The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack





The Sword and the Gun by John J. Law

This was a pleasant short story about the old west in the vein of Louis L’Amour’s westerns. The central plot revolves around a young man’s quest for justice and his need to grow up first if he’s to obtain it. Being a western of the classic variety, his quest for justice is of the eye-for-an-eye sort, but, true to the great western writers it is also “justice” not simply vengeance.

Law’s twist to make the genre his own is his decision to add an eastern element. The villain is a Japanese man and to defeat him, the hero has to learn something of the Japanese culture and fighting style. I would have liked to see this emphasized even more as it is the most unique aspect of the story.

If you’re looking for a quick and enjoyable story set in the old west, I think this one will please you.

In Alpha Order by Author

Coffin Creek by Ben Bridges

Let’s face it. When you’re looking for a western with a little old-fashioned gunplay in it, a title like Coffin Creek is definitely going to catch your eye—and this novel delivers with tense action all along the way. But there’s also a tight little mystery and two great subplots—one about a lawman that may be past his prime and one about a crippled man who doesn’t know he needs to regain his self respect. Put it all together and you have a story Louis L’Amour would have enjoyed. I’m going to have to try a couple more of Ben Bridges’ tales.

The Wilde Boys by Ben Bridges

The Wilde Boys is a Dirty-Half-Dozen-style story. Judge Wilde and some of his politician friends back in Congress are tired of bandits running wild across the west, so they have decided to take half a dozen of the meanest killers in prison and use them as a hit squad to take out some of the most dangerous outlaws who have kept out of the hands of the law. If you ignore the totally disturbing constitutional implications, this is a fun story where in keeping the “good guys” on task is far more than half the story.

Bridges has a deft hand for creating characters you will love and hate. His battles are always exciting. And in this case, he leaves room for half a dozen sequels. If you’d like to read a quick action-packed western, The Wilde Boys won’t disappoint you.

I received this book from in exchange for an honest review.

Joshua’s Country by Gerard de Marigny

I’ve always thought it was difficult to capture the spirit of the westerns set in the late nineteenth century in a twenty-first century tale, but Gerard de Marigny managed this feat in his short novel, Joshua’s Country. Joshua Jacob is an old man who struck me as being a little bit out of time. He is very much the sort of rancher you could find in a Louis L’Amour novel carving out a living for himself and his men and their families out in the great American west (in this case, Texas). When his grandson gets in trouble with ISIS insurgents in Iraq, Joshua is forced to look more closely at the relationship he forged with his now dead son and is trying to build with his grandson.

There is a lot of action in this novel and a dastardly set of villains ranging from terrorists, drug cartels and corrupt government officials. It’s all a lot of fun. De Marigny could have built this novel as a thriller or a simple action/adventure piece, but his decision to ground it in the western genre made it feel much more approachable and less over-the-top to me. Joshua has stepped out of the romanticized legends of the west. Character matters. Family matters. A man’s word matters. It made so many of his decisions and actions instantly credible. My only complaint is that I don’t see a sequel coming out of this story. It doesn’t need one.

Dire Wolf of the Quapaw by Phil Truman

Deputy Marshal Jubal Smoak is hard on the trail of Quapaw bandit, Crow Redhand. Redhand has shot Smoak twice so the deputy is highly motivated to bring him to justice. Then Redhand becomes the prime suspect in a massacre of a Quapaw family and the stakes raise considerably. Smoak needs to get his man before more people are senselessly butchered. The problem is that—dangerous as Redhand is—he’s not the only suspect in the murder. A drifter had a fight with two of the now-dead family members and more troubling yet—for the superstitiously minded—there’s a Quapaw legend about an evil spirit that takes the form of a giant dire wolf and the locals clearly fear this monster is behind the crime. Smoak isn’t big on superstition, but the reader will certainly find themselves seriously considering this possibility…

As if that isn’t enough of a mystery/adventure, there are very intriguing side mysteries that keep wrapping around the main problem. One of these was so cleverly inserted that I missed its possible connection to the main story until Smoak started putting the pieces together. Once he did, I started to figure out the whole plot—and isn’t that a significant part of what the reader wants in a good mystery? A fair chance to figure out what’s going on and then the excitement of seeing the hero try to bring the villain to justice.

This is a good mystery, but it’s also a good western. If you like both, you’ll want to read this novel.

I received this book free from Audiobook Boom in exchange for an honest review, but before I got the free audiobook, I had purchased an e-book copy to read. I just hadn’t gotten to it yet when I had the chance to listen to it instead on my daily commute.

Spirits of the Western Wild by David Schaub and Roger Vizard

I am a big fan of fully dramatized audio and it’s rare to find one as beautifully performed as this book. A combination of excellent audio performances and wonderful dialogue (like the spirit who tries to sound educated but keeps using the wrong highfaluting words) makes it easy to keep track of a large and dynamic cast. In addition there are great sound effects that heighten the sense of being there and really add some gusto to the visual descriptions within the tale.

The story is equally strong—a very cute coming of age story that was clearly focused on a younger audience but which I (at my more advanced age) found thoroughly enjoyable. I hope this cast will produce other audio books in the near future.