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Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek: A Caleb York Western


Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek: A Caleb York Western

The Caleb York series has a special place in my heart for a couple of reasons. I was practically raised on television westerns in my childhood, and I am in awe of what author extraordinaire Max Allan Collins has done with transforming an unfilmed movie manuscript by the late Mickey Spillane into an entire novel series. Building these books around Caleb York --- a gunslinger-turned-sheriff and de facto marshal of the small but growing town of Trinidad, New Mexico, in the late 1800s --- Collins has painstakingly striven for accuracy in the series while focusing on the gritty action, a prerequisite element of the traditional western genre.

SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK is my favorite entry in the series thus far, primarily because of the gentle way that Collins focuses on the political elements of the sheriff’s position that are as important to the job as maintaining law and order. The book takes place in the aftermath of HOT LEAD, COLD JUSTICE, in which an unexpected blizzard decimated a number of important cattle ranches in the Trinidad area. Willa Cullen’s Bar-O Ranch business is also ruined by the storm. Meanwhile, Victoria Hammond, the widow of a Colorado cattle baron, has moved to Trinidad and bought up a number of ranches, setting her sights on the Bar-O as well. One of the results of her acquisitions is that she now owns the land through which Sugar Creek runs. This is important because Sugar Creek contains the only clean water suitable for cattle.

"SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK has everything that a reader of genre fiction, western or otherwise, could possibly want."

Things in Trinidad get jumpstarted when William Hammond, Victoria’s son, attacks and rapes a saloon girl in town. He resists arrest at the hands of York and is soon room temperature at the local undertaker. Victoria demonstrates her cold business acumen by attempting to leverage the incident to force York into persuading Willa to sell her the Bar-O. Willa is not inclined to do so, and she’s even ready to water her cattle in Sugar Creek by force if necessary. This puts York in a quandary, given that he is conflicted between the professional and the personal aspects of his ongoing, occasionally rocky romance with Willa. That Victoria is an extremely attractive woman with a hot-blooded temperament is not lost on York, making things all the more difficult for him.

Lest you think that Collins has taken to writing ripped-bodice westerns, be assured that the book contains plenty of sudden and stunning action. In the conclusion, he pays homage to Mickey Spillane in a manner that will cause fans of both --- including this reviewer --- to revere this installment going forward.

SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK has everything that a reader of genre fiction, western or otherwise, could possibly want. Collins never disappoints in any venue but consistently raises his own bar with each new book in this fine series, which has been near the top of my must-read list practically from its inception. This sixth entry is the latest reason why.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 7, 2021

Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek: A Caleb York Western
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

  • Publication Date: October 25, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Western
  • Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle
  • ISBN-10: 0786046902
  • ISBN-13: 9780786046904