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Number 15 of 15
By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, September 2012

Conrad Browning, a.k.a. The Loner, knows what it’s like to have a family and a home. And he knows what it’s like to lose it all. Now, he has met a man living on the edge of sanity: a good man, a flawed man, a solitary man who might just cost The Loner his life…

Jared Tate is an aging U.S. marshal who has saved lives, made enemies, and planted a lot of bad men in hallowed ground. But Tate is in deep trouble, the kind that comes from a troubled mind. Not remembering as much as he wants to, not forgetting as much as he should. Tate has one person to trust. Because the Loner has made Tate’s enemies his own, taking on Tate’s demons and Tate’s fight. In the lawless and violent Kansas territory, a young wanderer and an again lawman will journey side-by-side one last time – into a fight that will take every bullet they have…

The theme of memory loss due to age is a storyline that doesn’t turn up that often in westerns, and having this tale revolve around that condition makes this story a bit different to other books. Tate’s condition provides one or two humorous moments, but mainly his mixed-up memories will trigger feelings of sadness within the reader. The author handles these scenes with a sensitivity that’ll soon have you hoping you won’t suffer in a similar way when you get older.

The Loner and the lawman get involved in a number of deadly situations as the former escorts Tate to his daughter’s home. At first The Loner doesn’t realize that Tate is suffering from memory loss but it soon becomes very evident and The Loner has to confiscate Tate’s gun when the lawman tries to kill him when he confuses the Loner for an outlaw he tracked down many years before.

An unfortunate newspaper report reveals Tates’ whereabout to both old and new enemies and several attempts on his life are made. As well as gunfights the Loner gets involved in a couple of vicious fistfights as he tries to protect the old lawman. 

I don’t want to make any comments about the ending so as not to spoil it for those who are planning to read the book, except to say that it didn’t quite turn out as I expected.

Talking of endings, Bullets Don’t Die is the last book in the Loner series and for me that is a shame as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all. But I will be able to read more about Conrad Browning as in 2021 the Johnstone’s put out a book called The Morgans which sees the Loner team up with his father, Frank Morgan a.k.a. The Last Gunfighter, and I’ll be reading that very soon.

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