Jerico’s Garrison Finish ★★☆☆☆

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Title: Jerico’s Garrison Finish
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 86
Words: 23K



Synopsis:

Jim Orchard is a hard worker, a tough man and one with a lot of ability. He’s also a soft touch and whenever someone appeals to him for aid, he gives it even if they give no actual proof of the need they claim to have. Jim wants to marry Sue Hampton. Thankfully, Sue has a head on her shoulders and has set a goal for money that Jim must accumulate for their house and future children before she’ll marry him.

The book opens with Jim having made that money but on the trip back to Sue losing it all. His only chance of getting the money before the date comes due that Sue has been patiently waiting for, for years mind you, is win a horse race, riding a horse that left its owner a broken man and who nobody else has ever been able to ride.

To complicate things, a rival rancher, Gary Munn, has decided that he wants to marry Sue himself. He also has brought in an eastern racing horse to slyly win the race and become the richest man in the region.

Jim tames the horse, wins the race and gets Sue to marry him.

My Thoughts:

Well, this is the last Max Brand story I’ll be reading. Not because of anything egregiously wrong but because of the complete and utter mediocrity of it all. I’ve been reading Brand’s stories since May of 2020 and almost none of them rose above a mere competency. The only reason I’ve kept on so long with him is because he was the only western writer I had on tap and I like keeping my reading rotation fresh with a plethora of genres. Unfortunately, instead of keeping things fresh, every time I saw Brand’s name coming up I began to dread it. Like broccoli, which I won’t eat as an adult, not even if you pour cheese sauce on it. So I finished this story, thought to myself “Well, that was pretty stupid and unenjoyable” and as such I realized I was done with Brand.

While the synopsis might make Sue sound like a gold digger, she’s actually the only wise person on this story. Unfortunately, she has a very small part. When she and Jim are married, she’ll be the one making things work, even if Jim does the actual work. She’s a saint for marrying him as far as I’m concerned. Jim is one of those people I can’t stand, the irresponsible generous man. It’s not that he is “too kind”, he’s not. It’s that he thinks money can solve everyones problems and gives no thought to those depending on him to keep his money for his own needs. He’s the kind of guy who would give his last dollar to the Salvation Army bell ringer, while his kids are at home starving. Thankfully, almost losing Sue seems to have changed him slightly by the end of the book.

Gary Munn was just a total jerk. He wanted to see Jim destroyed from before the story was even started and as such he tried to destroy his reputation, both in the community and with Sue. He bet everything he owned on his horse and since it lost, his evil deeds rebounded on his head and he reaped the just rewards.

Unfortunately, none of those characters was enough to overcome Brand’s blandness. I do admit I’d like to try to find some authors to keep the western genre going, but it’ll probably take some effort on my part. I’m not a huge fan of hard work when it comes to my hobby. I might try to chase down some standalone Louis L’Amour books, but we’ll have to see.

ps,

I had no idea what a “garrison finish” is. I had to go look it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It stated: “a finish in which the winner comes from behind at the end”. If I had known that when I stated the book it totally would have destroyed what tiny bit of tension there was.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Way of the Lawless ★★✬☆☆

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Title: The Way of the Lawless
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 260
Words: 70K



Synopsis:

Andrew Lanning has been raised by his Uncle Jasper to know how to shoot just like the gunmen of the days when the West was a little younger and wilder. Unfortunately, Andrew is a bit too gentle and soft. But when he’s confronted, he takes an adversary down with one punch. Thinking he’s killed the man, he runs. But when he’s being hunted by a posse, and realizes they aren’t playing fair, he kills the leader, and thus begins his life as a desperado.

After running from the law, bounty hunters, hooking up with a gang of criminals and then surviving their backstabbing ways, Andrew gets help to go East and be with his lady love. Easy Peasy.

My Thoughts:

A young man is forced into being a desperado because of the corruption of the law and the ineptness of anyone able to do something about it and because of greed, pride and arrogance on the part of others.

That sums it up. So not much else to say. He rides around having small adventures and facing off against others who are as pigheaded as himself. It might use words that say other than pigheaded, but that’s the reality.

Gotta admit, Brand is starting to feel like a tiny pebble in my reading shoe. Every time I read a story by him something niggles at me and I shift my foot around trying to tell myself it’ll get better. I think I’m going to give Brand one more book and then I’ll be done.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Long, Long Trail ★★★☆☆

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Title: The Long, Long Trail
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 258
Words: 76K



Synopsis:

Jess Dreer’s father was lynched for supposedly murdering a man. When it turned out that another man had committed the crime, Jess waited for the Law to arrest the man who killed his father. When the Law did nothing, Jess killed that man and has been on the run from the Law ever since.

When Jess runs into the Valentine family, all he wants is to keep on running. But the niece of Morgan Valentine hasn’t seen a man she can’t plumb and Dreer is no different to her, until he reveals depths she’s never imagined. Her flirtings have gotten a man shot and her cousin in trouble with a clan out of the Ozarks. Jess gets wrangled into dealing with the hired gun the clan has hired to kill the young Valentine and in the process gets caught and put in jail.

He eventually escapes, is warned by Miss Valentine of a plot by the clan to kill him and the book ends with him and her riding off into the dawn.

My Thoughts:

Not bad, not bad at all. Unfortunately, almost as soon as I’d read it I’d forgotten it too. I actually had to go to a booksite to remember what this was about to be able to write the synopsis. Pretty sad eh?

I don’t have anything to say. It’s a Max Brand western written by someone in the 1920’s for magazines. It is almost literally reading fodder and not meant to have stuck around as long as it has.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Last Mammoth ★★★✬☆

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Title: The Last Mammoth
Series: ———-
Authors: Manly Wade Wellman
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 139
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

Sam Ward was yearning for adventure when a Cherokee man arrived from a distant village with a tale of a monstrous hairy creature threatening his land. The formerly peaceful beast went rogue upon the death of its mate, and the chief of the Twilight People sent Otter to ask for help. Sam’s quest quickly turns dangerous with new challenges and new enemies, but using their wits, skills, and courage, Sam and Otter finally face Giluhda, last of the living mammoths.

My Thoughts:

I was introduced to Manly Wade Wellman back in my middle grade days through his Silver John series, of which the library had several. In my desire to expand my reading circle I remembered those fantasy stories (or urban fantasy maybe?) and went alooking. Well, there don’t appear to be any ebook version of Silver John and the hardcovers run up to $900, which is so out of my price range. Therefore I had to settle for some other stuff by Wellman and this is the first of the prizes I found.

This is an action/adventure Western about a woolly mammoth going mad and trying to destroy an indian village. The omens tell them they must find a white man to help kill the mammoth and so they gt our main character. He has a nice rifle given him by Daniel Boone and so of course it gets destroyed near the beginning of the story. Can’t have the hero doing something silly like shooting the dang mammoth through the eye or something.

Overall, the interaction between the hero and his indian guide and friend was pleasant to read about. Seeing two brave men face danger together and overcome it is so much better than a lot of what gets written today.

At only 139 pages, this can slip into almost anyone’s busy reading schedule, no matter who they are. Do you remember when books were regularly under 150 pages. Bookstooge remembers, and approves!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Gunman’s Reckoning ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Gunman’s Reckoning
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 293
Words: 73K



Synopsis:

Donnegan is a gunman riding the rails. Surviving one attempt on his life, he comes into contact with Colonel Macon and his lovely daughter. Macon hires Donnegan to go to a gold town and bring his heir back home to the young woman, or to shoot him down so Macon can take control of the gold town.

Donnegan falls in love with the daughter but determines to do what the Colonel asks. Once at the town he realizes the heir is in love with a woman there and that he is a wastrel and neerdowell. The town is run by some man who everybody is afraid of. Donnegan takes down the heir so as to return him to the Colonel only to have the colonel show up. Eventually Donnegan faces down the Man of the Town only to realize it is his long lost older brother.

Everything works out in the end and Louis Macon and Donnegan end up together while the brother lives, the heir and Macon get theirs and it’s happily ever after.

My Thoughts:

The alternate title for this story is Donnegan and I have to admit, that is a much more fitting title than the one included in this collection.

While Donnegan is a murdering hellhound, he at the same time holds to a code of chivalry which would appeal to any 16 year old. This story made no sense to me whatsoever and Donnegan was almost 2 different people. I understand that people can be internally split about things, but man, this was just too much.

At the same time, this felt like one of the best stories by Brand that I’ve read yet. The whole gold town setting worked out great, Donnegan as a master manipulator pushing people’s buttons and not just a stupid gunman made things interesting. One minute I’d be wishing Donnegan would hang and then the next I’d be cheering him on. That just made for an odd reading experience.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Bull Hunter ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Bull Hunter
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 180
Words: 52K



Synopsis:

Bull Hunter is a bull of a man and beholden to his uncle and 2 cousins. They took him in when he was orphaned and has spent his life being slow, told that he’s slow and being made fun of for his size. One day his uncle comes home busted up from a fight and tells the boys (men, but you know tough old birds always refer to men younger than themselves as boys) that he sure wishes one of them would go after the gunslinger who shot him and kill him.

Bull, always wanting to show how much he loves his family, sets out on foot, through a snow storm, over a mountain, to catch the gunslinger. He chases the man down, while on foot, only to discover that he’s been put in jail and is going to be hanged. Nobody but Bull Hunter is going to kill that outlaw, so Bull proves that he is innocent of the crime and then faces off against the gunslinger. Bull realizes that the gunslinger is the kind of man who couldn’t have done what his uncle described and they end up becoming friends. The gunslinger is also a bank robber but decides to go on the straight and narrow while teaching Bull how to be a quick draw.

Bull eventually goes his own way because he wants to support himself. He finds out about a wild horse big enough to handle his size and gentles it. This puts him in conflict with another fellow who wants the horse for himself and if he can’t have it, nobody can. He hires Bull, pulls shenanigans to get Bull into a gunfight and the gunslinger shows up and watches Bull do his first quickdraw. The gunslinger then supports Bull against a room of gunmen and they ride off into the sunset.

My Thoughts:

This story started out in such a way that it reminded me of Flowers for Algernon. Not that Bull is actually stupid, but he’s been told it so often and for so long that he believes it and believes that his relatives have his best interest in mind. Thankfully, Bull simply goes higher and higher and there is no descent like in Flowers.

This was the kind of men’s adventure story wrapped in a western coat that I wanted. A man doing the right thing and getting the rewards for it. Straight forward honesty overcomes twisted devious deceptivity. While that’s not how it is in this fallen world, that’s how it should be and I for one enjoy a booster shot of that kind of thinking.

This time around there was no love triangle and in fact Bull doesn’t have a romantic interest at all. This is more about him growing into being a man and Brand really stays focused on that. I was just fine with that.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Black Jack ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Black Jack
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 264
Words: 76K



Synopsis:

Black Jack, the notorious outlaw, is shot escaping a bank robbery by a young man hiding in the shadows. A woman sees it happen and her and her brother adopt Black Jack’s infant son as the woman will never have children of her own. The brother claims that blood will tell and that the infant son will grow up into an outlaw.while the sister claims nuture will tell and raises the boy as her heir.

The boy’s history is hidden from him and he is told he comes from a proud and ancient line. The brother and sister have a bet that the boy will or will not kill by his 25th birthday and that is when he will become the woman’s heir.

The brother, wanting the inheritance for himself, sends information anonymously to the boy letting him know of his true heritage. The boy loses it and strikes out on his own, determined to live the straight life. With everybody knowing his father, the boy is let go from honest work time and again. He ends up hooking up with an old familiar of his father’s and the old gang.

The boy meets a girl but won’t bend his neck to live straight. The girl meets with the boy’s Aunt, reconciles them to each other and the brother is revealed as the scumsucker he is.

The End™

My Thoughts:

This was a bit longer than some of the other books by Brand and I must admit it felt longer. I didn’t even bother with names in the synopsis because each character is the embodiment of a western stereotype rather than an actual character.

I definitely had to roll my eyes a couple of times when the boy thought about his father and how he had to “avenge” his death, even though the father died robbing a bank. It was a young man thinking about ideals and ideas without the experience necessary to temper those ideals into reality.

The brother and sister played well off of each other. She was the hardworking owner who made the ranch become prosperous while the brother was the spendthrift who blew through his inheritance and relied on his sister’s benevolence to keep up his lavish lifestyle. How many times have we seen people who are family who are completely blinded to the faults that are obvious to everyone else? It’s sad but man does it ring true to life.

My main issue is that the honorable ideals presented by Brand are not tempered by experience. I realize I’ve said that phrase twice in this review but it does bear repeating. I’ve been those youthful ideals. I’ve felt all the feelings, thought all the thoughts, so I know where Brand is writing from. However, such ideals are almost like iron, they have their flaws. What is needed is something to temper it and turn that iron into steel. I don’t think Brand is ever going to produce steel :-/

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Man Who Forgot Christmas ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Man Who Forgot Christmas
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 83
Words: 22K



Synopsis:

Two men break out of prison. One of them, a thief, rightly belongs there. The other, falsely accused of murder, doesn’t. They hold up a coach and steal money from the man who setup the murderer. The thief is shot and they barely make it to a house. The daughter of the house falls in love with the murderer and the thief falls in love with her.

The local sheriff knows the murderer, as he helped arrest him. But he also knows the charges were false. The thief, in a paroxysm of anger and jealousy, sends an anonymous note to another sheriff claiming the murderer is the one who did the hold up and stole the money. The thief has a change of heart on Christmas day and goes out in a blaze of gunfire with the sheriffs, taking all the blame on his shoulders so his friend can live happily ever after with the girl.

My Thoughts:

I think it is safe to say that Max Brand has a thing for love triangles that are doomed before they even start. What sets these apart from the love triangles in modern urban fantasy is that these are not female wish fulfillment but the grim fulfillment of male dominance. Much like the Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Brand’s love triangles are not about lust and fuzzy feelings but duty and kickass men duking it out until only one is left standing. We’re talking pure, distilled testosterone folks.

The title is taken from the thief forgetting that the day he gives his life for his friend is Christmas Day. He gets a stocking and it has some things that he remembers from his childhood and makes him change his mind and thus the book ends the way it does. It was actually pretty schmaltzy and filled with “the spirit of Christmas”. I could almost hear the Muppets singing in the background, sigh. I’ve never understood why people write about generic “christmas” when the very name tells you the reason for its being.

I don’t know how far along I am in this “Works of Max Brand” collection but while it’s better than nothing, I can say that Max Brand is not a western author that I’ll seek out more of when I done. Where’s my Indians and Cowboys and the Wild West? I want scalps and outlaws and sixguns. While a few of Brands books have had those, like Crossroads, that doesn’t seem to be the majority. Oh, I just checked and I’m only 22% done with this collection. So Brand has a lot of space to improve my opinion of him.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Crossroads ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Crossroads
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 276
Words: 76K



Synopsis:

Dix van Dyke gets on the badside of a mexican political mover and shaker, one Sheriff Onate. Kills the man’s brother in self-defense and Onate now has him in his sights.

Dix meets Jac Boone, better known as Jacqueline and she has the lucky cross that Red Pierre left her. She uses it to win at gambling but leads a lonely life as everyone who tries to get near her succumbs to the bad luck and dies. Dix is looking for adventure after getting run out of town and decides that Jackie and her bad luck to others is just the thing for him. Jac ditches him though, as she doesn’t want him to die. Dix chases after her.

Onate hires a killer indian, El Tigre, to hunt Dix down, after forcing the governor put a price on van Dyke’s head. El Tigre owes his life to Onate and so does what he says without question. He captures Jac and exchanges her for van Dyke. van Dyke saves El Tigre’s life, thus putting El Tigre in a bind. Who does he owe his life too now? Onate has the older debt so El Tigre turns van Dyke into the authorities.

Jac forces the governor, at gunpoint, to sign a pardon for van Dyke and takes off with it. Onate is informed and does his best to stop her and sets up a mob to kill van Dyke in jail. El Tigre hears about the plot through his daughter Dolores and frees van Dyke. They fight their way free but El Tigre is killed. Dolores sets out with van Dyke because she is intrigued by the man who gave himself up for a woman. Jac trails them and thinks that van Dyke has hooked up with Dolores. van Dyke leaves Dolores and makes up with Jacqueline. Onate hires a bunch of mercenaries to protect him and kidnaps van Dyke’s kid brother as insurance. Dolores, who has this very odd love/hate relationship with Onate, rescues the brother just to see what van Dyke will do. She goes to Onate’s house and begins haranguing him about what she did and what she thinks van Dyke is going to do. She promises to stay with Onate as long as he keeps her in a lavish lifestyle as long as he’s a live. All this time van Dyke is up on the roof of the house preparing to kill Onate. When he realizes what a hell of a life Onate has created for himself, he slips away and marries Jacqueline.

My Thoughts:

This was as close to a direct sequl to Riders of the Silences as you could get. The lucky/unlucky cross plays a much bigger part though. van Dyke’s obsession with breaking it’s power is fun to watch, even though he ultimately fails (Jacqueline leaves it by the end of the story).

The dirty politics, the personal hatreds, the romantic angles, the chases and captures, jailings and rescues, they all lined up perfectly for me. Much like a poolshark, Brand sets things up in what appears to be a haphazard arrangement only to smash them all into the pockets with one well placed shot.

Brand has a philosophy of the genders for these westerns and when I read the following paragraph, it seemed to sum it quite well. Every interaction between his male and female characters are predicated on this idea:

“Chivalry wears no plumes, and knighthood bears no title, but there gallantry is a reality and not a name. To the Southwesterner a good woman is daughter or sister or mother. She can eat his food, ride his horse, draw his revolver and even share his bunk. Yet she will not draw a whisper of suspicion until by her own act she confesses that she is not of the elect. Such an act is the entry of a place like this one of Jerry Conklin’s in the Double Bend.”
~ chapter II

As long as you read these stories through that lens, you will like what Max Brand writes. If you can’t accept the above premise, then you’re doomed to failure and might as well cast yourself into the stygian pits of darkness right now and just get it over with.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Ghost ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Ghost
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 23
Words: 6K



Synopsis:

Publishers Description

The gold strike which led the fortune-hunters to Murrayville brought with them the usual proportion of bad men and outlaws. Three months after the rush started, a bandit appeared so consummate in skill and so cool in daring that all other offenders against the law disappeared in the shade of his reputation. He was a public dread. His comings were unannounced; his goings left no track. Men lowered their voices when they spoke of him. His knowledge of affairs in the town was so uncanny that people called him the ‘Ghost.’

My Thoughts:

Oh, this was a fun little story! The town drunk is just playing a part but it’s obvious from the getgo so no spoilers there. What makes this really interesting is how he manipulates the townsfolks and the manhunter hired to catch him. It is masterfully done and you can hear the laughter in the background the whole time.

These short stories of Brand’s are working out perfectly for me. Good stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.