Rob's Blog

Tag: western novel

Book: ‘Flintlock: Kill or Die’ by William W. Johnstone – April 29th, 2016

by on Apr.29, 2016, under Books

Kill or Die (Flintlock, #3)Kill or Die by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Number 3 in the series of ‘Flintlock’ and either the writer changed or somebody got in a big hurry to hit a deadline. One things for sure – The writer does not know swamps!

The over all story is good, but far simpler in telling than the previous two. Not helping is my reading great authors since reading the two. Folks like Walter Lippmann, Mark Greaney and John D. MacDonald.

I am so glad I read John D.’s ‘Condominium’ before reading this book. Odds of someone doing that is extremely low. The odd thing is that ‘Kill or Die’ is basically ‘Condominium’. Just that all of the characters have guns. There is the community living in the swamp, a ruthless developer out to wipe out the cypress swamp and the oncoming hurricane. The story was eerily similar.

The writing of the cypress swamp really bugged me. Obviously the writer has never stepped foot in one. I don’t know much about west of the Mississippi and all of the rocks and dirt in the west. Not my thing. But, here in Florida, I know swamps and like them a lot.

It’s supposedly late Summer in a Southern swamp. All of the characters acted comfortable. Even the most die hard Southerner sweats like crazy in late August. But most especially someone like Flintlock, used to the dry western air, would be having a hell of a time adjusting to the thick humidity.

Also, where are the bugs??? Now, most healthy swamps actually have few bugs. But this is described as home to many people. Thus, the swamp should be filled with all kinds of bugs. Few appear throughout the swamp scenes.

The BIGGEST omission, and a huge strike in my book, are the cypress knees. No one is just going to go trotting out into a swamp they don’t know and not, either, navigate around the knees or trip over them. NOT ONCE are knees mentioned. That’s impossible, for a cypress can not survive without the attached knees jutting out for air.

This is the least clever of the three Flintlocks. Rather a standard story with some excellent enhancing elements like the balloon, the odd mid-eastern valet and the description of Evangeline. The odd mysticism continues in this book, but not with the magical flair of the first two. The characters are very well done and typical of a Johnstone Clan book. The settings are lacking this time around, especially with the noted above. The ending appears to be multiple chapters tacked on, I guess, to increase page count. This is the shortest of the Flintlock series by 100 pages.

Proof to me that this is surely a different writer is that Flintlock is not described as in the other two books. The tattoo is only described on his neck and not running from the side of his face to his chest. Also, Flintlock is not described by his shorter stature or mustache. Also, O’Hara’s character has greatly altered to being more of a side kick than the drifter described in the first two.

This third book continues the trend of having a horrible cover. Still not Flintlock on the cover. Also, the background in know way looks like a Louisiana swamp.

Can’t believe I’ve caught up with a Johnstone Clan title! First series I’ve read all that are available.

Bottom l;ine: i recommend this book. 6 out of ten points.

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Book: ‘The Silver Tombstone’ by Frank Gruber – November 27th, 2015

by on Nov.27, 2015, under Books

The Silver TombstoneThe Silver Tombstone by Frank Gruber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the characters of this book! Johnny Fletcher and his pal Sam are two whose adventures I’ll to track down more of! Why is it so hard for contemporary writers to create such distinct characters????

Gruber does a crackerjack job of presenting these two ne’er-do-wells as their unorthodox methods of survival propel them into a murder investigation. Past that Gruber’s efforts are more rocky. The whole setup is way to easy. Little complexity to the core story. The few diversions are, for some reason, far too inflated. The ending is short changed by some rather shoddy writing.

Nevertheless, the entire book is great fun and I really enjoyed it.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 6 out of ten stars.

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October 29th, 2015 – Book: ‘Eyes of Eagles’ by William Johnstone.

by on Oct.29, 2015, under Books

Eyes of Eagles (Eagles, #1)Eyes of Eagles by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Eagles series of books is one, soon to be of the few, series that started while William Johnstone was alive. Would like to hope this has more of Johnstone in it than ghost writers, but we all may never know.

This is a sprawling book that could have been three or more books. An enormous amount is covered here. Yes, unlike so much written today, this is a cohesive story that is pretty tight. One of the reasons i like the Johnstone Clan herd of books is the editing process works where it seems to be practically missing in the bulk of books written today.

The writing is not as good as in other books written during Johnstone’s lifetime, but still much better than so many contemporary novels I’ve read. Considering how many characters, fiction & non-fiction, are presented throughout the novel, the definition is very impressive. Characters are the greatest strength of the Johnstone Clan books.

The last third of the book covers the Alamo story that is extremely well done. If that were set as a book of it’s own, I would give this five stars.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 8 out of ten points.

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August 4th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Big Gundown’ by J.A. Johnstone

by on Aug.04, 2015, under Books

The Big Gundown (The Loner, #4)The Big Gundown by J.A. Johnstone

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The first three in the series of ‘The Loner’ does a great job with having some of the most complex plots of any of the Johnstone Clan books. This one leans in that direction and then comes apart midway through as the book settles with multiple bad guys and the good guy. I expected far more as the book developed, as in the previous books. Instead, the hero continues with an odd masquerade. The disguise is unneeded at a point and he could have accomplished his goal. Instead, the there are explosions and shootouts. One “instead” can be OK. Two are too many.

The characters are too much like others earlier in the series. Unfortunately notches below the earlier ones. The hero playing his own spy, slides away from the build up in the previous three books and acts more a specter of portrayals of Smoke Jensen.

The setting is sparse as a chunk of the book takes place in a loosely written hideout that is described at being complex, but not well explained. One part very clunky throughout the book involves a tank. The part hard to understand is the ease with which this tank is moved through the story. The tank is described as massive, but the movement seems more of a feather.

Disappointing entry in the series. Worse of the four books.

Bottom line: I do not recommend this book. 4 of 10 points.

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May 31st, 2015 – Book: ‘Remember the Alamo’ by William Johnstone

by on May.31, 2015, under Books

Remember the AlamoRemember the Alamo by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

‘Remember the Alamo’ is a fun book by the Johnstone Clan. Albeit beyond preposterous. The writing is looser than other Johnstone books. The characters are pretty good, though not as sharp as in other books.

The plotting is sloppiest involving the Hillary Clinton-type president that is demo-goding a situation involving the Alamo. It’s written that Congress is behind her, but little more is mentioned about the Congress, the Cabinet or much of anyone else in charge. Some unbelievable situations occur and the Clinton-type is riding herd to her goal. That’s an interesting stance to take if she had first released Congress from it’s handle of guiding the nation. Otherwise, Congress would’ve stepped in to any number of degrees to intercept even to support her.

None of that happens. The book is written as Alamo vs. Washington. There are some real bad guys who started all this, but they start to slide in importance as the book runs along.

Unfortunately, the characters seem to run together, especially involving the good guys. In other Johnstone books, the characters and their story help enormously involving rocky stories. The Dave and Caroline Rodriguez characters are the mostly compelling to me and it would be nice to see the Johnstone Clan explore those two further in another book.

The book is still fun to read. The characterization of those in the White House are sometimes as much fun as they are shocking. This Johnstone Clan book takes the ultra-liberal president character to heights hard to imagine.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 4 out of 10 points

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February 25th, 2015 – Book: ‘The Broken Gun’by Louis L’Amour

by on Feb.25, 2015, under Books

The Broken GunThe Broken Gun by Louis L’Amour

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I see a well illustrated old west themed cover to a Louis L’Amour book, the title ‘The Broken Gun’ and I plunge into a novel that instantly confuses me. It takes a few pages to realize when in time this novel falls. There is no mention of it. There is a mention of 90 years before…but, before what?

By the third page the Korean War is mentioned.

Involving stroytelling, time should be established in some way off the top if a story about different time periods is being unraveled. Instead L’Amour leaves the reader at drift trying to figure out what’s going on.

Making the early part of the book worse is L’Amour’s poor approach to literally illustrating an urban setting.

Once the novel goes out to ranch lands of sand and rock, L’Amour hits his stride in describing the setting. But, time gets away from him again. L’Amour clearly had trouble with writing about his present.

A number of things bother me about the writing of this book. One involved an over long chase near the end. Another was one sentence involving a character that vanishes. Though clearly not the intent, the line is more surreal than consistent with the rhythm of the story.

The story is shakey, at best, and the conclusion over obvious.

Bottom line: I don’t recommend this book. 4 out of ten.

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February 2nd, 2015 – Book- “The Last Mountain Man: Savage Territory’ by W.W. Johnstone

by on Feb.02, 2015, under Books

Savage Territory (Matt Jensen: The Last Mountain Man, #4)Savage Territory by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m reading these in order and this is the fourth in the series. After a bumpy third book, this one gets more on track of the first two with similar quality and story telling. This is not as good as the first two, but still, involving story telling better than most all of the rest of the Johnstone Clan written books.

Seems this is the same writer as the other three books, for, again, there is an interest in trains, a Perry Mason-type trial and attention to detail missing in most Johnstone books. The writing is very good. The characters well written, as usual.

This is the first of the four where the outcome is pretty obvious from the start. The writer keeps the reader guessing as to just how the obvious ending could possibly occur with so many characters going in so many different directions. It all works well.

Bottom line: I recommend this book. 8 of 10.

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January 31st, 2015 – Book: ‘Last Mountain Man: Purgatory’ by W.W. Johnstone

by on Jan.31, 2015, under Books

Purgatory (Matt Jensen: The Last Mountain Man, #3)Purgatory by William W. Johnstone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I read the Johnstone Clan’s The Last Mountain Man series from the start to this third in the series it becomes very apparent that the crafter of the tales is a far better storyteller than those handling the other parts of the series I’ve read so far. These three are all complex with interwoven threads that bind to make a solid story.

However, this one is not as well written as the first two. Specifically the first few chapters that are a mish-mosh of trying to retell the two previous books and start telling this one. One reason for this may be that this book came out the same year as the last and the one previous to it came out only months earlier. Chug-a-lugging these books seems to have strained production values.

The bulk of the book is still good, lacking the depth of the first two. The characters are especially well explained. Excellent work is done with a secondary character that is law enforcement that, over the course of the book, realizes what is really going on.

Despite the poorly written first chapters –
Bottom line: I recommend this book 7 of 10

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November 23rd, 2014 – Book: ‘Sixkiller, U.S. Marshall- Day of Rage’ by William W. Johnstone

by on Nov.24, 2014, under Books

Day of Rage (Sixkiller: U.S. Marshal, #2)Day of Rage by William W. Johnstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good western tale of John Henry Sixkiller by the Johnstone Clan. It’s a bit more complicated than most Johnstone Clan books with far more developed side characters. This is second in this series and both have far more plot development and far more attention to setting. Overall this story of gold, bad guys and banks is one of the better entries in the entire Johnstone Clan library.

Seems to me the dialogue, though other wise written well for reading was a bit dogged with a lack of authenticity to the times.

Bottom line: I recommend this book.

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January 10th, 2013: Book – ‘The Gentle Desperado’ by Max Brand.

by on Jan.11, 2013, under Books

The Gentle DesperadoThe Gentle Desperado by Max Brand

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a book assembled by the publishers of three of “Max Brand”‘s stories originally published in a western magazine. The three are loosely strung together. Though there are no separators of the three stories, it is very obvious that there are three. Each is a good story. The conclusion of all three stories have a very good twist, as is often the case with a “Brand” story.

I just wish “Brand” had done a better job writing them. The dialogue and narrative is very stilted even for the 1920s, when the three stories were originally published. Some of the stilted writing, I realize, is based on two of the characters. But did so much have to be written this way, too?

There is also an issue of what seem to be missing stories that fell in between the ones presented. They are referred to, but make the stories more confusing.

I’m just glad this was not my first “brand” novel, or I might have given up on him. I almost wonder if he had ghost writers produces the stories, in that the writing is often so irregular.

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January 5th, 2013 – Book: The Hell Road by Ray Hogan

by on Jan.05, 2013, under Books

Hell RoadHell Road by Ray Hogan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ray Hogan sure knows how to fill a few pages. Not with the ability of his colleague Louis L’Amour, but still done with great skill. This story today would have been split into a 4 part series of 500 pages each. Hogan accomplishes the same feat in 126 pages. Sure it could all be better flushed out. Hogan assembles a great western novel better without the excess.

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