The Black Hatted Cowboys
By Bryan Marlowe

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The building and repair work carried out by dangerously incompetent and unscrupulous builders, often known as “cowboys,” is widely reported in newspapers and investigations into their nefarious activities are popular and thought-provoking television documentaries. This publicity helps to warn the unwary of the misery, unjustifiable costs and even death that can result by employing unskilled building workers to carry out improvements and, often-unnecessary, repairs to their homes. The cowboy builder will always ask for “cash-up-front” before he starts to work. Later, he will ask for more cash, because he “under-estimated the work and material needed to finish the job”. If the householder is unable or unwilling to part with more money, the cowboy will leave the property in such a state that it is an unsafe dwelling.

This novel tells the story of two men who are prepared to take deadly retributive action against cowboy builders.


Published: - October 2012

Pages: 213

ISBN: 9781908223845

Size: 127 x 203mm

Price: £12.99

Format: Paperback

Available to buy at:

Barnes and Noble,, Waterstones,, WH Smiths, Google Books


Review of Black Hatted Cowboys Written by Bryan Marlowe.
Reviewed by James Drew

Bryan Marlowe has now been a published author since 2006 and, in the nine novels he has written, it’s fair to say that he has covered a wide range of literary themes, many of which have taken their direct inspiration from his own life, such as Memoirs of an Errant Youth and As Long as There’s Tomorrow, but there is no doubt that the most recurrent motif in his fiction has been that of vengeance, and the tragedy that its pursuit may often bring.

Settled Out of Court and A Kind of Wild Justice were two such novels, featuring central characters whose vendettas, while justifiable in the context of the wrongs they had suffered, nevertheless exacted a high price in terms of what they required to bring them to a ‘successful’ conclusion.

And in his tenth and latest, Black Hatted Cowboys, Marlowe has given a pleasing, modern twist to a similar theme, setting it among so-called cowboy builders, those unscrupulous workers who carry out frequently incompetent and often unnecessary work in homes, demanding cash in advance and further installments as the work progresses, before often leaving their work incomplete if the customers are unable or unwilling to pay more.

Such is often the poor quality of the work completed that the residences in question are left unsafe and, as is the case as we join Laurence Howard in the novel, even deadly – Howard is informed by police at the outset of the novel that his mother and father have been killed and his sister seriously injured in an explosion at their home, caused by a gas leak; his father had, against Howard’s advice, chosen a unqualified builder to replace his gas boiler. A long-serving soldier, Howard decides to investigate the author of his pain further, which brings him into the orbit of one Gary Bottrell, who has also suffered at the hands of cowboys. Bottrell has his own plans for revenge, wants to involve Howard, and he is not an easy man to turn down…

Thus, we have the vendetta premise established, but where Marlowe’s novel differs from the predecessors of his ilk is its deliberate setting in an environment that will be (perhaps also painfully) familiar to many readers and, let’s face it, he couldn’t have chosen much better in making his ‘villains’ cowboy builders. However, his skill in delineating the extent to which Howard and Bottrell are prepared to go in pursuing their vendetta ensures that there is nevertheless a real sense of shifting readers’ sympathies.

There is also a belter of an ending that will play more than fast-and-loose with your expectations and, as has thankfully been the case with Marlowe’s more recent novels, his characterizations have far more of the ring of truth to them than was the case with his earlier thrillers. He is clearly still very much enjoying his own learning curve as an author, and Black Hatted Cowboys proves his willingness to experiment with his established form. One wonders, given the text’s obvious reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, whether we can look forward to more thrillers after the fashion of the master of suspense from Marlowe? Here’s hoping.

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Other books by this author:
Crisis in Colombia