Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Gun Law at Hangman's Creek (Shane and Jonah #1)

Author: Cole Shelton (aka Roger Norris-Green)
First Published: 1978(?)
File size/Pages: 3201kb / 111pp
Ebook Publisher: Piccadilly Publishing
Ebook Date: October 2019

October is a good month if you follow the release schedule of Piccadilly Publishing. Of the ten eBooks being published, three of them are the first novels in new series. It's always good to get in at the beginning of a run of books that you are following, so I have decided to give all three a chance beginning with Gun Law at Hangman's Creek, the opener for the Shane and Jonah sequence, which  I am led to believe via Wikipedia ran up to 25 novels.

The Shane and Jonah stories were authored by Roger Norris-Green, writing as Cole Shelton. As of the time of writing I've not been able to track down a list of the novels or their publication dates, but my guess is they began during the late seventies. Roger was born in Brighton, UK and emigrated to Australia with his parents when he was only thirteen years old. The family settled in the south of the country where Roger eventually began his writing career by submitting short stories to his school's magazine. He went into advertising and became successful enough to run his own agency. Following his marriage, and a period of study that led him to become a lay preacher in the Christian faith, Roger started writing professionally for the Cleveland Publishing Company. As well as writing around 140 westerns for Cleveland and Black Horse he has also published six novels about the Copper Coast and Christian faith books.

Gun Law at Hangman's Creek is your typical "town committee decides to hire some gunslingers to rid them of the local ruthless businessman" story. In this case the town is Hangman's Creek, and the hired gunhawks are Shane Preston and Jonah Jones.

The book opens with saloon owner Leif Murphy sending one of his own hired guns, Spider Nagel, to free their compadre, Lin Benger, from the Sheriffs Office where he is being held by aged Lawman Whittaker for murder. It doesn't end well for the over-the-hill Sheriff and pretty soon the town committee led ably by Mayor John Le Page have decided to employ the talents of Shane and Jonah, who have become known for standing up for the rights of the honest man whilst earning a few dollars for their services. The Mayor is not initially fully supported by the town leaders - hiring killers to get rid of killers is not the right way to go about things, but they reluctantly admit there is not much else they can do.

When Shane and Jonah arrive in Hangman's Creek, they are met with instant violence by Murphy and it becomes very clear early on that Shane Preston is not your typical law-abiding citizen. He wears black and is quick to shoot back, and much more accurately than many of the Saloon owners crew.

Shane is assisted by his partner Jonah, an older, more portly gentleman who is useful with a rifle and also pretty good at healing wounds and looking after Preston when he gets into situations over his head. They make a good partnership, but it is not quite developed enough in this first story. I hope it is expanded upon further in the following books.

Gun Law at Hangman's Creek is more of a Shane Preston story than a Shane and Jonah one. It is his relationship with Mayor Le Page and his beautiful daughter, Lily, that takes up more space. Lily is tempted by Shane's rugged, manly ways, and her fiance Ben O'Brien is threatened by this.

The books is littered with nice cameo characters; Pastor Cowie, Kurt Weckert and the saloon gunmen Abe Morgan, Spider Nagel and Lin Benger are suitable cringey and nasty. You know who stands for good and who doesn't from the get-go.

The Cole Shelton style is very easy going and quick to read. It fits nicely with the western style of good guy/bad guy and is less violent than the Edge or Steele or Crow series. There is a strong sense of right and wrong throughout and of a man trying to help the downtrodden. Cole provides Shane with a morale stance that is clear to see, and his attempts to bring the townsfolk together to help themselves is admirable and a nice change from the loner/ultra-violent/revenger of other books.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend taking a chance on it. It is a short read, fast paced and very competently written indeed. It is also very good value. I bought the eBook from Amazon UK (it is exclusive to Amazon so you won't be able to get it anywhere else), at the low price of £1.20.

Postscript: This is what Shane Preston should look like! Not the weird guy with a white hat on the cover!