Friday, May 4, 2018

Jim Steel #03 - Bloody Gold

A superb Luis Dominguez wrap-around cover and the promise of an exciting gold-hunting story prompted me to start reading Chet Cunningham's third 'Jim Steel' novel “Bloody Gold” almost as soon as the mailman delivered it.

Jim Steel isn’t much different from the typical western series hero, except that he’s in the business of hunting for gold (which explains why the word “gold” is in the title of every novel in this series). This is a terrific, suspenseful tale about infiltrating Chiricahua country in search of a fabled wall of pure gold, and along the way Steel tries to find a young woman who’s been recently kidnapped by the Indians. Every time I thought I knew what was about to happen, I was completely and happily wrong.

There are a couple of standout sequences, one involving a character being tortured and killed by the Indians, and the other being the book’s climax in which Jim Steel himself faces a seemingly certain death. There’s a great deal of material about Steel’s wariness and stealth as he slowly penetrates Chiricahua territory, and that creates an atmosphere of dread, although it occasionally drags the pacing just a tad. That’s a minor quibble, though. Considering how obscure the series is, this is a surprisingly excellent western, well worth reading again.