The Claim Robbers by Harvey Wood
Reading the first instalment of the 'Lazy 'J' Ranch Western Series' is like watching the pilot of a new western tv show that might have premiered at the same time as the genre's best offerings, Bonanza, High Chaparral and Big Valley. As stated in the foreword, westerns these days favour the gunslinger and marshalls, with ranchers often getting the short end of the stick and more often than not, depicted as outright villains.
In The Claim Robbers, the tale is told from the perspective of a rancher who might have been something more adventurous if his gunslinging skills are any clue to his colourful past.
Jim Cassidy has come to Mesquite Bend, seeking justice for the death of an old friend and partner, Ashley Townsend. Upon arriving at the mining community, he discovers the villain responsible for the deed is the town Sherrif Matt Hodge, who with Registrar Ed Logan is playing a long game with the claims of the local settlers. Jim is our stalwart hero who never allows his need to avenge Ashley's death, overtake his sense of justice. Instead of confronting Matt, Jim investigates and uncovers the scheme affecting most of the Bend's residence. Getting help from the locals, Clay, Jake, Whiskey and Sue Hanes, with whom Jim has a sweet courtship, Jim never loses sight of the people involved as the plot winds its way to the inevitable confrontation with Hodge. The pacing of the story is brisk, and all characters have their moment to shine, Clay, in particular, becomes someone to root for as much as Jim, and while Jake seems doomed to be always holding the fort, the character's affection for Sue's welfare is touching. Who I found rather intriguing and hope is revisited in future instalments, is Whiskey, who seems like he might have an exciting back story of his own. That being said, the book needs editing. One or two sentences made little sense, and the jump from scene to scene was a bit confusing because of Kindle's tight formatting style. The readability would have benefitted from having separators between paragraphs to show scene changes. These issues are not enough to hinder anyone's enjoyment reading the book, but they can be jarring for some. I found the Claim Robbers to be an entertaining read, something you would enjoy on a train trip where you had a few hours to kill. Sure, there is not much difference in the characters from what has come before, but sixty years after the genre's heyday, these elements are more comforting than they are repetitious.
The Claim Robbers can be purchased at Amazon by following this LINK