Saturday 27 August 2022



The first novel in the acclaimed Dakota series, back in print for the first time in nearly fifty years.

Dakota is a half Piegan, half Shoshoni Native American who served as a Marine in Vietnam and afterwards became a cop in New York City. Now he's moved back to the Sierras to work his family’s ranch, ride the rodeo circuit, and take on cases as a private detective.

Dakota's old friend Sam Law, a local shopkeeper, asks him to help a woman who believes that her husband was murdered in a Nevada mining town... and that those same killers are now targeting her. Minutes later, Sam and the woman are killed by a car bomb. Dakota won't stop until he gets justice for the dead... and exposes the secret that three people were brutally slain to protect...even if it could cost him his own life.

This new edition features an introduction by Eric Compton, co-host of the Paperback Warrior podcast.

"It reads like a typical 1970s network cop show—picture Robert Forster or Clint Walker as the lead—but it also presents a decent mystery, plenty of action, and quite a body count. The hard-bitten hero is easy to root for." Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot Blog

Another new-to-me author and series that I was blissfully unaware of until the recent republication by Brash Books. There are five books in total in Gilbert Ralston's Dakota series featuring Clay Dakota, as a private detective and sometime sheriff's deputy. Dakota served in Vietnam, lost two brothers there, worked as a detective for a number of years in New York, before moving back home to be close to his parents. His father is ailing and Dakota supports his mother and helps out on the family ranch.

Here Dakota is asked to look into the death of a bar owner by the man's wife at the behest of a friend. A few minutes later, the two are killed in an explosion. Dakota now has a job to do.

The original death leads back to the small town of Poison Springs. It's a town that is pretty much owned and controlled by businessman Burton Ashton. Ashton has a big finger in all the pies, the bank, the hotel, the casino, prostitution, the newspaper and the cops. Dakota goes undercover and poses as a horse buyer when he arrives in town and is immediately under surveillance. His hotel room is bugged, he's confronted by local heavies and the cops are keeping close tabs on him. He connects with a local bank clerk and the newspaper editor, people who aren't fully under Ashton's thumb. 

Events escalate, Dakota is set up by the cops and arrested. Next he's shot and wounded. He's advised to leave town, but declines. Assistance arrives to support him and the investigation proceeds.

I liked the storyline though it's not exactly original. I warmed to the main character. I liked his integrity and decency. I liked that he cares for his parents and their way of life. He's proud of his ancestry and his heritage and doesn't hide it. He encounters racism and confronts it head on. He's a capable investigator and has the ability to get physical if the situation requires it. He believes in justice.

I found the book a decent blend of the cerebral and physical. Dakota asks the right questions and looks for evidence in documents and a paper trail. He cuts rough only when he has to. I think this is a short series that I'm going to enjoy. 

I'm partial to a 70s book, where answers aren't readily available at the click of a keyboard. I feel a connection to the time having been born in the 60s. It kind of makes me nostalgic for when life seemed a bit simpler and less hurried. I didn't feel a connection to the setting, though that was another plus. I like visiting places in my reading that I'm never going to see in real life. I doubt the Poison Springs of fifty years ago even exists today. I think it's called progress.   

4 stars from 5

Read - August, 2022
Published - 1973
Page count - 186
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle


  1. Dakota does sound like a really interesting character, Col. And I find his return to the Sierras interesting, too, after his stint in NYC. All those experiences must have combined to give him a very interesting perspective. And I know what you mean about the balance between the cerebral and the physical. Glad you found a lot to like here.

    1. Margot, thanks. I think this is a series I shall continue until the end.