Review: "Dakota" by Gilbert Ralston

Gilbert Ralston’s 1973 novel Dakota Warpath, reissued this year as Dakota by Brash Books, is the first of a five book private eye series featuring the Piegan-Shoshoni Native American Clay Dakota. The laconic and competent Dakota served in Vietnam as a Marine demolitions expert and afterwards became a New York City cop, but he left the city behind and returned to Nevada’s rural Carson Valley where he makes a slender living as a P.I. and helps care for his ailing father.
      Dakota’s hesitant when his old friend Sam Lew sets up a meeting with a woman whose husband was killed in an explosion. The police ruled his death as accidental, but his wife believes it was murder. His reluctance comes from the woman’s instance on keeping the circumstances of her husband’s death, including his (and her own) identity secret until Dakota agrees to help. Lew convinces Dakota to take the case, but before he can get the details an explosion kills Dakota’s still anonymous client. An event the former NYPD cop takes personally. He follows the clues to the aptly named Poison Springs – “Altitude 4,300, Population 712” – and the mysterious millionaire who controls the entire town.
      Dakota is an enjoyable and effective cocktail of the fast-paced men’s adventure genre and the classic private eye tale; perhaps 60 percent of the former and 40 percent of the latter. It is violent, stark, with tough guy one-liners, and a high body count, but there is also a genuine mystery. There are clues, suspects, and even a soft touch of social commentary. Dakota is larger than life. He has the rare ability to out smack around anybody, but he tends to ask questions before raising his fists. Dakota is admired by his hometown sheriff. Women love him, and men respect him. Ralston’s writing is clipped and hard-edged, but not annoyingly so. The dialogue is strong and works well in advancing the story. There’s a nifty twist in the final pages, too.
      Dakota is a pleasant book that will appeal to devotees of both genres, but it will be most compelling to readers of men’s adventure that like their heroes uncompromising and their plots breathless.

a little more about Gilbert Ralston…

·       Gilbert Alexander Ralston was born in Los Angeles, California, on January 5, 1912, to Alexander Gilbert Ralston and Jeannette Johnston. He married Mary K. Hart in 1938, and the couple had two sons. Ralston worked as a television producer and scriptwriter from the early-1950s to the 1970s. He wrote scripts for The Untouchables, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I Spy, Gunsmoke, Star Trek, and Gentle Ben. At the suggestion of a producer that wanted to create a series with “a Western hero [with] a James Bond” vibe, Ralston developed the television series, The Wild Wild West, starring Robert Conrad (1965 – 1969). When the film adaptation (released in 1999 and starring Will Smith) was announced, Ralston sued Warner Brothers for compensation as the show’s creator. The lawsuit was settled in 1999 for an undisclosed amount. Ralston died on March 18, 1999, in South Carolina.

·       Ralston wrote five novels featuring Clay Dakota: Dakota Warpath (1973), Dakota: Red Revenge (1973), Dakota Cat Trap (1974), Dakota Murders Money (1975), and Dakota Chain Reaction (1975). Brash Books has released all five of the Dakota books as individual titles and (on ebook) as a complete set – go here to see the omnibus edition at Amazon. He also wrote The Frightful Sin of Cisco Newman (1972), with Richard Newhafer, Ben (1972), and The Third Circle (1980). His short fiction appeared in Saturday Evening Post, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Ladies’ Home Journal.

See Dakota at Amazon.

See the Dakota omnibus edition – featuring all five novels – at Amazon.


  1. Another set of books from Brash I'm interested in reading. I just need longer days. Ralston has been added to the lJon Messmann and Herb Fisher and a few others on my wish list. God Bless Kindle Unlimited, though it's not helping dent the existing piles of TBR.

    1. Brash has been publishing some interesting stuff. I've liked the Messmann books I've read and of course this first Ralston was enjoyable, too. If only I could live on less sleep.

    2. Haha, I'm surviving on 5.5 hrs on weekdays, but it catches up on me weekends. So when I do have some reading time, I invariably nod off!

    3. I was trying to read last night, but I got three pages in before I realized my eyes were closed.


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