Western Fiction Review


REVIEWS BY WesternFictionReview

Journey by the Sackcloth Moon
a novel by K. B. Schaller
Journey by the Sackcloth Moon by K. B. Schaller offers the reader a glimpse of the cultural difficulties faced by a young Native American woman seeking her place in modern America. Dina Youngblood is part Cherokee, a people who tried but failed to live comfortably in the white world and part Seminole, proud men and women who never surrendered. This dichotomy is her heritage.

A professed Christian, Dina’s life is a daily struggle to serve her people without being drawn into the dark shadows surrounding her. She openly acknowledges the mystery of her people’s culture and uses her religion as a bulwark against it. Sometimes she is successful and sometimes the forces overcome her.
Moving from one culture to the other, Schaller artfully wove Dina’s life dilemma into an enthralling story of a young girl’s struggle to choose between two loves. One is a prominent and respected man who represents all that is good and safe in her life—the other is an old flame who represents all that is dark and wild and exciting.
Dina’s struggle to find peace and her true place in life is compounded by the hidden treachery of supposed friends. She is helped and protected in her quest by her strong belief in God and by unseen forces she will never understand. Journey by the Sackcloth Moon is a good read—a real page-turner.
Anne H. Holt, Ph.D., writing as A.H.Holt,
author of Blood Redemption, Riding Fence and other historical novels.

By William W. Johnstone with J. A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Mass Market pb: February 2010, 344 pages
From Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
ISBN 978-0-7860-2129-1
Price USD $5.99/6.99
Snake River Slaughter is the fifth book in the series about Matt Jensen, adopted son of mountain man Smoke Jensen a character beloved by Johnstone fans. Living true to Smoke Jensen’s teaching, Matt wanders the west always looking over the next horizon. Occasionally wearing a badge, but always operating on the side of the law, Matt has become so famous dime novels are published with him as hero.
This story immediately demonstrates Matt’s character and abilities by following his capture and eventual killing of two brothers who murdered a friend, his wife and two small children to steal their money. A story about this exploit appeared in the Boise, Idaho Statesman, increasing Matt’s fame and announcing his location.
When a girl Matt remembered as Katherine from when they were in the orphanage together asks for his help, Matt and his gun are ready. Kitty Wellington’s husband recently died, willing her ownership of Coventry on the Snake, 20,000 acres of prime ranch land. She is striving to build a thriving horse ranch.
Marcus Kincaid was Thomas Wellington’s stepson and expected to inherit the ranch. Angry and determined to wrest the property away from Kitty by any means, he buys her note at the bank and hires Poke Terrell a member of an auxiliary police group from Boise to prevent her selling horses to pay the note so he can foreclose.
When Matt Jensen kills Poke Terrell and his minions, Kincaid travels to Boise and hires the entire Idaho Auxiliary Peace Officers Posse, a private police group famous for twisting the law and ruling by the gun. The posse takes over the little town of King Hill, drives residents out of the hotel so they can have the rooms and eventually kills the sheriff.
Under cover of a trumped up charge that Kitty is violating an obscure law, Colonel Clay Sherman, leader of the posse and sixteen uniformed men with badges set out to stop Kitty from selling horses her to the army in time to pay the note Kincaid holds. These men are tough and brutal, without any regard for human life, but they soon find that Matt Jensen not only stands by his friends, he is more than this private police force can handle.
This story moves quickly, leading the reader smoothly from scene to scene with plenty of suspense to keep the pages turning. Matt Jensen and the other main characters, Kitty Wellington, Poke Terrell, Colonel Sherman and Marcus Kincaid, are well-drawn and complete, fitting well in this story of a rip-roaring battle for justice.
Reviewed by A.H.Holt
January 2013

By S.J.beres
ISBN 1-58898-916-X
2003, Paper, 204 pages
“Block poked the barrels of the shotgun into the light at the same time he pulled back the hammers.  The distinctive metallic clicks caused the outlaws to freeze momentarily and Josh took the opportunity to introduce himself.
“Freeze, gentlemen! I am a U.S. Marshall and you are under arrest…”
Joshua Block lives his job, but tempers justice with common sense.  His beat is the Llano Estacado, the Staked Plains of northern Texas.  It’s nothing but thousands of square miles of nothing if you except the rent in the earth called Palo Duro Canyon.  It’s a great desert, big enough to hide a stolen herd of cattle and the secret of Coronado’s gold, but is it big enough to hide murder, kidnapping and mysterious doorways to another world?

Caprock is a rousing-great tale of adventure told in clear, well-written prose.  It offers the reader several mysteries, hints of the supernatural, a tiny touch of romance and you can’t put it down until the end.  Joshua Block is a well-developed, sympathetic character this reader hopes to meet again.

A.H.Holt, editor
June 2004
By Morgan J. Blake
ISBN-1-59105-203-3 (e-book)
ISBN-1-59105-228-9 (paperback)

Wylie’s mother is brutally murdered.  His sister Cara, his friend Jaylene and several others are kidnapped.  As he steels himself to examine his mother’s wounds he begins to suspect that blaming Apaches for the raid is much too simple.
Gus Lundgren an old friend of Wylie and his mother, reacts with a mixture of shock and anger when Wylie tells him about his mother’s death and enlists his aid in tracking the kidnapped women.  Lundgren refuses to join Wylie in tracking the raiders but lends him a huge sorrel, his best trail horse.
Then there’s Annie.  She’s introduced to Wylie as Lundgren’s adopted daughter, but something is not right.  As long as he has known Lundgren, Wylie has never heard of a daughter before.  Even more strangely, when Wylie leaves his ranch Gus signals to a man with sandy-blond hair to follow his young friend.
Cara, Jaylene and six other women and girls are tired, dirty and often hungry.  Endless hours of riding take them steadily south, closer to Mexico and a life of degradation.  Cara works to help Jaylene and the others keep their spirits up as she watches for a chance to escape.
Wylie’s introduction to the town of Redemption includes the sight of a mutilated dog that has been slashed to ribbons and left to die slowly and miserably.   A few moments later, he has to fight an outlaw named Dossey and an unknown white-haired man to save Maria de la Rosa from their unwanted attentions.Redemption is fast moving and riveting but dark.  Blake has created characters full of evil and degeneration.  Some of them have few redeeming human qualities.  Other characters are courageous men and women who fight this evil with all of their might.  Wylie’s quest to save Cara and the other women for a miserable life of slavery provides continued suspense.  The reader will find mystery on every page of this action-packed story.  It was hard to stop turning pages until the end to find out who was really behind the murders and kidnapping.

A.H.Holt, editor
June 2004

Kansas Dreamer: Fury in Sumner County
By K. Follis Cheatham
ISBN 0-9714287-2-7
Kaios Books
Helena, Montana
2002, paper, 259 pages, $16.95
Ellen Hargrove had dreams — dreams that frightened her and set her apart from her family and her neighbors.  She dreamed of death.  Ellen’s dreams made her seem strange to everyone, even her closest family.  When her husband Johnny was killed, she had fore seen his death by drowning, but her dreams never told her why he would even be near that river.  When word came that Johnny was dead his mother and father wanted Ellen out of the way — gone from the house.  She could never understand why they were so adamant that she should leave and leave quickly.

Ellen finds the body of Cattleman Frances Stone and her dreams tell her that James Montgomery is the murderer.  She was afraid to tell.  When more men are murdered, Ellen knows she must try to prove her dreams are true.

K. Follis Cheatham is an accomplished poet and writes both fiction and non-fiction using as most authors do, her family, friends, neighbors and their ancestors as grist for her mill.  She is the author of Spotted Flower and the Pokonomita, The Crocodile, The Advent of Elizabeth Fortune, and several other books. She is an active member and volunteer in Western Writers of America.

            Kansas Dreamer: Fury in Sumner County is firmly rooted in the history of the area and is a truly fine read.  The main character, Ellen Hargrove, captures the readers’ imagination immediately.  The well drawn supporting characters, the clear description of the setting and plenty of fast-paced action hold the readers’ interest throughout the book.
A.H.Holt, editor
June 2004

Echoes of Vengeance
Book one of the Valediction for Revenge Series
By Roland Cheek,
ISBN 0-918981-08-05
Skyline Publishing
Columbia Falls, Montana
2002, Trade Paper, 256 pages, $14.95
Echoes of Vengeance opens as an intruder rudely awakens Major Calumet Cornelius Bates from his whiskey induced sleep.  Breathlessly watching as the tip of the barrel of a Sharpes almost touches his face.

Jethro Spring takes his revenge on Bates for the slaughter of his parents and runs for his life. Wounded and starving, he is rescued by a Cherokee woman with reasons of her own for helping him. Jethro continues to run and hide until he is captured and befriended by a Texas Ranger.

From working as a dockhand in New Orleans to entering boxing rings in Fort Worth, Texas to the timbered slopes of the Olympic peninsula, Jethro Spring matures and changes. He becomes the friend of Chinese immigrants and finally friend and protector of Chinese railroad workers in Colorado.

Roland Cheek has created a remarkably attractive and sympathetic character in Jethro Spring.  Jethro, along with the variety of settings Cheek employs and the strong and interesting supporting characters he creates will sustain this story through book after book.  As a reader you can always expect a fast-moving, riveting story that holds your interest to the very last page and makes you feel impatient for the next book in the Valediction for Revenge Series.
Bloody Merchants’ War
By Roland Cheek
Book 2 of the Valediction for Revenge Series
Skyline Publishing
2003, Trade paper 288 pages $14.95
On August 6, 1877, Jethro Spring rode into Lincoln County New Mexico Territory and became an important player in the event history calls the “Lincoln County War.”  Roland Cheek has written a rousing tale of good and evil, loyalty and treachery and hard choices.

Jethro is himself a fugitive.  Both sides in the Lincoln County war want to hire his gun.  Dolan and Riley on one side and Chisum and McSween on the other and a “Santa Fe ring” in between.  Farmers and Mexicans are at the mercy of the guns on both sides. Jethro finally chooses sides, but then must question if he has chosen the right one.

Cheek offers a fast-moving carefully and densely woven story.  Surprisingly, he makes the reader like and wish to support Billy the Kid and thoroughly dislike some of the characters other views of the Lincoln County War praise.  Cheek allows the reader to see the evil in other characters before his character does creating breath-taking suspense and a great read.
A.H.Holt, editor
June 2004
Echoes of a Silent River
By Rebekah Fawn Cochran
ISBN 1-59113-370-X
2002, paper, 238 pages
This book brings the reader a part of the story of the People told in their own voices.  The words of Strikes-Standing, Angel May and Old Man–the word picture of the massacre painted by Wrens Song give the words and the story an unexpectedly sharp edge.
“Our stories were and are the life songs
making no noise,
Until they break through the ground
to reach the sky and our tongues.”
The dignity, cadence and resonance of the lines Rebekah Fawn Cochran has created are a perfect way to tell the story of the largest massacre of Native Americans in the history of the United States.

Echoes of a Silent River is a powerful tale of fiction that is beautifully interwoven with the true story of the Bear River Massacre.  It tells this poignant story as if seen through eyes of the people most affected. Cochran brings to life through her poems what she describes as ‘echoes’ of courage, honor, desperation, and humor.  Intertwined throughout is the quirky love story of Josiah Bliss and a mysterious fire-haired woman.
A.H.Holt, editor
June 2004


Liar’s Trail

By C.K.Crigger

Amber Quill Press, LLC

ISBN ISBN-1-59279-143-3



“It was her way with the dog that decided him.  How she told the rough-coated, one-ear-up one-ear-down mutt to stay with the wagon using only a slight hand signal.  Except somehow, at the same time, she turned the command into a caress.”

Gincy Tate posts an advertisement for a man that would be willing to help her father trail a herd of about fifty horses and mules to the army at Fort Spokane.  Her father visits the saloon and has a confrontation with William Blau.  Blau holds a mortgage on Quiet Woman Ranch ranch.  He arrogantly lets Tate know that he wants to add Gincy to the collateral and is determined to foreclose.  He believes no one in town will question his actions because Gincy is part Indian.

Two men, Sawyer Kennett, a gray-eyed cowboy riding a big roan horse and Elmer Fitch, rough in appearance, experienced in handling horses, but smelling of horse manure, answer the ad.  Leery of both men, but desperate to get the horses to the fort and get enough money to pay the mortgage, Gincy knows she has no choice but to hire them.

Facing rumors of an Indian uprising on the way to Fort Spokane and doubting the loyalty of both of the newly hired cowboys, Gincy is determined to fulfil her father’s contract with the army and save her ranch.  William Blau is every bit as determined to take control of Quiet Woman Creek Ranch and Gincy.

Gincy hides as someone tries to set the house on fire.  Later horses and mules get away from their lead ropes and crazy things begin to happen.  The wagon is smashed. Gincy’s dog is shot.  One of the men riding with the herd has to be working for William Blau.

C.K.Crigger creates interesting, appealing and fully formed characters that grab and hold the reader’s attention.  Liar’s Trail is full of fast-paced action and a delightful touch of romance. It’s a great read, hard to put down to the end.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


The Quality of Clemency

By Judith Genandt

ISBN 1-58851-338-6

America House

Baltimore, Maryland

2001, Trade Paper,

237 pages, $19.95


A stranger comes to Miss Clemency Taylor’s door to answer a newspaper ad.  The homestead needs lots of work, and Clemmy’s young brothers and sister are determined to get someone to help them with the care of the cattle and horses and upkeep of the ranch.  The stranger who answers the ad gives his name as Eben Harris.  This man has a secret, a dark, hidden mystery that stands between his growing love for Clemency and his regard for her whole family.

But the truth can’t be kept hidden.  Events reveal the devils’ bargain that brought Eben to the Taylor ranch.  When Clemency discovers why Eben answered the ad her siblings put in the paper she displays inspiring strength and courage.  She discovers that the man she is fast growing to love is a tool of her enemies, yet she must fight to protect her family and their livelihood.

Water is at a premium in Wyoming in 1892.  Cattle baron Sylvester Burchfield owns the land that borders the Taylor ranch.  He is determined to own the Taylor outfit with its abundant water and green fields.  He is not above using every way possible, even spying, shooting from ambush and kidnapping to get what he wants.

Love, treachery, love and loyalty fill the pages of this well-crafted story.  Judy Genandt has given the reader well-rounded, interesting and admirable characters and an exciting page-turner of a tale that is sure to interest the whole family.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


Texas Victory

By Denzel Holmes & Tom Schliesing

ISBN 1-932196-09-9


Georgetown, Texas

2003, Trade Paper,

344 pages, $21.95


When it is reported that he is killed in battle, Prince Carl Von Altman is deposed in favor of his brother.  Prince Carl is determined to regain his life and position.  Even as he begins to realize the conspiracy against him, he also begins to understand the plight of the people of his Principality.  Life is hard in the Palatine, and large numbers of people gather around the deposed prince, even master craftsmen and professional men.  They want to leave, to emigrate to the Republic of Texas and establish a colony, and they want Prince Carl to lead them.

When Carl’s son Hans dies, he takes with him Prince Carl’s real reason to fight to regain his throne.  Finally, he agrees to lead the colony to Texas if he can force his brother and the rest of the government to help pay the expenses.

This wonderful story of the adventures of Prince Carl Von Altman, his family and his little band of German colonists introduces the reader to a little known part of the history of Texas and of Western America.  The reader follows Carl and the settlers as they leave old Europe and experience the trials and pain of the long sea voyage to their new life.  The exhausted and fearful settlers travel overland from their landing to settle near the New Braunfels community.  The story also follows the changes these experiences make in the character of Prince Carl.  The authors developed this character’s life story so well that the reader sees Prince Carl von Altman as a real, universal and fascinating human being.

Denzel Holmes and Tom Schliesing have created a gripping and epic story of love and fear, opulence and privation, peace and strife.  Texas Victory thrills the reader as it makes Texas history come to life.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


Massacre at Bend-in-the-River

By Michael J. Kahman

Virtual Books

College Station, Texas

2003, paper, 109 pages, $12.95


“He had a way of looking at you, and then through you.  He spoke too softly for a man, I often had to strain to hear him, and he had a kind of a half grin on his face so you never knew what to make of him.  If you judged by appearance he was unremarkable except for a white streak just above his hairline…”

Emmert Shannon rode into Summit County Texas seeking work.  He stayed to capture the mind of a boy and a woman’s heart.  Emmert was a veteran of the “Great War” that is, the American war some call Civil.  He was a warrior, a sharpshooter.

Mat Koenig was master of the largest spread in the country, that spread was called Bend-in-the-River.  He owned the bank in Springdale and he wanted the widow Preston and her ranch any way he could get her.

This story moves so fast that the reader must stop occasionally to remember to breathe.  Michael Kahman has written a wonderful old-fashioned western.  Emmert is a true western hero, the strong man who rides into town from some unknown place and rights wrongs.  It is fascinating to follow each step as he plans and executes his battle against the rich and powerful Mat Koenig.  This story should be longer.  I want to know more.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


Two Guns for Paradise

By Brian D. Kelling

ISBN 1-59374-016-6

Whiskey Creek Press

Lusk, Wyoming

2003, paper, 184 pages, $14.95


Five years in Yuma at hard labor — five years of breaking rock with a double-jack and dragging a ball and chain.  Hack was finally free, but so badly beaten by guards he lay unconscious in the road.

A family of Mormans who were passing by picked him up and cared for him.  He regained consciousness in their wagon, tended by a girl named Jenna.  Jenna Frazier was a Morman woman, but she was also thin, well built, with long black hair.

Hank stayed with the Morman family as they traveled to Salt Lake City to let his wounds heal.  The Saints bid him goodbye by completely outfitting him for the trail.  They gave him a gray horse, a rifle and the gear he needed to live and travel.  As he left Salt Lake Hack promised to come back for Jenna. He left riding slow because his broken ribs still pained him with rough movement.  He was headed for Prescott and Giles David.  Revenge a place to hide and Jenna; that’s all Hack wanted out of life.

Two Guns for Paradise is Brian D. Kellings third in a continuing series of Westerns, all set in different states. His other books, Wind of the Mountain and The Long Canyon Mountains are also available from Whiskey Creek

Kelling travels to each and every setting he writes about.  He explores as he researches, plots his story, and gets the feel of the country.  His work is clearly authentic.  He has owned horses; panned for gold, built his own tipi and followed the old trails. Two Guns for Paradise is a hard-hitting and fast-moving story that will keep the reader riveted to the pages until Hack and Jenna are safe.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


The Tender Ties Historical Series

By Jane Kirkpatrick


Roundup Magazine says “Jane Kirkpatrick’s stories tug at a reader’s heartstrings” and describes her as being  “well known for her poetic prose as well as her historical accuracy.” She certainly lives up to that praise in this series.

The Tender Ties Historical Series includes Ms. Kirkpatrick’s tenth, eleventh and twelfth books.  The three books are full of strong, well-developed and memorable characters presented in smooth, beautifully crafted prose.  They are a treat to read and impossible to put down. Each of the three books can stand alone as fine stories in their own right, but together they give the reader an in-depth understanding of Marie Toupin and an inspiring respect for the courage and strength of which women are capable.

I had the opportunity to read the three books in order, one after the other.  That was a treat and is the best way to enjoy reading them.  However, individually or as volume one, two and three of the Tender Ties Historical series: the story of the life of Marie Dorian Toupin, Jane Kirkpatrick has given her readers another triumph


(1) A Name of Her Own

By Jane Kirkpatrick

ISBN 1-57856-499-9

WaterBrook Press

Colorado Springs, Colorado

2002, paper, 382 pages, $13.99


In A Name of Her Own Marie forges a friendship with Sacagawea as she and her family cross the continent in a fur expedition into the northwest.


(2) Every Fixed Star

By Jane Kirkpatrick

ISBN 1-57856-500-6

WaterBrook Press

Colorado Springs, Colorado

2003, paper, 410 pages, $13.99


Marie faces other trials in Every Fixed Star.  Her love is gone.  One child has disappeared and another is estranged.  It is no wonder she begins to question her worthiness as a human being.


(3) Hold Tight the Thread

By Jane Kirkpatrick

ISBN 1-57856-501-4

WaterBrook Press

Colorado Springs, Colorado

2004, paper, 391 pages, $14.99


Marie pulls together the threads of her life, attempting to resolve the conflicts of her family and friends, including British settlers, Americans, Missionaries, fur trappers, French Canadian farmers and Native Americans. Finally, she learns the magic of unconditional love.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


The Search for Hezekiah’s Gold

By Carol Lavelle

ISBN 0-5952145-4


Lincoln, Nebraska

2002, trade paper, 238 pages, $14.95


There were only seven people left in Last Chance, Colorado.  It was Christmas eve; bitter cold and everything was covered in snow. The snow shut down the few mines still in operation around Lost Chance.  Smart miners had left for Denver to wait out the snow.  They would not return until the thaw.  No matter how much the Ned stoked the stove; the temperature stayed below twenty degrees.

Ned Thompson, Patrick, Gus the Storekeeper, Bessie Hadley and her sons Jonathan, Jason and Willie were a little edgy.  The wind wailed around the saloon.  The lamp weakly illuminated the table, but the corners of the room were cast in gloom. Just when the clock struck midnight Hezekiah came in the door.  The opening filled the room with frigid air.

The cover blurb of The Search for Hezekiah’s Gold asks, was Hezekiah a ghost? — was he an illusion?–an apparition that appeared to all seven residents of Lost Chance at the same time?  If he wasn’t real, where did the books come from?

This was an enjoyable read.  The characters are rounded and interesting. Carol Lavelle has crafted a fine story that clearly respects the reader’s intelligence, allowing room for his or her participation in the conclusion.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


The McKannahs

By Rick Magers

Grizzly Books




The McKannah’s is the epic story of a tough Irish family that settles in nineteenth century California.  It tells the plight of the Spanish Californios whose culture was crushed by the land-hungry Anglos, and chronicles the tragic devastation of California’s Native Americans by the settlers’ greed and prejudice.

Sean McKannah was born in Ireland.  When his family is killed in a fire he runs away to sea to find a better life.  He is befriended by the captain of his ship and supported by this friend as he matures.  McKannah leaves the sea in California to go gold hunting. He falls in love, marries, has a family and makes his place in California.  This is the thrilling story of his adventures and adventures of his sons.

One of Sean’s sons becomes a Texas Ranger. Two become lawyers.  Another is an honest professional gambler.  His very special fifth son, Jesse — Jesse becomes the legendary “White Buffalo,” friend to the California Native Americans.

Neither the Irish, the Californios nor the Native Americans were fully accepted by other Americans during the nineteenth century.  Magers has woven a great story around the triumphs and tragedies of the settlement of western America. The McKannah’s is a mixture of historical fact and well-crafted fiction that holds the reader’s interest to the last page and leaves you wishing for more.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


The Lawman and the Lady

By Tera Lee Mattera

ISBN 0-9721574-1-7

Cody Ben Taylor Publishing

Fresno, California

2003, trade paper, 292 pages, $14.99


“The smell of cordite and the tingle of romance fill the air in nineteenth century California when Deputy Sheriff Cody Benjamin Taylor and Nurse Gina Angelica Tufano are thrown together in a savage struggle for their very survival.”

First her father dies, then her mother is gone.   With both of her parents dead Gina Tufano leaves New York to make her home in Sonora with her Aunt Mary Sciaroni. She finally arrives in Sonora after an arduous journey across the continent by train and stagecoach.  There is no one to meet her.  Soon she learns that her aunt, her only relative is dead as well.  She is completely alone in the world.

Gina moves into her aunt’s house and finds a job nursing for the town Doctor.  Almost as soon as she settles in she is threatened by a psychopath and is forced to rely on Cody Benjamin Taylor, the deputy sheriff.

She had despised Cody as an arrogant boy when she visited Sonora five years earlier, but she soon learned how much he had changed. This man stood fast against a mob and worked to make the streets of Sonora safe. The story of Gina and Cody is interwoven with the history of Sonora and the surrounding area.  This is an interesting view of early California with lots of action and romance.

Tera Lee Mattera is a Fresno California native. She is currently working on a sequel to The Lawman and the Lady.


A.H.Holt, Editor


May 2004


My Horse Got a Flat

By Cary G. Neumiller

ISBN 0-595-29490-1


Lincoln, Nebraska

2003, paper, 106 pages, $9.95


My Horse Got a Flat is a collection of cowboy stories–real cowboy stories.  Cary Neumiller manages to make the reader laugh out loud as he conveys the piquant flavor of the life of the modern cowboy.

Neumiller’s stories make it easy for the reader to see the horse carrying a boy around a corral by holding his shoulder in his teeth.  You will definitely hear the pick-up trucks rattle.  Big-hairy girls working in carnivals, understanding proper cowboy hats, why cowboys move cattle in snowstorms and the fine art of lying are well explained in these wonderful humorous stories.

This writer’s deft handling of more than a touch of comedy and his fine ear for voices give this book great staying power.  I read it through in one sitting as though it were a novel and enjoyed every word.


A.H.Holt, Editor


June 2004


No Preservatives Added

By Donna Penley

Haysville, Kansas

1998, paper


This cowgirl poet has traveled all across the country performing her poetry.  I had the privilege of hearing her recite a poem about a “real cowboy” when visiting the Haysville, Kansas Library.  We were a small group of writers gathered around in a circle of chairs, talking about the business of writing, publishing and promoting.

Donna was one of our group.  She offered to recite and was welcomed.  The group listened raptly, chuckled two or three times and applauded with fervor when she finished.  Both the words and the performance were a treat.

Donna is also a horse trainer and involved with horsemanship for the handicapped.  She works with the Burning Sage Ranch at Haysville, Kansas.

“UnCow ponies” and “Rodeo Romance,” spurs and chores and second chances attract Donna’s muse and her verses paint pictures of the cowboy life.  She makes the reader see the sun on the Kansas flint hills, and their own dream house.  “Noticing Things” is the essence of poetry, and this poet’s thoughts and dreams give the reader a delightful view of life in south central Kansas.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004




Comanche Captive

By Don Smart & Mary Joe Clendenin

ISBN 0-9701-488-2-8

Clendenin Books

Stephenville, Texas

2003, paper, 156 pages


This book is rooted in the true story of the captivity of Juana Cavasos by the Comanches.   Little information is available about the actual events of Juana’s years living with the Native Americans, so the writers carefully researched the parallel history of the area and the involvement of Sam Houston.  The activities of the Native Americans and Juana in the camp where her captors enslaved her appear as authentic as research and imagination can render them.

Juana Cavasos and her twin brother Juan were the youngest of the five children of a wealthy Spaniard.  When Juana was only six years old the family moved to a ranch on the border of Texas and Mexico. Juana was not content to sit in the house and play the lady.  She found a way to learn to ride, and explored the ranch. Her determination and strength of character were obvious even when she was a child.  She grew into a strong, independent young woman and an outstanding equestrian.

When visiting her cousins in Olnieto Juana is yanked up by her hair and thrown across a horse in front of a member of a Comanche raiding party.  She is swept away into the wilds to be made a slave.  Although she was used to a life of wealth and ease, Juana’s courage and fortitude kept her alive and gave her the strength to devise and implement a plan to gain her freedom and return to her family.

Don Smart and Mary Joe Clendenin have produced a finely crafted story that thrills and inspires.  They make Juana and her ordeal real to the reader and demonstrate a fine respect for the Comanche’s way of life.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


Deliverance Valley

By Gladys Smith

ISBN 1-931-291-27-6

Log Cabin Books

Hamilton, Montana

2003, trade paper, 256 pages


Retired schoolteacher and amateur archeologist Gladys Smith won the Willa Cather Literary award with her first novel River of No Return.  Deliverance Valley is also a story of a hard but beautiful land and the trials of the human heart.

On his deathbed Gabe confesses to his sister Jessie that he has gambled away his ranch.

His horses will have to be sold to pay his debts.  He also confesses that his beautiful fourteen-year-old daughter Kitty is really the Jessies child.  Jessie is stunned to learn that the girl she thought of as her niece is her daughter–the infant daughter her husband told her was born dead as Jessie lay near death at the child’s birth.  Her husband lied, and her brother had kept the truth from her for fourteen years.

Jessie is heartbroken as she helplessly watches her brother die.  She is also full of anger that she was lied to for so many years. Kitty is heartbroken that not only is her father is dying and leaving her alone, but she may also lose her beloved horses.  Afraid and rebellious, the young girl steals away into the wilderness with the entire herd.  Jessie must find Kitty and the horses somewhere in the wilds of Montana. Is it possible she will also find love?

This story is well paced, authentic and full of life.  It’s a great read for adults and accessible for young teens. Gladys Smith’s may well win another award for Deliverance Valley.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004


With the Right Person

By R. Whitfield

ISBN 0-595-16384-X


Lincoln, Nebraska

2001, Trade Paper, 234 pages, $14.95


It is the middle 1860s.  When Indians killed her mother, father, and little brother, Nicole Walker was ready to give up hope.  The Indian who reached out his hand to grab her fell to the ground at her feet as she heard the report of a gunshot.  Jim Becker, the tall man dressed in buckskins she had seen in the town, rode into the middle of the small war party firing a pistol with each hand.

Nicole’s adventure begins at that massacre.  Every member of her family is dead.  She is alone in the vast wilderness of the prairie.  Her rescuer takes her to safety at his home in Colorado.  It is only a matter of weeks before they fall in love and begin to share a life of personal growth.

This story follows the spiritual growth experienced by Jim and Nicole as they fight the prejudices and indifference of white settlers and military men against their Native American friends.  They gradually learn that they can make a difference in their world, and that their true strength and abilities lie in the fact that they have each found the right person to share their lives.

Ron Whitfield has created an interesting and sweet love story that parallels the instructive struggle of two people who are determined to grow as human beings until they realize their true potential.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004



By Adam W. Wiktorek


2001, trade paper, 319 pages, $17.95


It started with the waifs living and fighting for food and shelter in the streets of New York and other large cities of the east.  Do-gooders, mostly ministers and missionaries dreamed up the institution they dubbed “Orphan Trains.”  The managers of these trains swept up children of all ages, many orphaned by the ills of poverty and a devastating flu epidemic.

The children were all supposed to go to Christian homes — to childless couples who would give them the love and care they deserved and desperately needed.  The lucky children went to couples who really wanted them.  True Christians, willing to offer strangers a home and a replacement family. The unlucky ones went to men and women who were little more than slavers.

Boomerang is the story of Jacob, the youngest of a family of orphaned children who were sent west on the Orphan Train.  When he is released from bitter servitude and abuse by the death of his adopted father Jacob sets out on the cold trail of his real family.

This story is a heartbreaking commentary on the evil that lives in the heart of some men and women and the simple goodness in others.  To imagine that Jacob would eventually find every single one of his family and that they would all be well, is stretching the plot considerably, but I couldn’t stop reading.  Boomerang flows well.  History and fiction are deftly intertwined to create an excellent read.


A.H.Holt, editor


May 2004




By Gary Yates

ISBN 0-595-17889-8


Lincoln, Nebraska

2001, paper, 192 pages, $13.95


Gary Yates opens the door to understanding the life of a modern cowboy. He follows Jess Cogden as he drives his battered pickup around the west, moving from job to job.

The author of JESS spent many years working as a “hired man on horseback” on large ranches in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, California and Nevada.  His first hand knowledge makes his story of Jess and his reaction to the rancher’s abuse of public lands ring true.

Jess finally realizes he has wandered away half his life with little to show for it.  He finds a job he loves living at a camp by a lake created by a beaver dam.  Mule deer come to the lake to drink and a hawk has made the meadow and the grove of Aspens his hunting ground. In this lonely cow camp Jess puzzles as he remembers the outrageous acts of disregard for public lands and wildlife he has witnessed in his travels.

When Jess meets a beauty named Maureen and a charmer named Kathy they work their way into his life and his heart.  He disagrees with and is embarrassed by the attitudes of a few ranchers and their uses of public lands.  His forest ranger friend causes the ranchers trouble and is transferred because of political pressure.  Finally, Jess takes a stand against his anti-environment employer and right in the middle of his own problems Maureen and Kathy disappear.

This is a great story.  It illuminates an important and pressing problem in the modern west.  Yates has done a good job of making his characters interesting and teaching the critical lessons of protecting the environment in a strong story.  The reader absorbs the “protect the environment” lessons without hurting the flow of the book.  An enjoyable read, interesting plot with characters that are real enough to hold the readers’ interest to the very end.


A.H.Holt, editor


June 2004



Lincoln County Crucible
by Roland Cheek
ISBN 0918981107
Trade Paper $14.95
280 pages

Lincoln County Crucible is the third novel in the Valediction for Revenge series by Roland Cheek. Cheek’s hero Jethro Spring, is a friend of Billy the Kid and his faction in the Lincoln County War. Spring helps Billy, the small ranchers and the Spanish citizens of the county. They are oppressed by “the ring” work and must free themselves from the economic stranglehold crooked law backed up by an equally crooked military has on the area. Spring is a friend to the Mescalero and not only does he help Billy Bonney, he fights the ring to stop the systematic looting of contracted supplies meant for the starving Apaches.
Cheek’s Lincoln County Crucible is a gripping story. It’s fast-paced and full of action. Jethro Spring is a well-rounded character, flawed by his refusal to accept the veniality of his associates, especially that of his love interest.

The story gave me a real sympathy for William Bonney. The leaders of Lincoln County, including Sheriff Pat Garrett and Governor Wallace seemed to drive Bonney to his excesses. Billy saw murderers and thieves, men he and all the honest people of Lincoln County knew were little more than vicious animals freed by the courts. If Cheek’s version of Billy the Kid’s story is close to the truth, Billy was correct not to trust Governor Lew Wallace’s promises and Pat Garrett was a cold-blooded murderer.
Lincoln County Crucible is a great read. It also raises several questions New Mexico historians should examine carefully. Cheek has honed his craft to a fineness few novel writers reach, in any genre. Lincoln County Crucible and all of Roland Cheek’s books are a must read for fans of western fiction. Check our next issue for reviews of the first two books in Roland Cheek’s Valediction for Revenge series.

Reviewed by Anne Haw Holt, June 2003



 The Man From Shenandoah

by Marsha Ward

ISBN 0-595-26308-9,

Writers Club Press, January 2003, trade paperback

Distributor: Baker & Taylor

Available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Buy Com,

Or by calling 1-877-823-9235

The Man From Shenandoah is a book for the whole family to share. It offers action, romance and a realistic premise. Ms. Ward is a true storyteller who has created characters that demand and hold the reader’s interest.

Carl Owens is paroled from Mosby’s Rangers at the end of the Civil War. He makes his way home to the valley of Virginia to find his whole family and his neighbors are forming a wagon train to go west. His uncle went west earlier and is now a miner in Colorado Territory. Carl’s father wants to be near him, but his ambition is to find land and start a cattle ranch.

Without Carl or his brother’s knowledge, his father convinces two families to join the group by promising that Carl and his brother will marry their daughters. The young men and women agree to be engaged, but as the group makes its way across the country, their hearts do their own choosing.

Carl, his family and other members of the wagon train face many dangers as they travel west. They are threatened by a prairie fire, attacked by outlaws, and almost destroyed by the land itself before they reach the hills of eastern Colorado.

Marsha Ward’s clear and vivid writing sweeps us along with her characters on their adventures. The reader quickly learns to care about Carl, his family and the girl he loves. The Man From Shenandoah is true to its characters and to the historical story of families moving to the American west to find a better life. This story is a pleasure to read.

This author has developed her talent with work in newspapers, poetry and short stories. Her experience shows in this fine story. She has worked as an editor, a teacher and is a mentor to other writers. I understand her next project is another novel, this one set in Arizona. I look forward to reading it.

Reviewed by A. H. Holt

April 2003

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Silver Creek

by A.H.Holt


ISBN 0-8034-9600-1

Hardcover, retail $19.95

Published by Avalon Books

Available for pre-order now


Silver Creek’s reviews:


I really enjoyed this “old-fashioned” Western. The Author knows the land, horses, weaponry, terminology of ranchland people, and even the characters, so realistic do they seem. This western is a real page turner. Richard A. Bartlett, author of Great Surveys of the American West December 14, 2002.



Silver Creek is a good old-fashioned western penned in the style of Grey and L’Amour. It’s good, clean, exciting fun. The bad guys are bad, the good guys handsome and proud, and the women, well; the women are tough and feminine at the same time. Ms. Holt has created wonderful characters. She’s a gifted storyteller who knows the importance of creating fine characterizations, and she’s done that and more with, Silver Creek. Denise M. Clark, Reviewer, March 3, 2003


This is a book for the whole family to share. It boasts action, mystery, and romance in an historical, realistically presented western setting. This wholesome and spirited read is hopefully the start of a promising career for a talented writer. Her settings are realistic and the action non-stop. Amanda Killgore, Reviewer, February 28, 2003


The Breach

By Brian Kaufman

Last Knight Publishing

June 2002

ISBN 0972044205

LCCN 2002105810

199 Pages

Trade Paperback

Price $12.95

Brian Kaufman’s The Breach gives the reader a new and different perspective on the siege of the Alamo. Following Mexican troops as the move northward from Saltillo under the leadership of General Antonio Lopez’ de Santa Anna, the reader sees and hears his strategy and his refusal to listen to the counsel of his staff officers.

Telling his story through the fictional diary of Brigadier General Castrillon, a member of Santa Anna’s staff, Kaufman makes it possible for the reader to imagine the smells, sounds and confusion created by an attack on a fortified position. His writing is fluid and enjoyable to read.

A Gillette Memorial winner, this novel is fast-paced and packed full of interesting detail. It offers the reader a new and thoughtful way to understand the story of the siege and fall of the Alamo and the subsequent slaughter of helpless prisoners by Mexican soldiers. The fictional diary continues after the battle at the Alamo to relate Castrillion’s view of the slaughter of the helpless prisoners taken at Goliad and the hours before Santa Anna’s defeat at San Jacinto.

The Breach is rich in cultural and historical detail. It tells the story of the siege and defeat of the Americans at the Alamo exclusively from the Mexican Army’s point-of-view, with enough historical accuracy to make it an enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Anne Haw Holt, June 2003



Cato Wahl

By Judith R. Parker

ISBN 1593740050

Whiskey Creek Press


Trade Paperback

178 pages

Ms. Parker has created a great character in Cato Wahl. I was hooked as soon as I read the second paragraph. The story follows Cato’s thoughts and travels as he pursues his dreams following a wagon train northwest to Oregon, then to the California gold fields and finally back to Oregon with the woman he loves.

At first Cato travels ahead of the wagon train to find work as a blacksmith. He is trying to earn enough money to buy a wagon and supplies so he can officially join the rest of the pioneers. Old Roscoe, his racing mule is finally the means whereby he earns enough money to join the train. He over hears the strange plans of the leaders of the train and decides to strike out on his own when they reach Oregon.

Cato takes up a land claim when the train reaches Oregon, but he soon leaves to continue on to California to look for gold. His trials and his thoughts as he matures and finds his place in his world hold the reader’s interest to the satisfying climax. Cato Wahl is a well-told, enjoyable read, wholesome enough for the whole family. Cato is a hero anyone can appreciate.

Reviewed by Anne Haw Holt, June 2003



“Brush Country”

by Billie Houston

Advance Review Copy

“Brush Country” is a collection of poems that vary greatly in style, tone, length and content. Their unity is in the setting. Each poem is about some person, place or event that has transpired or been inspired by the Brush Country of Central Texas.

Barri Bryan’s words sing the uniqueness of the people and places of the Texas Brush country. Each poem has its own cadence and its own vision that is often inhabited by predators and prey. I felt the darkness in many of these poems–a harshness that may reflect the struggles of a person living close to nature while existing in the turmoil of a modern world.

Bryan has trapped her songs in rhyme, but their strength forces its way through so that her words reach the reader’s heart. Selected poems from this collection won first prize in the Greater Dallas Writers Association Manuscript Contest. They deserve a larger audience.

Reviewed by Anne Haw Holt, June 2003


Desert Bandits

By Cindy Davis

Manuscript–34,000 words

The three main characters in Desert Bandits, Jesse, Matt and Little Turtle (L.T.) live a life boys and many girls dream of living. They simply have it all–horses to ride–a cave to hide in that no adult can find–and the freedom to be children. This adventure with Jesse, Matt and Little Turtle is sometimes funny and sometimes frightening, but it always holds the reader’s interest. From the moment the boys swipe the polished wooden chest with leather straps and fancy brass corners until they return its contents to its rightful owners Desert Bandits is a non-stop adventure.

Cindy Davis has created multifaceted characters that are interesting individually and collectively. They will entertain young adults through many adventures. The three remind me strongly of the great characters in the adventure series such as Radio Boys and Hardy Boys I read when I was a young girl. I understand Ms. Davis has completed a sequel that will also be published. Young readers will thoroughly enjoy the antics of these three boys.

Reviewed by Anne Haw Holt, June 2003



Sierra Gothic

By Merrill Sanders

ISBN 193199922-x

LCCN 2002115125

Trade paperback

Price: $14.95

Distributed by: Ingram and Baker & Taylor

Dry Bones Press

231 Pages

“The right hand door splintered open. She was looking at a dead body, or at least the remains of one.” Carla and Peter Weber move to a small town in California’s Sierra foothills. Peter runs into problems with his job as a bank president and their marriage is in trouble. Suffering from boredom and depression brought on by her floundering marriage, Carla Weber agrees to use her talents to help restore the crumbling Kensington Mansion.

A papered over linen closet in the second story hallway reveals a secret that touches the lives of the leading families in a small town in California’s Sierra foothills. Is the body that of a member of the group of hippies who used the mansion as a gathering place in the sixties or is it even older? As Carla sets out to solve the old murder she stirs old memories and old hatreds. Finally, someone threatened by these old secrets and modern economic hardships uses arson and murder to threaten the tranquility of the whole town.

Sierra Gold is a fine tale that readily captures the atmosphere of a small town. Merrill Sanders has created characters that personify small town people.

Reviewed by Anne Haw Holt, June 2003



Listen to the Mockingbird

By Penny Randolph

Zumaya Publications, 2002

ISBN 1894869737

Trade Paperback

278 Pages

Matilda Summerhayes was raised and educated to be a lady. When she is left destitute by her husband’s death she uses her unusual height, and her way with horses to find ways to support herself in the Wild West.

A prison, a horse ranch, a murdered boy and a lost gold mine provide the ingredients of a rousing tale of Arizona during the Civil War. Matty’s ranch and the nearby town are to be traded from one army to another as the fortunes of war change. When Matty takes in a pregnant woman a minister’s wife accuses her of harboring a witch and tries to turn the townspeople against her.

A mysterious holy man and an anonymous buyer seem to threaten and then to protect Matty’s ranch, the secret caves and the hidden gold mine. When Matty finds her friend and ranch foreman, Nacho Lujan, hanged from the roof of her house she believes she may never live to return to Philadelphia and the life she was trained to enjoy.

The characters and events in Penny Randolph’s Listen to the Mockingbird are dramatically entwined to offer a fast moving, interesting and slightly strange adventure readers are sure to enjoy.

Reviewed by Anne Haw Holt, June 2003.