Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Killing Edge (Bushwhackers #3) by Robert Vaughan writing as B.J. Lanagan (Western series)

During the Civil War, brothers Win and Joe Coulter rode with Quantrill's Raiders, Confederate "bushwhackers" who performed such notorious acts that they were considered outlaws after the war was over. But such characters would hardly make good Western series heroes, so in the Bushwhackers series, this history is proudly spoken of but otherwise glossed over. (Other fictional Quantrill riders include Josey Wales and Rooster Cogburn.)

Looking for a place to get in out of the rain, Win and Joe spy a cabin. But as they approach it, the residents open fire. After a gunfight, the Coulter brothers, discover naked captive Pamela Wellington, daughter of Sir Philip Wellington, owner of the 60,000-acre Camelot Ranch.

Sir Philip hires the brothers on as protectors, and they're immediately involved in a dire situation. What looks like a simple disagreement over water rights (fixed by Joe's preternatural skill with a dowsing rod) turns out to involve an albino hired killer, cattle rustlers, and two hot-blooded women with their eyes on the Coulters' hard assets.

The Killing Edge was tough-going at first. Compared to other Western series I've read (Longarm, The Trailsman, The Gunsmith), the dialogue is bad and the grammar is worse, with misspelled (and misused) words thrown in for good measure. (And I'm not talking about the dialogue but the main narrative.)

I also can't tell one Coulter brother from the other, except that Win is blond and cottons to brunettes, while Joe is dark-haired and prefers redheads (which makes the cover picture an inaccurate representation of the book's contents). Luckily, author B.J. Lanagan (reportedly prolific Western author Robert Vaughan) tells an entertaining story in an easygoing manner. The machinations of the villains — and the Coulters' surprising intelligence at solving the problems — kept the pages turning well enough in The Killing Edge that I picked up another series entry to try out.

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