Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: Coyote Creek by Scott Harris

Several months ago, Scott Harris was kind enough to send me a copy of his second novel, Coyote Creek. This book tells the further adventures of Brock Clemons, picking up where Coyote Courage left off.
I’m happy to say, Scott’s sophomore effort is every bit as good as his debut was. I hate spoiler filled reviews, so I’ll purposely keep plot details to a minimum. I will tell you that Creek finds Clemons trying to make it home to his wife and adopted son, all while battling renegade Indians, gunslingers, and other perilis obstacles that crop up along his path.
The action starts hot and heavy (where’re into it by the third “chapter”) and never lets up. I use the word “chapter” loosely, because this novel is not actually numbered. The sections are broken up into easily readable, quick selections, but not exactly in the traditional sense. Another unique aspect is that the perspective shifts between characters. While Brock Clemons is certainly the main protagonist, his wife and others take center stage at times. I enjoyed this twist (it is somewhat akin to recent Robert Crais efforts where the main hero, Elvis Cole, narrates his sections in the first person, while other chapters jump to the third tense to show correlating and relevant perspectives).
Harris’ writing has gotten smoother, and the presentation is a bit more polished. This is not a knock against his first novel. Rather, Harris is growing as a novelist, and this time around it is evenident he’s done this all before.
The pacing is spot on, the action plentiful, and the story engaging. Clemons and his crew are extremely likable, and it is easy to root for them. Clemons is no anti-hero. He’s a man’s man cut in the mold of classic L’Amour characters, and is extremely capable to take on the hardships found in Colorado Territory.
I suspect Brock Clemons will saddle up again. I certainly hope he does! I’ve known Scott Harris “digitally” for over a year now, and he’s been nothing but kind and encouraging. I hope one day I can hear him spin some yarns as we traverse the backroads of his native California. Until then, I’ll happily read any story he releases as I want to ride further trails with ol’ Brock and the gang.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review: Shadow Flats by Brent Towns

I picked up Shadow Flats on a whim, not knowing what to expected. It hasn't been on the market long, and I downloaded it to my Kindle only a few days after its release. I'd been in the mood to read a good western, and thankfully Brent Towns delivered. Not only was this a good western, but it was one of the best I've read in a while.
Several things make Shadow Flats unique. First of all, it is technically a movie tie-in novel. The screenplay was written by British author Ben Bridges--one of the famed Piccadilly Cowboys--and is currently (I believe) in the stages of production. Bridges is no stranger to the western genre and can more than hold his own when compared to his American counterparts.
The novel adaptation was written by Australian author Brent Towns. Brent is new to me, but has several westerns available. I'll be picking those up soon.
Shadow Flats has many familiar elements. It includes a bank robbery, a haunted Civil War veteran riding the vengeance trail, shoot-outs, and a harsh, unforgiving desert landscape. Yet all of this is done in a fresh way. The story is anything but stale. This is due in part to the supernatural elements. Yes, Shadow Flats falls within the "Weird Western" genre. The afore mentioned qualities are mixed together to produce a great deal of fun. It is exciting, fresh, and enjoyable from start to finish.
What struck me about Shadow Flats is the fact that it works as both a traditional western and a weird western. No matter which one of those you're craving, you won't be disappointed.
With smooth, seamless prose and lightning fast action, Shadow Flats is a quick, easy read. It takes the reader on an incredible journey, and I for one, want more. A solid 5 out of 5. This one is highly recommended.
On a side note, look at that cover! I'm not sure who did the art, but it is excellent! Y'all do yourselves a favor and grab this book. You'll thank me.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Book Review: Upon My Soul by Robert J. Randisi

Robert Randisi delivers another winner with Upon My Soul, the first in the Hitman With a Soul trilogy.
I have interviewed Mr. Randisi on this website, and I encourage you to read the entry if you have not already. Having experienced his work before, and having interviewed him for this blog, I was not surprised to find this tale to be a lean, well-written thriller. The pacing is as good as always. The plot moves along, never bogged down by filler many authors feel the need to include to pad the word count.
The plot involves a hitman, Sangster (or as he is currently known as), who wakes up one day to find he has a soul. His spiritual awakening leaves him with the inability to take lives, so he quits his employment and tries to settle in for a life of peace. Of course, being a thriller, his past comes back to haunt him. I won’t spoil anything else for you. Just know there are fresh twists and turns in this highly original tale. While you may think the plot has been done before, just know that Randisi keeps it fresh, and the book is never stale.
I also enjoyed the many references to other crime authors and their works. You’ll find Donald Westlake (and his alias Richard Stark) and Elmore Leonard, among others. These Easter eggs add to the fun, making this a sort of meta hitman story.
It is also nice to root for the main character. Some hard-hitting crime stories have “heroes” devoid of any likable attributes. But I found myself liking Sangster as he tries his hardest to do the right thing.
The bottom line is Upon My Soul is an easily consumable novel that will leave you wanting more, even though this story works as a standalone. Thankfully, there are two more books in the series, both of which I will be reading. Highly recommended.