Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Man Alone (aka Steve Douglas of Sleepycat Ranch)

In 1971, Belmont/Unibook published a book with a rather odd title, Steve Douglas of Sleepycat Ranch. I don't know who the author is, but the book's cover is amazing. However, I own the 1975 version of this same book, a Belmont Tower paperback called Man Alone. The author's name on the cover is E.H. Manring, a name that could resemble a real author or simply a pseudonym for any number of action-adventure writers of that decade. However, I believe the author is an old pulpster based on my reading experience with the book.

Traditional western formulas tend to fall into a handful of scenarios. Arguably, the most popular of these is the ranch stealing stories where either some wealthy bullish land baron forces the average working man to fight for his right to ranch or cattle-rustlers are stealing livestock from the average working man. Either way, it is always about a land grab with the trophy being water, gold, cattle, money, or the beautiful woman (mostly the widowed variety). Man Alone is that story, only modernized to fit the late 20th century.

Steve Douglas is a former U.S. Marine and a rodeo riding superstar. Nowadays (in 1971 that is), he is a horse rancher with a big 'ole spread in Arizona. Big city goons representing the Syndicate arrive with a proposition to buy out Douglas in an effort to take his horses to the races. Douglas says no, so the goons spike his punch, place him on an airplane, and advise the pilot to casually dump Douglas in The Grand Canyon. Thankfully, the pilot is a Yaqui from Old Mexico, so he shows pity on Douglas and takes him to his family's place across the border. Like a typical western, Douglas is initiated into the family through a ritual and then it is all guns blazing as Douglas grabs an M-16, some grenades, and a sawed-off and heads back to his ranch to kill the baddies and get his horses. 

Hold your horses right there mister. I totally forgot to mention that Man Alone, aka Steve Douglas of Sleepycat Ranch, is a G-rated pulpy juvenile family-friendly novel. So, shave off everything up top after the words “...through a ritual.”

Instead of maximum carnage, Douglas teams up with a Yaqui attorney to fight the baddies through legal means. It's a courtroom brawl instead of a slobber-knockin' beat'em up. There is a brief fistfight on the sidewalk, but it's short and Douglas's own girlfriend is involved. Instead, this vengeance yawn is a childish romp with very little payoff. 

The author uses quotations whenever Douglas is thinking to himself (I despise that), and consistently ends sentences with an exclamation mark! At one point a character tells another to “speak American” and “give it to me in U.S.A." instead of Spanish. To squeeze a lemon in the gash, there is even a gold mine with a curse. 

I debated on putting this into the Hall of Shame, but that isn't really fair. It isn't necessarily the author's fault that the book was marketed as a modern, gritty mob-buster. It also isn't the author's fault that I am a veteran of dirty westerns where the 'ole Double-D is being squeezed by a depraved rapist posing as a thriving businessman. So, it's a no contest. But, leave Man Alone alone.

Buy a copy of this book HERE


  1. Sorry to hear this one didn't stick the landing. Nothing more frustrating than seeing a story with a can't-miss premise and then somehow it manages to miss. Why would you write a Western, a genre all about self-sufficient men taking justice into their own hands, then set it in the modern-day where everything is settled with lawyers and lawsuits instead? It's like writing a story about the Pony Express and having it be about sending a fax.

    But, if you'd like something to wash the taste of that out of your mouth (and you don't mind the kind of self-promotion that is sadly obligatory for authors these days), my own A Man Called Bone features plenty of guns blazing, beautiful women, and the only legalities are paying off a bounty hunter after he brings a wanted man in dead or alive. (Link:

  2. I like the idea of the rancher going to war genre. Can you recommend a few that fit the bill, aside from the abovementioned recent addition, that pack punches? And bullets.