Saddle up, buckaroos, for some tales of the West. Pop on your favorite Ennio Morricone soundtrack – personally, I’m a huge fan of NAVAJO JOE – and sit down for a spell with some stories of the old days, complete with some actual frontier gibberish.
LUCK OF THE DRAW by Zeke Masters – Wow, do we ever reach the bottom of the Western well with this “adult” oater from 1980. The reason it’s adult is that there are a few scenes of graphic sex better suited for a Penthouse Forum letter.
This novel is concerned with card games and cheating, with a thinner-than-Kate Moss plot, but you will be so bored with the subpar writing, you won’t even care how our hero gets into these situations. His name is Faro Blake, and he’s a card shark, plain and simple. Sure, he cheats men out of their money, but only if they are bad and rich.
The story literally meanders all over the place, starting with Faro ripping off a group of trails men, only to be robbed by said men later on. Throw in a sex scene with some girl who just pops into the story at the right time; they’re interrupted by a train robbery, with Faro being thrown off said train.
DRAW goes on like this for the rest of its sad affair, with Faro running into more people to rip off, until he is accused of killing the marshal’s brother, even though it was in self-defense. Said marshal has a plan for Faro, and it involves a family on the outskirts of the town who might be running guns and booze to the Indians. The family has a young daughter who, for lack of better words, is sex-crazy. Again, these elements are thrown in to make up for the lack of a real storyline.
Sure, the family is hiding a secret and Faro comes out of it all alive. I just wish my libido did also. Hey, if you like Westerns and porn, find another book, since this one does not live up to either of those categories.
NINE MUST DIE by Lee E. Wells – What I thought would be a blast of fun like a telling of HANG ‘EM HIGH is more like a drawn-out and long-winded affair. I know the difference between shit and shinola, and this ain’t no shinola.
This 1967 novel is a snooze, to be blunt, but starts out promisingly when a couple crossing the plains alone in their covered wagon is attacked by Apaches. A group of eight men come charging to the rescue – namely, former rebel soldiers looking for a place to finally settle. We find out that Wayne, the male half of the couple, was himself a Johnny Reb.
Now, to be honest, I figured these guys were going to string up the family and run. But no – nothing that cool happens. They find an area to settle near a town, where within lives a man with a serious grudge against the eight. It seems they were some sort of death squad in the war. I know this sounds really exciting, but it’s not, since these things are thrown out so quickly after being introduced.
It all gets muddled in subplots of a young love and the killing of the eight, which are just boring, to say the least. I should have grabbed a Max Brand novel instead; at least those keep my attention and are well-written fun.
TEXAS FEVER by Donald Hamilton – Yeah, the man who gave us Matt Helm wrote other books. I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this one, from 1960. I just knew I loved the Helms and wanted to see if this would cross over, too. You’ll be happy to know it does.
It starts out innocently enough, with a group of Civil War vets driving their cattle to market. They’re led by a stoic figure just referred to as “the old man,” with his two sons in tow – the youngest being Chuck, who was in charge while his dad and brother fought the war. So, of course, there is the butting of the heads.
But if you think the book is just going to finish off like that, oh, no. It takes a very DEADWOOD-like change of events, with the meeting up of a father and daughter … or are they a couple? Then there’s the death of the older son by gunshot. Who’s responsible? Well, the old man has an idea and wants to act on it.
Hamilton is a whiz at this type of story, since it becomes a revenge tale with one surprise after one another in the story. Chuck learns important lessons along the way, but some are preachy, like life lessons that force his hand later on. TEXAS FEVER is well worth searching out.
Next time: I have no idea, but probably someone dies. –Bruce Grossman
OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THESE AUTHORS:
• THE BETRAYERS by Donald Hamilton
• THE INTIMIDATORS by Donald Hamilton
• MURDERERS’ ROW by Donald Hamilton
• NIGHT WALKER by Donald Hamilton
• THE VANISHERS by Donald Hamilton