LEONARD MEARES – Feud at Greco Canyon. The Braddock Detective Agency #4. Robert Hale/Black Horse Western, UK, hardcover, 1994. No other edition known.

   The Braddock Detective Agency consists of a well-matched husband-and-wife pair, Rick and Hattie Braddock. He’s a jack of all trades, having grown up moving all over the west with a travelling repertory group and carnival show. He’s a master of disguise and an actor very much adept at improvised dialogue, a card sharp and a piano player. She’s beautiful and has a past that includes stints as a chorus girl who is skilled at both make-up and characterization, a magician’s assistant, and as a knifethrower’s target. Or in other words, what better pair can you imagine to tackle outlaws, owlhoots and other miscreants of the Old West?

   Well, they do at times have to take cases the Pinkertons would probably pass up, In Feud at Greco Canyon, for example, they’re hired by the well-to-do daughter of the sheriff there who is getting up in years and is doing his best trying to stop a huge feud between the two major landowners in the area. One is a rancher, the other a farmer.

   The Braddocks go in undercover, he as a card sharp, she as a saloon singer. (See above.) The key to stopping the feud turns out to be finding the man who shot and killed one of the riders for one of the two sides, with one on the other accused of the deed and awaiting trial.

   Meares does not take the case all that seriously, however. A light tone prevails. There is a lot more talk than action, and by that I mean a lot. The one shootout at the end takes less a page or two, and what is happening during it is not clearly defined. On the other hand, a subplot consisting of a incipient love affair between a deputy sheriff and the new schoolmarm takes up a couple of full chapters in comparison, which may (or may not) tell you all you need to know before you decide to seek this one out (or maybe not).

   In its own way, though, this one is fun to read, somewhat on the level of a Durango Kid B-western from the 40s. (I mean no disrespect here. The Durango Kid was my favorite cowboy in the movies when I was a kid.) Meares was an Australian writer of mostly westerns, with a few mysteries thrown in, but close to 750 books in all. Some of his westerns were published in the US by Bantam as by Marshall McCoy. These include books in both his “Larry & Stretch” and “Nevada Jim Gage” series, both of which became collectors’ items here for a while, perhaps more for their James Bama covers.

      The Rick & Hattie Braddock series —

Colorado Runaround, 1991.
The Major and the Miners, 1992.
Five Deadly Shadows, 1993.
Feud at Greco Canyon, 1994.