THE LONER is the first book in a new western series from Pinnacle Books. The author is J.A. Johnstone, the first book to carry the name without William W, Johnstone in large letters above it.
It centers around a former minor character in the long running series, The Last Gunfighter, Frank Morgan, known as The Drifter, created by William Johnstone and continued after his passing.

Conrad Browning is Morgan’s son from a short marriage when he was young, ended by his father-in-law, a rich man who didn’t approve of a gunfighter married to his daughter. Raised in the East, Conrad was unaware of who his father was(as Morgan was unaware he had a son) until after her death. She left half of her estate to Morgan, half to Conrad.

In the early books, Conrad didn’t approve of or like his father. Their relationship was a tenuous one at best. They gradually warmed to each other over the years.

In this first book, Conrad’s beloved wife, Rebel, is kidnapped for ransom and when he delivers the $50,000, she is brutally murdered and Conrad is left alive. It becomes apparent that the leader of the gang had been hired by someone to do the job and make sure Conrad suffers.

Wounded, he fakes his own death and intends to hunt down the gang(all their faces are burned into his memory, as well as a few names). He’s found by Philip Bearpaw, an old Paiute Indian given to spouting Milton. After his recovery, Bearpaw helps the young man hone his rudimentary skills with a gun(after all, he is the son of Frank Morgan) until he’s ready, then they set out to find the men responsible for his wife’s murder.

He’s now Kid Morgan, a moniker he adopts to hide his real identity.

The first book sets up the further tales of The Drifter as he will be known. I liked the book and I thought I knew who the author would be. I may be wrong, but the style, feel, of the novel seems different.

This series is part of a deal to be sold exclusively through Walmart, though mine was ordered through the Johnstone family’s website.

Update: Book 2, The Devil’s Badland is out.

Update: Book 3, Dead Man’s Gold comes out next month.

Update: Book 4, The Big Gundown is available at Walmarts starting in February

Update: Book 5, Rattlesnake Valley is out in April

Book 6, Seven Ways To Die hits Walmart shelves in June

Book 7, Bounty Killers arrives in October

Book 8, Trail of Blood, February, 2011

Book 9: Killer Poker, March 2011

Book 10: Blood of Renegades, July, 2011

Book 11: Crossfire, October, 2011

Book 12: Inferno, January, 2012: the cover mislabels this as the eleventh book

Book 13: Brutal Vengeance, April, 2012

Book 14: Hard Luck Money, July, 2012

Book 15: Bullets Don’t Die, October, 2012