ON THE SHELF: Adventurous tales to transport and intrigue

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2022

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column features adventurous tales from the New Large Print fiction section.

Ralph Cotton returns to his series featuring Arizona Ranger Sam Burrack in “A Killing in Gold.” Sam finds himself back on the trail of the infamous Arizona Cowboy Gang and he enlists the help of Cherokee lawman Dan’l Thorn. The two follow the gang into Mexico where the Cowboys have stolen $200,000 in gold by blowing up the safe of a bank in Ciudad Esplanade. Ostensibly the lawmen are there to round up a pair of twin outlaws by the name of Smith but get sidetracked hunting for the stolen booty. They are not the only ones on the trail of the gold, however. A rival gang has stolen the loot from the Cowboys and a beautiful lady detective is determined not to let anything stop her from collecting the reward. Sam and Dan’l are joined by their on-again, off-again sidekick, Cowboy Roman Lee Ellison and the trio will have to traverse the high desert dodging bullets and cannibals to find the gold.

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The fifth book in William W. Johnstone’s Red Ryan series is called “Last Stage to El Paso.” Red Ryan works the lawless frontier where every stagecoach is a moving target, every passenger needs protection, and to ride shotgun, you need bravery and a fast draw. His latest job is guarding a troupe of performers aboard the Grey Ghost stagecoach that will take them across 400 deadly miles. According to local legend, this particular stagecoach is either haunted, cursed or just plain unlucky. Each of its last three drivers and three more riding shotgun came to bloody, violent ends. The travelers are a small group of performers with dark histories of their own: a song-and-dance man with a drinking problem, a juggler with a secret, a knife thrower with a dark past and a beautiful fan dancer who’s on the run from a dangerous one-eyed outlaw. On top of everything else, the Apaches are on the warpath and Red knows this trip will be straight out of his nightmares.

Jackson Lowry pens the latest Ralph Compton novel titled “The Saltwater Trail.” This latest entry in the Trail Drive series sees a weary wrangler look toward the Pacific for new opportunities when the money dries up. Clay Forsythe never knew there was a such thing as a paniolo — a Hawaiian cowboy. When he meets Jose Vasquez and Leo Suarez, though he realizes they are both talented and worldly. With no job offers in the wings, Clay decides to take the pair up on their offer to help them drive new breeding stock to the coast. There is a long way to go before they hit the saltwater trail to Hawaii, and not everyone wants to see the Barker Ranch prosper; in fact, there are those who will do anything to make sure these three never make it to the Pacific. Clay and the paniolos are not to be messed with and they are determined to make it to their safe patch of land along the coast come hell or high water.

Tom Young writes about the thrilling and little-known saga of Operation Halyard in World War II in his latest “Red Burning Sky.” In Yugoslavia in the summer of 1944, the people there are locked in a war within a war. Factions are battling one another as well as fighting the occupying German forces. American Bill Bogdonovich is one of the hundreds of allied airmen shot down over the region. Though the locals have risked everything to keep him safe from the Germans, he dreams of escape. Lieutenant Drew Carlton is desperate for redemption after three failed missions, so he volunteers for a secretive and dangerous assignment that will bring together American special operations officers, airmen, and local Yugoslavian guerilla fighters. Their daring plan is to evacuate hundreds of stranded airmen while avoiding German detection. This elaborate rescue will require astonishing courage, sacrifice and resilience.

The third book in Jason Manning’s High Country series is titled “Battle of the Teton Basin.” Zach Hannah just wants to be left alone, high in the mountains with his Indian bride, Morning Sky. As long as Sean Devlin is alive, however, Zach will not be able to find any peace. Zach must now track down this former friend who stole his wife and left him in the hands of his mortal enemies, the Blackfoot Indians. This odyssey of vengeance will lead him from Yellowstone to St. Louis, along the Santa Fe Trail and back to the high country where gunfire rings out over the mountains. Mountain men and Blackfoot braves are locked in a war that will be the final struggle to change the history of the American West. Among this carnage, Zack and Sean will square off in their own final battle. Only one will survive.

Authors Larry D. Sweazy, John D. Nesbitt, Jim Jones, and Phil Mills each have penned a Western tale for the book “Perilous Frontier: A Quartet of Crime in the Old West.” Nesbitt’s “Double Deceit” recounts the tale of a man named Dunbar who comes to Temple Basin to work for an old rancher who is laid up with a broken leg. After one man turns up dead and another man goes missing, it is revealed that Dunbar has come on a mission to find a killer and bring him to justice. “Scarecrows” by Jim Jones sees a man named Tommy Stallings coming to the aid of his aunt and uncle in Texas. Cattle rustlers are terrorizing small ranchers in the panhandle and his Aunt Martha dubs the miscreants ‘scarecrows’ because of the canvas bags they wear over their faces. Tommy joins forces with Bill Slaughter who’s an agent for the Stock-Raisers’ Association of Northwest Texas. Will they be able to bring the outlaws to justice before anyone is seriously hurt? Phil Mills, Jr. pens “Cold the Bitter Heart” which explores how a child’s personality mirrors that of their parents. Catherine Baxter puts on the appearance of innocence, but could it just be a mask to hide something more sinister? Jake Summers has been following a trail littered with suspects, but did he miss the most obvious one and can we really know the whole truth? 

Finally, Larry D. Sweazy’s “Wind in His Face” tells the story of veteran Texas Ranger Scrap Elliot. Scrap was a member of the original Frontier Battalion and is on an important courier mission when he runs into an old flame in Waco. When the woman’s husband dies in front of Scrap, the old flame disappears and he becomes the prime suspect. He’ll have to find the woman and drag her back to the sheriff to prove his innocence.