The Copper Kings of Montana are at war—and Kate and J.D. Blaze are caught in the middle! Hired to get to the bottom of the sabotage and murder plaguing the mines, the Old West's only team of husband-and-wife gunfighters tackle crooked lawmen and a band of vicious outlaws known as the Lion Gang, only to find themselves trapped on a runaway train loaded with dynamite, a bomb on wheels that threatens to blow the Blazes sky-high!
Acclaimed thriller author Brian Drake (THE TERMINATION PROTOCOL) joins the Blaze! team with a novel packed with excitement and mile-a-minute action. COPPER MOUNTAIN KILL is Western adventure at its finest.
I guess I've heard of Deanna Durbin about as far back
as I can remember, but I've never seen one of her movies until now. It's not a
musical like most of the other films she made, although there are several
musical numbers since part of the story is set in a nightclub. Rather, it's a
mystery comedy, with Durbin playing a rich young woman from San Francisco who's
come to New York to visit her aunt over the Christmas holiday. While her train
is stopped on the outskirts of the city, she happens to witness what appears to
be a murder in a building alongside the tracks. She's also a fan of mystery
novels and is reading one called THE CASE OF THE HEADLESS BLONDE (sounds like a
Perry Mason novel to me).
But no, the book is actually by a writer named Wayne Morgan (played by David
Bruce), who happens to live in New York City, and when the body disappears and
the cops don't believe Durbin, she hunts him up and demands that he help her
solve the crime. Then she realizes the man she saw murdered is really a wealthy
shipping magnate, and a clandestine visit to his estate in the country results
in Durbin being mistaken for the man's mistress, a nightclub singer involved
with gangsters, and during that same excursion she also meets the members of
the murdered man's family, which include the sinister Dan Duryea and ever
stalwart and boring Ralph Bellamy. She keeps investigating, continues to pose
as the nightclub singer, and makes life miserable but interesting for the
mystery novelist before they work together, fall in love, and uncover the
murderer's identity. (It probably won't come as much of a surprise to most of
This is lightweight fluff, but boy, is it entertaining lightweight fluff! The
script hardly ever slows down to take a breath, and since one of the characters
is a writer, there are some funny bits about the publishing business. Leslie
Charteris provided the original story, and it has his usual breeziness to it.
The supporting cast, which includes William Frawley, Edward Everett Horton,
Allen Jenkins, and George Couloris, is very good. Durbin is cute as can be as
the spoiled but spunky society gal who's determined to solve a murder. We have
a couple more of her movies and I'm sure we'll watch them fairly soon.
By the way, this movie is set at Christmas, as I mentioned above, but other
than a quick glimpse of a Christmas tree here and there, the holiday doesn't
play any real part in what's going on. Otherwise I might have saved this post
S.A. Bailey's debut novel AND THE RAIN CAME DOWN was
as good a traditional private eye yarn as I've read in recent years, and the
second book in the Jeb Shaw series, THE LINES WE CROSS, was just as strong. Now
Jeb is back in EDGE OF THE CITY, which blends the hardboiled detective elements
with pure action/adventure to create an epic tale of corruption and violence.
Jeb is hired to find out who's trying to kill a Dallas politician who has a
long history of graft, infidelity, and racial rabble-rousing. This ties in a
young gang member Jeb was forced to shoot during an armed robbery, a
politically powerful mega-church, a couple of former professional football
players, a kidnapping, a rape, an international business deal gone bad, and
assorted other motives for murder and mayhem. Jeb sorts through it all in fine
private eye style, but then the final section of book deals with his
efforts—along with some friends and associates—to deliver a witness who will
break the case wide open to the Feds, even though they're outnumbered by
enemies who are willing to turn Dallas into a war zone.
The plot of EDGE OF THE CITY is complex and well put together, and the action
scenes have a gritty authenticity that elevates them from standard shootouts.
Bailey really nails the political and criminal landscape of Dallas, as well.
But what sets this book apart, as it did the others in the series, is Jeb
himself and the distinctive voice that Bailey gives him as narrator and
protagonist. Jeb has his flaws and plenty of them, but he also manages to be
thoroughly sympathetic, a guy you can't help but root for even while he's
messing up his life. And there's certainly no one else better to have on your
side if you're in trouble. EDGE OF THE CITY is bloody, profane, tragic, and all
kinds of politically incorrect. But it's also smart and funny and poignant when
it needs to be. Highly recommended.
Walker Martin mentioned this short-lived pulp in the comments on last Sunday's post, so I thought, why not feature the cover he was talking about, another that features a decapitated head? It is indeed a gruesome cover, and none of the authors in this issue are familiar to me except for Franklin H. Martin. The covers of the other issues of ALIBI aren't all that appealing, either. I can see why the magazine didn't last very long. But it's still an interesting oddity.
The last few
years of its existence, STAR WESTERN rather blatantly went after the RANCH
ROMANCES readers. Not only do all the covers prominently feature female
characters, most of the story titles do, too, such as this issue from January
1950. You've got "The Strip's Too Hot for Blondes!" by Leslie
Ernenwein, "Girl Strike in Jubilee" by Joseph Chadwick, "Bride
of the Killer Legion" by Talmage Powell, "The Queen, the Wench, and
the Devil" by Ray Townsend, "Two Roses for Dead Man's Range" by
Dean Owen (Dudley Dean McGaughey), "Girl for a Fighting Man" by
Everett M. Webber, and "Brand Her Señorita Killer!" by John Jo
Carpenter (John Reese). With those authors, I'll bet most of those stories are
published as a paperback original by Ace Books in 1975, appears to have been
the final novel in L.P. Holmes' fifty year career. It's certainly not a bad way
to go out. The protagonist, Cleve Ellerson, is a down-on-his-luck hired gun who
wants to put that way of life behind him. Recuperating from a wound suffered in
a gunfight with a crooked gambler, he heads for the mining boomtown of Rawhide
Creek, figuring it might be a good place to start over. An accident leaves the
stagecoach without a driver, so Ellerson takes over the reins, meets a
good-looking young woman who's also on her way to Rawhide Creek, and comes upon
another stagecoach, headed the other way, that's been held up. Driver and
shotgun guard are both dead.
When he gets to the settlement, Ellerson winds up taking a job with the stage
line and discovers that Rawhide Creek is teeming with claim jumpers and gunmen,
all of them working for saloon owner Duke Ackerman. Ellerson sticks up
for the honest folks of the town, which sets up an inevitable violent showdown
between the forces of good and evil.
You've probably guessed by now that there's nothing in RAWHIDE CREEK that
hasn't been done hundreds of times before, by Holmes and many other Western
authors who were prolific pulpsters and then moved into novels with the demise
of the pulps. And if you're a regular reader of this blog, you also know that I
don't care. Holmes was such a good writer that he made these old plots fresh
and entertaining, at least as far as I'm concerned. Cleve Ellerson is a very likable
hero, his new friends (the stage line owner and an old drunk) provide fine
support, the villains are numerous and suitably despicable, and the low-key romance
between Ellerson and the girl from the stage (the sister of the local café owner)
is sweet without being syrupy. There are a few continuity glitches that a good
editor should have fixed, but other than that RAWHIDE CREEK is the same sort of
top-notch work Holmes did for five decades. I had a very good time reading it.
(And the scan above is the copy I read, apparently owned at some point in its
life by somebody named Moats.)
After Don Knotts left THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (which we never
missed in my house, by the way), he made several movies that I saw at the local
drive-in, like THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN and THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET. But
somehow I never saw THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST, which is a remake of the Bob
Hope movie THE PALEFACE (which I have seen and liked). Watching THE SHAKIEST
GUN IN THE WEST for the first time now is kind of an odd experience. We've
watched quite a few episodes of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW on MeTV lately, and
Knotts is really good as Barney Fife, especially when the scripts give him
something to do other than bluster. On the other hand, he's the second banana
in that show, which is a lot different from having to carry a movie. In other
words, a little of that typical Don Knotts schtick goes a long way.
However, there's more to THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST than that, and Knotts is
good in the more restrained moments. It also has statuesque redhead Barbara
Rhoades in it, and while she might not have been a great actress, she was one
hell of a statuesque redhead. Elsewhere in the cast, Don "Red" Barry
and Jackie Coogan are the villains running guns to the Indians, who are
supposed to be Comanches but look more like Heckawi to me. (Bonus points if you
remember the Heckawi Indians.) Several other Sixties sitcom supporting actors
are on hand, and in fact the whole movie has a very sitcom-ish feel, not
surprising considering that the script is by two of the regular writers from
THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and the movie was directed by Alan Rafkin, who directed
a ton of sitcom episodes. Also showing up briefly is poor old Ed Faulkner, who
appeared what seems like hundreds of Westerns, usually getting killed after two
or three minutes of screen time and half a dozen lines of dialogue.
Clearly, Don Knotts is no Bob Hope and THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST is nowhere
near as good as THE PALEFACE, but I still had fun watching it and am glad I
finally saw it. I probably would have enjoyed it more, though, if I'd seen it
at the Eagle Drive-In in 1968.
A couple of years have passed since the events that
took place in BLOODY ARIZONA, the first of a quartet of related novels
featuring Yakima Henry, the popular Western adventure character created by
Frank Leslie (who we all know is really our old friend Mean Pete Brandvold).
The town of Apache Springs has been rebuilt after much of it was burned down by
outlaws, and in fact the settlement is booming. Yakima has settled into the
marshal's job, and his deputy is still the old outlaw known as the Rio Grande
Kid. He's also settled into a relationship with Julia Taggart, the beautiful
widow of the former marshal and the daughter of mining magnate Hugh Kosgrove.
Julia isn't Kosgrove's only daughter, however. Julia has a younger sister, Emma
(the wildcat of the title), who has also been romantically involved with Yakima
in the past and clearly would like to be again. She plays a part in it when
Yakima discovers an ancient mission hidden in the badlands that contains a
treasure which may be cursed. There's also a potential robbery complicating
things, as well as various shootouts and domestic problems.
Yakima Henry is a fine protagonist, and once again Brandvold's gritty,
superlative action sequences dominate the book. There's just nobody better at
it in the business today. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, WILDCAT OF THE
SIERRA ESTRADA is another winner and gets a definite recommendation from me.
Okay, now that's a gruesome cover. I actually had this issue years ago and I'm pretty sure I read the Park Avenue Hunt Club story because I really liked that series by Judson Philips, but I don't remember any of the others. There are plenty of good authors in this issue, too: H. Bedford-Jones, Fred MacIsaac, Richard Sale, Anthony Rud, and George A. Starbird. Mostly, though, I remember that gory cover.
That's a pretty good cover, and the complete book in this issue of COMPLETE WESTERN BOOK MAGAZINE is "The Morgan Trail", a Hashknife Hartley novel by W.C. Tuttle, so you know you can't go wrong with that. Plus a couple of back-up short stories by Samuel Taylor and Lemuel de Bra. I think I have the book version of THE MORGAN TRAIL somewhere around here. Maybe I'll hunt it up.