Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ruff Justice #02 - Night of the Apache

One of the lesser-known 1980s western series was 'Ruff Justice,' written by Paul Lederer under the pen-name Warren T. Longtree and published by Signet. It’s centered on a former Army scout named Ruffin T. Justice who continues to do scouting on a freelance basis, which turns out to mean everything from leading Easterners through the wilderness to tracking down renegade Apaches. 

That latter specialty is what gets the wheels turning in the second book of the series, “Night of the Apache”. I had high hopes for this novel for two reasons. First, some of the best series westerns I’ve read have been about dangerous Apaches--- Edge #3 “Apache Death”, Gunn #8 “Apache Arrows” and Jim Steel #3 “Bloody Gold” among them. Secondly, I’d read the first 'Ruff Justice' book last year and found it to be an unexpected gem. “Sudden Thunder” had brisk pacing, muscular western action, effective plot twists and a very unique narrative element (the party Ruff leads through the mountains includes a covered wagon occupied by a catatonic woman in black, sitting in a rocking chair). 

Anyway, “Night of the Apache” was a disappointment. The Apache in question is hard for Ruff to apprehend, but he’s otherwise not that formidable. And he’s not even the focus of the story! The real plot is about a conspiracy to keep supplies from reaching an Indian reservation. That’s basically it. Well, that and a few sex scenes featuring Ruff and the frisky young wife of the local Army fort commander. The author tries to keep things moving, and the final thirty pages are very well done, but it’s hard to work yourself into a reading frenzy when the story has such a “who cares” plot.

You know how sometimes you read a book and you find yourself constantly checking which page you’re on, and calculating how many pages are left before the end? When you’ll be free of it and you can move on to something more interesting? This is that kind of book.