Showing posts with label Buffalo Hunter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buffalo Hunter. Show all posts

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, 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

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.