Sundance Series by John Benteen, Jack Slade & Peter McCurtin.

1 OVERKILL: SUNDANCE #1 – Leisure LB100SK, 1972 PBO. Cover by John Duillo. (not shown) 2nd pr: Leisure LB181NK, nd. Cover is identical to first but adds “#1” after title. Introducing Jim Sundance, half-white, half-Cheyenne gunslinger who takes on big jobs and then sends the money to help Indian Affairs. The description of Sundance’s weapons repeated in each book reminds us of Fargo . As the cover shows, he fights with weapons from both of his heritages. In this story Sundance meets the love of his life, Barbara Colfax.
2 DEAD MAN’S CANYON: SUNDANCE #2 – Leisure LB101SK, 1972 PBO. Cover by John Duillo. (not shown) 2nd pr: Leisure LB182NK, nd. Re-uses cover art from the 75c first edition for a new 95c printing. With an eye on the great success of John Benteen’s Fargo series at Belmont , Harry Shorten asked him to create a similar series of Western adventure stories for his Leisure Books line.  Ben chose to tell a series of stories about the treatment of Indians, often based on fact.

DAKOTA TERRITORY : SUNDANCE #3 – Leisure LB105SK, 1972 PBO. Cover by John Duillo. 2nd pr: Leisure LB183NK, nd. (not shown) In the Black Hills , Sundance tangles with the Sioux and becomes an enemy of a conceited soldier named George Armstrong Custer. 3
DEATH IN THE LAVA: SUNDANCE #4 – Leisure LB110NK, 1971 PBO. Cover by John Duillo. (not shown) 2nd pr: Leisure LB185NK, nd. Re-uses cover from the first edition. Sundance heads into the lava beds at California ’s Tule Lake to bring out the last of the Modocs. Although copyrighted a year before the first three books, this one appears to take place after them. It is not always important to read these episodic series adventures in order, and with Sundance at least, there are many hints that the publisher is not issuing them in the order written. 4

5 THE PISTOLEROS: SUNDANCE #5 – Leisure LB117NK, 1972 PBO. 2nd pr: Leisure LB185NK, nd (same cover with #5 added; not shown). Anyone reading these books in order is quite surprised to learn on page 23 of this book that one of the main characters of the first 4 books is dead, and that Sundance has killed one of the other important characters. These events are told in TAPS AT LITTLE BIG HORN: SUNDANCE, #9, where the surprise ending holds no surprises for anyone who has read THE PISTOLEROS.  Now we are sure Leisure did not publish the books in the order written.  In an attempt at some clarity they are shown here in the order published.
6 THE BRONCO TRAIL: SUNDANCE #6 – Leisure LB120NK, 1973 PBO. General Crook talks Sundance into infiltrating the Tucson Ring and thwarting their plans to keep Geronimo on the warpath. (There are numerous reprints and foreign editions of all the Sundance titles not shown here.)

THE WILD STALLIONS: SUNDANCE #7 – Leisure LB126NK, 1973 PBO. I’m not sure what the boys down at Leisure Books were smoking, but THE WILD STALLIONS is the seventh book in the series. And they printed it with a 6 on the cover. One of the mysteries of these series is why they were incapable of numbering them correctly. Sundance rides into Deadwood and signs on to prevent the loss of the Nez Perce appaloosas.  Ben’s manuscript title for this was THE SPOTTED STALLIONS: SUNDANCE #9. Reprinted as RIDE THE MAN DOWN (see SUNDANCE #22 below). 7
BRING ME HIS SCALP! : SUNDANCE #8 – Leisure LB130NK, 1973 PBO. Somebody wanted Sundance’s scalp – bad enough to hire eight men to track him across the Texas desert. Sundance’s only chance to live was to kill all eight of them. Ben’s original manuscript for this book, titled SUNDANCE #10, is now in the collection of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie . 8

9 2nd printing: Leisure LB594DK, nd. Third printing is Leisure 1047, not shown.
0 TAPS AT LITTLE BIG HORN: SUNDANCE #9 – Leisure LB135NK, 1973 PBO.  So you are Leisure Books, and you know you have published two Sundance books since the one you called #6. So, what else?  You print this one as #7. Anyway, this is actually #9 in the order published, but the events told here take place in 1876, at least a year before Sundance #5, THE PISTOLEROS. And Ben of course had written this one earlier, which is why he titled the books which appeared before this “Sundance #9” and “#10”. 

3rd pr: Leisure 1048, nd. (2nd pr not seen.) This later edition has a good, corrected checklist inside and notes that this one is #9, not #7 as the first edition incorrectly stated. -
THE GHOST DANCERS: SUNDANCE #10 – Leisure LB140NK, 1973 PBO.  Incorrectly numbered as #8 on the cover. A couple months later they will put #11 on the next Sundance. Reprinted as LB521DK, not shown. Jim Sundance tries to settle down in the Dakotas , but the Sioux go on the warpath again, and Sundance finds himself at a place called Wounded Knee . A list of Custer’s officers here includes “Benteen”. =

- THE COMANCHEROS: SUNDANCE #11 – Leisure LB150NK, 1973 PBO. By Jack Slade. Jack Slade is the second Sundance writer, credited for #11-13 and 24-25. The excellent research source HAWK’S WESTERN SERIES & SEQUELS tells us that #12-13 are by Thomas Curry writing as Slade, and 24-25 are by Dudley “Dean Owen” McGaughey. COMANCHEROS also says Jack Slade on the cover, but the title page lists the author as John W. Hardin. This is of interest because Hardin is the pen name on three of the Fargo books for Belmont . Amazingly, there’s a copy of this book in the Norman Rubington papers at Yale University , noted “by John W. Hardin, pseud. of Norman Rubington”. And according to copyright records, Rubington (aka Akbar del Piombo) wrote this book.
0 RENEGADE: SUNDANCE #12 – Leisure LB161NK, 1974 PBO. By Jack Slade. Within months of having Sundance #10 misnumbered as #8, Leisure got it together and put the correct numbers on #11 through #15. Copyrighted by Tom Curry (Thomas A Curry Jr., 1900-1976). Curry called this CHIEF OF COMANCHEROS, but that had to be changed because #11 had just been called THE COMANCHEROS. A powerful man named Pierre Montelle hires Sundance to find Ancienta Vergara – the King of the Comancheros.

Double Western: RENEGADE / THE COMANCHEROS – Leisure LB569RK, nd (1978). 9
Later printing: Leisure 1146, nd (1982). 8

7 HONCHO: SUNDANCE #13 – Leisure LB173NK, 1974. By Jack Slade.  According to a review of the correspondence between Tom Curry and his literary agent (on file at the University of Oregon Special Collections Library ), Curry only wrote two of the SUNDANCE books. This is the second. A woman living at Fort Smith enlists Sundance to find her son Roland, who has been taken by Indians.
6 Later printing: Leisure 2105, nd (1982). Ben’s son Joel Haas told me his father used to laugh derisively at some of the other authors attempts at writing Sundance.          “‘Honcho’ was not even a word in the 1800’s”, he said. “It was a word that entered our language in World War II” (when American soldiers heard Japanese soldiers use the word “hancho”, which means squad leader in Japanese). 

WAR PARTY: SUNDANCE #14 – Leisure LB204NK, 1974 PBO. John Benteen returns as the author of #14-23.   When the copyrights were renewed for Ben Haas on the Sundance Books, all but four of the John Benteen books appear on that list: this book, #15, #17 and #19. These four must have been ghostwritten. The Comanches have taken Sam Owens’ niece Virginia. Sundance agrees to bring her back, but the Comancheros want the reward for Virginia too, and Sundance knows they will be more trouble than the Comanches. 5
Later printing: Leisure 1009, nd (1981). 4
3 BOUNTY KILLER: SUNDANCE #15 – Leisure LB248NK, 1975 PBO. Michael Linaker tells us Leisure bought his book HIGH KILL and edited into a Sundance novel, destroying it in the process. According to HAWK'S WESTERN SERIES & SEQUELS, the writer who did that job was George H. Smith. BOUNTY KILLER is indeed terrible, with an unrecognizable "Sundance" who has nothing in common with the first 14 books. Mike Linaker's book was about a cowboy named Sam, and BOUNTY KILLER is so badly edited that Sundance is referred to as "Sam" three times (p.60, p. 108 & p. 111).
This editorial practice shows a contempt for the fans of the series, and these editors would do it again that same year with the Lassiter entry APACHE JUNCTION, where Lassiter is suddenly a red-haired ex-Texas Ranger that people call "Johnny" and "Canavan". 
2 RUN FOR COVER: SUNDANCE #16 – Leisure LB324ZK, 1976 PBO. Sundance rides into Bootstrap, Nevada to find the citizens there hanging the wrong man for murder. Sundance rescues Billy Mercer from the hangman’s knot, but that’s just the start of the trouble for Sundance, since Billy is not what he appears to be at all.

MANHUNT: SUNDANCE #17 – Leisure LB332ZK, 1976 PBO. Scan courtesy of, a website I recommend highly to all paperback lovers. 2nd pr: LB562DK, nd (not shown) Sundance travels to British Columbia for his friend MacDougal of the Hudson Bay Company. A killer named The Carcajou (Wolverine) has been murdering the trappers. With a trapper’s widow named Laughing Woman, Sundance hunts down the killer. Joel Haas recalls that Peter McCurtin wrote as John Benteen. This relentless action-adventure reads like McCurtin.  There are several similarities to a later Sundance by Peter McCurtin called DAY OF THE HALFBREED, and to a Jack Slade Lassiter, GUNFIGHT AT RINGO JUNCTION. 1
BLOOD ON THE PRAIRIE: SUNDANCE #18 – Leisure LB350ZK, 1976 PBO. Copyrighted by Ben Haas. Many of the later Benteen Sundances have some of the goofiest looking covers ever seen on Western paperbacks. You have to wonder what Neal Fargo would think of them. Sundance’s old friend General Crook tells him a rare white buffalo has been seen in the Black Hills , and a famous Russian hunter-nobleman has come to kill it. But Sundance knows that the white buffalo is sacred to the plains tribes. 2

WAR TRAIL: SUNDANCE #19 – Leisure LB373ZK, 1976 PBO. Ghostwritten by John “Jay” Flynn. Sundance copyrights usually say “John Benteen, pseud of Ben Haas”, but the application author on this one says “Nordon Publications”, leading us to believe that someone else wrote this book. Sundance is far from home, in the Chinatown district of San Francisco, taking on a job to find a blonde half-Chinese girl named Poppy, a halfbreed like him. There is a character here named Iron Hat Wallmann, which identifies the author as Jay Flynn, who would insert the names of his friends (like Jeffrey Wallmann) with a funny nickname into his manuscripts. Flynn was writing Lassiters as Jack Slade at this same time.
4 RIDING SHOTGUN: SUNDANCE #20 – Leisure LB448ZK, 1977 PBO. “Copyright by Ben Haas”. Coffin City , Arizona Territory ( Tombstone , get it?). Marshal Tulso Dart (Wyatt Earp) and his deputy brother and Doc Ramsay (as in Doc Holliday) are feuding with the Cable (that is, Clanton) clan. And Sundance rides right into the middle of the Gunfight at Doane’s Corral.  

SILENT ENEMY: SUNDANCE #21 – Leisure LB456ZK, 1977 PBO. There’s a crazy Cheyenne halfbreed named Silent Enemy who is on a one-man warpath. The man they send to hunt him down is his alter ego, his double in many ways, a Cheyenne halfbreed named Jim Sundance. 4
RIDE THE MAN DOWN: SUNDANCE #22 – Leisure LB488DK, 1977. Title page says: “Originally: THE WILD STALLIONS”. Reprints SUNDANCE #7 with new title. 2nd pr: Leisure 1053, nd. Same cover (not shown). 55

6 GUNBELT: SUNDANCE #23 – Leisure LB494DK, 1977 PBO. The final Sundance copyrighted by Ben Haas. As noted above, #24 – 25 are by Jack Slade and #26 – 43 are by Peter McCurtin. In one final gasp of editorial error, this edition says “Originally: The Wild Stallions” on the cover. That was supposed to appear on the cover of RIDE THE MAN DOWN. GUNBELT is sometimes (understandably) listed as a reprint of THE WILD STALLIONS. It is not. On his way north out of Mexico , Sundance stops at a little town in Bloody Moon Basin near the Mogollon country, where evil men plot to wipe out the Navajo.  Sundance will turn those plans around.
6 One of the later reprints offers a good authorized Sundance checklist inside. This is the order in which they were published. The only Sundance book seen but not listed here is #43 – TEXAS EMPIRE.   John Benteen is the credited author on #1-10 and 14-23.
24. CANYON KILL by Jack Slade (house name used here by Dudley Dean McGaughy) – Leisure 618, 1978 2
25. BLOOD KNIFE by Jack Slade (Dudley Dean McGaughy) – Leisure 626, 1979 3

4 26. THE NIGHTRIDERS by Peter McCurtin – Leisure 653, 1979. All the rest of the Sundance books are credited to Peter McCurtin. Introducing a new leaner and meaner Sundance in cover paintings by Ken Barr. The poncho had become a symbol of a certain kind of killer thanks to a landmark movie called A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS
5 27. DEATH DANCE – Leisure 669, 1979

28. THE SAVAGE – Leisure 678, 1979 Editor/author McCurtin and his ghost writers tell a series of gripping action adventures. 6
29. DAY OF THE HALFBREEDS – Leisure 693, 1979 By this time the Sundance stories are well-constructed, intricately plotted adventures. This book has many similarities – and the same setting – as a Jack Slade Lassiter book called GUNFIGHT AT RINGO JUNCTION. 7

8 30. LOS OLVIDADOS – Leisure 724, 1980 David Whitehead has told us that this book is a reworking of Peter McCurtin’s 1970 Carmody novel THE SLAVERS.
09 31. THE MARAUDERS – Leisure 740, 1980 As we come to expect from series novels written by different authors, the character of Jim Sundance changes over time. It’s very hard to imagine Benteen’s Sundance taking a job as a small town sheriff. The Sundance in this book is interchangeable with many other series characters, and the basic setup – a guy rides into town and gets railroaded into becoming sheriff just before all hell breaks loose - reminds us of the Lassiter story HIGH LONESOME and the Carmody book THE KILLERS. The story told here is exciting and professionally done; it just doesn’t resonate as a Sundance story.  You could change his name to any other cowboy hero and never miss a beat.

32. SCORPION – Leisure 756, 1980 -0
33. HANGMAN’S KNOT – Leisure 764, 1980 Ken Barr’s brooding and battle-haunted Sundance is a far cry and a big improvement from the goofy looking Sundance of previous cover artists. (See for example #21, SILENT ENEMY). -

90 34. APACHE WAR – Leisure 780, 1980
8 35. GOLD STRIKE – Leisure 819, 1980

36. TRAIL DRIVE – Leisure 878, 1981 Cover art is signed and dated by a new artist, but I can’t read that signature. 6
37. IRON MEN – Leisure 977, 1981 5

45 38. DRUMFIRE – Leisure 976, 1981
f 39. BUFFALO WAR – Leisure 990, 1981

40. THE HUNTERS – Leisure 1010, 1981 Cover art by Henderson . f
41. THE CAGE – Leisure 1077, 1982 0o

l 42. CHOCTOW COUNTY WAR – Leisure 1101, 1982
h 43. TEXAS EMPIRE – Leisure 1124, 1982

Returning to Ben Haas Checklist: Writing as Thorne Douglas
CALHOON – Fawcett Gold Medal T2609, 1972 PBO. Another memorable Ben Haas series is Rancho Bravo, a group of unforgettable Texas cattle empire stories about four disparate men who band together to start a ranch after the Civil War. They are Carolina ex-Confederate rebel Lucius Calhoon,  Texan trail boss Henry Gannon, Yankee officer Philip Killraine and ex-slave Elias Whitton. In a brilliant turn, each of the first four books in the series tells the story of one of the four men. First up is Calhoon, a bitter one-handed ex-plantation owner who has lost everything in the war. Revenge brings him to the Big Bend of the Rio Bravo in post-war Texas . He is looking for the man who tortured and crippled him in a prison camp during the war. 67
2nd pr: Fawcett Gold Medal M3378, nd. With the success of the series, Gold Medal reissued CALHOON, adding to the cover the words “A Rancho Bravo Novel” and “Author of KILLRAINE and THE BIG DRIVE.” Calhoon meets a Texas cattle man named Gannon and his partner, a black cowboy named Elias Whitton, who are trying to start a new ranch made from the wild cattle running free in the thickets of the Big Bend . In the course of the adventure they come up against a Northern Army Captain named Killraine. When Killraine quits the Army to join them, Rancho Bravo is born.  7

7 THE BIG DRIVE – Fawcett Gold Medal M2895, 1973 PBO. The success of the new cattle ranch called Rancho Bravo depended on the success of their first cattle drive to market. THE BIG DRIVE is the exciting adventure of that drive, centering on trail boss Henry Gannon. We know that editors often changed the author’s original titles, and with the first and third books in this series called CALHOON and KILLRAINE, Ben called this one GANNON.  It is a much better title. The manuscript, titled GANNON, is one of the group Ben donated to the American Heritage Center (now at the University of Wyoming ).
8 KILLRAINE – Fawcett Gold Medal M3170, 1975 PBO. In the third Rancho Bravo novel, a wild band of mountain men called the Lawrence Gang ambush wagons bound for Rancho Bravo and kidnap Killraine’s girl, Jenny Wallace. No one has ever attacked their mountain stronghold and lived, but Killraine rides in anyway to save Jenny. The odds are 50 to 1. His message is clear: don’t mess with Rancho Bravo. The themes of the entire series are expressed in one quote from Killraine: “ Texas is where people start over. And that’s the thing about Rancho Bravo – there’s room enough there for everybody.” If a Yankee, a Southerner, an ex-slave and a Texan cattle boss can get along, the post-war world might make it.

NIGHT RIDERS – Fawcett Gold Medal M3286, 1975 PBO. Cover by Carl Hantman. When Elias Whitton escaped slavery by running away, he went West and lived with the Comanches. After the war, Whitton was a partner in a big cattle ranch in South Texas . He had promised guns and supplies to help the Comanches make it through the winter. But two killers have other plans, and Whitton will ride through Hell itself to stop them. NIGHT RIDERS is a terrible title for a book in which no character ever rides a horse after dark. Ben Haas called this NIGHT RIDER, which was the Comanche Indian name for Whitton.  That’s a perfect title for this story, and Fawcett’s editors destroyed it simply by adding one letter “S”, thereby making the title not about Elias Whitton.  
THE MUSTANG MEN – Fawcett Gold Medal 1-3918-2, 1977 PBO. THE MUSTANG MEN shows us what Ben Haas had planned for this series after the initial four books tell the stories of each of the four partners in Rancho Bravo. The 5th book in the series is the story of Shan Tyree, a new character who comes to work at Rancho Bravo as the book begins. Tyree is a heller, and he wants to make a life for himself at his new home. There is only one problem; he used to be a horse thief, and they hang horse thieves. Like a great Western television series, we can imagine each successive book telling another story of an employee or visitor to the ranch. Sadly, Ben Haas died in 1977, and this wonderful series came to an end here.   9

Writing as John Michael Elliot
9 THE DANUBE COVENANT – Dell 11650, 1977 PBO. In one of his final novels, Ben Haas returned to one of his favorite subjects – Nazi-occupied Vienna – for this suspenseful thriller about American intelligence agents at work to halt the German war machine. Ben’s original title for this was THE DANUBE SUBMARINES.

Lynn Munroe Books