Tuesday, November 9, 2021

McAllister #06 - Kiowa

The Piccadilly Cowboys were a loose community of British authors during the 1960s and 1970s writing short and violent novels of the old American West. Using the pen name Matt Chisolm, Peter Watts penned a series of paperback originals starring Remington “Rem” McAllister during the heyday of American western fiction written by Brits. I was fortunate to find a used copy of the sixth installment, Kiowa (1967), during a book-hunting expedition in Abu Dhabi. Starved for reading material in the desert, I decided to give the character a try.

As we join McAllister, he’s in real hot water. He and two sidekicks are travelling across the plains of Texas with horses intending to establish a ranch and a new life. They are awakened by a savage band of Kiowa Indians who kill one of the sidekicks and steal a bunch of McAllister’s horses. With only one horse remaining, our hero takes mount and sets off alone in pursuit of the Indians and some frontier justice.

While on the hunt, McAllister meets a young and cocksure hothead named Arthur McShannon (the author’s choice to give the two main characters similar names gave me a migraine) also stalking the same Kiowa tribe. McShannon is an immature bounty hunter pursuing a fugitive who may or may not be hiding out with the Kiowa at their encampment. They tentatively join forces based on their shared desire to infiltrate the Kiowa and take what they need.

It takes no time at all before the pair is captured by the Indians and subjected to cringe-inducing violence and torture - a signature dish among the Piccadilly Cowboys. Thereafter, the reader is treated to a series of escapes, captures, chases, rescues and ambushes. There’s a damsel in distress to be rescued, and an outlaw to be transported to the law. The writing is solid, the action is non-stop, and the plot is a bit thin.

Worth reading? Sure. It was a fun adventure, but nothing groundbreaking. If a copy is aging on your shelf, give it a grab. However, I can’t recommend spending more than a couple bucks to acquire a copy. A better idea might be to read any of the eight McAllister titles reprinted by Piccadilly Press (no Kiowa, though) for $1.99 per ebook. Odds are that the respected reprint house chose the best of the series for their branded product line.


I emailed western fiction scholar Steve Myall of Western Fiction Reviews to ask him about the McAllister series. Here’s what he shared with me:

Hi Tom,

As far as I know, there were 31 in the original run. The first McAllister appeared in 1963 and the last, The McAllister Legend came out in 1974. Having said that, two of the McAllister books came out in 1961 under different titles and were republished into the main series later. In fact, there are four McAllister books that were published with different titles - two of which were put out under one of his other pseudonyms, Cy James.

In 1981, the first of eight more McAllister books was published. So that makes 39 McAllister books in total.

There was also a short story, "The Return of McAllister", that appeared in the British publication, Western Magazine.

More stories were published in Norway, but they've never appeared in English. Not just McAllister either - this is also true for the Blade series.

Watts also wrote other series as I'm sure you know, Blade, The Storms, Sam Spur and Hodge which came out under his Chisholm or James pen names.

McAllister also has minor roles in some of Watt's stand alone books.


  1. Matt Chisholm was one of the western writers who inspired me to become one myself, particularly when I discovered he was, like me, English. And I echo Steve Myall’s view that he was never one of the ‘Piccadilly Cowboys.’ Chisholm wrote many westerns and some of the earlier and lesser ones lacked depth. On top form, however, in the best of the ‘McAllister’ series – KILL McALLISTER, MALLISTER RIDES, CHEYENNE DEATH, McALLISTER STRIKES – he wrote some of the best westerns around. This was mainly because of the quality of his writing. His action scenes are usually a joy to read, a masterclass in how to do it. I also enjoyed the cracking pace, the sharpness of his dialogue and the laconic humour he used to leaven the grittiness of his prose. In Rem McAllister he also had a tremendous main character. McAllister has a notoriously bad temper, a hard edge, and can be arrogant and impulsive. But Chisholm gave him vulnerabilities that always made him, in the end, tremendously likable. But that’s just my opinion!

  2. Found a copy airing on my shelf! Will give it a go.