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I recently read a fun western, Dead Man's Trail by Nate Morgan, the first in the Carson Stone series. I soon discovered two things about the book featuring the reformed outlaw. The first was that Nate Morgan is the pen name for my friend Victor Gischler, who wrote some great crime novels like Gun Monkeys and Shotgun Opera. I also learned that a new Carson Stone book, A Short Rope For A Tall Man, was coming out soon.

The new story has Carson confronting his lawless past. While lying low, cowboying for a ranch, he hears he's wanted for A murder he didn't commit. To clear his name, he sets out to capture the outlaw leader he rode with, Big Bob McGraw. With that name, you can't wear anything but a black hat.

Before he finds McGraw, he runs into two bounty hunters out for the price on his head. One is Colby Tate, an erudite easterner. Tate considers Carson's story and agrees to team up for the reward for McGraw and his gang. The other bounty hunter is an unscrupulous red head out of Beaumont Texas, Katherine Payne. Carson and Tate feel they're safer if she's with them than in her sights. When they hear of a bank robbery McGraw is planning, involving the kidnapping of the banker's daughter, they go into action. And there is a lot of action.

The book never forgets to be fun. The action swings with cinematic detail. The dialogue is crisp and delineates each character, sharply expressing their personality and background. Even the barkeeps and hotel clerks pop. Morgan/Gischler applies a dash of humor to all these elements.

All of this exemplified in our hero. While many of the current paperback gunslingers are haunted or cold. Carson Stone bucks that current trend in his affable manner and good natured quips. Even with a price on his head hs is good humored. He shares the likability and competence of Tom Buchanan, the western hero, who appeared in books for almost three decades and one Randolph

Scott movie. Lets hope Carson Stone finds the same kind of success.


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