Last Update 3/24/17

The Golden Cat by Max Brand, Leisure, 2006 

Two men who have become friends decide to make a living together in the Old West, but one of them seems to be a magnet for trouble. They agree to escort an invalid and his daughter on a perilous journey, but everything seems to go wrong and their charges are far from cooperative. A series of attacks are thwarted, but eventually they realize that someone within their own company is cooperating with the attackers, and they have to unmask the villain if any of them are to survive. This one was pretty good. 3/24/17

The Abandoned Outlaw by Max Brand, Leisure, 1997 

Three novelets of the old west. In the first, a young woman decides to manage her late father’s ranch, but discovers it is more difficult than she expected. The second involves a man who finds that circumstances are forcing him toward a confrontation with a deadly gunfighter, despite his efforts to avoid a showdown. Finally, a woman has to decide between the two men she loves, one an upright and respectable member of the community and the other a much pursued outlaw. Bet you can guess which one she picks. 2/27/17

The Oath of Office by Max Brand, Leisure, 2000 (originally published in 1931) 

This western consists of three related short stories. The common character is Chip, no last name, who is a plot element rather than the protagonist, which varies from one to the next. In each case his presence alters the courses of other people’s lives. The blurb on this paperback is very misleading because it implies otherwise. The stories involve a desperate woman, a lynch mob, and a trip across the desert, the last of which was quite good. 2/15/17

Death and the Flower by Koji Suzuki, Vertical, 2014  

Six short stories by the author of Ring and other horror stories, although all of these are mundane. There are a few dark moments but they are mostly about the bonds of families. There’s a man with a wife in a coma, a tutor who decides to give up his day job to raise his daughter, a tourist who has strange feelings about beach sand, and others. All of these were readable but I didn’t find any of them particularly memorable. 2/9/17

The Survival of Juan Oro by Max Brand, Leisure, 1999 (originally published in 1925)

Another familiar Brand theme in this one. Juan Oro has a Spanish name but he doesn’t know who his parents were and his features are unmistakably those of Europeans. He was raised by Indians and rescued by Mexicans who in short order apprenticed him to an accomplished outlaw. But there’s a secret involved. His rescuers want him to become an accomplished gunfighter so that he can kill the very same bandit who has trained him. And plans like that almost always run into difficulties when the protagonist is faced with conflicting loyalties. Okay, but nothing out of the ordinary. 1/30/17

Men Women and Children by Alan Sillitoe, Scribners, 1973 

After reading this author’s early work, I decided to try something from later in his career. This is a collection of nine short stories, but they are actually more like character studies than actual narratives. The first was the one I liked best, “Mimic,” and I probably had forgotten most of the rest of them by the following morning. Sillitoe has great insights into the British working class, but his storytelling skills are minimal. It’s not likely I will read anything further by him. 1/24/17

The Whispering Outlaw by Max Brand, Leisure, 2000 (originally published in 1923) 

The outlaw of the title works alone and always keeps his face hidden, but eventually he decides that his aspirations are limited by this device, so he recruits a gang of followers – who also never see his face – but unfortunately he is not uniformly wise in choosing malleable but sensible recruits, and eventually one of them puts the entire operation in jeopardy. A slight variation from Brand’s usual patterns. His earliest westerns like this one are generally his most interesting. 1/15/17

Beyond the Outposts by Max Brand, Leisure, 2001 (originally published in 1925) 

I really enjoyed this relatively minor Max Brand novel about a man who decides to track down his father, who was imprisoned in Virginia but escaped to the Old West. He is a skilled shooter so he supports himself by getting a job as a guard on a railway, and his adventures accelerate when he survives an attack by unfriendly Cheyenne, finds refuge among the Sioux, and then gets involved in a war between the two tribes. Brand wrote several stories in which his heroes lived or were even raised by one tribe or another. Eventually he gets back to his original quest, but he has changed dramatically during the interim. 1/2/17