Clay Dakota

Created by Gilbert Ralston

Much like Ralph Dennis’ Hardman series, it’s difficult to see the six novels Gilbert Ralston wrote featuring CLAY DAKOTA, a half Piegan, half Shoshoni ex-Marine and ex-cop turned Nevada rancher, rodeo rider and private detective, as part of the 1970s Men’s Adventure craze.

But that’s how they were marketed by Pinnacle, the same schlockmeisters who pumped out about a zillion series featuring the blood-and-sex-filled exploits of The Death Merchant, The Destroyer, The Executioner, Body Smasher, etc.

The five paperbacks seem to be more fondly remembered than most of their ilk, however, still drawing enough praise fifty years later to prompt Brash Books to bring the entire series back into print.

It’s easy enough to see why. The books are frantically paced, none reaching more than 200 pages, as Dakota storms from one action scene to another, barely stopping for breath. His creator was television and film writer Gilbert Ralston and his screenplay experience shows: the books read like scripts, skimping on extraneous detail in a rush to the next shootout, fistfight or explosion–literally. Somewhere along the line, presumably in the military, Dakota received training in demolition work.

Not that it’s all blood and thunder–Dakota turns out to have a soft spot for old folks and children, and he makes a point out of calling his mother every day. Not that the author allows those scenes to linger–soon enough, it’s back to the fray.


Gilbert Ralston, born in 1912 in Los Angeles, was primarily known as a producer and screenwriter, working in film and television. He was probably best known for his westerns, penning scripts for Gunsmoke, Laredo, The Big Valley, Iron Horse and The Wild, Wild West, but stretching out to write for everything from I Spy, Star Trek, Naked CityBen Casey and Hawaii 5-0 to the 1971 ratsploitation flick Willard and its 1972 sequel, Ben.


  • “I want to be buried with these five novels. They are just that damn good, but then I remember I’m being cremated and I can’t bear the thought of these magnificent works perishing by fire. This Dakota series is absolutely a mandatory read. The amazing aspect of this series is that the five books really make up one long case file. It puts you, the reader, in the dangerous (and coveted) spot of being the scene sleuth piecing it all together. I absolutely love this character. In a lot of ways Dakota is the perfect merger of Craig Johnson’s dedicated sheriff Longmire and his loyal friend Henry Standing Bear.”
    — Paperback Warrior from the introduction to the 2022 reprint editton of Dakota Warpath.
  • “(Dakota Warpath) reads like a typical 1970s network cop show—picture Robert Forster or Clint Walker as the lead—but it also presents a decent mystery, plenty of action, and quite a body count. The hardbitten hero is easy to root for.”
    — Marty McKee on Johnny LaRuse’s Crane Shot Blog



  • The Dakota Saga: All Five Novels (2022) Kindle it!


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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