John Cutler was a lawman, a professional fighting man. He gave all that up when he married and bought a ranch. He lso became a hunter of rogue animals. He’d laid out a series of traps for a huge grizzly that was killing stock.
He made a mistake in not checking the traps regular as he’d been taught. The grizzly had gnawed one back leg off caught in the trap and was gone. While hunting the wounded bear, it came down to his ranch and attacked his pregnant wife. When Cutler found her, she was still alive, cut to ribbons, and died in his arms.
He’s been tracking the rogue grizzly for five years now, always one step behind.
Such is the back drop for this two book series(Cutler and The Gunhawks) by John Benteen. He earns a living by hiring out to hunt down other rogue beasts, having earned as big a reputation in that field as when he was a lawman.
He travels with a horse called Apache, a huge airedale named Big Red, and a wagon outfitted as home which holds all his weapons and the many traps he uses.
In Cutler, he’s hunting a very big wolf on a killing spree, grieving for its lost mate, who will attack a herd, killing a number of the cattle without eating, and move on. Throw in a less than ethical competitor,a group of desperate ranchers, and an uncooperative larger landowner who’s using this as an excuse to drive the others out, it all makes for a satisfying read.
In The Gunhawks, Cutler’s trying to help an old Mexican friend who’s assailed on two fronts, a manic jaguar and a gang of gunmen who’ve enslaved the town, forcing them to mine their own silver for them.The headman, a former preacher, has made the superstitious people believe Cutler’s friend is a witch, turning into the big jaguar at night to kill. He barely escapes with his life, going into hiding.
Add a young gunman sent by his father to avenge his older brother’s death, even though it was ruled Cutler acted in self defense, our hero has his hands full.
Two satisfying novels. I don’t know why Benteen didn’t write more in the series. The big grizzly is still at large, that subplot still to be resolved. The two books came out in 1972. Benteen( a pseudonym for Ben Haas) had two other long running series, Sundance(continued by others after Haas’ death in 1977) and Fargo. I enjoyed them both also.
Short and fast reads, they’re well worth searching out for anyone who likes this sort of fiction.