Books by Jack Curtis

CHRISTMAS IN CALICO by Jack Curtis
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

Old Western hand Curtis has published 18 novels (No Mercy, 1995, etc.), usually oaters. Now, in a turn-of-the-century Nevada Christmas fable, he blends suspense with a Dickensian miracle. Widow Rose Cameron is pregnant, raising her sick son Tommy, and trying to hold her late husband's horse ranch together rather than sell out to the bank. But a tremendous blizzard sweeps in from the plains and sends hope up into the howling winds. First came the Indians, then rustlers, then squatters, then drought, and now a blizzard. And Christmas is near as Joel Reese, a black-hatted stranger on a big black stallion named Coalie, rides over to the Cameron ranch and asks Rose if he can sleep in her barn. Instead she offers to let him stay in her house and care for her turkeys (if they don't freeze first) while she takes Tommy to the doctor in the poor and depressed town of Calico. Things go from bad to worse in Calico, where everybody owes the bank and nobody—not the doctor, not the storekeeper—wants to extend credit to Rose. Even the saloon's going under. Eventually, she does sell out to the bank while Tommy lies dying of fever. Then Reese rides into town and takes the Scots banker, Gotch, on a forced tour of the cemetery the frosty town has become—with a dead dog in the street and coyotes digging up graves—but Gotch has a dour Scottish witticism to offer for every foul view. The dead themselves, though, will straighten Gotch out. About as sentimental as a rat trap: the best of the season so far. ($35,000 ad/promo) Read full book review >
NO MERCY by Jack Curtis
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Dec. 14, 1995

Curtis follows his lethargic oater Pepper Tree Rider (1994) with a high-caliber tale of Montana revenge. Starting off a week in jail after his quixotic attempt to squire lady-of-the-evening Ruby Campbell to the right side of the tracks in order to buy medicine for an ailing friend, Sawtooth Ranch hand Clint Durby isn't around for Lee, his aspiring journalist kid brother, to consult when he stumbles onto evidence of a syndicate snapping up all the available Crow Reservation land by hook or crook. Next thing Clint knows, Sheriff Earl Cox is telling him that Lee's been mistaken for an elk and accidentally shot dead. Clint's impromptu nighttime exhumation of Lee's body shows three bullet holes placed by hunters who couldn't have mistaken Lee for any elk at that range, and a further search turns up a telltale notebook that unsurprisingly identifies the members of the Sawtooth Cattle Syndicate as railroad magnate Big Jim Ralston, Sen. Lorenzo Cooley, and Percival, Duke of Dorset—all of them perverted sportsmen who'd hunted Lee down by having their hired guns drive him into an ambush. But what can Clint do with the evidence that Lee had gathered? The sheriff indicates his eagerness to vault onto the Syndicate payroll by arresting Clint; his snakelike deputy starts by promising to help Clint, then demands Lee's notebook as his ticket to an endless Syndicate paycheck; and Clint wonders if even Judge Chamberlain, due in Sawtooth at the end of the week, will be worth waiting for. What can one lone avenger do with powers like these arranged against him? Cut them down with a .44, that's what, in a bloody, simple- minded finale that'll remind frustrated crusaders everywhere why vigilante fantasies like this will always have a place in the popular imagination. Read full book review >
MIRRORS KILL by Jack Curtis
Released: Jan. 1, 1995

Former intelligence operative Tom Bullen finds himself lured into an intricate international web of death and deceit in this swiftly moving thriller. The pot of gold at the end of the bloody rainbow? The sale of three Russian nuclear bombs to Middle East terrorists. Curtis (Point of Impact, 1991, etc.) doesn't reveal the nature of the crime until well into the story, reeling in the reader, and Bullen, with a series of bloody assassinations carried out by two of the weirdest killers in current fiction. Bullen, an expert spelunker, is a man haunted by the vicious treatment he endured as a child and by his family's sordid history (both his mother and her brother are hateful neo-Nazis). He is manipulated into making an investigation after his uncle is gunned down at a funeral in France, one of the victims of the seemingly pointless murders. Sonia Bishop, who was an eyewitness to a similar massacre at a wedding in the United States, provides a vital key to unraveling the mystery. Bullen, drawn to her, at the same time wrestles with his conflicting feelings for the journalist who loves him and is risking her life covering the conflict in Sarajevo. When the trail leads finally to an international arms dealer in New Orleans and, through him, to a former KGB officer in Moscow, some unexpected additional treachery on both sides is revealed. For a relatively amateur spy, Bullen is perhaps too adept to be believable, but Curtis keeps things rolling along at such a rapid pace that many readers may not notice—though no amount of fast footwork can disguise the fact that the ending is disappointingly anticlimactic. The nuclear threat posed by postCold War anarchy in Russia warrants more serious treatment, even from thriller writers. Read full book review >
PEPPER TREE RIDER by Jack Curtis
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 27, 1994

Another western with the same dull tale of an indecisive woman losing the man she loves. Still needing a man to supervise and control her life, she falls for her dead husband's war buddy. Elizabeth was carried away from a life of luxury to live with the man of her dreams. After her husband is killed in the Civil War, she must fend for herself and her young son. Of course, it takes two chapters for the two of them to figure out that Harry isn't coming home. Cameron, indebted to Harry for saving his life during some obscure battle, promises to tend to Elizabeth and the ranch. The bandanna covering his severely deformed face (injured in that same battle) is supposed to make him a figure of fear and intrigue. The ever-present and forever loyal Mexican farmhand, Cisco, just can't handle the ranch work anymore, so Elizabeth invites Cameron to stay. The main plot twist revolves around Elizabeth's spoiled brother, Lance. In order to avoid the war and its devastating effects upon his rich family's plantation, Lance joins Elizabeth in Texas, but he is sickly and useless. Hoping to convince his sister of his worthiness, he conspires with the predictable bad guys from town to rustle cattle. When Lance tries to redeem himself by giving up the scheme, one of his dirty business partners shoots him in the back. It's no surprise when the mysterious Cameron comes to the rescue and kills all the bad guys. Boring stuff, as the characters stick to the ranch, never leaving it except to go to town to trade and shoot a few outlaws- -and as Curtis, in his hardcover debut, sticks to the traditional saga of mysterious man saving desperate woman. Read full book review >
POINT OF IMPACT by Jack Curtis
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Aug. 1, 1991

Big and brawny British police procedural—London cop vs. serial killer and cohorts—by the talented author of Glory and Crow's Parliament. Curtis presses a new wrinkle into the serial-killer formula by having his madman killing for pay, with one of the victims—an art dealer—a deliberate target screened by many randomly chosen others. After much spadework, Robin Culley of Scotland Yard becomes aware of the murderous conspiracy, but he still must catch sniper Eric Ross and figure out who hired him and why—even as Ross, as Culley soon realizes and as we learn from creepy forays into Ross's head, has become addicted to the godlike powers of death-dealing. Complicating both the plot and Culley's life—already tangled by his knotty relationship with his estranged wife—is the hiring, by the same mystery man who hired Ross, of sharpshooter Martin Jackson: once Ross's best pal but now aiming to shoot out-of- control Ross and then nosy Culley. As Jackson stalks Ross and Ross stalks innocents, Culley flies to Arizona to look into a rich art collector who's transformed his desert acres into a fantastic rose garden, and who may be the brains behind the killings. But he's only a guilty accomplice, as Culley learns by ruthlessly seducing the man's neurotic daughter and using her as blackmail-bait, leading to her suicide. Back in England, as the panicking masterminds behind the killings—key to an art-theft scam—bump each other off, Culley at last snares Ross, only to have Jackson kill Ross, then dangle Culley's wife from a high window and drop her—an indiscretion that Culley avenges in a mano-Ö-mano showdown on a fog-swept moor. Kind of a sophisticated cops-and-robbers variant of the spaghetti western: tough yet sentimental, unwieldy yet grand, suspenseful yet utterly predictable as its textured yet super-macho hero and villains vector toward their inexorable fates. Read full book review >