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The Bloody Spur: A Caleb York Western

Review

The Bloody Spur: A Caleb York Western

At times I am amazed that more mystery readers don’t turn to traditional (or contemporary) westerns for entertainment. The majority of westerns have a mystery or two in their kernel, and as a result, the two genres mesh quite well. Who can argue with authors who have worked in both genres, including but not limited to Elmore Leonard, Loren D. Estleman, Robert B. Parker (and his successor, Robert Knott), and --- that hardest of the hard-boiled authors --- Mickey Spillane, with Max Allan Collins, his posthumous collaborator?

With regard to the latter team, over the past few years, Collins has taken a movie script that Spillane wrote for a western featuring John Wayne and expanded upon the characters and situation. The result has been the creation of a new traditional western series, of which the newly published THE BLOODY SPUR is the third installment.

"...a quick, highly engrossing read that truly puts readers in the time and place in which it is set. If you think you don’t like traditional westerns, try THE BLOODY SPUR and be surprised."

Sheriff Caleb York, of the small but growing cattle town of Trinidad, New Mexico, is the obvious star of this excellent series, which balances lots of action with a bit of romance and some historical background. York has an on-again, off-again relationship with a very capable and fetching young woman named Willa Cullen, who, with her father George, runs the largest ranch in the area.

THE BLOODY SPUR opens with Cullen Senior being put under considerable pressure to permit the Santa Fe Railroad to build a spur through part of his land in order to link Trinidad with points west for the cattle trade. The progress is inevitable, and in many ways would be good for the Cullens, but Cullen, who has lived in Trinidad since its inception, is quick to note the problems that uninhibited growth could bring to the town. Cullen’s former partner in the ranch, fresh from a stint in prison for killing a man, has also arrived in town. While his presence doesn’t exactly complicate matters, it does add another moving part to the situation. Meanwhile, a notorious and enigmatic gun for hire shows up with two associates, ostensibly to play in a high-stakes poker game but with something else obviously in mind.

York handles these matters, and more, with a quiet confidence and a cool competence. Things heat up a bit, though, when an unexpected death occurs. It appears to be the result of an accident, but after utilizing a bit of Old West detective work, he quickly determines that it’s murder. He methodically interrogates a sizable list of suspects before identifying the culprit, even as he has to keep eyes in the back of his head to ensure that he doesn’t experience an all-too-deadly accident himself. It’s an open question as to whether or not York will survive, but if he doesn’t, he’ll be in good company. Not everyone introduced at the beginning of the book --- or the series --- makes it to the end of this installment.

Collins makes an easy transition from the mystery to the western genres. The result is that this latest volume is a quick, highly engrossing read that truly puts readers in the time and place in which it is set. If you think you don’t like traditional westerns, try THE BLOODY SPUR and be surprised.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 2, 2018

The Bloody Spur: A Caleb York Western
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

  • Publication Date: January 30, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Western
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 1617735981
  • ISBN-13: 9781617735981