Rider from Wind River by Marvin Albert (1959)
Joe Lang has been a trail boss for four years. The former tracker has just come off bringing a herd from Bannock to Wyoming and was headed back to Bannock with two prize horses that were given to him as a bonus. Camped alone on night, he hears someone approaching -- a dusty red-headed man riding an exhausted paint. The stranger pulls a gun on Lang, forces him to switch the saddle and two heavy bags from the paint to one of his horses, and rides off into the darkness. Lang is patient. It would do no good to try to track the thief at night and the paint needed rest before it could be of any use. The morning would be soon enough.
But then there was a group of men who came onto Lang's campsite, holding guns and declaring their intention to hang Lang. It seems that the thief who had robbed Joe earlier had killed a miner and stolen the gold he had worked for. The man's widow had gotten a glimpse of the killer and his horse as he escaped == a man in a sheepskin jacket. Lang was wearing a sheepskin jacket something that was common in that area, and he had the paint the widow had described. Thus, Lang had to be the killer. The men were going to hang Lang on the spot. Lang convinced them to take him back -- if the widow had gotten a brief look at the killer, she might be able to say that Lang was not the man. But when she saw Lang, she ran at him, crying, "Murderer!"
Lang managed to grab a gun from a posse member and escape, but the men knew his anme and had his description. Soon he would be wanted throughout the territory as a murderer. His one hope was to find the real killer and bring him back, hoping the widow will recognize the real culprit.
Searching from town to town, ,he learns that the killer was Ed Stone, the younger brother of Bud Stone, who rules the Stone gang, one of the most vicious and bloodthirsty gangs in the West. In some of the towns, the Stone gang passed through peacefully; in others, they left dead bodies fromtheir crime sprees. The Stone gang was easily recognized: like his younger brother, Bud Stone had red hair; unlike his brother, Bud also sported a large mustache. The two were the children of Morgan Stone, a powerful and feared rancher who abetted his sons in their rampages. Morgan Stone's body was failing him and his mind had begun to lose some of its sharpness, but he remained a deadly shot. His eldest son, Chuck Stone, ran the ranch and was also involved in his brother's gang. Chuck was a cruel man, apt to violence, and had three stone-killer gunmen by his side. Thinking that Chuck Stone might be the key to finding the youngest brother, Lang rode to Wyoming, where Chuck Stone was readying a herd of cattle to drive back home.
Lang happens to meet Barbara Mitchell, the pretty daughter of Wayne Mitchell who owned a small ranch abutting that of Morgan Stone. Bud Stone was jealously infatuated with Barbara and was know to harm any man who paid attention to her. Recently, he killed a young lawyer who had been seeing her. For her part, Barbara could not stand Bud Mitchell and has vowed to kill him for slaying the lawyer. There's a few more details that you should know. Morgan Stone had been trying to buy Wayne Mitchell out for years. Mitchell is in debt and has gone to the same location in Wyoming as Bud Stone and is planning to bring his own herd home to sell -- if Mitchell's cattle drive is unsuccessful, he will lose his ranch to creditors and Morgan Stone would come in to buy the property at a bargain price.
Lang, an experienced hand with a rope, is hired by Chuck Stone to join his crew. Lang is hoping that Bud and Ed Stone will show up sooner of later, but meanwhile he learns that Bud is plotting with Wayne Mitchell's trail boss to allow Bud's herd to start out a couple of days earlier than Mitchell's. This would men that Mitchell's herd would find llittle grass to feed on because Bud's herd had been there first. In the meantime, Mitchell's trail boss will be doing all he can to delay and sabotage Mitchell's herd. Lang changes sides, tells Mitchell of what he had learned, and was hired as trail boss after Mitchell had fired the one who had been colluding with Chuck Stone.
Lang's journey to clear his name has been a long one, taking him through Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and through saloon brawls, a stagecoach holdup, a gunfight, several ambushes, and into Bud Stone's gang itself. All three of the Stone brothers now have a reason to kill Lang and Lang must go through a hail of bullets to capture Ed Stone, hoping that Ed would not be killed in all the gunfire.
Rider from Wind River was published as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original and delivers the fast-paced action that Gold Medal westerns were known for. A stalwart hero. described as a "capable man," really nasty villains, a determined yet fully feminine love interest, hair's breath escapes, conflicted emotions, and vivid descriptions of both the setting and of the hows of managing cattle drive -- all add up to an enjoyable couple hours spent in a West that is as real as it is legendary.
Marvin Albert (or Marvin A. Albert, as he signed many of his novels were signed) was a prolific writer of mystery, suspense, western, and film tie-in original paperbacks. Although he published some well-respected novels and some interesting works of hstorical nonfiction in hardcover, he will best be remembered for his paperback writing, including eight novels about Pierre-Ange (Pete) Sawyer, the "Stone Angel," an American P.I. who has relocated to France. He also wrote crime novels as "Albert Conway," "Al Conway" (a series of men's action adventure novels featuring Johnny Morini; Albert also used the name for four westerns realeased by Dell), "Nick Quarry" (including a series featuring tough guy Jake Barrow, and a pair of novels capitalizing on Mario Puzo's The Godfather), "Anthony Rome" (featuring Tony Rome, a Miami detective, played by Frank Sinatra in the films), "Ian McAlister" (four extremely readable adventure novels in the vein of Alistair MacLean), and "Mike Barone" (for a lone movie tie-in).
Our friend, George Kelley, described Marvin Albert accurately: "Albert was a supreme professional writer. He wrote in many genres and styles but his books werconsistently excellent with well-developed characters, detailed settings, and strong plots."
It's hard to go wrong with Marvin Albert book.