Ralph Cotton knows how to write a solid western. I pick-up his paperbacks automatically when I see them, and sometimes I stockpile them and read two or three at a time. Cotton is dependable. You know what you’re getting and you’re always entertained. Mesa Grande is his latest featuring Arizona Ranger Sam Burrack. This time around, Burrack finds himself entering the town of Mesa Grande only to discover the town sheriff has just been shot. Finding himself surrounded by some suspicious and increasingly un-friendly townspeople, including the deputy, Burrack is forced to deal with a marauding band of scalphunters in addition to some nasty Apaches. The blend of action with opposing forces introduces a wide assortment of characters, and very few of them are likable. I never felt that Burrack would lose, but that was okay because I didn’t want him to lose. Cotton lets the suspense build before unleashing the action, but the pay-off is great. Cotton is consistent in his characterization of Burrack and I like the character a great deal. I know Cotton is considered a “mainstream” Western writer, but I feel he deserves a tad more credit for not only his obvious talent but for what appears to be a hardworking ethic. It’s something I sense, and it can’t be fabricated. That is to say I sense that Ralph Cotton is having fun writing these books. It shows on the page and it makes a world of difference. I’ve read several other novels featuring Arizona Ranger Sam Burrack and I enjoyed them all. Ralph Cotton has been around long enough so that I’ve accumulated a hefty stack of his books. They’re all keepers. Cotton is also one of the few Western writers whose books have value for me, which I hope says a great deal about his talent. Ranger Sam Burrack is a solid character, cut from the heroic cloth you expect in a lawman. Mesa Grande is traditional Western fare at its best.