“Brand practices his art to something like perfection.” —New York Times, praise for the author
Peter Dunstan is a big rancher who wants to become bigger, to control more land. So when he buys Dr. Henry Morgan's ranchland that has been unsuccessfully converted to farming, it is his intention to return it to open range. The only stipulation the doctor makes is that Dunstan must retain Sandy Sweyn, who has more or less been Dr. Morgan's ward. Though the man is of age, he is generally considered a half-wit, even by the doctor. Still, Sandy has a fabulous gift: he can communicate with animals. The most refractory and savage bronco will yield to his subtly persuasive methods even when expert horse breakers have failed.
After Sandy gentles the totally recalcitrant gelding that Dunstan has been trying to break to the reins, he claims that his mare, Cleo, though used only for drudgery, could easily outrun the gelding in a race. Dunstan is so contemptuous of this boast that he bets $5,000 and ownership of the gelding if he loses the race. As it turns out, Cleo readily wins.
Rather than indulging his anger, Dunstan decides to use Sandy's gifts to his advantage by getting him seemingly impossible tasks. The problem is that after each of these incredible tasks is accomplished, some personal misfortune befalls Dunstan. Finally Dunstan drives Sandy into the mountain wilderness, where his prowess eventually becomes legendary. But banishment is no solution for Dunstan when he comes to need Sandy more than ever, and his only way of getting him back is to resort to trickery.
Tom Fuller—a scrupulously honest fellow, a person of extraordinary physical strength, and owner of a savage horse, Rusty, that he alone was able to tame—is generally regarded as a half-wit. He has been summarily fired from every job he has ever had and even comes to regard himself as a failure. He makes one more try when he is hired on as a blacksmith's assistant by Boston Charlie. Finally here is a job that Tom can perform successfully, and his spirit soars.
Oliver Champion, who stops at the smithy to have his wagon horses newly shod, is impressed by Tom's ability. Champion also recognizes Tom as the son of the late Washington Fuller, a renowned gunfighter. Boston Charlie, far from being impressed by this revelation, is outraged and fires Tom, insisting that he leave at once. Champion takes this newfound opportunity to propose that Tom, who in addition to his physical strength is also an excellent shot, should become his bodyguard. Not having any alternative, Tom accepts the offer.
It is obviously a decision made in haste, as Tom soon learns that Champion is new to the West, that he is an escaped convict from a prison in the East, and that he has come all this way in pursuit of a master criminal, Henry Plank, the man actually responsible for the robbery for which Champion was imprisoned. Now Champion wants Tom to lead him through unfamiliar country to get his revenge.
The attacks of the huge lobo Gray Cloud have caused the remarkable price of $2,500 to be put on his head. And it falls to big Dave Reagan, considered little better than a half-wit in that part of the range, to discover the monster held fast in two of his traps.
Something in the fearless animal's eyes keeps young Dave from killing the wolf. Instead Dave releases Gray Cloud, who is unable to walk, and rescues him from a prairie fire that threatens them both. Dave brings Gray Cloud home and chains him in a shed that he uses as a blacksmith shop. Dave expects now that, as a result of this feat, his cousins will finally come to respect him. But as far as they are concerned, this is the time to put a bullet in Gray Cloud, cut off his paws and head fur, and claim the $2,500 reward.
What they didn't anticipate is that Dave would object to their plan. Dave escapes with Gray Cloud into the wilderness, and it is there that the two become indelibly attached. It was an error, however, for Dave to think that men would not intrude on them. Before long both Dave and Gray Cloud are fugitives, having to protect each other as they attempt to elude their pursuers.
When Samuel Cross was growing up, he was rarely found without a book in his hands and that was the way his mother, a widow, wanted him raised. His uncle, Stephen Larkin, a frontiersman like Sam’s father, wanted him to be strong and able to fend for himself, so he would take him into the mountains every summer to teach him how to fight and use a weapon.
He proved to be as adept at these subjects as he had been at book learning, but when he was eighteen and his mother died, he took a job working for Chandler, the trader at Fort Bostwick, for whom he was a well-paid clerk and, eventually, watchdog of the business. What he didn’t understand was that he looked forward to troublemakers coming into the shop so that he could confront and deal with them. It was during a visit from the district marshal that he learned of Chandler’s crooked ways and of his own notoriety and reputation as a safety killer, one who never fights unless he knows that the law is sure to protect him.
When the marshal tells him to leave the fort and learn how to live right, Cross decides to head East. His strength and skill with a gun make Cross both friends and enemies on the boat he is taking down the Mississippi. He is saved one night from a fatal stabbing by Charles Granville, a well-to-do Southerner, who recognizes a startling resemblance between himself and Cross. He proposes that Cross repay him by taking part in a daring deceit. Feeling indebted to Granville, Cross agrees and heads to New Orleans.
But can Cross actually pull off the masquerade and fool Granville’s parents, friends, and especially his beautiful sister, Nancy. And what is behind Granville’s desire to have Cross take on the role of himself?
The day Jingo rode into Tower Creek, the town was busy celebrating its twentieth anniversary. The big event of the festival was a high-stakes poker game in Joe Slade’s saloon with Wally Rankin holding most of the chips. But it didn’t take long for Jingo to figure out why: Rankin was cheating. And it would only take a couple of well-placed bullets to reveal it to the others in the room.
He was still a young man, but he’d used that handful of years effectively, building a bad reputation that spanned the West, his villainy taking different forms everywhere it took roost. Denver knew him as the Doctor; Texans called him Montana; and folks in Idaho called him Texas. On account of his youth, most everywhere else called him the Lonesome Kid.
But when he finally gets arrested for vagrancy, he tells the sheriff his name is Alfred Lamb. Will that identity stick when he tries to help a rancher battle off a pack of cattle rustlers?
With a lengthy career in pulps, comics, and early cinema, and with over two hundred full-length Western novels to his credit, including Destry Rides Again and Montana Rides and the iconic Dr. Kildare series, Max Brand’s action-filled stories of adventure and heroism in the American West continue to entertain readers throughout the world.
Young Jim Curry’s father is killed unjustly by an enraged mob, and the boy barely escapes the same fate. He shoots two pursuers and assumes they are dead, and in desperation becomes a most unusual outlaw, the Red Devil. He never kills, takes only ill-gained money, secretly returns it to the rightful owners, and escapes every pursuit on his remarkable horse, Meg.
Spoiled Charlie Mark has left home to seek thrills and easy money. He vows to find the Red Devil and discover why he is so merciful and so particular about his victims. Charlie trails Meg’s hoof prints to the hideout and convinces Jim to switch roles—but the new Red Devil becomes addicted to the excitement of robbing and killing. When will retribution catch up with Charlie? Can anyone save him? And where is Jim Curry?
This trio of stories about the life and destiny of Jim Curry is vintage Max Brand! His Western stories are considered among the best in the genre and have been translated into every major language and adapted for film and television.
Within ten days of stepping out of the woods near the town of Moose Creek, Duval is the most popular man in the district. After all, what’s not to like? He is a good listener, generous with his money, a great cook and host, and a hard worker on old Dad Wilbur’s place, which he bought for $1,500. He wins the admiration of Sheriff Nat Adare when he quells and befriends the often-wild Charlie Nash and pays for the damages Charlie has caused in the town saloon.
The only person in the town that he doesn’t win over is the sheriff’s niece, Marian Lane, who runs the local grocery and has caused more than her share of heartbreak among the young men of the town. What bothers Marian is that no one can learn anything about Duval or his past, other than that he was a cowpuncher who had worked for a taskmaster on the T Bar Ranch. Marian’s curiosity is intensified when Duval runs the thug Larry Jude out of town after he calls Duval a “boy-killer.” But Duval’s past lands in Moose Creek when Discretion, the horse that he loves, is accompanied from the East by the animal’s self-proclaimed groom, Henry.
Once Duval learns that Henry, who he had known in New York, plans to stay on in Moose Creek, he warns him not to “play no tricks.” Things begin to heat up when Duval attends a dance where he encounters not only Marian but the famous manhunter, Marshal Richard Kinkaid. When a robbery occurs at the same time as the dance, Kinkaid, who has already been baited by Marian to find out who Duval is, promises she will have the answer to her question. So begins a dangerous game of matching wits between Duval and Kinkaid.
Don Sebastian Valdivia and his secretary, Juan Carreño, attend a horse auction at the Garrison Ranch, where an outlaw stallion, Twilight, is held back until last. The only man who can ride this magnificent beast is Charles Dupont, known as the Crisco Kid, who has bonded with the horse since he was a colt.
Because gunman Bud Carew despises the Kid, he desperately wants to possess Twilight. Those attending the auction know that no matter who wins, a gunfight is sure to follow. Just as it appears that Carew has won, Valdivia places his bid for $800. He is not bidding for a horse, but for a man.
In a calculated move, Valdivia plays the Kid against Carew, and the Kid proves to be the better man. Valdivia offers Twilight to the Kid with two options—keep Twilight and remain in the Southwest, or accept employment with the don and accompany him back to his grand rancho in the Argentine, where Valdivia has a score to settle with the outlaw El Tigre. Even without the gift of Twilight, the Kid would be willing to make the effort. With Twilight, he does not imagine there is any way he could possibly fail.
After hitting a rich vein of gold on the back of Champion Mountain, Blondy Kitchin heads to the big city to have a good time, but there his luck runs out and he ends up spending two years in prison. The prison’s chaplain helps educate him, tries to smooth out his rough edges, and convinces him that the range is the place for Kitchin to make use of his brute strength and free spirit.
Max Brand wrote hundreds of stories, books, films, and TV shows. His output was so voluminous that though he died in WWII, posthumous books have been published approximately every four months since. This book collects three stories from his early work in Western pulps.
“Señor Coyote” was first published under Frederick Faust’s pen name John Frederick in two installments in Argosy (6/18/38 - 6/25/38). It was the last Western short novel Faust wrote. It was fitting that the story was published in Argosy since Faust’s earliest Western fiction had been sold to All-Story Weekly and The Argosy owned by The Frank A. Munsey Company, which merged the two magazines in 7/24/20. In this story, Frank Pollard, a small-time rancher down on his luck and owing the bank $500, looks to his legendary friend, Slip Liddell, to give him the money before the banker, Foster, forecloses on his ranch. Liddell refuses to pay Foster even for his friend. Pollard threatens to do something about it, and then the bank is robbed and Foster shot. Will Liddell help when his friend is accused of the crime?
Only two years into his publishing relationship with Street & Smith, which was almost exclusive between 1921 and 1932, Faust was asked to contribute two Christmas stories to magazines the company published. The first was to Detective Story Magazine — “A Christmas Encounter” (12/23/22) under his Nicholas Silver pseudonym — and the other was the story that follows that he titled “The Power of Prayer.” It appeared under the John Frederick byline in Western Story Magazine (12/23/22). In it Gerald Kern embodies many of those same qualities of a figure found in several of Faust’s Western stories, a gunman who is also a gentleman.
“The Cure of Silver Cañon” by John Frederick was the second short novel by Faust to appear in Western Story Magazine (1/15/21). In Faust’s Western fiction the mountain desert is a country of the imagination where no man is ever a hero and no man is ever a villain, but rather a mixture of both. This certainly proves the case in this story in which both Lew Carney and Jack Doyle love Mary Hamilton and where we, as readers, can never know with certitude for whose soul it is that Mary Hamilton weeps. The story’s opening is perhaps the most imagistic and at the same time eerie as Faust ever wrote.
After ten years of wandering, during which he has lived the life of a gambler and learned the ways of devious men, Tom Keene returns home, only to find his father alone and dying.
Old John Keene’s sole legacy to his son is a Bible, so with his father’s passing, Tom Keene renounces his selfish, worthless past and sets out to preach to others that the greatest happiness is born of trust in one another.
Tom gets a chance to demonstrate his new way of life when he rescues a little girl who has fallen into a well. He learns that the little girl comes from the country’s wealthiest family, now in financial straits. The family’s head, John Carver, is an improvident man who is at times cruel to his dependents, and Tom Keene’s good intentions are about to cost him more than he knows.
Tom is jailed for a crime he did not commit, beaten and bullied until he changes again, this time into a cunning, calculating man whose sole purpose now is to be avenged for the wrongs done to him. Once released, he chases the trail of the desperado that double-crossed him.
Lorrimer Weldon has spent his life being a tumbleweed and rolling where the wind blows him. Up to Canada, down to Mexico, through deserts, forests, and mountains; anywhere fortune could be found. Those travels helped earn him a reputation as a gambler and a gunfighter—a reputation that frequently preceded him.
When Weldon rode into San Trinidad, he found he immediately had two job offers: the outlaw Roger Cunningham wants Weldon to join his smuggling operation as a hired gun, and Dr. Henry Watts wants to hire Weldon’s gun as well, but as muscle to protect a patient dying of consumption, the beautiful Helen O’Mallock.
Weldon finds Watts’ proposition far more attractive, so he accepts the offer, knowing that Cunningham will resent the decision.
The mining certificates granting ownership of the Christabel mine that Edward Dugan inherited from his father had a face value of $250,000, but the mine itself had been declared worthless. Still, Henry Christian, the man that had sold them to Dugan’s father, said he’d buy them back for $1,500.
Penniless, Dugan decided to walk the three thousand miles from his home in Boston to the mine in the Southwest to check out the offer.
But along the way he meets a travel companion named Red. Red knows Christian by reputation, and by another name: Bonanza Chris. He knows the only reason Bonanza Chris would buy the mine back is if he had discovered it was far from worthless.
He decides not to abandon Dugan to negotiate with Bonanza Chris on his own, but not even Red can imagine how far Bonanza Chris will go to restake his claim on the mine.
Peter Quince was a fighter born and bred. Orphaned at a young age, he remembered an old woman saying that he was a bad one and would cause a lot of trouble in the world. Others claimed he had bad blood and it would show up sooner or later. But Bill Andrews felt a connection with the boy, took him home and raised him as one of his own despite his wife’s misgivings.
Peter soon learned he could manipulate people by withholding his true feelings—showing and telling them what they wanted to see and hear. Peter had learned that battles should be won by cunning and strength, with cunning being far more important. But when he beat his foster brother in a fight over a girl named Mary, Peter knew it was time to strike out on his own.
In his travels he would seek out those with skills he needed and learn from them until he was able to master his teacher. At barely twenty, he had a price on his head for shooting a man in self-defense. As he outsmarted lawmen in five states and territories, the bounty rose to over $100,000. He finally fled to Mexico, but there he would fall into trouble again with a wealthy land baron, a beautiful woman, and a notorious bandit.
When Happy Jack in “The Gift” learns that Sandy Crisp was behind the killing of his pal Jackson, a married man and the father of three, he hunts him down at his cabin. Feeling fear for the first time, as Happy Jack tries to taunt him into a fight, Crisp is struck by the physical similarity between Happy Jack and Johnny Neilan, the son of his nearest neighbors, who died twelve years ago in a log jam. Bitter and rich, Johnny’s parents still believe he is alive and will one day return. Crisp proposes Happy Jack pose as the Neilans’ son and rob their safe, giving his share of the money to Jackson’s widow. Reluctantly, Happy Jack agrees, but he is not prepared for what he encounters on this Christmas Eve.
Jim Orchard, the hero of “Jerico’s Garrison Finish,” suffers from “reckless generosity,” which keeps getting in the way of his ability to save the $5,000 he needs so he can marry Sue Hampton, who fears that he is an easy mark and that he will never put the needs of a family first. When he hears that Garry Munn has been visiting Sue, he becomes worried and desperate as he has lost most of his money again. Munn is the favorite in the upcoming race in the rodeo, and Orchard sees his only chance of getting his $5,000 stake is to ride Jerico, a killer horse, racing against Munn.
In “Sunset Wins,” Gordon MacDonald is a throwback to his ancestors, big and brutal, a man who “looked like a lion” and “thought like a fox” and “fought like ten devils, shoulder to shoulder.” No prison in the world could hold him, though they had tried. Eventually he returns to the States, making his way to Texas, where he wanders for ten years, until his heart settles on something he must have—a horse named Sunset.
On a cold, gusty night in Circle City, Alaska, Sammy Day walks into Nagle’s Bar. He is only twenty-two, but he has been on his own for ten years. He has worked cattle from Montana to Chihuahua, but a little “accident” at a poker table in Montana sent him on a forced march to Alaska to avoid a posse. He is down to his last fifty cents.
Every fall Tom Reynard, ramrod for the Bar L, had a hard time finding cowpunchers willing to work the winter range in the bleak badlands near the Sioux reservation. So when Jigger Bunts, an eighteen-year-old from New York who was familiar with riding and roping, happened along, he was hired even though his youth was a red flag to Reynard.
To pass the time in the bunkhouse, the other cowhands spin tall tales for Bunts, whom they call the kid, about the exploits of Reynard, and soon Reynard becomes Bunts’ hero and role model. Reynard quickly tires of the hero worship, so he concocts a new hero for the kid in Louis Dalfieri, based merely on a picture. Dalfieri replaces Reynard in the kid’s mind as his hero, especially when the yarns the punchers tell the kid about this two-gun Robin Hood become outrageous.
When a stranger is brought to the ranch by Bunts and he cheats the Bar L cowboys in a game of poker, the kid takes off to get their money back, to right the wrong as he believes Dalfieri would. This decision sends him down a path outside the law from which there appears to be no return, and for which Reynard can only blame himself. Reynard had all but given up hope to help Jigger Bunts when his mind is changed by a chance encounter with an old friend, Maybelle Crofter.
Recently discovered among his unpublished works, this untraditional story will delight fans of Max Brand Westerns.
Hugh Collier in “The Danger Lover” feels he is living an empty life as a little more than competent bank employee in the town of Stanton. He decides to leave behind a life that for him was a “caricature and savage cartoon of the beautiful truth that life may be,” and he heads into the mountains alone, carrying only the essentials on his horse. Even though his efforts at hunting and fishing prove to be failures in the early days, he keeps his spirits up by celebrating his small successes as he travels deeper in the wild. Two things change the course of his adventure: he sees a town from a hill, and a stranger, desperate to file on a claim, convinces Collier to trade horses. Once he walks the stranger’s horse into the town, he soon finds himself to be mistaken for the outlaw Bill Gadsden by both worshipers of the outlaw and the man after the outlaw, Lassiter.
In the title story, twenty-two-year-old Lewis Dikkon has led a sheltered life, working seven days a week as a shoemaker for his taskmaster uncle, Charles Bender. Being inside most of the time, he knows little of the town and its inhabitants and they have no interest in him, other than as a poorly dressed oddball. A stranger named Sam Prentiss begins showing up at 8 p.m. every Saturday night to sit in a chair in the shop’s doorway and look across the street for an hour. Their conversations, though limited, begin to set Dikkon’s mind to work and before long he decides he wants to buy a gun. When Dan Hodge, the gunman, is killed and his personal items go up for auction, Dikkon gets his Colt, which he believes is a magic gun.
Recently, a number of Western stories have been discovered among Max Brand’s unpublished works and the first story in this book, “The White Streak,” is one of them. Its protagonist is twenty-one-year-old Jimmy Babcock, a former football star, but now a worker at the local bank run by William Parker in the town of Dresser, which has changed from cattle country to one made up of oil and alfalfa fields. When Parker fires Jimmy, all Jimmy can think is how he will hurt Muriel Aiken, his fiancée, who wants to marry. When his father signs over the old family homestead that is in serious need of repair, Jimmy feels better. But an unexpected invitation from Parker to meet him at the Club convinces him that Parker wants him back. When he learns what Parker really has in mind, Jimmy finds himself recalling the stories he has heard about the notorious robbers the White Streak and Utah Billie, and he has to make a hard decision.
In “The Masked Rider” the betrothed of Carlos Torreño, Lucia d’Arquista, is making her way to Casa Torreño in Spanish California in which no expense has been spared in making her journey a lavish one by her soon-to-be father-in-law, Francisco Torreño. But it is on the journey that Francisco decides that Lucia is a sparrowhawk and that she must be watched carefully, especially once she takes an interest in Taki, a Navajo who is working off a debt to Francisco.
Found among a group of unpublished works by Frederick Faust, these two Western stories both deal with cowardice. In “Traynor” the title character is believed to be a weak young man, having let Dr. Parker Channing steal his love, Rose Laymon, away from him. When the stage Traynor is driving into Little Snake is robbed and Traynor’s best friend and stage guard, Sam Whitney, is killed by the robber, Traynor chases the thief and recovers his dropped Stetson, which was sold to Dr. Channing less than a month earlier. The medico takes off after Traynor confronts him, and despite a physical weakness overwhelming him, Traynor finds himself chasing the only man who can save him.
In “Luck and a Horse,” Tommy Grant works day and night on the farm of the tyrant and master manipulator Sylvester Train, who has not paid him for nineteen months. The man runs roughshod over Tommy as well as his niece, Margie Train. When Tommy balks at using his horse, Brownie, in the plow, Train sends him to Fruit Dale with two wagons of grain and a shopping list. In town, he learns that Lefty Lew Hilton is looking to gun down the jailbird, Bert Ellis. Events take a strange turn when Tommy finds himself in the back room of a saloon, playing cards with Ellis. When Ellis is shot in the middle of the game, a hundred posse men give chase to Tommy, who is believed to be the killer of Ellis.