Lawman-turned-gambler Tom Mallory knows Lady Luck can be a fickle mistress. He doesn't realize how fickle until winning a ranch in a poker game puts him in the crosshairs of a mysterious bushwhacker, saddles him with the troubled family of the ranch's previous owner, and lands him right back where he least wants to be: behind a badge. Someone covets Mallory's land enough to kill everyone who gets in the way. And wouldn't you know it? Lady Luck has decided to sit out this game.
Originally published by UK publisher Robert Hale Ltd. in 2004, RAW DEAL AT PASCO SPRINGS is a rollicking, old-fashioned western shoot-em-up that stampedes through the reader's imagination. Despite his less-than-stellar history and his frowned-upon current occupation, Mallory is the type of stand-up guy readers can't help loving. The citizens of Pasco Springs are equally entertaining, from the curmudgeonly blacksmith to the competing saloon owners, the tough-as-nails widow and her wastrel stepson, the shady banker, the kind-hearted doc, the reclusive miner, the subtly dangerous cattle baron, and an assortment of thugs.
Author Clay More does an excellent job of herding readers through the story. Every turn of the cards reveals a new twist in the slippery plot. Characters drop like flies, felled in increasing numbers by whichever one of them is pulling the strings behind the scenes. The ending fairly explodes in a forehead-slapping revelation that will have even seasoned mystery readers asking "Why didn't I see that coming? All the clues were right there on the page."
In the grand tradition of classic westerns, RAW DEAL AT PASCO SPRINGS is pure escapist fun. Add the deftly plotted mystery-suspense element and More's typical attention to historical detail, and the book is tough to put down. Kudos to the Western Fictioneers Library for making this gem from across the pond available to digital readers worldwide.