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John Layne
Return to Canyon Creek
John Layne, author
In the third installment of the international award-winning series by John Layne comes a story that reunites the justice-seeking duo of Luxton Danner and Wes Payne for their toughest test yet. A ruthless land baron with visions of turning a quiet settlement into a raucous boomtown besieges the peaceful town of Canyon Creek. Gilford Knox set his sights on devouring every inch of land in and near Canyon Creek, employing threats and violent tactics to force out vulnerable ranchers, farmers, and proprietors. Soon, Knox held businesses occupy half the town as he pressures the remaining proprietors to sell or suffer the consequences. When Knox builds a rowdy saloon, mercantile, hotel, and bawdy house, an old friend summons Danner and Payne, who bring their gunslinging brand of justice to quell Knox and his renegades. Joined by a quartet of former Buffalo Soldiers, a gun-toting farm girl, and a mysterious young gunfighter, Danner and Payne set out to do what they do best, defend Canyon Creek or die trying.
The third installment of Layne’s Luxton Danner trilogy will please western fans. Arriving in the town of Canyon Creek in the summer of 1878, Luxton Danner and Weston Payne, the former lawmen Layne introduced in Gunslingers, A Story of the Old West, find themselves caught up in the struggle to resist a tyrannical takeover by Gilford Knox, a businessman trying to buy up all the property to turn the town into his own moneymaking paradise, and anyone who gets in his way finds how quick and ferocious his fury can be. It’s up to the gunslinging duo to protect the town and its humble way of life.

Layne honors the tried-and-true archetypes of the western genre while breathing fresh life into the rich conflicts that emerge when wilderness, civilization, and commerce all meet–and he doesn’t skimp on action and humor. The introduction of the Buffalo Soldiers, the all Black regiment formed as a peacekeeping regiment by Congress during the 1860s, adds welcome diversity and interest to the story, and Layne challenges expectations in other ways, as well: While Westerns have a reputation for damsels in distress, the women here are anything but helpless and in need of rescuing.

Still, Return to Canyon Creek’s scenes of gunslingers and confrontations–like the confrontation with a horse thief that re-introduces Danner–play out like favorite movie moments, with the dustups and showdowns crisply described, right down to sound effects and dialogue: “‘I told you I wasn’t done with you yet!’ he snarled before a lightning bolt of pain shot through his skull.” In fact, the dust has little time to settle between the big moments, though Layne layers in welcome mystery, subterfuge, and romance. Layne has penned a polished tale that celebrates the legacy of the western, checking all the boxes but adding some special touches.

Takeaway: This rousing western offers spirited shootouts, dustups, and storytelling.

Great for fans of: Cameron Judd, A.W. Hart.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A