Showing posts with label Ralph Hayes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ralph Hayes. Show all posts

Monday, February 1, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 76

On Episode 76 of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, we take a deep dive into the life and work of legendary author Ralph Hayes. Also discussed: Donald Hamilton, Edward S. Aarons, Steve Frazee, Russ Meservey and more. Listen on your favorite podcast app or or download directly HERE 

Donate to our show using this LINK 

Listen to "Episode 76: Ralph Hayes" on Spreaker.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Soldier of Fortune #05 - First Blood

The Soldier of Fortune series ran from 1976 through 1985 consisting of 18 total installments. The series also ran for a limited run in the U.K. under the name Jim Rainey: Death Dealer. The books are mostly written by Peter McCurtin, however Ralph Hayes authored seven of these books under the McCurtin name. I've always enjoyed the series and Ralph Hayes' work so I was looking forward to reading First Blood, the fifth Soldier of Fortune novel. It was published by Belmont in 1977.

Like the second novel, The Deadliest Game, the book begins with mercenary-hero Jim Rainey visiting an old Vietnam War buddy named Daniels in Panama. Rainey’s purpose is to testify before the U.S. Army as a character witness to defend Daniels' recent assault on an anti-American Panamanian citizen. But just as Rainey joins Daniels, the two find themselves targets of a hit-and-run assassination attempt by the ruthless terrorist group Canal Reclamation Organization (basically a group of armed citizens fighting America's occupation of the Panama Canal). When Rainey and Daniels fight back, it puts them both on the radar of the U.S. Army – an official court-marshal of Daniels and the warning for Rainey to leave town. When Rainey, Daniels and an M.P. named Hollis leave a secured portion of the base, the CRO attacks the trio and takes them prisoner.

The bulk of Ralph Hayes' narrative is the imprisonment of these three men and their cruel treatment at the hands of the CRO. If you have a weak stomach, First Blood's graphic details of eyes being removed, testicles being squeezed and various body parts being severed will probably ruin your Brazilian Steakhouse experience. Despite Rainey's negotiations, Daniels and Hollis are brutalized into writing statements declaring the US occupation as tyrannical. Further, Rainey is ordered to execute the two men. Without ruining the enjoyment for you, let's just say Rainey eventually teams with the C.I.A. in an effort to bring down the CRO in the book's furious, exhilarating closing chapters.

We've reviewed four other Soldier of Fortune novels here at Paperback Warrior and the consensus remains surprisingly consistent – these books kick total ass. Regardless of Hayes or McCurtin, the series delivers plenty of action, violence and compelling story-lines to keep readers enthralled. Further, for a series of this nature, the first-person narrative is truly unique and welcome. You just can't go wrong with the Soldier of Fortune books and First Blood is another fine addition to a solid catalog of titles.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, February 17, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 31

Saddle up for a wild ride as Paperback Warrior presents an All-Review Western Roundup. We discuss and review our favorite westerns including authors like Richard Matheson, Larry McMurtry, Louis L'Amour, Ralph Hayes and more! The hosts also discuss their favorites of the adult western genre including an epic crossover event featuring adult western heroes. Stream the episode below or your favorite streaming platform. Direct downloads are HERE.

Listen to "Episode 31: All-Review Western Roundup" on Spreaker.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Soldier of Fortune #06 - Ambush at Derati Wells

The cover of “Ambush at Derati Wells” from 1977 credits Peter McCurtin as the author, but the novel was actually written by veteran action-adventure scribe Ralph Hayes. McCurtin was undoubtedly the editor for the entire “Soldier of Fortune” series although he only wrote the first three installments. Interestingly, in the British editions, the series was called “Jim Rainey: Death Dealer.”

The series is narrated by Jim Rainey who is an armed mercenary selling his combat services to the highest bidder in Earth’s most dangerous places. In this sixth episode, Rainey is in Kenya where he receives a tip from a dying man about an air shipment of valuable guns that recently crashed near Derati Wells, a remote location in Northern Kenya near the borders of Sudan and Ethiopia where “nobody seemed to die of old age.” Rainey figures that the weapons were being flown to an Ethiopian rebel group, and there’s money to be made in reaching the crash site first.

Hayes presents the wilds of Africa as being filled with deadly, thieving black people itching to rob and maim Rainey without provocation. On the other hand, Hayes certainly knows his way around violent fight scenes. In the first chapter, Rainey wastes a foul-smelling native attacker by plunging a screwdriver into the African’s ear during a frantic life-or-death fight. I enjoyed the hell out of the action sequences, but they’re not for the faint of heart, nor could a book like this with villainous caricatures of African bushmen ever be written and published today’s more genteel and sensitive times.

After a false start, Rainey returns to Nairobi where he learns of a rebel group seeking to overthrow the dastardly junta controlling Ethiopia. The rebels could sure use all those guns in the wrecked airplane, and they would be suitable buyers if Rainey can just get his hands on the cargo. However, the junta has also sent representatives to get the guns before the rebels do (hence, the ambush in the title). Also in their way is an African tribe who likes to take the testicles of intruders as trophies. Can Rainey lead his crew - including a sexy, hot-to-trot blonde - through the jungle to the crashed plane while keeping his nuts firmly attached?

If men’s action-adventure fiction of the 1970s is your jam, you’re going to love this book. It has everything you like - sex, violence, action, and politically-incorrect villains just itching to be killed. If you’re looking for realistic depictions of foreign cultures and War College combat tactics, this one’s not for you. Predictably, Ralph Hayes delivers the goods for readers interested in a paperback diversion to a simpler, and more violent, literary era. Recommended.

Buy this book HERE

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Paperback Warrior Unmasking: Interview with Ralph Hayes

At 91 years of age, Michigan author Ralph Hayes is still writing men's action-adventure novels. With a resume boasting nearly 100 books, he's experienced five fruitful decades of published work in the US, UK, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Italy. At the time of this writing, Hayes has just released his newest novel, a gritty western titled “Wanted: Dead or Alive” for Black Horse, his publisher of the last 10 years.

In a series of letters, Paperback Warrior had the opportunity to interview the living legend about his career, his paperbacks and what the term “genre fiction” means to him.

While employed as a successful Michigan attorney, Hayes married a highly-regarded artist. Her passion and interest in the arts inspired Hayes to relinquish his law practice in 1969. The couple moved to Key West, and Hayes began a torrid affair with his typewriter, one that stuffed the paperback shelves with multiple series titles such as 'The Hunter,’ 'Agent of Cominsec,’ 'Stoner' and 'Soldier of Fortune.’ In fact, Hayes created and/or contributed to seven individual series' including the wildly popular 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' paperbacks.

“I didn't start writing seriously until 1969. A story of mine originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1967 called ‘The Gumdrop Affair.’ It was later included in two separate college textbook anthologies. I've sold almost 40 short stories to literary quarterlies, men's magazines and mystery magazines,” Hayes said.

When asked if any of his shorts were later re-worked into novels, the enthusiastic author was quick to point out that his short stories don't turn into novels. “I would never try to broaden a short story tale into novel length,” he explained. “Short stories are an art form apart, and in no way inferior in importance to the novel. On the other hand, when an editor asked me to cut a couple of scenes from a novel, I later developed those scenes into short stories. Writer's Digest asked me once to do an article telling other writers how I went about it.”

Hayes' robust bibliography includes riveting, exotic locales that are par for the course in the men's action adventure genre. Ranging from vigilante globe-trotting adventurers to mercenaries, Hayes has a unique sense of realism within his writing. “I have been to East Africa twice. I've also been to South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Morocco,” he said. “I have also been around Europe by both moped and car. I've went to Hong Kong and Peru to visit Machu Picchu. All of this with my artist wife, now deceased, whose art is in private collections all across this country and Europe.”

His earliest series, 'The Buffalo Hunter', starring western protagonist O'Brien, can be sourced back to its 1970's debut paperback “Gunslammer,” also known as “Secret of Sulpher Creek.” That series, which Hayes still contributes to, parallels the author's career from 1970 until now and encompasses 11 total novels. “Rugged, intimidating. Rawhides. Can't read or write but speaks several Indian tongues. A perfect wild-country survivalist,” described Hayes when asked to characterize his cowboy hero to unfamiliar readers.

The author lists his 'Buffalo Hunter' novels as some of his best work, but he is particularly fond of a 1979 book entitled “Hostages of Hell.” “This is based on a real-life terror attack on a US embassy. My research for the book included actual correspondence with the US ambassador in Khartoum,” he said.

From 1967 through the early 80s, Hayes wrote over 60 novels. The 1970s were a particularly  productive era for the author, growing series titles like Buffalo Hunter, The Hunter, Check Force, Stoner and Agent of Cominsec for familiar publishing houses like Manor, Leisure/Belmont Tower and Zebra. By the early 80s, one can see his writing reduced to just a few stand-alone novels, most as historical romance pieces.

“When publishing took a nose dive in the mid-eighties, we returned to Michigan where I resumed my law career, but still doing some writing,” Hayes explained. By 1992, Hayes began producing westerns again with two stand-alone paperbacks for Pinnacle. Just seven years later, Hayes would experience another productive era, penning westerns for UK publisher Black Horse, an imprint of Robert Hale Publishing.

“The recently published westerns at Robert Hale and Crowood have been newly-written novels, starting with ‘The Tombstone Vendetta’ about Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. ‘The Last Buffalo,’ ‘Fort Revenge’ and ‘Coyote Moon’ form a trilogy of O'Brien the Buffalo Hunter stories that make up one long saga, and I suspect ‘Fort Revenge’ is about the best of that genre,” he said.

The author, who cites his favorite writers as Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, John Le Carre and B. Traven, has a lot to say about what people perceive as genre fiction. “The idea that genre fiction is somehow inferior in quality to so-called mainstream fiction, and is not as literary, is artificial bull-puckey,” Hayes said. “Mainstream also is genre, psychological studies, social issues, etc. are all genres, and most of that is not as entertaining as other genres. Entertainment is the primary objective of all fiction, the other, lesser goal being enlightenment, which should never dominate the story. If you have a cause to espouse, the proper literary form is an essay or a non-fictional book.”

Hayes continued, “In drama, all of Shakespeare's plays were genre. Jane Austen's novels are genre. Poe's stories are genre. All in this developed use of the word. ‘The Sun Also Rises’ is genre, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is also, in my revised classification system. People who like to maintain the 'mainstream is superior' notion would rank ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ above Jane Austen's ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ a love story or light romance. But it isn't. The love story is better, both in entertainment and enlightenment.”

In conclusion, Hayes has a diverse bibliography that includes period pieces, mystery, adventure, vigilante, romance, science fiction and thriller - all thought-provoking and entertaining in their own right. “So, lets dispense with mainstream and literary as description of fiction and categorize all works as some kind of genre,” he said.

Ralph Hayes Bibliography


1. The Bloody Monday Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
2. The Doomsday Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
3. The Turkish Mafia Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
4. The Hellfire Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
5. The Nightmare Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
6. The Deathmakers Conspiracy - 1975 Belmont Tower


1. Gunslammer (aka Secret of Sulpher Creek) - 1970 Belmont Tower
2. Four Ugly Guns - 1970 Belmont Tower
3. The Name is O'Brien - 1972 Lenox Hill
4. Hellohole - 1973 Leisure/Belmont Tower
5. Treasure of Rio Verde - 1974 Remploy
6. Vengeance is Mine - 1978 Manor
7. Five Deadly Guns - 1984 Ulverscroft
8. Revenge of the Buffalo Hunter - 1992 Pinnacle
9. The Last Buffalo - 2013 Black Horse
10. Fort Revenge - 2013 Black Horse
11. Coyote Moon - 2015 Black Horse


1. 100 Megaton Kill - 1975 Manor
2. Clouds of War - 1975 Manor
3. Judgment Day - 1975 Manor
4. The Peking Plot - 1975 Manor
5. Seeds of Doom - 1976 Manor
6. Fires of Hell - 1976 Manor


1. River Run Red (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
2. Algonquin Massacre (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
3. Death at Spanish Wells (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
4. Winter Kill (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
5. Apache Revenge (as Dodge Tyler) - 1997 Leisure
6. Death Trail (as Dodge Tyler) - 1997 Leisure

* Ralph Hayes states he wrote a number of these books as Dodge Tyler. Author John Edward Ames wrote the last six installments of the 12 book series. 


1. Scavenger Kill - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
2. Night of the Jackals - 1975 Leisure/Belmont
3. A Taste for Blood - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
4. The Track of the Beast - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
5. The Deadly Prey - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower


65. The Cairo Mafia - 1972 Award
67. Assault on England - 1972 Award
68. The Omega Terror - 1972 Award
70. Strike Force Terror - 1972 Award
73. Butcher of Belgrade - 1973 Award
78. Agent Counter-Agents - 1973 Award
86. Assassin: Code Name Vulture - 1974 Award
88. Vatican Vendetta (with George Snyder) - 1974 Award

SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (as Peter McCurtin)

4. The Guns of Palembang - 1977 Belmont Tower
5. First Blood - 1977 Belmont Tower
6. Ambush at Derati Wells - 1977 Belmont Tower
7. Operation Hong Kong - 1977 Belmont Tower
8. Body Count - 1977 Belmont Tower
9. Battle Pay - 1978 Belmont Tower
Vol. 2 9. Blood Island - 1985 Leisure


1. The Golden God - 1976 Manor
2. Satan Stone - 1976 Manor
3. All That Glitters - 1977 Manor
4. King's Ransom - 1978 Manor


Virgin Tate (romance) 1962 Vega
Black Day at Diablo (?)
The Visiting Moon (science-fiction) 1971 Lenox Hill
Treasure of Rio Verde (western) - 1974 Remploy
Love's Dark Conquest (romance) - 1978 Leisure
Forbidden Splendor (romance) - 1978 Leisure
Dark Water (thriller) - 1978 Leisure
By Passion Possessed - 1978 Leisure
The Killing Ground (as John Hardesty) - 1978 Leisure
Savage Dawn (romance) - 1979 Jove
The Big Fall (?) - 1979 Zebra
Hostages of Hell (action) - 1979
Adventuring (western) - 1979 Jove
Golden Passion (romance) - 1979 Leisure
Dragon's Fire (romance) - 1979 Leisure
The Promised Land (romance) - 1980 Leisure
The Sea Runners (action) - 1981 Leisure
A Sudden Madness (mystery) - 1981 Leisure
Last View of Eden (thriller) - 1981 Leisure
Charleston (romance) - 1982 Zebra
Drought! (romance) - 1982 Zebra
The God Game (thriller) - 1983 Leisure
The Scorpio Cipher (thriller) - 1983 Leisure
Sheryl (romance) - 1984 Leisure
Deadly Reunion (mystery) - 1984 Leisure
Illegal Entry (romance) - 1984 Leisure
Mountain Man's Fury (western) - 1992 Pinnacle
Mountain Man's Gold (western) - 1993 Pinnacle
Tombstone Vendetta (western) - 2010 Black Horse
Texas Vengeance (western) - 2016 Black Horse
Rawhide Justice (western) - 2016 Black Horse
Lawless Breed (western) - 2017 Black Horse
The Way of the Gun (western) - 2018 Black Horse
Wanted: Dead or Alive (western) - 2019 Black Horse

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Hunter #03 - A Taste for Blood

Author Ralph Hayes has penned an incredible amount of action novels. He launched his vigilante inspired series 'The Hunter' in 1975. Adding to the surplus of genre paperbacks, Leisure released five books of the series that same year. With book number three, “A Taste for Blood”, the formula is altered. Instead of series heroes John Yard and Moses Ngala tracking criminals, the two are thrust into a harrowing survival yarn that doesn't involve firearms.

The book's opening introduces us to the various characters that will eventually be partnered with Yard and Moses in the African swamps:

-Liu Chi-Han, a hatchet man for budding terrorist groups
-Wealthy married couple Demetrios and Lisa Tzanni
-Vacationer Kanak Rawal and 10-yr old son Nahki
-Israeli policeman Yigael Bialik and his Islamic terrorist prisoner Osman
-Brush pilot Colin Bourke

This cabaret of characters, including Yard and Moses, boards a Cesna plane in Narobi departing for the city of Khartoum in Sudan. Yard, suspecting the plane requires much needed repairs, hesitantly agrees to board while questioning Bourke's flying skills. About 200 miles north of Juba the plane crashes into a desolate stretch of swampland.  Very little water and food forces the group on a trek to civilization. That's Hayes backdrop, and he does a splendid job fashioning an action-adventure story out of a plane crash survival recipe. 

There's immediate discord in the ranks as the arrogant Bourke refuses to leave the plane. Factions are formed and eventually they all agree to designate Yard the leader. Soon, Chi-Han begins to calculate rations and bodies, positioning himself to conveniently kill a few of the group in the night. Osman's background as a terrorist makes for an easy alliance, and the book eventually moves into Yard/Moses vs Chi-Han while supplies run out. 

Hayes is terrific here, making 'The Hunter' series 3 for 3. The intrigue, deception and fortitude are all variables in this human experiment. Sure, the jungle adventure has been done to death (Hayes may have taken liberties with Robert Westerby's 1969 novel “The Jungle”) but the last 25-pages places the action on urban streets and plays on the general vigilante theme of the first two novels. The end result is another stellar effort from an under-rated author.

Buy this book HERE

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Buffalo Hunter #06 - Vengeance is Mine

“Vengeance is Mine” is the sixth 'Buffalo Hunter' book. It was released by Manor in 1978 and continues the saga of vigilante/hunter O'Brien. Author Ralph Hayes loves creating impossible moments for this protagonist and “Vengeance is Mine” is no different.

The opening pages has O'Brien out hunting for buffalo with his trademark Sharps. He receives some unwanted visitors at his campfire and quickly finds himself staring down three barrels. Two are Cameron boys – an older brute named Darcy and his violent 12-year old brother Billy Joe. The third, Emmett, is a hand on the Cameron farm. When the shooting begins, O'Brien ducks behind some horses and can only watch as Darcy accidentally shoots Billy Joe. O'Brien then kills Darcy. Emmett runs off to the Cameron ranch to report that O'Brien killed Darcy and Billy Joe in cold blood.

Ranch owner and father Silas Cameron and his two remaining sons put a warrant out for O'Brien's arrest. Soon, a posse catches up to the surprised O'Brien and they violently assault him. On the verge of death, O'Brien is then tied to a horse and dragged through the desert rocks. Emmett and the posse leave O'Brien to die under the hot sun. But it will take more than that to kill this seemingly immortal cowboy. 

An old rancher named Jarvis stumbles on the dying O'Brien and brings him back to his house. After nursing him back to health, O'Brien gains his strength and begins to help the old man with hunting and farming as repayment. While he's out hunting, more baddies stumble upon Jarvis, tie him to a chair and ruthlessly beat him. When they learn that Jarvis has no money or belongings, the group decides to kill him. But, O'Brien is hunting them from outside and Ralph Hayes absolutely shows no mercy. Our Buffalo Hunter SLAUGHTERS the group with a combination of knife, fists and bullets. This is the 70s and this western series is about as violent as it gets. 

As O'Brien is getting back on the buffalo trail, he's arrested in Willow Creek by a backwoods sheriff and deputy. They throw him in jail and then work out a way for the town to lynch him by spreading rumors that O'Brien is a child killer. Meanwhile, Silas has paid a quick draw gunfighter named Waco Kid to hunt down O'Brien and kill him. As O'Brien is treed with a noose at the hands of the town, the Waco Kid shows up to save O'Brien...just so he can drag him back to Cameron and kill him there. Later, O'Brien kills Waco only to find that he is now hunted by the law, Cameron and a ton of drifters and hardmen looking for O'Brien's head for reward money.

On the run with his Sharps, knife and Winchester rifle, O'Brien finds that a specific bounty hunter named Certainty Sumner is on his back trail. He heads to the town of Sulphur Creek, a familiar place to fans of the series. This town was freed from outlaws by O'Brien in the first book, “Gunslammer”. Only now the town has reversed their outlook and wants to sling up O'Brien for money. The finale has a vicious cycle of violence as events come full circle and O'Brien fights a town, the law, bounty hunters and Cameron.

What is really interesting about this book is the appearance of Certainty Sumner. In this one, Sumner is a bounty hunter and really a bad guy. But, Hayes has two later novels featuring a bounty hunter named Wesley Sumner (“Lawless Breed”, “Way of the Gun”) – who may or may not be the same guy. In those books, Sumner is a more likable character but still a killer. If you read this particular novel...well you get what eventually happens to Sumner. But I won't ruin it for you.

If you like Ralph Hayes, then you will certainly love this novel. It has all of the characteristics that make this author so enjoyable – clearly defined good guy, vile criminals, over-the-top violence and a lighting fast pace. “Vengeance is Mine” is just about the best of the series, but I still have a handful of these books left to read including a few that Hayes says are at the top of his writing game. We'll see how it shakes out...but this one is really hard to beat.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Hunter #02 - Night of the Jackals

The prior 'Hunter' novel, debut “Scavenger Kill”, introduced us to former Green Beret John Yard. In that book, Yard is presented as a wealthy entrepreneur who guides big game hunts in the Nairobi area of Africa. He teamed with his colleague, African police officer Moses Ngala, to stage the first “vigilante” styled hunt and kill. The target was an unscrupulous pharmaceutical company headed by a gelatinous villain named Lavalle. “Scavenger Kill” was on an international scope, ranging from Canada to London. I liked Ralph Hayes ambition to write in a more epic fashion and he continues that trend with this second series installment. 

“Night of the Jackals” begins at Camp Pritcher Army base in Georgia. It's a special forces training facility ruled by a notorious Hitler-like Captain named Ernst Rohmer. The opening has a young black man, Wendell Jefferson, ordered to do the old “dig a grave and then fill it back in” routine. His superior, Sergeant Pruitt, issues an abundance of thunderous racial slurs and threats, provoking Jefferson to attack him. The end result is imprisonment in the stockade.

Wendell's brother, Aron, a decorated Vietnam veteran, visits the stockade demanding to know what has happened. He quickly discovers Pruitt's racism and that Rohmer is running the base. It's here where we learn that Rohmer had fought for the Third Reich, and later contracted his services all over the globe as a commanding soldier of fortune. Aron experienced Rohmer's atrocities in Vietnam firsthand and questions why the Army would want a cutthroat dictator training it's men (the reader does too).

Later, a drunken Pruitt and Rohmer fatally beat Wendell in his cell. They politically escape punishment, track down Aron and leave him battered and near death. How does this connect to 'The Hunter'? Aron and Moses Ngala (the series' co-hunter/hero) are old friends. Aron knows Moses is in law enforcement, so he reaches out to him (in a weird scene where it seems Aron ran into Moses by accident). Regardless, Moses and the series protagonist, John Yard, discuss the events from the prior book and decide to do another vigilante job to kill Rohmer and end his reign of terror.

Without spoiling too much of the second half, Yard and Moses travel from Africa to Paris trailing Rohmer. The result has both of them fighting for the Syrians over the Israel border. It's a wild chain of events that completely spins “Night of the Jackals” from vengeful vigilante to espionage thriller before covering a battlefield saga and planting the story in a brutal prison. Author Ralph Hayes hits every single sub-genre of Men's Action Adventure in one fell swoop.

Like his 'Stoner' series, the action shares some of the same exotic locations – African deserts and villages like Lagos and Nairobi. Hayes has mastered “prison fiction”, perhaps building off of 'Buffalo Hunter' debut “Hellhole”, a gritty western set in a ruthless Mexican prison. Additionally, 'Stoner' installment “The Satan Stone” mirrors that same prison scenario in Africa. Now, the finale of this novel has both Yard and Moses inside a violent prison-styled base ran by the sadistic Rohmer. It's repetitive, often using the same sequence of events, but Hayes does it so well that it's the story we want him to tell. At this point in time, this author could be my favorite of the genre. It's a bold statement, but I'm not searching the used stores this hard for any other author.

Buy a copy of the book HERE

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Hunter #01 - "Scavenger Kill"

Ralph Hayes was extremely active in the 1970s, enterprising a multitude of action adventure series' including 'Stoner', 'Buffalo Hunter', 'Agent for Cominsec' and 'Check Force'. The prolific author contributed to the 'Killmaster' series, penning eight novels under the Nick Carter name. While little is known about Hayes, his passion for traveling is conveyed in his writing. Often his books are international endeavors, capturing the full spectrum of the story-line with multiple locations and characters. That extensive storytelling is presented in 'The Hunter' series, debuting with “Scavenger Kill” in 1975 (Leisure).

Hayes introduces John Yard, the obligatory Vietnam war veteran. As a Green Beret, Yard “knew more ways to kill a man than he cared to remember”. He abandoned the Army, going AWOL after losing the cause altogether. My suspicion is that his immense inheritance contributed to his decision to ditch and run. With a deceased uncle's fortune, Yard sets up a travel company in New York that cleverly sends rich Caucasians to Africa to hunt big game. This fuels the hunter's manhood, but also allows Yard two hands in the money-jar; the left for the travel agency and the right as the hunting guide. It's in Africa that our story begins.

Yard is leading a lion hunt with an arrogant, inexperienced sportsman that can't complete the kill. After wounding the lion, it's up to Yard to enter dense foliage and finish off the hunter's deficiency. This is an important lesson for the hunter as well as the reader. This scene plays an important role in the book's thundering finale. After the hunt, Hayes receives word that his former Army buddy, Joe Algers, has experienced a horrifying sequence of events in New York. 

Chapter Two explains the nightmarish misfortune of the Algers family. Weeks after giving birth, Holly and Joe realize the child is a hairy mutant that may not have brain activity. In what amounts to a horror novel, Holly receives confirmation from the doctor, then drowns the baby in a bath and jumps to her death. The cause for these events is a medication called Moricidin manufactured by Maurice Pharmaceuticals. Despite warning signs, the medication was still on the market and the end-result of its dosage is creating mutant babies. The owner of the company is an obese, vile villain named Maurice Lavalle. 

With plot and villain in hand, Yard and his African police-friend Moses seek the whereabouts of Lavalle. The book is presented in grand scale, scouring places like London, New York, Nairobi and Canada for clues and contacts. While not overly erotic or graphic, there are two brief sex-scenes as Yard goes “undercover” with one of Lavalle's secretaries. Often Moses follows one lead while Yard tails another – on a different continent. The two have a number of physical confrontations on their globe-trotting odyssey, culminating in explosive gun-play at a high-rise before wrapping during an action-packed river firefight. It's these final scenes that run full-circle to the book's beginnings, proving Yard, while hunting big-game, was seemingly destined to become this vigilante.

Hayes would follow this debut with four additional series installments. Yard is often teaming with Moses in the series, righting the wrongs of 70s society while still being prominent in 2018. The blunt writing style, frequent action and unyielding protagonist makes 'The Hunter' debut a prized trophy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Way of the Gun

Ralph Hayes told me earlier this year that he began to seriously write in 1969. Here we are in 2018, and this 90-year old writer is still plugging away. I admire his work ethic and longevity. His newest novel,  “The Way of the Gun”, comes on the coat tails of last year's “Lawless Breed”, a western that introduced us to the main character Wesley Sumner. That book had Sumner released from prison after hunting and killing his Aunt's murderer. Picking up after those events, “The Way of the Gun” presents Sumner as a successful bounty hunter that takes on a different kind of job – rescuing a rancher's daughter from the bad guys.

Like Ralph's 'The Buffalo Hunter' books, this one follows a very familiar formula. It's vintage Hayes as he presents the good guy, three to four bad guys (including the brutish leader) and weak innocent people who can do nothing but run for cover or empty their pockets in defeat. The good guy is always a dead shot who gets in numerous fast-draws and always...always...takes a minor, flinching bullet wound in the side or shoulder. He's never seriously injured, but often ridiculed, bullied and forced into violence. That guy is Wesley Sumner. The bad guys are led by Duke Latham. The beauty in peril is Dulcie. The story is a simple one – Sumner sets out to retrieve Dulcie from the bad guys, only to find himself the hunted after safely securing her.

I will say that Ralph still has the passion and fire for good western storytelling. This is a vintage mono-myth with the likable hero journeying onward for one specific purpose. However, the older and more conservative version of Ralph Hayes is far tamer. This novel lacks the gritty, violent and profane edge that made his 70s and even 90s novels enjoyable. “The Way of the Gun” is a delight to read, but if you are comparing the different eras...I'll take the 70s. This novel is more like a good 'ole fashioned episode of “Bonanza”, “High Chaparral” or “Gunsmoke”. I'd suspect that may be the whole point, a more wholesome and less violent approach that can be enjoyed by young adults as well as the older crowd. I'd put this on par with William W. Johnstone's 'The Last Mountain Man' series in terms of play it safe fiction. Sumner is essentially Smoke Jensen...and I'm just fine with that.

You can get this title from Black Horse Western at

Note – That's totally Christian Bale (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Hostiles”) on the cover.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Stoner #04 - King's Ransom

Ralph Hayes conclusion to his four book series 'Stoner' was “King's Ransom”. It was released by Manor in 1978 and is the only entry that doesn't have the series name or number on the cover. I'm not sure why the publisher went this route considering the artwork leaves much to be desired. Perhaps that was the main issue? The lack of quality artwork to support the 'Stoner' title? While the previous three entries look fantastic, this one seems rather dull. But the contents offer us another quality entry in what amounted to a fantastic short-lived series.

Unlike the prior three novels, “King's Ransom” puts Stoner on the trail for a kidnapped corporate hotshot instead of a treasure or stolen relic. It's another urban installment, like the prior book “All That Glitters”. Set in Buenos Aires and Argentina, the novel has a militant group called the Mendoza Committee planning a snatch and run of Thurston King, head of an empirical oil company called AROCO. The terrorist group wants to rid corporate, and oil companies, from Argentina and wants to make an example out of King. The plot is to kidnap King and ransom him for three-million dollars. How this solves anything is debatable, but it's a surefire way to set up Stoner versus the baddies.

Argentina government contracts Stoner to assist the police in retrieving King. It's another $50K offer like the last jobs (I guess this is market rate for retrieval of stolen people and goods?) and Stoner takes the contract. On the flip-side, this Mendoza Committee ruthlessly kills King's son while mouth raping his wife. King is taken to a cottage in Buenos Aires, shot in the knee cap and left to starve, dehydrate and die while waiting for his employer to pony up. In a satirical way, the company finds King expendable and isn't going to pay a dime to liberate him. Thankfully, he has Stoner on the case.

This is probably the worst of the series, but the series is so good that even worst could be first when compared to other late 70s action offerings. While the first two books didn't showcase a whole lot of fighting skills from Stoner, these last two introduce a more formidable fighting force. Hayes, again completely oblivious to firearms, has the hero running around with the fictitious Magnum .38 revolver (he has it confused with the .357) and I cringed each time the bad guy screwed a suppressor on a revolver. It's trivial nonsense but as a firearm enthusiast it drives me batshit bonkers. Overall, you can't go wrong with “King's Ransom”. Hunt these four books down, turn your brain off and just have a damn good time.

Stoner #03 - All That Glitters

The third 'Stone' novel, “All That Glitters”, was released by Manor in 1977. I've grown fond of this rugged salvage hero, a loner that hunts treasure and thugs across the globe. Thus far, the second entry, “The Satan Stone”, has championed the series, but Hayes has a gift for storytelling and he has a lot of fun with this one.

“All That Glitters” runs that familiar scheme where everybody that touches the wealth is immediately killed by the next guy wanting to touch the wealth. It's a simple formula that has been done to death (even by 1977 standards) in all forms of media, but nevertheless it's entertaining. It revolves around the theft of the cherished Southern Cross, an ornamental bling-bling worth millions.

Hayes embeds us in the action very early. Zachariah Smith, a stealthy dealer, runs a museum heist, cleverly switching out a fake Southern Cross with the real one. He kills two guys in the exchange but pulls the snatch off with smooth expertise. It's only when he attempts to sell it to another nefarious dealer, Vlahos, that the chain of death commences. Before the transaction is complete, both are murdered and the treasure passes to the next criminal. This continues through a dozen hands, some planned, some sheer luck, throughout the alleys and backstreets of Athens. Stoner's involvement is a plush $50K to recover the cross and return it to the museum.

“All That Glitters” differs from the prior two books of the series. Those entries put the action in exotic locations in the jungles and deserts of Africa and South America. This book changes direction by placing Stoner in an urban environment. Instead of tanks, planes and horses, we get high speed car chases and alley sweeps. I like this change of direction and it adds a little more dynamic to Stoner's one-dimensional joystick of “punch, shoot, run”. The end result is another fine addition to a high-quality series.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stoner #02 - The Satan Stone

“The Satan Stone” is the second installment of Ralph Hayes' 1970s treasure hunting action series 'Stoner'. Our hero is Mark Stoner and this four book series focuses on the character attempting to find precious stones – thus the name could be duel usage. This book is my first taste of the series, but I've enjoyed the author's exceptional line 'The Hunter' (sometimes called 'John Yard'). It shares a lot of the same exotic locations as this series – sweeping African deserts and rowdy towns like Lagos and Nairobi. It wouldn't surprise me to see crossovers from each line, but I'm not sure Hayes' had publishing permission or the motivation. As I delve into each series more, I'd love to see a reference to the other books somewhere. I could easily imagine John Yard crossing paths with Stoner or even Yard's colleague Moses. These two series' run parallel to each other, so it would make rational sense to have them entwined.

The first 37-pages of “The Satan Stone” is intriguing and presents a phenomenal problem – how do you smuggle a 1,000-carat diamond out of a mining prison? That's the issue at hand for an engineer named McMillan. He has come to the mining prison of Shoshong, in the South African desert, to provide a new sorting machine. The arrangement is he receives profit sharing for a year in trade for this new machine. De Villiers, the book's dictator/prison warden welched on the deal and now a dejected McMillan is leaving the camp with nothing. Kicking some dirt and dust, he miraculously discovers an egg-sized diamond. The prison is notorious on security, and routinely beats (or murders) thieves. McMillan, fearing that he will be caught, hides the diamond on the undercarriage of a bulldozer with hopes of retrieving it and escaping. 37-pages later, the diamond is still securely dozing and McMillan has killed a helicopter pilot while escaping through the desert.

Thankfully, chapter three gives us a brief introduction of Mark Stoner. He's an adventurer and exporter based out of Key West (home of author Ralph Hayes). He globe-trots buying precious gems and artifacts. While wealthy and free-spirited, he's still a hunter for allusive treasures and antiquities. Thus, McMillan and his awareness of the prized diamond are an inviting challenge for Stoner. 

McMillan contracts with Stoner to have the diamond retrieved from Shoshong. The issues are aplenty – breaking in and out, passing security and dodging the mine's Gestapo-like cartel called The International Diamond Security Organization (IDSO). Plans are concocted to put Stoner inside the prison under the guise of a recently killed security inspector from the IDSO. Once Stoner infiltrates the prison, his exploits to retrieve the diamond are a bulk of the story. Hayes' is masterful in the cat-and-mouse tactics and leads the reader on numerous paths speculating the outcome. While not sounding overly complex, there's several side-stories that enhance the narrative – a suspicious guard, an inmate/laborer in the know and McMillan's own struggles escaping the IDSO in Nairobi. Surprisingly, this novel may have the most exhilarating scene ever involving a simple phone call. It's so elementary, yet the entire white-knuckle finale hinges on it. 

I've said this previously in my reviews of Ralph Hayes extensive catalog. The author takes seemingly normal, everyday people and places them in extraordinary circumstances to see how they react. It works well here as Stoner doesn't necessarily have the fighting skills or know how to solve difficult issues. Like 'The Hunter' and 'Buffalo Hunter', often Hayes leaves it to complete ignorance on the part of the characters or sheer luck to decide life or death situations. It's this aspect that makes his writing so enjoyable. It might be nonsensical, but you have to at least believe there's a “lucky shot”. That's the Hayes' style. 

I'm on my very own treasure hunt now, fueled by the anticipation of securing the entire series for my paperback museum. 

Stoner #01 - The Golden God

Ralph Hayes' 'Stoner' series kicks off with 1976's “The Golden God”. Like a majority of the author's work, it was released by publishing house Manor (which questionably may have been a tax dodge for Belmont/Leisure or a Mafia money laundering scheme). Regardless, the Hayes/Manor combo was a successful one for genre buffs and fans, producing nearly 25 titles that are still discussed nearly 40 years later. Along with series' like 'Buffalo Hunter' and 'The Hunter', 'Stoner' introduces another hefty dose of bravado in Mark Stoner, a treasure hunting exporter that is just damn good at everything. This novel in particular is a bit pulpy, capturing exotic jungles, ancient ruins and cursed relics. It's all plot bait to set-up Stoner versus a bunch of baddies. 

Oddly, the synopsis on back of the book mentions an Erik von Richter. There's no character by that name in the book. Instead, this Richter guy is actually Johann Strasser. I'm not sure if this was a late edit of the name or just a major miscommunication from the editor to artist. Regardless, the book has esteemed archaeologist Strasser acquiring a small Peruvian golden statue (The Golden God) called the Cuzcapac. I'm calling it “Goldie” for the sake of simplicity. The prior owner, an Indian named Idilio, is killed off by a duo named Diablo and Maltese, so it's just a matter of time for the next owner to be hunted and killed. The evil exporters are after Goldie and soon make a play on Strasser. Not only do they want Goldie's riches, but also the location of ruins where the statue was found. Big money, big money, no whammies.

Before Strasser is inevitably murdered, he passes Goldie to Stoner in Key West. With the treasure and a semblance of where the ruins are located in Peru, he travels to Buenos Aires to hook-up with Strasser's attractive daughter Ursula. Together, the two strike a bond and travel into the Peru jungles to locate the ruins. Maltese, Diablo and some goons simultaneously strong-arm their trek to the ruins, setting up the impending confrontation for the last 10-pages.

Hayes is a meat and potatoes writer and “The Golden God” emphasizes that. At 180-pages of exotic adventure, soldiers of fortune and buried treasure, Hayes delivers the goods. While the story-line is boiled down, the action is intense and moves at a rapid-fire pace. I read the book in a few hours and was thoroughly entertained. The book's sequel, “The Satan Stone”, is miles better than this, but the series grasps a good foothold here. Those looking for more pulp adventure will find plenty to like in this series.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Buffalo Hunter #04 - Hellhole

The Leisure first edition version from 1973 lists “Hellhole” as 'Buffalo Hunter' number one (note Belmont Tower also released the book with a different cover in 1973). It's in bold black ink on page three.

We know from front cover images floating on used online sellers that 1973's “Four Ugly Guns” has a clear “#2” printed with the series logo on the cover. However, there's evidence that states the first printing was in 1970. It would seem as if it was released first, yet later the publishers deemed it as second in the series. The same can be said for 1973's “Gunslammer” (aka “Secret of Sulphur Creek”) boasting a “#3” on it's cover and evidence of an original printing in 1970. I'm not sure why the publishers would have flipped the series order, but the author advised me the correct order is "Gunslammer", "Four Ugly Guns", "The Name's O'Brien" and this fourth book, "Hellhole".

Deep online excavating shows a title called “Hunter's Moon” released by Lenox Hill Press in 1971. The blurb from that states, “The days of the buffalo hunters are recreated in this novel about a man named O'Brien”, the series protagonist. For some reason, the publishers failed to include this book in the series. It doesn't achieve a numerical place in the series chronology and seemingly has been skipped. Robert Hale Limited also released a version of the book in 1974 and apparently didn't include a number or any indication it was part of a series.

Regardless of how we approach the series, or in what order we read, “Hellhole” is a very enjoyable western novel. The opening chapter has O'Brien fingered as the man who murdered two men and a young girl. The reader knows the Latimer gang committed the atrocity, we were there. But the backwoods sheriff and deputy don't, thus a harsh and speedy sentencing that puts O'Brien in hard labor at the notorious Bradenton prison.

Two-thirds of the book is the brutal day to day of O'Brien overcoming adversity and finding reason to rise and exist each day. He's put under torturous conditions by the sadistic prison warden and forced to fight for meals while mining underground for long, grueling hours. The plot develops into the inevitable “escape and payback” routine but Hayes smoothly builds the tension and mood. Will he escape? Where does he run? Who's Latimer? These are all questions that both the reader and O'Brien pose. Hayes sorts it all out for us, but paces the story effectively that we just snack to fill up. Fans of brisk, yet calculated westerns should love “Hellhole”.

Buffalo Hunter #08 - Revenge of the Buffalo Hunter

I hold Ralph Hayes' early western series 'Buffalo Hunter' in high regard. I've read and posted rave reviews here for the series first, second and fourth books - “Gunslammer”, “Four Ugly Guns” and “Hellhole”. I've yet to see any other books of the series in the wild except the eighth title, “Revenge of the Buffalo Hunter”. While the first seven books, from what I can gather, were penned in the 70s, Hayes took most of the 80s off due to the action genre tanking. He practiced law and his wife was a successful artist, so I'd take the stance that he may have used this book to get the creative flow going again. Unlike the prior titles, which were strictly Leisure/Belmont, this book was released by Pinnacle in 1992. Does it have the same impact as the 70s entries? Hell no.

While enjoyable enough for a paperback western, this isn't on the same magnitude as the prior books. O'Brien, the Buffalo Hunter, is still the protagonist, but he's written a little differently. Unlike previous character conventions, this O'Brien has way too many friends, talks a little differently (way more profanity than usual) and relies on a boot knife. The last part is trivial, but it defies the character's violent means to an end – Sharps rifle, Remington lever and 10-gauge sawed-off. His ability to maim and throw a heavy boot knife is symbolic of the creative liberties taken with an already well-defined character. It just isn't my O'Brien.

The premise of the book is a dodgy duo of outlaws – the Gabriel Brothers. They rape, kill and rob everything in Arizona and New Mexico, seemingly with no opposition. While this is a factor that is in heavy rotation with Hayes' westerns, it's way too convoluted for its own good. They end up killing O'Brien's friend and raping the daughter, which puts our character on the hunt. While that's simplistic and an easy tale to tell, this narrative builds in the extraordinary – we have Pat Garrett and the Earps. As if Hayes needed to include iconic cowboys, he has Garrett corresponding with O'Brien multiple times, and an unnecessary scene with Virgil Earp. The action is uneven and spread throughout multiple locations, and introduces a crowded cast featuring bounty hunter Sumner and a hunting partner McGraw. There's a spiritual element included about a white buffalo enigma that's a load of nonsense. 

If I hadn't read any prior 'Buffalo Hunter' titles, I may have a higher level of patience for this novel. Knowing the history of the character, and it the entertainment factor of the prior books, this one is just lukewarm on the scale. It's a good read for new fans of the genre, but far better series novels exist and more impressive Hayes novels are out there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Buffalo Hunter #01 - Gunslammer (aka Secret of Sulphur Creek)

Locating a complete bibliography of Ralph Hayes work is eclipsed only by the maze of riddles and investigations into the storied treasure on Oak Island. In other words, it's an absolute mess. None of his series' could be as convoluted as 'Buffalo Hunter'. The Leisure first edition version from 1973 lists “Hellhole” as 'Buffalo Hunter' #1 (note Belmont Tower also released the book with a different cover in 1973). It's in bold black ink on page three as #1. Big as Ike. 

We know from front cover images floating on used online sellers that 1973's “Four Ugly Guns” has a clear “#2” printed with the series logo on the cover. However, there's evidence that states the first printing was in 1970. It would seem as if it was released first, yet later the publishers deemed it as second in the series. The same can be said for 1973's “Gunslammer” (aka “Secret of Sulphur Creek”) boasting a “#3” on it's cover and evidence of an original printing in 1970. I'm not sure why the publishers would have flipped the series order, but they did and that's our burden to carry as genre enthusiasts and fans. Our shelfie-selfies will show the wrong order, but we'll know the truth.

In a letter from author Ralph Hayes in February of 2018, he provided a chronological order of his westerns and 'Secret of Sulphur Creek' is the first. Later, Leisure (and maybe Belmont) stamped the title of “Buffalo Hunter #3: Gun Slammer”. I'm calling this the first book and it introduces us to the series protagonist, O'Brien. While none of the books provide much background on the character, the series follows the familiar serialized formula of just placing one heroic badass in the midst of a firestorm of corruption and evil. That is the series' strength, thus “Gunslammer” or “Secret of Sulphur Creek” is absolutely perfect.

The novel has three ruthless outlaws riding into Sulphur Creek. Eli, Crazy Jake and Hotshot Lacy immediately kill every living thing that backtalks. The barbaric carnage originates from the town's nearby gold mine, now hidden away due to the number of deaths related to digging and blasting. The town, thinking death was the curse of greed, swore to secrecy and stoutly refuse revealing the location of the mine. Eli systematically kills until someone will provide the location. The town is stubborn as a mule and soon the streets are running red.

Meanwhile, O'Brien is on a nearby buffalo hunt and runs out of water. Dying in the desert, a deputy stumbles upon O'Brien and nurses him back to makeshift health. In a hilarious scene, O'Brien takes the man's water, then jerks his gun, empties it and hands it back to him. Then he takes his horse and asks the deputy if he wants a ride back to town. The deputy - in utter shock - stupidly asks, “You want me to ride into town on the back of my own horse?”. Hilarity continues to ensue as O'Brien, never caring for the human population, just ignores the outlaws and the killing. He wants to fetch liquor and get sloshed while waiting for his supplies to arrive. He walks into the bar, past the outlaws, steps around a dead woman and man (the horror!) and grabs two bottles of whiskey off the back shelf. He asks the three hardmen where the bartender is and Eli – mystified - responds, “We killed him”. O'Brien, ignoring utter chaos, just says “Nobody to pay then” and walks out. 

Eventually, he gets caught up in the entanglement of the secret mine, outlaws and a crooked horse trader that becomes an ally. The narrative has the young deputy facing the three killers alone. There's some backstory on O'Brien's hunting partner Shanghai Smith, who shows up to face O'Brien/align with the baddies.  Often, O'Brien is just on the cusp of goodness, debating on killing the outlaws or just staying drunk in bed. It's the Buffalo Hunter charm, or lack thereof, that just makes this series incredibly enjoyable. It's wicked, violent, hilarious and one of the best westerns I have read. I was tempted to flip the last page to the first and read it all over again. Get this one.

Buffalo Hunter #02 - Four Ugly Guns

Ralph Hayes ('The Hunter', 'Stoner'), has an unknown number of these 'Buffalo Hunter' books. As I alluded to in my review for the first book, “Gunslammer”, this series' is mired in controversy. The numbers on the front cover aren't necessarily the chronological order they were written. For example, this book's page 43 states O'Brien had never been locked up before. This defies the whole plot of the publisher stamping #1 on “Hellhole”, which has O'Brien locked away in a brutal prison. This is illogical and irritating to my completest psyche. The only solution is the fact that continuity has no bearing on any of these stories. Hayes, in a letter from February of 2018, provided me a chronological order of his westerns and this would be the second book, sandwiched between "Gunslammer" and "The Name's O'Brien".

“Four Ugly Guns” fires away with O'Brien avenging the murder of Ethian Tobias. In the opening pages, O'Brien discovers Tobias and his family rotting in a cabin, and has a lead on four very ugly killers. It's a simple plot, with Hayes letting us tag along for the 'ole “kill the killers” shtick. The reader's investment is trailing the four, and watching the political intrigue unfold. A despicable villain we love to hate, The Kidd, is running a bank robbing scheme with the mayor while possessing the town. The foursome kill, rape and slosh the joy juice, seemingly waiting for O'Brien to arrive.

What I find so entertaining about this series is the legitimacy of the hero. O'Brien, while husky and good with a gun, isn't invincible. He is careless, and narrowly escapes death by sheer luck. This book finds him jailed, aggressively beaten by vigilantes and horseless in the desert. He finds a way to survive, but often he needs assistance from store clerks, doctors, a rehabilitated criminal or some divine deity. While believable in a sense, the action sequences are over-the-top. Hayes over utilizes O'Brien's girth often, but by that point we hate the villain so much that we are complacent with the physical advantages. 

Overall, another brilliant piece of western fiction by an author that continues to impress me. These books are becoming very difficult to find even using online retailers like Abebooks. I paid nearly $10 for this one - battered, broken and abused.