ blog, which you can find here:
I talk about westerns and my writing, including my novel‘The Peacemaker.’ Scott very kindly agreed to the interview appearing on my blog also.

Questions in bold.

1.       When—and why—did you first fall in love with Westerns?
As a kid growing up in England in the 60s I fell in love with westerns watching movies and shows on TV. I was particularly taken by ‘The High Chaparral’ TV series, its Arizona location photography and the background of the Apache Wars, which sparked a life-long interest in Native American history and culture.
(I’ve given a fuller appreciation of ‘The High Chaparral’ in an earlier blog:
In the 70s when I was entering adulthood I had a pal who turned me on to reading westerns, starting with the ‘McAllister’ series by MATT CHISOLM.

2.       Who are your three favorite Western writers?
The first of several impossible questions you’re going to torture me with during this interview. I have to pick three out of the likes of Ralph Cotton, Fred Grove, Louis L’Amour, Glendon Swarthout, Robert MacLeod, A. B. Guthrie Jnr., Lewis B. Patten, Jack Schaefer, Dorothy M. Johnson, Charles Neider etc.? Three who I followed fairly slavishly when I was cutting my teeth on reading westerns were WILL HENRY, GORDON SHIRREFFS and MATT CHISOLM – I devoured Chisolm’s ‘McAllister’ series, and then found out he was British, which inspired me – so let’s go with those three.

3.       Which Western do you wish you’d written?
Hondo’ by LOUIS L’AMOUR. In some ways Hondo is the template western hero and I’m sure my main character in all my westerns, Calvin Taylor, owes something to him. Once, to warm myself up for a writing project, I re-wrote the first chapter of ‘Hondo’ and then had to stop myself from re-writing the whole novel! I think that would be an interesting exercise for another Scott Harris-helmed ’52 weeks’ project – get us lesser mortals to follow in the footsteps of the greats and re-write, in our own words, a chapter from a classic western novel.  

4.       What is the most recent Western you’ve read?
I read a few recently that didn’t happen for me so I’m not going to mention them. I also re-read some old favourites. The most recent ‘new’ western I read and liked was ‘Geronimo must die’ by J.R. Lindermuth.
(You can find ‘Geronimo must die’ here

5.       The “Desert Island” question.
          What are your three favorite Western books?
Impossible to say – but as you’ve cornered me I’ll play along. ‘Little Big Man’ by THOMAS BERGER, which deals with tragic events and yet manages to be extremely funny in places, and has subtleties the film lacks;

Blood Brother’ by ELLIOTT ARNOLD, which deals with the Apache chief Cochise and had a huge influence on my writing, particularly ‘The Peacemaker’;

and ‘The Buffalo Soldiers’ by JOHN PREBBLE which tackles numerous western clich├ęs in a startling and original way. I don’t think you’ll find a better written western. And Prebble was also a Brit!

          What are your three favorite Western movies?
Even more unanswerable than the ‘3 books’ question. But as John Wayne and John Ford were, IMHO, the two most important people in western movie history one would have to be a combination of their talents. Which boils down to a wrestling match between ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘Fort Apache’ – I think I’ll go for ‘Fort Apache’.

John Wayne and Henry Fonda in ‘Fort Apache’ (1948)

‘Ride the High Country’ for its elegiac quality and the wonderful performances of Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea.

Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in ‘Ride the High Country’ (1962)

Hombre’ which is based on a great ELMORE LEONARD novel that almost made it into my ‘best 3 books’ list.

Paul Newman in ‘Hombre’ (1967)

I’ve posted about how ‘Hombre’ – both book and film – influenced my writing:
6.       Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite—and why?
‘The Peacemaker.’ I like all my first five published books, but they were of necessity short, which meant they had to be action-centric, dependent on a fast pace. With a longer book like ‘The Peacemaker’ I could slow down a bit, spend more time on character and atmosphere. I got to play around with a real historical person – in this case Cochise. I was able to write a proper love story. I could provide what John Ford called ‘grace notes’ in his movies, quiet, reflective bits where not much happens but they give the story added texture and depth. I was very grateful to my publishers for letting me do that.

7.       What is the most recent Western you’ve written?
The most recent western item I’ve finished is my short story ‘Spectres at the Feast’ which you were kind enough to include in your excellent ‘The Shot Rang Out’ anthology (which I review here )

8.       Can you tell us anything about your next book?
I’m going through a slightly frustrating time at the moment. I have one project that won’t die! In other words it’s proving difficult to finish it off. I’m stalled on several others, waiting for responses from publishers etc. I did make a start on a new western, which has an elegiac, end-of-the-west quality and I’m keen to get stuck into it, but tidying up other projects keeps preventing me from having a clear run at it.
9.       If you could go back in time, what would be the time and place in the Old West you’d like to have lived in for a year?
I’d only want to pop back for a few hours. I’m an Alamo buff, so I’d love to solve the eternal mystery of what happened there on the morning of March 6th 1836, particularly to Davy Crockett. However, if I did find myself in the middle of the final assault on the Alamo I’d like to be both invisible and invulnerable, to avoid all the bullets, cannon balls and bayonets in the neighbourhood!

10.     Is there a question you’d wish I asked?
          The answer?
No. Answering questions 2 and 5 was traumatic enough!

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


Brent Towns (who also writes as B. S. Dunn, Jake Henry, and Sam Clancy) tells me a favourite of his own novels is BROTHERS OF THE GUN – credited to B. S. Dunn.

Buford Lance is a rancher who sees his hard-won New Mexico range threatened by homesteaders. To ward them off he hires two gunmen – Lucas Kane (nicknamed the Gun King) and his brother Jordan (the Prince) - but ends up setting brother against brother.

There are a number of ‘brothers of the gun’ who feature in Old West history, including the James Brothers, The Youngers and Ben and Billy Thompson. And then of course there were the Earp Brothers.

Of the six Earp Brothers only NEWTON never served in a law-enforcement position. The remaining brothers all did, and three of them paid a high price.

WYATT (born 1848) lived longest, until 1929, surviving into the age of western motion pictures, meeting JOHN FORD among others, and was available to sell himself as the most important figure of the clan. Some authorities claim, however, that Wyatt inflated his own leadership role and VIRGIL was the real brains of this outfit. It was Virgil, after all, that enemies of the clan went after first in the aftermath of the legendary ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral.’

Virgil (born 1843) served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He worked at a variety of jobs, including peace officer, farmer, rail construction, stagecoach driver, sawmill sawyer, mailman and prospector. 
A reporter whose story was printed in the ‘San Francisco Examiner’ described Virgil in 1882: ‘His face, voice and manner were prepossessing. He is close to six feet in height, of medium build, chestnut hair, sandy mustache, light eyebrows, quiet, blue eyes and frank expression. He wore a wide-brimmed, slate-colored slouch hat, pants of a brown and white stripe, and a blue diagonal coat and vest.’
Virgil was a constable in Prescott, Arizona in 1878-79. In 1879 he served briefly as deputy U.S. marshal for the Tombstone District of Arizona. The next year Virgil was also appointed acting town marshal of Tombstone, becoming permanent city marshal in 1881. So he was the highest-ranking lawman, both deputy U.S. Marshal and Tombstone City Marshal, when he led his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, plus Doc Holliday, into the ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’ – they were merely his deputies, appointed as temporary assistants. 
But two months after the OK Corral, on the night of December 28 1881, Virgil was ambushed on the streets of Tombstone. He was shot in the back, hit with three shotgun rounds, shattering his left arm and leaving him permanently maimed. He then left Arizona.
Despite his injuries Virgil served once more as a lawman, as city marshal in Colton, California 1887-1888.
He died from pneumonia in 1905, aged 62.
In 1875, MORGAN (born 1851) became a deputy marshal in Dodge City, Kansas. In1879-1880, he served three months as a policeman in Butte, Montana.  He joined his brothers in Tombstone in time to participate at the OK Corral.

Four months later came a reckoning.

At 10:50 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, 1882, Morgan was playing billiards in a Tombstone billiard parlour while Wyatt watched. A shot through a windowed door struck Morgan in the back, fatally wounding him. Before dying, he reportedly said, ‘This is the last game of pool I'll ever play.’

WARREN (born 1855) occasionally served as a deputy for his brothers in Tombstone. But his father reportedly said of him: 'If Warren ever dies he will be shot. He is too hasty, quick-tempered and too ready to pick a quarrel. Besides he will not let bygones be bygones, and on that account, I expect that he will meet a violent death.’

Earp Senior was proved right. In 1900 Warren was involved in a drunken argument with a local cowboy in a saloon in Wilcox, Arizona. When it came to guns, Warren was shot in the chest and killed.

JAMES (born 1841) was only briefly a lawman, serving as a deputy marshal in Dodge City in 1878-1879 and once or twice as Virgil’s deputy in Tombstone. 

This deadly fraternal clash in BROTHERS OF THE GUN reminded me of NIGHT PASSAGE, where Audie Murphy and James Stewart are the brothers pitted against each other

Audie Murphy and James Stewart in ‘Night Passage’ (1957)

or SADDLE THE WIND, where the clash is between Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes.

Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes in ‘Saddle the Wind’ (1958)


‘Awesome …A gun slinger who takes you by surprise.’

‘What an exciting book. …a gun slinger who would not just kill for the money, he actually had a heart and a code he lived by.’

‘Fast paced, action packed, solid characters… This one ticks all the boxes of what I want in a Western.’ and

Wednesday, 31 October 2018


Brent Towns (who also writes as B. S. Dunn, Jake Henry, and Sam Clancy) tells me a favourite of his own novels is his first Black Horse Western FURY AT BENT FORK – credited to B.S. Dunn - ‘because I felt a great sense of achievement.’ (Something I’m sure all us published novelists feel about their debut novel.)

Four big ranchers, known as the Committee, seek to dominate their section of Colorado. They hire a pack of gunmen under Slade Johnson, but smaller ranchers resist – led by young Chad Hunter. Chad’s also being pursued by a cold-blooded murderer just escaped from prison.

‘It became known as the Stone Creek Valley War and for a time, the valley ran red with the blood of innocents and killers alike.

Range Wars are a popular feature of western fiction but they’re rooted firmly in the history of the Old West. Here I’m referring to conflicts between large-scale cattle owners versus small cattlemen or homesteaders. I’ve dealt with clashes between cattlemen and sheep herders in an earlier blog: 

Probably the two most famous of these Range Wars were the ‘Lincoln County War’ and the ‘Johnson County War.’ I’ll blog about the latter another day.

Actually the Lincoln County War in New Mexico of the late 1870s saw small ranchers such as JOHN TUNSTALL, an Englishman originally from London,

aligned with cattle baron JOHN CHISUM

and local lawyer ALEXANDER McSWEEN.

Their main beef (pardon the pun) was against two businessmen running a powerful conglomerate based in the town of Lincoln. This pair of Irishmen – J. J. DOLAN and JOHN RILEY – owned a big general store called ‘The House.’  They also controlled most government contracts for supplying beef to army posts and Indian reservations. On top of that they had the law, fronted by Lincoln County Sheriff WILLIAM BRADY, in their pocket.

William Brady in 1872

The other faction didn’t see why Dolan and Riley should have a monopoly on either trade in Lincoln or beef contracts.

Tension between the two sides exploded into violence in February 1878. Brady sent a posse to seize some of Tunstall’s horses as payment for an outstanding debt. They encountered Tunstall out on the range. When Tunstall refused to hand the horses over, Deputy Sheriff WILLIAM MORTON shot him in the head.

Men in the employ of Tunstall and Chisum formed a posse of their own – nicknamed The Regulators – and set out to get their revenge. Which is when The Lincoln County War enters the realms of legend: one of these ‘Regulators’ was a slight young man – probably in his early 20s - called HENRY ANTRIM or HENRY McCARTY. It’s wrongly claimed he was born William Bonney, but history remembers him as BILLY THE KID.

I’ve already blogged about Billy the Kid here:

To briefly summarise the violence that ensued: The Regulators captured Morton and another of his posse and shot them. In an even more audacious move they ambushed Sheriff Brady as he walked the streets of Lincoln. Brady and another deputy were felled by a hail of bullets from cover.

Events culminated in a 5-day siege (the so-called ‘Battle of Lincoln’) in July 1878. The Regulators were cornered in McSween’s home in Lincoln by supporters of ‘The House.’ Despite desultory exchanges of gunfire there were no casualties until the fifth day, when McSween’s house was fired. The besieged fled the burning building, braving a blizzard of gunfire that cut down McSween. In total perhaps seven men (two of the ‘House’ faction, and five Regulators) were killed. The remaining Regulators scattered.

The Lincoln County Cattle War was over and ‘Billy the Kid’s’ side had convincingly lost.  

Legend attributes the prominent role in these actions to Billy and claims he did most of the killing. In reality he was only one of a number of participants. He only seems to have taken over as leader during the ‘Battle of Lincoln.’

Most fictional depictions of the Lincoln County War show teenage Billy as looking up to Tunstall as a wise elder, a kindly uncle if not father figure. As it happens Tunstall at the time of his death was 24, possibly only two years older than Billy.

The FURY AT BENT FORK scenario of small ranchers/homesteaders versus big ranchers naturally brings to mind SHANE.

Alan Ladd in ‘Shane’ (1953)

The hero being unjustly convicted of cattle rustling, when his real crime was standing up to a powerful conglomerate, made me think of BROKEN LANCE.

Richard Widmark, Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner in ‘Broken Lance’ (1954)

Reviewer for FURY AT BENT FORK: ‘Wow! Great book.’ and