James Reasoner has published over 300 books under a variety of pseudonyms. That singular fact means that he is one of but a handful of western writers who has consistently produced entertaining stories at the highest level. He has earned his stripes and knows what he’s doing. Frankly, nothing I write here can do the man justice. I am in awe of his talent and happily tip my Stetson in salute. His recent books include a new series that began with Redemption, Kansas in 2011 from Berkley Books. I found this one up at Book World in Minoqua, Wisconsin. Book World always has Berkley westerns in stock and that’s why I stop there. I’ve read many a fine western up in the northwoods with the call of the loon for company and black bears sniffing about in the spring for those berries on the bush. Redemption, Kansas is a textbook example of what makes for an entertaining western. Injured in a stampede on a cattle drive, young Bill Harvey is forced to stay in Redemption, Kansas while his leg heals. Problem is, the local lawmen don’t like Texans or cattlemen. To complicate matters, young Bill is tended to by the lovely Eden Monroe, apparently the only person in Redemption that likes him. There’s a scene early on in chapter four that exemplifies Reasoner’s craftsmanship. It’s a simple scene but handled so well I’ll go out on a limb stating that this is the type of scene a great many writers can’t handle well. Bill is having some tea served to him by Eden, and he’s at once embarrassed and intrigued. Reasoner doesn’t overdo it, and it’s not pornographic at all; it is just a beautifully rendered piece of characterization. Sexy without trying to be sexy. Of course, we can’t forget that this is a western, and as film director Burt Kennedy once reminded me all those years back, “You have to give the audience what they want.” (I’m paraphrasing what Kennedy said; I don’t recall his exact words, but that was the gist of it.) James Reasoner gives us what we want, and there’s plenty of suspense, blazing six-shooters and galloping horses. Add to this high quality entertainment a painted cover by Dennis Lyall and you have a collectable paperback original. Just the way I like ‘em. And kudos to Berkley for using more painted covers and getting away somewhat from those bland photoshop covers that have become all to common. There are two more books in Reasoner’s Redemption series and I will be reviewing those before spring.