BRAND OF CAIN [Powdersmoke Range] by Robert J. Hogan


“Hogan’s books always present a good cast, good plot and a carload of authenticity.” –Oakland (California) Tribune

Will was a good man, but a hard one. Alfie was a troublemaker, dragging the family name through the mud. He’d been suspected of lying, thieving, and worse, but nothing was ever proved. Will’s father said, “We Kartlukes got to stick together and be proud of ourselves. There aren’t many of us.”

It was left to Will to fight for his younger brother’s honor after a bolt of lightning killed his father when Will was fifteen. Will left home before there was bloodshed, after it became known that picking a fight with Alfie would result in a chance to best Will. At age sixteen, Will left Alfie to fight his own battles.

Will had been running all those years, and trouble had followed along after him like a mad dog at heel, no matter how he ran or where. Doc Reger’s telegram about his dying mother had found him and here he was back at the start of his torment. Will heard it said “every big-sized youngster or man that came in town wanted to take a crack at you and get your rep away from you.” Twelve years of running had made him harder. He was back now. He wanted only two things. To build the family ranch back up and to marry Cori, the woman he loved.

Cori had been a frightened little girl growing up alone, doing house work or anything neighbors would give her to do, after her father and mother, come west for their health, had died when she was ten. She had to become strong and independent to survive. She loved Will, but from the distance he maintained, Cori never suspected her love was returned.

One thing still stood between Will and the future of peace and respectability he craved: Alfie. At fifteen, Alfie had been a handsome boy. He would be a handsome man now, if the past twelve years of living hadn’t molded a hard face on him. It was a shame some boys had to grow up. It was too bad others ever did.

Alfie wasn’t happy about Will’s return or Will’s attempts to reform him. Alfie thought he had found a way to get back at Will. Mrs. Kartluke left the family ranch to Alfie, but Alfie’s partners had offered him a deal on a cattle ranch, some ways distant, where he could make a new start. First he had to convince Will to buy the Kartluke ranch. Will agreed, thinking Cori would then marry him. With Will’s payment, Alfie proposed to Cori, offering her a fresh start and a chance for the respect she had never felt, convincing her that Will didn’t really love her. After the wedding, they raced from town, leaving no clue as to their destination. When Will learned Cori had married Alfie, vengeance became his only motivation.

Always fanatic hatred drove Will on – with a single thought in his mind. Always his search for Alfie and Cori ended in failure, until the Sheriff came for Will to arrest him for murder. Alfie had framed his brother for a murder Will knew nothing about, but he would settle matters, of that there could be no doubt.

What happened when the two brothers met and powdersmoke filled the air would change all three of their lives.

The two brothers thought it was all about them. But life had taught Cori to think for herself.

“Another down the groove job from a man who calls his shots with astonishing frequency.” —Grand Prairie (Texas) Daily News

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