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Book Reviews current


Book reviews are welcome from any source so long as they relate to the western culture, both past and contemporary.  We do not review books, so reviews must be sent in by qualified sources.  They can be sent to


A Bad Place To Die by Easy Jackson

kisken-book-bad placeWhen I was a young man, I had a cabin on Lake Superior. I would fish, play cards and read to get away for a while. One summer, I read a lot of works by a well known writer of westerns. If I still had the cabin, I would grab a sack of westerns put out by Pinnacle Press (part of Kensington Publishing) and head up north. I just received the first book in a new series titled “A Bad Place To Die” by Easy Jackson. The story revolves around Tennessee Smith, an orphan and her adventures as small town marshal of a small town in Texas, Ring Bit. Terrance, an orphan believes she is coming to Texas to be a missionary’s helper, but is, in reality, a mail order bride. She marries an older man with three rambunctious sons. Some who have been thrown out of school and Sunday school for their misdeeds. Her husband dies, but before doing so she promises to take care of the boys. For nefarious reasons, she is given the job of marshal in Ring Bit and the “fun” begins. Meet (1) Honey Boy, a cowboy who, when he gets drunk turns wild (2) the banker, nough said (3) Big Mike, blacksmith who falls in love with Terence (4) Shorty, ex Texas Ranger, who now runs the stage shop (5) Lafayette, owner of the Silver Moon Saloon and brothel (6) Magot Milton local butcher and the list goes on and on. Did I like it? As I told someone “If it isn’t the best western I’ve read in a long time, it’s damn sure near it”. I look forward to her next book. That one is based on a true story.

……..Bob Kisken


Where The Bullets Fly by Terrence McCauley

kisken-when bullets flyTerrance McCauley, a native of the Bronx and an award winning mystery writer has entered the field of westerns. His first western published by Pinnacle Books, part of Kensington Publishing Corporation, titled “Where The Bullets Fly” is a series of books about Sheriff Aaron Mackey which takes place in a small town in Montana in 1888. The town, Dover Station, was founded by Mackey and father and other civil war veterans. The town itself is a hub for miners, loggers, ranchers and characters such as Billy Sunday, Army buddy, Mary, his wife, Mayor Mason who has the job because nobody else wanted it, Doc Ridley, former Confederate and other well developed characters who float in and out of the book, each with their own good and bad sides. The book revolves around the threat to the town and Mackey, led by a group of thugs and a mysterious man. Did I like this book? If I weren’t so damn old, I would have read it in one sitting. The action starts in Chapter one and doesn’t let up. Kensington has added another great western writer to its stable. I look forward to Mr. McCauley’s next book. As I like to say about an author I like “Don’t believe me, get it and read it for yourself”.

……..Bob Kisken



Day Workin’ by Mark Munzert

 Kisken-Munzert Mark recently released a CD of his poetry, Day Workin’.  It consists of seventeen of his poems in which he writes about his experiences.  Mark is a heck-of-a performer and his poetry is fun to listen to. Don’t take my word, go out and buy the CD and see for yourself.  His recitation of poems are accompanied by background sounds, mostly music, which fit the meanings of the poems. For example: joyful, when he writes about a way of life he loves; light and airy, when humor is there; and fast, when action is there.  My favorite poem about fixing windmills is accompanied by the sounds they make when the wind is blowing. I have read a poem about hay and listened to a song about fencing, for some reason, I enjoy songs or poems about parts of ranching which are not action filled or romantic.  Here are some of my favorites, probably would change from day to day depending on my mood:

  1. Windpumps on the Mesa – my favorite

  2. Doggone Dog – this poem is about a farrier and his dog, clever ending.

  3. Good Hand – poem about what’s important to a cowboy

  4. Laid to Rest – reminds me of a funeral a friend of mine told me about

  5. Roadmaps’ Merry’d Christmas – interesting characters out there that we all have met.

    Mark Munzert is the 2018 National Cowboy Poetry Rodeo Silver Buckle Serious Poetry Champion.  He is an inductee into the Adirondack Cowboy Hall of Fame. Presently living in the upstate New York mountains area he has done his share of working with ”horses, cows, cowboys, cowgirls, and too many fences.”  His poetry has appeared in New York Horse Magazine, Working Horse Magazine, Quarter Horse News, Unbridled (vol. Iv 2018) and other publications. For more about Mark go to his facebook page or Cowpokes Corral

    …….Bob Kisken


Daryl Talbot’s Cowboy Cartoons #2 by Daryl Talbot

kisken-book-talbot #2Daryl Talbot is the 4th member of Cowboy Cartoonists International that I have written about for Rope Burns. The other three are Wally Badgett, Ben Crane and Bonnie Shields. CCI was formed in 1992 to promote the art of cowboy cartooning. Their membership consists of folks from both Canada and the US. Each year, they have a rendezvous at a different venue to promote their art. I would love to go to one of them to see the many different art forms. Google Cowboy Cartoonist International to see a wealth of info about the group and its members. You will be in awe of the talent there. Another group that you might be interested in is the Western Artists and Artisans. Only lots of good western art is on this website. Check it out, you will not be disappointed. Another plus for this site is that Daryl posted a lot of his cartoons on it. I have included a picture of one of Daryl’s books and four of his cartoons. I find him hilarious and look forward to his post. Take a gander, guaranteed you will be hooked.



kisken-book-talbot 01kisken-book-talbot03kisken-book-talbot04kisken-book-talbot02

…….Bob Kisken


The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family In The New West by John Branch

kisken-book-last cowboysThe Wrights of Utah have been raising cattle for approximately 150 years on Smith Mesa in the vicinity of Zion National Park. That’s seven generations. Cody Wright won his first world championship in saddle bronc riding in 2008. Since then, the Wrights have won four more world championships. As of June 1, 2018, four of the top in the world standings were Wrights. Seven of the top contestants in the Wrangler Pro Rodeo Tour were Wrights. (One was married to a Wright). The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family In The New West by John Branch is an amazing story. The highs and lows of ranching and rodeo are there in the open. This book is as good as it gets. All I said to myself when I finished was, WOW, what a great family,. Any rodeo fan will learn from this book.

……..Bob Kisken


The Legend Of Perley Gates by William W Johnstone and J.A.Johnstone

kisken-book-perley gatesAfter reading the first two pages of The Legend Of Perley Gates by William W Johnstone and J.A. Johstone, I thought to myself, this will be a good book if it continues as the first couple of pages, and it did. Best western I have read in quite a while. Perley Gates, who was named after his grandfather, sets out from Ogallala, NE, after driving cattle with his older brothers from Paris, Texas to Ogallala, NE. Learning that his father might have gone to Denver, he sets out to find him. On his trip, he has experiences such as (1) helping two prostitutes going to Laramie, Wyoming (2) dealing with renegade Indians, one of whom wants to kill the young cowboy (3) opening the door to the wrong room in a brothel (4) being invited to dinner at the home of a storekeeper who has five eligible daughters (5) being arrested on a false charge (6) rescuing a girl who has been sold by her father to a pimp (7) stage coach robbery (8) gold mining. The book comes to a conclusion in and near Deadwood, SD. Great read with some of the funniest dialogue and events that I have read in a western.

……..Bob Kisken

Ol’ Jimmy Dollar; Saddle Up, A Cowboy Guide To Writing; A Cowboy’s Guide To Growing Up Right; All by  Slim Randles

kisken-bookk-ol jimmy dollarkisken-book-saddle upkisken-book-cb guide right

This is a review of three of Slim Randles’ books, published by Reo Grande Books of Los Ranchos, NM. The first two books are; Saddle Up, A Cowboy Guide To Writing and A Cowboy’s Guide To Growing Up Right. Since most of my working life was spent in Michigan and New York, there wasn’t much need for cowboys. When I was young, I did see the movie Shane and perhaps wanted to be one for a very short time. Slim Randles is a New Mexican, journalist, editor, author, hunter, friend of Max Evans and, from what I can tell, somewhat of a storyteller. I did spend a year in New Mexico, but that was in the army and all I wanted was to get a discharge and get the hell home. The two books are worth reading and I think one can get some good ideas from them whether you want to be a cowboy or not. The third book, Ol’ Jimmy Dollar, is one I can identify with, especially the Ol’ part. Written by Slim and illustrated by Jerry Montoya, it is a most enjoyable children’s book. Jimmy is a cowboy who lives with his three dogs. He hates possums and enjoys life. The art work is colorful and joyous. There is also a glossary which explains some of the words the cowboys use. Fun, Fun, Fun!

……..Bob Kisken


Buffalo Bill Cody “A Collection Of Poems On The 100th Anniversary Of His Death” Compiled By Sandra K. Sagala

kisken-book-buffalo billSandra K Sagala authored the book, Buffalo Bill Cody to memorialize the 100th anniversary of his death. Published by the Red Dashboard LLC Publications ( in 1917 and it is an anthology of poems written mostly when Buffalo was alive. The poems, mainly written by non poets, basically praise his exploits as pony express rider, scout for the army, hunter of buffalo, hero of dime novels and great entertainer and producer of a world traveled wild west show. The author obviously did a lot of work in bringing all the material together A short paragraph or so about an event in his life is followed by a poem written about the event. One gathers, from the poems, that he was a hero to many people and still is to the thousands of people who visit his gravesite on Lookout Mountain in Colorado. To fans and people who want to know more about Buffalo Bill, this is an excellent book to read. The author does an interesting thing near the end of the book as she includes a poem by Allan Katzman, titled The Prison on Lookout Mountain. The poem, using his own words, disparages Cody for his vagaries. One attribute for a good book is that it makes me want to read more about the subject. This book certainly does that.

……..Bob Kisken


Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid by Xavier Garza

kisken-book-charroI am glad that I started reviewing young peoples’ books for two reasons (1) I am running into independent publishing companies that are doing some great things (2) parents of young kids still can get some neat books to start their kids on a path to love reading. Cinco Puntos Press is an independent publisher located in El Paso, Texas and is one of these. Google them and spend some time with their catalog. You will not be disappointed. Hispanic themes, poetry books, bilingual books, Indian tales, Mexican leaders and even a book on the old song which side are you on. A good way to broaden a children’s experiences. Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid was written and illustrated by Xavier Garza. A charro is a Mexico cowboy who sings and plays the guitar. This is a very delightful kid’s book about Christmas and Santa Claus. The illustrations are colorful and most appealing. I would love to live in a blue walled farm house with an orange roof. I’ll not give up any more of the plot. Get the book, read it to your kids, Spanish or English and both of you will enjoy.

……..Bob Kisken


Unbridled by Cowboy Poetry Press

book-kisken-unbridledUnbridled is an anthology of prose and poetry published by Cowboy Poetry Press, a part of Red Dashboard, LLC Publishing. For information google Cowboy Poetry Press and get a catalog of their books, or google Red Dashboard and you will be impressed with what they publish. Volume II of the Unbridled series is a collection of poetry and flash fiction. I do not know much about most of the poets, but I guess they are conversant with ranch life. Most of the poems refer to ordinary things which are written about beauty and a touch of gentle sadness. You will find lines about gleaning prairie frost, nails on a fence post, crow bait, reciting cowboy poet who forgets his lines, son riding with his stoved up cowboy father and an old cowboy and horse regaining their youth. As usual, here are some of my favorite lines which may give you a look into the poems. The last 3 parts of the book are called Flash Fiction, titled (1) A Cowboy Last Dream (2) Johnny Ringo and (3) A Good Days Work. My favorite is the third one which is about a ranch owner who can laugh at himself. There are other volumes in the Unbridled series. Descriptions of them are on their websites.

Cowboy Poet by Michelle Nickol

And when he spoke, he looked off

in the distance like he was alone in that place

only cowboys can see, and he’d squint his eyes

a little so he could see it good and clear.

Arroyo Al On Loyalty by Nicholas R Larche

Through the doors came a yellin’ “What’s tied to that

thar post?”

“Neer have I seen such crowbait. I thought it was

a ghost!”

Another Week Begins by Stephen Page

When Jonathan turns off the highway the mud

in the road is a foot deep. He clicks his vehicle

into 4-wheel drive and creeps forward in first gear

so not to slide into one of the ditches. The white gates

of his ranch are open. El Misionero standing next

them. He rolls his window down and sighs. The air

smells green. Green. Green.

A Cross of Rough Wood by Della West

In no time at all, they were back on the range

Both cowboy and horse were miraculously changed

For the cowboy’s plea had been understood

When he knelt in prayer before a cross of rough wood.

What A Father Wants To Say To His Son by Stephen Page

While the father and the son drive into town on an errand

the father notices how his son stares admirably at the side of

his face

he grits his teeth and tries to smile back,

grips the wheel with forty-five year old arthritic hands,

the pain in his left leg (an old injury from falling off a horse) unbearable

every time he steps on the clutch.

……..Bob Kisken


Fergus A Horse To Be Reckoned With by Jean Abernathy

kisken-book-fergusTrafalgar Square Books ( is the leading publisher of equestrian books and dvds. Their books cover such topics as training, riding, dressage and much more. Fergus, A Horse To Be Reckoned With by Jean Abernathy is advertised for kids from 5-95. Unfortunately, I am closer to the 95. Since I have only been on a horse five times, two moving and three for pictures, I have no expertise to review a technical book on horses. Jean has studied both equine studies and art and, in college, she has worked with horses in many different aspects. It has been said that one should not judge a book by its cover. Look at the cover, makes me want to se what is in the rest of the book. The art is great for kids of all ages. Jean teaches quite simply how one might teach a horse to be reckoned with a thing a two. My favorite part is when Fergus gets the bit in and starts to talk. I have a friend in Wyoming who is a children’s librarian. She is getting the book and I think she will have fun reading it to the kids in a program she has, as will the kids. Go to for more about Fergus.

……..Bob Kisken


All Around and the 13th Juror by Rick Steber

kisken-book-all aroundMac Griffith (1938-1964) was a tough and talented cowboy, who in 1963, won the bull riding title at Calgary and the all around cowboy title at the Pendleton roundup. He was also a brawler, heavy drinker, and womanizer. He was shot to death during a brawl on December 16, 1964 by Duane Harvey. Rick Steber in his book, All Around and the 13th Juror, he writes about Mac’s life, death and the trial. Using interviews of the various participants in Mac’s life and death and the trial transcript, he allows the reader to decide for him or herself, guilt or innocence of the shooter. The author takes no side, wish he had, because I keep going back and forth: guilty or innocent. If one is interested in rodeo history this is a great book for you. Lots of changes in 50 years. Even if you know little to nothing about rodeo, this book will grab your interest. Read it, make your own decisions, good luck

……..Bob Kisken



Ridin’ Shotgun by Smokey Culver

a-book kisken culver riding shotgunAfter I graduated highschool, I could not wait to leave my hometown. Now, as an old man reading Smokey Culver’s book of poetry Ridin’ Shotgun, I envy him. Cowboy and poet is what Smokey is. He writes about mud, old dogs, cowboy life, rodeos, ropes, hats, feed stores and it is obvious he knows what he writes about. No pollyanna, good times and hard times. I like honest writers. One would have to be one to write a poem titled Mud in which he makes fun of himself. Smokey is the kind of guy I would like to sit by a fire with, drink a beer or cup of coffee and listen to. Since I can’t, I have the next best thing, his poems. Here are some lines from some of my

The Life of a Cowboy

   He’s up in time to wake up the chickens and his pony is saddled to ride

\It’s time to pen cattle, load’em up for the trip, got his trusty ol’ dog by his side

   It’s the life he has chosen, there’s no turnin’ back, but he’d have it no other way

there’s nothin’ more real than the life of a cowboy and he lives that life every day.

    Sittin’ out by the fire watching stars in the sky, the heifers are bellowing low

he sips his black coffee, taking stock of his life, and there’ s only one thing that he knows

   He is meat to be right where he is, no place else, and he’ll be here when he’s laid to rest

tho’ his life may be hard, it’s been worth every challenge, and he’s always given his best.

The Farmhouse

   Of all the old abandoned buildings scattered through the land

each one has its own story quite unique

   They tell their tales, but not with words, their hist’ry they reveal

and, if we listen silently they speak.

Picture Show

    The previews first, a newsreel, then they start to roll the film

a cowboy show; the good guys always win

   You watch the movie wide-eyed never miss a single scene

although you know just how it’s gonna end.


    I headed out to pass ’em round, while loaded to the max

8 tubs were balanced, plodding through the mud

   But when my rubber boots got stuck, momentum took its toll

and slammed me backwards landing with a thud.

Coffee With the Lord

    I think about the life I might have had if I had gone

the other way, not lived the cowboy’s dream

If I had never spent the night out on the open range

or tasted water from a mountain stream.

   Now I’m not sayin’ that my life is easy, not at all

but I’d not want to trade with anyone

   I’ll ride as long as I can saddle up and say a prayer

and work each day from dawn till setting sun.

……..Bob Kisken

Red White Black

Little White Man

Buy the Chief a Cadillac

By Rick Steber

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The first Pendleton Roundup was held in September of 1910. In 1911, three top riders were in the finals of the Northwest Saddle Bronc Championship. Rick Steber has written a book about the finals and three riders. The book Red White Black is about (1) Jackson Sundown, a native American (2) John Spain, a white man and (3) George Fletcher. Mr. Steber is who lives in Oregon, has written many books, fiction and non fiction about that area. I have a hard time putting his books down once I start them. I will review more of them for Rope Burns. He includes a biographical sketch of each of the three riders replete with old photos. People interested in Pendleton and the early days of rodeo will find this book most valuable. Two other books by the same author, Little White Man and Buy the Chief a Cadillac should be of interest to people interested in NW history and native American history.

…….Bob Kisken

Cowboyin’ With Earl by M.C. Tin Star

kisken-book-badgett02I first met Wally Badgett at the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City, Montana. Born in Montana, Wally has ranched, cowboyed, rodeoed, been a deputy sheriff and is presently the rodeo coach at Miles City Community College. He is also a fine cartoonist. He has published a series of books Cowboyin’ With Earl and his cartoons have appeared in many farm and ranch magazines. When I lived in Wyoming, a rancher’s wife said to me one day “Earl reminds me of my husband”. That is better than any review that I could write. If you are familiar with Wally’s cartoons, you know what I mean. If not, google Wally’s World, Home of Earl’s Comics, buy a couple, sit back and laugh.

……..Bob Kisken


The O’Malleys Of Texas Dead Aim by Dusty Richards

kisken-book-dead aimKensington Publishing Company recently released a novel by the late Dusty Richards. Mr. Richards passed away as a result of an auto accident in January of 2018. Dusty has published over 100 novels and short stories about the west. Dead Aim, is what I would call a rags to riches western. The book, which takes place after the Civil War, is about two brothers , Long John and Harp O’Malley, who, by had work and determination, build up large ranches in Texas. Lots of westerns I have read are good stories, where the good guy defeats the bad guy and wins the girl and lives happily ever after. While there is some of that in this book, there is something else which I find refreshing. As I read it, I kept thinking that this is true. Dusty deals with the hardships of the trail drives, black cowboys, vices of Abilene, Kansas. He writes about Texas lynch laws, bringing of barb wire into the ranches, squatters, black soldiers, carpet baggers. Some of the events he deals with in detail, some in just passing by.This book makes me want to know more about Texas history than I do. Most westerns don’t do this to me. This one does. This is the first book I have read by Mr. Richards and I look forward to many more. I have been told that more books by Mr. Richards will be released in the future.

……..Bob Kisken