Louis L'Amour,
Utah Blaine
(Ace, 1954)

Michael "Utah" Blaine is freshly escaped from a Mexican jail when he overhears a lynch mob leaving a man to die slowly. He saves the man when the mob rides off, and for his trouble he finds himself in charge of a hotly contested ranch in the midst of a massive Arizona range war.

But Blaine, who has a reputation for being good with his guns, doesn't feel like yielding an inch of Joe Neal's land, even when there's a pretty girl asking him nicely. Certainly he's not about to waver in the face of the many guns arrayed against him.

Utah Blaine is one of Louis L'Amour's early novels, originally published under the pseudonym Jim Mayo. It's not as sophisticated as his later works, but that's not a criticism; it's packed full of action and solid characters who wear their trail dust with pride.

There's gunplay a-plenty, and it's easy to lose track of the many gunslingers who line up on all sides of the dispute. But Blaine proves to be more than the standard western hero who's fast with a gun; he spares lives when he can, although he doesn't hesitate to pull the trigger when he sees a need.

Good men die, and the course of romance doesn't always run smoothly. Utah Blaine is top-notch western action with an outstanding protagonist.

book review by
Tom Knapp

23 July 2016

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