Friday, November 18, 2011

Another kind of woman in the west -- Road to Rimrock

In fact, Tom Hall, as requested by Catherine de Merode, found Melanie Powers and escorted her to Bob Brow’s Palace, where there were private rooms for . . . whatever private rooms are used for.

Catherine sat in the restaurant with Alice, who was enjoying her first dish of ice cream since she left San Francisco, and Shotgun Lou Grimes, who looked uncomfortable without his coach gun.

Tom held Melanie Powers by the arm in an iron grip as he steered her into the dining room. “You stay gentle, girl, and it’ll hurt a lot less,” he said. “Just you listen to what Miss de Merode has to say.”

“Good evening, Miss Powers,” Catherine said. “I’ve been wishing to have a word with you. I’ve reserved a private room upstairs. Perhaps you would care to join me?”

Melanie fairly hissed. “I spit in the face of any friend of Matt Stryker. I’ll see him dead, I truly will. He murdered my brother.”

“And your brother would be Clayton Powers, correct?”


“Then, may we repair to the second floor. What I have to say includes your brother.” Catherine shifted her gaze to Tom Hall. “Mr. Hall, would you be kind enough to stay here with April and Mr. Grimes? April would be gratified with your company.”

The brilliance of Catherine de Merode’s smile made Tom Hall do anything she asked. “Be glad to,” he said, and meant every word.

Catherine lead the way. Melanie followed, sure Tom Hall would catch her again if she bolted. A round table sat in the center of the private room with six chairs carefully placed evenly around it, ready for the high-rollers who ordinarily used it. Catherine waved at the chair on the far side. “If you would be so kind,” she said. She took the near chair.

Melanie plonked herself on the seat of the far chair. “What?” Anger flushed her face and she tapped her fingers on the table in frustration. Then she shouted. “WHAT!”

“I understand you wish to see Matthew Stryker killed,” Catherine said.

“He murdered my brother,” Melanie said.


Melanie pouted. “Shot him dead.”

Catherine speared Melanie with a sharp look. She let the silence build. The scent of Melanie’s rose water wafted across the table. At least she keeps a proper toilet.

“I took the privilege of looking into your dead brother’s affairs,” Catherine said. “He was not only a robber and a thief, he also killed without compunction.”

“He. Was. My. Brother.”

“Clayton Powers killed at least eleven fellow human beings. Beginning with a clerk at the National Bank of Denver and going on to include a drummer, two railway guards, a stagecoach shotgun rider, a jailer and a deputy, a working girl, and a U.S. Marshal.”

Catherine fell silent again. Melanie stared at her tapping fingertips. Faint voices came from the next room. Melanie opened her mouth, then closed it.

“His last killings were innocents, not saying the other victims were not innocent, but Clayton Powers became involved in a gunfight in Bisbee, and shot a nine-year-old boy and his mother.”

“The kid was an accident,” Melanie said.

“So you know what kind of man your brother was, then?”

“They expelled him from West Point. Everybody there had it in for him.”

Catherine’s eyebrows rose. “West Point?”

In a small voice, Melanie said, “The oldest son in our family has always gone to West Point. Ever since the beginning.”

“Cashiered, then?”

“Picked on. Harassed. Hazed, I think they call it. Just because Papa fought for the South. He was just paying them back.”

Catherine looked astounded. “My God. You can’t really believe that.”

Melanie jumped to her feet and charged around the table, her fist cocked.

Catherine stood calmly to meet Melanie’s rush. She caught Melanie’s fist in the palm of her right hand and turned her momentum aside. As Melanie passed, Catherine shoved her with both hands and sent her staggering. Melanie crashed into the wall and fell to her knees. Catherine unbuckled her belt and her skirt fell away. She wore dancer’s tights, with soft leather shoes on her feet.

When Melanie rose, she clutched a small knife. “Bitch,” she hissed. “I’ll carve your gizzard into little pieces for that.”

Catherine smiled. “I think not,” she said. Slowly, she backed away from the table and into an open area that gave her more room.

Melanie stalked her, knife held low and to the side.

Catherine stopped and faced Melanie, her arms hanging naturally her fingers slightly curled, her feet shoulder-width apart. She still wore the little smile.

“You laughing at me, bitch?” Melanie’s voice dripped venom. “We’ll see how much you laugh with your belly slit and your guts dragging on the ground.” But Melanie made no move to rush Catherine. Instead, she moved in a circle around the woman, staying some distance away at first, and then slowly narrowing the gap.

As Melanie circled, Catherine turned. The little smile never left her face, but it came nowhere near her eyes. She kept her gaze fastened on Melanie, the knife always in her field of view.

Melanie telegraphed her rush by dropping her eyes and lifting the knife. She took a big breath and lunged, but Catherine was not there. She’d spun aside and now stood a good ten feet away, smiling. “Surely you can do better than that,” she said, sounding as if she were having a chat with an old friend.

Melanie’s face contorted. She growled like a wild beast. Her face flushed. Spittle formed little patches of cotton in the corners of her mouth. She crouched, knife held low with its cutting edge up. Again she lunged at Catherine, this time leading with her left shoulder. The blade of the knife was horizontal to the floor, waist high, and ready to slash across Catherine’s abdomen.

Catherine whirled in time with Melanie’s rush, lifting her left leg as she spun and smashing her foot into the side of Melanie’s face in a classic savate kick. Melanie went down on all fours, dazed. The little knife skittered across the floor to fetch up against the floorboard. Catherine scooped the knife up, then delivered a kick to Melanie’s ribcage that knocked her breathless and lifted her up, over, and onto her back. Catherine dropped onto the prone woman, her knees pinning Melanie’s arms to the floor. Melanie mewled in fear.

Carefully, Catherine placed the tip of the little knife at the corner of Melanie’s left eye. Her voice kept its conversational tone. “Miss Powers, I hear you have a vendetta against Matthew Stryker. Let me warn you. If he is injured or killed by anyone even remotely connected to you, no matter how nebulous that connection, I will personally hunt you down and cut your eyes out. Do I make myself clear?”

The whites of Melanie’s eyes showed like a frightened calf’s. She gulped and opened her mouth as if to speak, but no sound came out. Tears escaped the corner of her eyes and trickled into her ears.

Catherine pricked at the skin next to Melanie’s eye. “Do I make myself clear?”

Melanie couldn’t move without pushing the point of the knife into her own eye. Again she opened her mouth. She panted. She swallowed. Catherine raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” Melanie managed to say.

“I’m sorry. I’m afraid I couldn’t quite hear you,” Catherine said.

“Yes,” Melanie said, louder.

“Yes what?”

“Yes you will cut my eyes out.”

“Why would I do a thing like that?”

“If Stryker is harmed.”

“By whom?”

“By anyone connected with me.”

“Good.” Catherine stood and offered Melanie a hand up.

Melanie sobbed and ignored Catherine’s hand. She rolled over onto her stomach and struggled to all fours. Then, clutching a chair, she pulled herself upright.

“You’ll want to take this. It’s yours, after all.” Catherine held the little knife out, handle first.

Melanie’s hand went to her mouth. She stifled a cry, then fled the room, leaving the knife in Catherine’s hand.

First major scene from Hell Fire in Paradise

Jimmy Baker complained. “But Ma, it’s hardly dark. I’m five now. I don’t need to go to bed so early.”

“I know, son. But tomorrow will come before you know it, and I want you in bed right now. Jason’s in the loft and asleep already, and you should be, too.”

“Ah, Ma. How come I have to go to bed so early all the time?”

Laurel Baker chuckled at her sturdy son’s resistance. “Unless you get enough sleep, you won’t grow big and strong like Pa. And if you don’t grow big and strong, how are you going to help on the ranch?”

“Okay. I’m going. But I’ll stay up when I get bigger, I surely will.” Grumbling, the youngster climbed the ladder into the boys’ private bedroom in the loft under the eaves.

Laurel put the youngsters to bed right after supper for good reason. Jack Baker took the wagon into Ponderosa for supplies that morning, and he’d not returned. A knot settled into the pit of Laurel’s stomach. Jack didn’t run late. He didn’t go to Bogtown to drink and he wasn’t one to waste time jawing. He might need assistance, but the road from Ponderosa to Paradise was little travelled. If Jack needed help, Laurel had to provide it. She waited until the boys were asleep, changed into a cutdown pair of Jack’s old jeans, and stomped her feet into her riding boots. Laurel saddled her steeldust gelding Angel, and rode toward Ponderosa with a Yellow Boy Winchester in her hands.

Paradise Creek tumbled through a malapai gorge at least a hundred feet deep and the mail road to Alpine travelled the gorge’s edge for a good five miles after crossing the plateau from Ponderosa. The wagon track to Paradise branched off the mail road just beyond Sheepshead promontory. Laurel cantered Angel up the wagon track and onto the mail road. She guided the gelding along the road at a trot as deep wagon-wheel ruts made the footing precarious for a running horse. Clouds backed up against Mt. Baldy and Mt. Ord, covering the sky for miles north of Paradise. The dark night made tracking impossible so Laurel could only hope that if Jack needed help, he was out in the open where she could find him. In the dark night, she felt uneasy, and jacked a shell into the chamber of the Yellow Boy.

Laurel rode more than halfway to Ponderosa but found no trace of Jack. Despondent, she turned Angel around and trotted him back along the mail road toward the Rafter P ranch in Paradise. Jack could take care of himself. He never wore a gun in Ponderosa and didn’t drink, so the chance of a random gunfight was next to none. Yet she worried. Jack wouldn’t stay away from the ranch all night without good reason. A crippled horse. A broken wagon tongue. A rim separated from a wheel. Something. She turned off to follow the wagon track back to the ranch. Tears burned at the corners of her eyes. No. She could depend on Jack. In their six years together, he’d never let her down. Jack would be home. Laurel raised her head and took a deep breath. He would be home. He would.

Jack and Laurel built their house above Paradise Creek on a small rise that looked out across the valley, which also bore the name of Paradise. From their knoll, the Bakers could see three miles or more downstream when the weather was clear. Laurel peered toward the house, not that she could see it on such a dark night. An orange-red flicker caught her attention. Had she left a lamp on? Fire? A new fear blossomed in her heart. Fire! Jimmy and Jason were in the loft. No one to wake them. No one to carry them from danger. Laurel shoved the Winchester into its scabbard and raked her spurs across Angel’s ribs. The startled horse hit a dead run in three strides. Laurel leaned over his neck, urging him on, her eyes on the orange-red glare that gradually got brighter as the gelding plunged on.

By the time they reached the burning house, Angel was streaked with lather and Laurel’s cheeks were streaked with tears.

“Jimmy! Jason!” She screamed her children’s names, but only the roar of the fire replied. Smoke poured from the chimney and seeped out between the cedar shingles. Through the windows, Laurel saw only rolling flames. She dashed to the tack room for a horsehair-filled cover and threw it over her head and shoulders for protection. She wrenched open the front door. Flames billowed from the house, fed by the rush of fresh air. The roar increased.

“Jimmy! Jimmy! Jason! Can you hear me? Are you in there?

Only the roar of the infernal flame.

“Oh God! Save my children. Save my boys. Dear God. My God!” Even wrapped in the horse cover, Laurel could not fight her way into the burning house. She choked on the smoke. Flames licked at her hands. The roar of the fire got louder. Sparks flew as the rafters collapsed into the maelstrom. Laurel howled at the fire. She screamed at God. She sank slowly to her knees, not trying to escape the sparks that burned pinholes in the horse cover and singed her hair and face. Tears welled in her eyes and coursed down her cheeks. Their home was on the Paradise; now it was Laurel’s Hell.

She curled into a foetal ball and screamed and screamed until her throat was cracked and bleeding. Jimmy, poor Jimmy. Five and so grownup. Helpful. Thoughtful. Poor Jimmy. Gone to God. Laurel could only pray that he’d died before the hideous flames made a cinder of his small body. Jason. First born at Paradise. At three, his baby warblings were finally turning into coherent speech. He loved big brother Jimmy. Followed him everywhere. Wanted to do all that Jimmy could do. Gone. Burned in a blaze of pine-fed fire.

By morning, only the log walls and the stone chimney stood. Small flickers of flame played along the smoking logs. Laurel couldn’t move. She dared not try to look among the ashes inside the gutted house. She sat with the horse cover around her shoulders. Sat and rocked back and forth and keened her pain to the heavens.

The first wagon arrived at midmorning. Seth Owens, the Bakers’ nearest neighbor, drove the wagon with his wife Priscilla clinging grimly to the seat. She scrambled down almost before the wagon stopped and ran to Laurel.

“Laurel, oh Laurel. What on earth happened. Oh, your lovely home.”

“God damn the house,” Laurel screamed. “God damn it. My boys. My Jimmy. My Jason. . . .” She could say no more, merely point at the ruins in speechless pain.

Priscilla gathered Laurel into her ample arms. “Poor lass. Poor lass,” she crooned. Above Laurel’s head she looked meaningfully at her husband and motioned with her head that he should look into the smoking ruins. “Poor lass,” she crooned.

Laurel made no sound, but tears flooded from her eyes and cascaded down her singed face. She laid her head on Priscilla’s shoulder and sobbed and sobbed.

Seth came back from the house. “They’re both in what’s left of their beds, Laurel,” he said. “I’m sure the smoke smothered them before the fire ever reached the loft. Thank God for that. Still, you’ll not be wanting to look at them, lass. Best to remember them as they were when you last saw them. I’ll make some boxes for their burial.”

Laurel sat with her head on Priscilla’s shoulder for a long time. “It’s all my fault,” she said in a tiny voice.

“That’s crazy. Of course it’s not your fault.”

“It is. I put them to bed and left them alone while I went out to meet Jack on the road back from Ponderosa. I banked the Franklin, but must have left the lamp burning on the table. I don’t know what knocked it off, but that’s what must have happened. I left them alone. If I’d stayed where I belonged, my boys would be alive.”

“Now, now, don’t blame yourself. God works in mysterious ways. Now he’s called your boys home. They feel no pain. And now they’re singing with the angels.” Priscilla did her best to comfort Laurel, but couldn’t reach her.

Laurel felt herself sinking into a deep dark place where she could neither think nor feel. She lost contact. Her awareness weakened. She felt the fires of Hell coming nearer and nearer. In her heart, she screamed and screamed, but made no sound. Only the tears and the pain seemed real. Still, she struggled from Priscilla’s embrace, stood up, and looked at the smoking remains of her Paradise. Inside, she felt numb. Outside, she shivered.

“Let go,” she said to Priscilla. “Let me go.” She shed the horse cover, wincing as her burned hands grasped the rough canvas. She stood on uncertain legs, almost unfeeling from remaining in the same position for so long. She took a step toward the house.

“Honey, don’t,” Priscilla pleaded, reaching out to grasp Laurel’s arm.

Laurel shrugged out of Priscilla’s grasp. She could think only of seeing her sons, of bidding them farewell. She took another step toward the ruins, and another.

“Seth,” Priscilla called. “Seth. She’s going in.”

Laurel was dimly aware of running footsteps, but they seemed far away. She was already through the doorframe, and her thick boot soles crunched on ashes and embers. Her grieving self was a tiny hard ball in the pit of her stomach. Her empty eyes registered only what they saw and the sight failed to reach her heart. The loft had fallen with the rafters, but the fire had not consumed it. The little bodies still lay in their bunks, scraps of burnt bedclothes covering them. The heat had pealed off the skin but mercifully had not burned away their eyelids. In the aftermath of the blaze, they seemed to be still asleep; horribly burned, but sleeping.

“Come away, Laurel. Let them rest in peace. Let me take care of them for you.” Seth Owens touched her arm.

The emptiness deepened. From the depths of her despair, she could hardly hear Seth’s voice. She let him lead her from the death chamber, once again to be enfolded in Priscilla’s arms.

A spark lit the darkness. Jack would soon be home. Jack would know what to do. Jack. Laurel leaned into Priscilla’s embrace and waited for her husband to come home.

Seth Owens built two small boxes with pine boards and tools he found in the barn. He wrapped the two boys in saddle blankets, placed them in the boxes, and sealed the lids with horseshoe nails. He put the little coffins in an open stable until Laurel and Jack decided where their burial ground should be.

“Shall we clean up around, Laurel?” Seth asked.

Laurel heard the question from the bottom of the dark pit in her mind. She shook her head. “Wait,” she said. “Wait for Jack.”

Seth nodded.

Laurel took a deep breath. She couldn’t just sit here. Things waited to be done. She staggered toward the granary with Priscilla a step behind.

“Laurel, honey, what are you doing?”

“Chickens need fed.” Laurel scooped a measure of oats from the bin with the usual bucket.

“Chick chick chick chick,” she called and broadcast the oats for the chickens to eat. No use milking the cows. The milk bucket probably burned with the house. She turned the calves in with the milk cows. They’d get an extra portion today. She sighed. When would Jack get home?

The second wagon came shortly after noon, and it came at a run. Frank Wills shouted at the team and slapped at their rumps with the ends of the reins, trying to urge them into yet greater speed. They came to a stop in a cloud of dust that drifted over the remains of the Paradise ranch house.

“Jeez,” he said to Seth. “What happened here?

“Dunno yet. Laurel thinks it may have been a wayward lantern.”

Frank tested the air with a high thin nose. “Does smell a bit like coal oil.”

Seth looked up, then tested the air himself. “Does at that.”

“That’s not why I’m here. We found Jack Baker’s wagon at the bottom of Paradise Gorge. Where’s Missus Baker?”

Seth motioned toward the granary. Laurel hurried across the yard. “Frank Wills,” she called. “Have you seen Jack?”

“I know this is hard, Missus Baker, your house burned down and all, but Jack’s wagon is at the bottom of Paradise Gorge. Looks like something spooked the team and they went right off the edge, wagon and all. Nothing moving. Both horses dead. Some fellers climbing down there right now to see about Jack.”

The thunder of hooves came before Laurel could speak. Two men Laurel knew only by sight reined their lathered mounts in beside Wills’s wagon. “We found Jack Baker,” one said. “Neck broke. They’re hauling him out of the gorge now.”

Laurel sank to her knees. The black pit threatened to consume her. First Jimmy and Jason. Now Jack. Cut, her mind said. Bleed. Get out of this place where you can’t think or even feel. She fumbled in her trouser pocket for the clasp knife she always carried when riding. Opening the blade, she slashed first her left arm, then her right. Pain. Blood. Then she cut her face from the hairline by her ear down to the point of her jaw. I’m alive, she thought. Maybe the pain will take away the emptiness. Bleeding profusely, she hacked away her long brown hair, sawing off each handful with the knife.

First chapter of A Man Called Breed

I lay at the edge of a ridge overlooking Adam’s Well, watching. I’d come a far way from Ehrenburg on the Colorado River and the well held the only water in twenty miles. Zeeb, my brindle grulla, smelled the water and tossed his head, rustling the leaves of the scrub oak thicket where he stood.

Below, a faded yellow wagon sat by the rock-bound pool. The horses were out of the traces and cropping at the sparse grama grass. I took my time. I had to see what kind of people were at the well before me.

The sound of a hard female voice drifted up. “Get your cracker ass moving.”

A redheaded woman in a tight-waisted low-cut gingham dress strode to a dark-haired one who was washing clothes in a tub at the edge of the pool. She swung a roundhouse at the smaller woman. A moment later the smack reached my ears, accompanied by a squeak. The little one looked like a kid.
I took a long look at the man. Back against a willow tree, spraddle-legged, hat over his eyes, he didn’t move. Either he slept sound or he was ignoring the woman.

“I want clean bloomers, bitch,” the woman said.

“It’ll only take a little while, Miss Polly, just a minute,” the girl pleaded. “The water’s clear and good, and I got a bit of soap. Only a minute more. Honest.”

The whore – I decided Polly was a very soiled dove; nothing else could make a woman so hard – flounced to a wooden chair over by the wagon and sat. “Just you get along with it. That’s all I’ve got to say.” Polly bit at a fingernail, then rubbed her palms along her thighs. She heaved a sigh, scratched one armpit, then the other. Jumping up, she climbed the steps at the rear of the wagon. A moment later, she reappeared with a silk Chinese fan in her hand. “I hate Arizona,” she said. “Hot as Hell. Maybe hotter.”

The girl rinsed indigo bloomers and white cotton chemises, wrung the water from them, and spread them on a nearby manzanita bush to dry. “All done, Miss Polly,” she announced.

Polly rose and stalked over to inspect the laundry. She reached a hand to the girl’s face and gave her left cheek a twisting pinch. “Someday you’ll be decent help,” she said, “if Garfield don’t sell you to the Mexicans first.”

The girl put a hand to her face, but stood still, her head bowed.

No spirit left, I figured. Still, I saw nothing alarming about the trio, but decided to keep an eye on the sleeper. I scuttled back from the lip of the ridge, mounted Zeeb, and worked my way down the front side of the slope toward Adam’s Well.

The trio at the wagon looked like greenhorns. None of them noticed me until Zeeb was at the bottom of the ridge.

“Garfield. Garfield! There’s a guy on a horse coming this way.” The whore’s voice rose an octave, like she’d concluded I might be dangerous.

I ignored the man and his two women, and rode Zeeb to the edge of the well. The girl backed away from the water, her hands at her mouth and her eyes wide.

Polly watched, her legs spread like she was inviting me.

Garfield didn’t move.

Faded letters on the wagon side read “Pleasure Palace.” I should have guessed. A whorehouse on wheels. I turned Zeeb and stepped out of the saddle with him between me and the wagon people.

“Looking for a good time?” Polly the whore simpered.

“Not the kind you’d give,” I said. “Not in a hurry to catch the clap . . . or worse.”

Polly pouted.

“My girls have no diseases.”

“Garfield! Such language.” Then Polly giggled.

“Invite our visitor to dinner, Polly. The sun will soon be down, and there’s no need for him to ride on while food and water and certain entertainments are available here.” Garfield removed his hat, brushed a lion’s mane of tawny hair back over his head, and clamped the bowler down over it.

“Mister?” Polly’s voice was tentative. “You can stay for dinner if you want.”

“I reckon jackrabbit and prickly pears’d be better’n anything you all could cook,” I said. “I’ll be moving on.” I knelt by the pool and scooped some of the clear water into my mouth. It smelled of granite and tasted wet, not muddy like a lot of desert water. Zeeb stood between me and the wagon people like he was on guard. I filled two canteens and hung them by their straps over the saddlehorn.

“Mister?” The girl moved a little closer around the edge of the pool.

I ignored her and urged Zeeb to take another drink, then fitted him with a gunnysack nosebag. The only sounds were Zeeb munching dry oats and the girl’s breathing.


I looked at her.

“I’ll cook real good.” The girl’s voice pleaded and so did her eyes. “Can’t you stay for dinner?”

“You cooking?”

She nodded. “I always do.”

I turned away and stared at the pool for a long moment, then looked up. “I’ll stay if you want, but there are men on my back trail . . . men who’ll shoot first and ask for explanations later.” I didn’t mention the canvas money belt under my union suit, filled with half a hundred gold double eagles earned with hard work and cunning and an ability to train horses well, coins from the sale of forty-nine prime mustangs to the quartermaster at Fort Yuma.

“We got beans and some chilli peppers. I can make fry bread, too.” The girl’s voice got stronger.

I grubbed through my saddlebags and pulled out a fist-sized lump wrapped in a piece of flour-sack cloth. “Half a rabbit,” I said. “Can’t have no chili con carne without it’s got meat in it.” I held out the lump to the girl.

Her eyes went wide. “Meat?” She took a hesitant step toward me. “Can I use it? Really?”

I nodded, still holding the lump out toward her.

“Take the meat, damn it.” Garfield’s voice had a hard edge to it.

The girl shrank back into herself. She kept her eyes on the ground as she came up to me.
I studied her as she approached. Thin. Too thin. Dark complexion, but not Mex. Simple cotton dress. Likely nothing underneath. She barely came to my shoulder.

She took the meat. “Thank you, sir,” she said. “My name is Blessing.” She stood there, waiting to hear my name.

“I’m just passing through, Blessing,” I said. “My name don’t matter. Leave it be.”

Blessing reached out to pat Zeeb. “Your horse sure looks funny, mister,” she said.

Zeeb snuffled at her dress and decided he didn’t mind the young woman.

“Zeeb’s taken a liking to you, Blessing. You must be something special.” I smiled.

Blessing blushed. “Thank you for the meat, mister. I’ll surely make chili con carne y frijoles. The beans is already done.” She returned to the wagon, put the meat away, picked up a hand axe, and went out in the brush. Probably looking for firewood. A jay chattered in the alders back of the pool. The other two could have been hunks of stone for all they moved.

I took the saddle off Zeeb and turned him loose to graze. The brindle grulla was as good as a watchdog, and he’d come whenever I whistled.

Blessing came back through the brush with an armload of sticks.

“You build the fire,” I said. “I’ll get more wood.”

“You don’t have to do that. You being a guest and all.”

I smiled again. “My mother always said I should do my share. Wouldn’t want to disappoint her.” I took her hand axe and walked out into the desert.

Adam’s Well lies in the foothills on the western slope of the Kofa Mountains, overlooking the basin that stretches across more than forty miles of desert to the Trigo range. On the other side of the Trigoes, Ehrenburg squats on the eastern bank of the Colorado River, scraping out a living from the steamboats that paddle north and south from the Sea of Cortez to the point where the shallows start at La Paz.

A week ago, Zeeb and I took a river steamer north from Arizona City and landed in Ehrenburg. The trip gave Zeeb some time to rest and I got in a bit of gambling with a would-be shark. His teeth weren’t long enough, and my dark poker face let me bluff him out of nigh onto four hundred dollars. A decent grub stake that meant I could leave the gold in my money belt – double eagles to buy land and good horses to graze the long grass along Cherry Creek in the Tonto Basin.

If I’d just stayed out of the Black Diamond, I could have ridden straight for Cherry Creek instead of looping through the desert. But that’s not how things work for the likes of me.
The Black Diamond didn’t even have batwings. Just a plain white door that opened to a long skinny room with a bar down the left-hand wall and a row of five tables to the right.

I’m not one to wear a sixgun. I prefer a Bowie up close and a one-in-a-thousand Winchester ’73 when there’s room. Folks talk about fast guns, but no gunman can get his iron out faster than I can shuck a Bowie. Up close, cold steel’s best.

When I opened the door, three of the five men in the saloon turned to size me up. I knew what they saw. A man too dark to be all white. A man who wore knee-high Apache moccasins and had a 14-inch Bowie aslant his left hip with its grip close to hand. A man in faded Levi’s and canvas shirt with longish black hair curling out from under a battered Stetson. A man with a Winchester ‘73. I wasn’t a pretty sight.

“Turley’s Mill?” I said to the barkeep. I leaned the rifle against the bar, muzzle up.

He shook his head. “Old Potrero out of San Francisco’s the best I’ve got.”


“Dollar a shot. I see the dollar, I pour the whiskey.”

I put a cartwheel on the bar. “Trusting soul, eh?”

The ‘keep gave me a curl of the lip that may have been a smile. He took the silver dollar and poured a finger of amber into a cloudy glass. He pushed the drink across the bar in my direction. “Was I you, I’d make that my last drink,” he said.

I gave him a broad smile. “I’m just getting started.” I tossed the whiskey and thumped the empty glass on the bar. “Nother,” I said, and dug in my pocket for a second silver dollar.

The door swung open to let a big chunky man walk in. Although young, his gait was ponderous. He planted each foot like his legs were stone columns. His face, thrust forward, was covered with three-day stubble and an unfriendly scowl. He stopped two steps away and shucked his gun.

“You.” The voice sounded like a rumble deep in some distant cave.

“Me?” I shifted to face the man.

“Yeah. You. Git.”

I smiled and kept my body loose. “I just put a dollar on the bar,” I said, my tone as reasonable as I could make it.

“Your kind don’t belong with regular folks. Git.”

“Reckon my cash is the same color as yours,” I said with my best poker face. “I’ve got another dollar. Buy you a drink. This Old Potrero ain’t bad booze.” I waved at the bar. “How ‘bout it?” I didn’t really want to tangle with the big man, but I wouldn’t back down either, not on account of my skin color, anyway.

He spit on the floor and moved closer. “Git. Or they’ll carry you out.”

I turned my back to him. Slowly. Deliberately. “Pour that whiskey, bar man,” I said. “Now.” I pushed the silver dollar at him.

He stood stock still, eyes darting from me to the big man behind me.

A click came as the big man thumbed back the hammer of his .45. I whirled to my right, snaking out my Bowie and slashing through his bicep with its 14-inch blade as I turned. My left fist smashed into his square jaw as my momentum carried me past. The .45 clattered to the floor.

The big guy fell to his knees, clutching his half-severed arm with his big left hand. “You miserable sumbitch.” He mumbled the words. “Sumbitch. You. Cut. Me!” Blood pumped down his arm to drip off his splayed fingers.

“Feel lucky I didn’t cut your miserable throat,” I said. “Get that bound up,” I said to the ‘keep, “or he’ll bleed out.” I picked up the bar towel and wiped the Bowie’s blade clean. “Keep the extra dollar. I was just leaving.” The Winchester came natural to my hand, and I jacked a cartridge into its chamber.

It seemed an awful long way to the door, but I forced myself to walk normal, not too fast, not too slow, the rifle under my arm.

As I neared the door, the barkeep called out. “Reed Fowley’s got family,” he said. “They’ll be wanting to know who done this to their brother and son. What should they call you?”

I stopped with a hand on the door. “Same as everyone else,” I said. “They can call me Breed.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Something I agree with

This came from a friend and I agree with its sentiments. Didn't know how to send it in a more effective way than to post it on my blog. Here goes:

Please, e-mail a copy of this column to twenty friends, ten legislators, CNN/MSNBC/FOX NEWS. You America, can, "Be the difference."

"Congressional Reform Act of 2011"
Whereas elected officials will recognize a new national standardized ethical working practice (NSEWP) for procedure as an government employee.
Be it known to all members of Congress that there will be: No Tenure / No Pensions.
Whereby, a congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.
Whereby, Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social
Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the
Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into
the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the
American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
Whereas congressmen/women can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
Whereby Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise and
congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
Whereas congressional legislators and senators lose their current health care system and participate in the same health care system as the American people.
Whereby Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
Whereas all contracts with past and present congressmen/women are void effective 1/1/12.
Hear, hear! I don't recall the American people agreeing to the separation of benefits with our elected officials. Shouldn't congressmen/women who made all these contracts for themselves have their pensions taxed and reduced? Just as they have done to mine? Shouldn't they get the same retirement plan as me or visa-versa? I have as many degrees and professional certifications as most of them, plus 14 years of service to my community, teaching in a public high school. I'm ashamed to tell you the pittance my pension amounts to, and I will have to work into my 70's if there is hope for me to raise enough income to rent a one room studio in a housing project. It is a bleak outlook.
To work in Congress is an honor, a responsibility to help, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned a constantly changing constituency. Elected officials would serve their term(s), then go home and back to work. Not, to stay in Washington, living off the bones (there is no more fat) of the land.
Change changes change. End the greed! Occupy the net!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lazy days, my . . .

So how long have I been ignoring my blog? Far too long.

A new Chuck Tyrell novel is coming out from Hale's Black Horse Western line at the end of November. You can pre-order it from the Book Depository. The title is A Man Called Breed, and it deals with the problems a man can come up against when his father is an unknown white man and his mother was a Cheyenne killed by the Colorado Volunteers at Sand Creek. He's mustered out of the army civilian scout corps, gone mustanging, built a grubstake, and now he wants to get his ranch going. Along the way, he gains a follower named Sparrow and a woman named Blessing. But the Fowleys are out to get him, and won't let well enough alone. The Breed meets them with a Bowie and a one-in-a-thousand Winchester '73. Believe me. He's been there and done that. More than once.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is the Western dead?

This subject often comes up when people find out I write western novels. "Oh, voice from the past, eh?" Well, yes, but if the numbers are to be believed, more people read and view westerns all the time. I mean, the audience for the genre is growing. True, there are more cop shows and comedies produced, but more people watch westerns than any other genre on TV. Finally, as you can see in this link, the powers that be are beginning to notice. Read about the Cowboy Comeback and smile.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Six Month Anniversary winds down

Borrowing again from friend Yuri Kageyama and the Associated Press. Here are some anniversary images posted tonight.

Minamisanriku, where a young woman kept broadcasting messages urging people to run for high ground until the surging tsunami waters swallowed her.

Another Minamisanriku.

Japan Earthquake September 11 World

Thank you, Yuri, for those images.

Please remember that all proceeds from Nik Morton's When the Flowers Are in Bloom and my own A Matter of Tea go directly to victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Author and newswoman Yuri Kageyama on six months after

My good friend and colleague (we both do journalism, but she's far ahead of me) Yuri Kageyama sent me a link to her story written for the six-month anniversary of 3/11. Read it. Then help.

You can also help by buying Nik's and my books, published specifically to raise money to help the 3/11 victims.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Six months since 25,000 people died

On March 11, 2011, a quake registering 9.2 on the Richter Scale was caused by shifting of tectonic plates off eastern Japan. Unlike most earthquakes, which tend to center in one place, such as the one that hit ChristChurch New Zealand, this one spread for 200 kilometers along the edge of the Pacific Plate and was felt as far away as Alaska and Siberia. Devastation wracked Japan. Not just in the areas hit by massive tsunami, but in places hundreds of kilometers away -- Urayasu, for instance, where Disneyland is located, suffered immensely from liquifaction, which left holes beneath streets that only came to light when the heat of summer arrived.

Remember that more than 1,500 children lost their parents. Remember that 250,000 people were displaced. Remember that some people around the Fukushima Nuclear Plant may never see their homes again in their lifetimes.

I have picked up some scenes from Youtube that you who search in English would never find. The soundtracks are in Japanese. Turn off the sound if you wish, but look at the messages. Please.

Nik Morton and I have both published books for the disaster. All the proceeds, from the authors and from the publishers, go to help victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. At the end of this post, I'll give you tags where you can spend a little money to help many people.

Scenes not shown even on Japanese TV

More from the early days after the quake

The town of Ishinomaki in June

More than three million views of the tsunami at Ishinomaki

A 40-second drive along a beachside road

This is what was left of the Watari-Arahama Fishing Co-op building after the tsunami. Friend Conan Grames sent word that the LDS church donated an ice maker capable of making 3.3 tons of crushed ice to the Co-op. All 84 of the ships operated by fishermen belonging to the co-op were damaged. So far, 16 are back in operation and the ice maker allows them to get their catches to market. People still need help.

Nik Morton's blog is here. And his book, When The Flowers Are In Bloom is here.

My book, A Matter of Tea, is a selection of short stories about Japan, including the one that received first prize in the 2010 Oaxaca International Literature Competition.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Review by Geoff Gander

The Snake Den is the harshly realistic, yet ultimately uplifting, story of Shawn Brodie, a 14-year old boy living on the frontier in late 19th century Arizona Territory.  Faced with the need to feed his mother and younger sister, Shawn comes across a lamed cow on the open range.  He puts is out of its misery, and is caught while carving off a haunch to take back home.  Judged to be a common thief, he is sentenced to three years in Yuma Penitentiary, a place that is widely known to be a hellhole from which no one escapes.
Once there, we see the horror of prison life through Shawn’s eyes.  He is reduced to a number, or, even worse, forced to answer to crude nicknames.  He is beaten up by guards, subjected to arbitrary punishment – including confinement in an isolated cell known as the Snake Den - and threatened by fellow inmates with death.  At the outset, one wonders whether Shawn will survive his sentence.
Fortunately, he is not alone.  Shawn’s three cellmates – Shoo Lee, “Kid” Pringle, and “Shark” Blanchard – take a liking to him, and become his protectors, friends, and teachers.  He learns life lessons from each of them, and as the novel progresses he grows in ways that would not have been possible had he not been sent to Yuma.  Pride of place goes to Shoo Lee, a taciturn Oriental man who teaches Shawn how to meditate, and how to defend himself, and whose guidance gives Shawn the confidence he needs to face his enemies.
By the end of the novel, after surviving a major, much-anticipated conflict, Shawn is well on his way to becoming a strong, independent man.  The story concludes with the door open to further adventures.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  Mr. Tyrell does an expert job in bringing the reader into Shawn’s world, presenting the prison through his (at first) terrified eyes, and later making that world somewhat less intimidating as Shawn matures and begins to figure out what he needs to do.  I would certainly recommend this to anyone. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

And the winner is . . . . . .


This novel was a labor of love. Many times I've told the story. I sailed my boat DoriKam from Olympia WA to San Diego, where I left her for three months as I could not take more than two weeks off at a time. I had an extra day or two, so I rented a car to drop off at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, and drove across the bottom of California to Yuma.

Yuma is so close to sea level that you have to wear galoshes just in case (not true). It's also so hot that you can dig down two feet and hear voices. It's that close to Hell. Maybe that's why they called the Yuma Territorial Prison the Hell Hole.

Well, anyone who writes westerns who gets within shouting distance of the Yuma Prison (now a state park) and doesn't go, is not true to his (or her) craft. Naturally, I went. I saw the cells, the watchtowers, the brick yard, the sallyport, and a large-scale model of the prison as it was in 1880.

And I found out one fact that set my mind racing. The youngest inmate ever incarcerated in Yuma Territorial Prison was only 14 years old. THE SNAKE DEN is the story of that 14-year-old. Totally fiction, except for the setting, but one of the toughest growing-up stories you'll ever read.

THE SNAKE DEN refers to what the original inmates called the "Dark Cell." A solitary cell. A cube made of iron straps, five feet on a side. It hangs by chains from the top of a cave dug in the south hillside that formed the wall there. It's totally dark inside, except for the ventilation hole in the top of the cave. That's where the snakes crawl to get out of the hot sun. Rattlesnakes. Diamondbacks. Sidewinders. You name it. How does a kid of 14 stand up to THE SNAKE DEN. What gives him the strength to see it through?

Read THE SNAKE DEN and find out.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This is why I write

Reba Wagner has an invalid husband and she reads westerns to him. She said she had gotten through all in the library and wondered if there were others we could help her with. I sent PDFs of Vulture Gold and The Snake Den and asked her to review them and have her husband review them when they finished with them. Here's is Reba's 2:30 a.m. post on Western Book Readers group of Facebook.

Good morning everyone, Look like I'm not the only one up at this hour of the morning. I wanted to say thank you to Charles Whipple for the books he sent us in pdf. format. I received his e-mail this evening with the attachment. I thought I would take a quick look and then maybe start one of them this weekend.

Wellllll, I took a look alright, and here it is 2:30 a.m. and I just finished "The Snake Den". I was hooked from the beginning and couldn't stop, just had to see what the next page was going to bring. What a character Shawn Brodie is. We look forward to reading more about him in future stories.

Thanks again Charles and I will be reading this to my husband over the weekend.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Vulture Gold is a finalist

My novel Vulture Gold is a finalist in the Global e-Book Awards. It is available on Amazon in either Kindle or print versions. Or, it can be ordered from SmashWords or Barnes & Noble. The publisher is Western Trail Blazers.

Garet Havelock was a Cherokee half-breed and the marshal of Vulture City. But that wasn’t enough to stop outlaw kingpin Barnabas Donovan from sending in three armed men to rob $100,000 in bullion from the Vulture Mine headquarters, killing two people in the process. Havelock set out to catch the thieves and recover the gold and in the unforgiving Mojave Desert, Jicarilla Apaches forced Havelock and Donovan’s bunch together in a cave on Eagle Eye Mountain. Then there was Laura Donovan, half-sister to the outlaw leader . . . Now Havelock must survive the Apache ‘run of death” and face Donovan’s gunslingers to get the gold and the girl.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Traditional West

Here's a new anthology by the best western authors alive today. I'm glad to call them friends and fellow westerns lovers. Here's a trailer to whet your appetite. THE TRADITIONAL WEST

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Depository offers preorder discounts

Book Depository is an online bookseller in the UK that will send your purchases anywhere in the world, free of charge. Right now, two of my books are on preorder status, one at 25% discount.

The Killing Trail is on preorder for the large print version, at 25% off. The cover you see at the left is the hardback version, and I'll put up the large print cover as soon as I get it.

A Man Called Breed is a new Chuck Tyrell novel from Black Horse Westerns that will be out in late November. But you can order it now from Book Depository at a 24% discount and they'll ship it to you free of charge the moment it becomes available.

CLICK HERE to see the Chuck Tyrell books available at Book Depository.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Now in Print

My novel The Snake Den is now available in print here. Of all my novels, this one holds a special place in my heart. I sailed a yacht from Olympus, WA, to La Paz, BCS, Mexico in 2000. On the way, I left the boat in San Diego for three months. I tied the boat up to her pier, made arrangements with the marina staff, and rented a car. From San Diego, I drove straight across California to Yuma, AZ, where the Territorial prison was for so many years. It is now a state park, and is well preserved. I walked the prison yard, inspected the buildings, went into the tunnel in the south caliche wall where the dark cell, the isolation cell, where a cube made of iron straps hangs a foot off the floor and gives the inmate only 5 feet of space, up down or sideways. This is the place they called The Snake Den. This is the place sidewinders and diamondbacks come to get out of the blazing Arizona sun. It gave my novel a name.

Records told me much about Yuma Prison. Books told me more. But in the records, one fact stuck in my mind. The youngest inmate in the Hell Hole was only 14 years old. The Snake Den is his story, or at least it is the story of a young man, only 14, who has been falsely accused of stealing beef and thrown in the Hell Hole. This is the story of how he survives. How he gets along with the Mexicans. How he deals with the king of the prison underworld. How he learns martial arts from an Oriental inmate, and uses those skills to quiet his heart and mind, and to overcome the guard sergeant who raped him.

This is the story of Shawn Brodie, and how he survived The Snake Den.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Western Writers Arise

Western Writers all

Perhaps you've heard of the Global eBook Awards, sponsored by Dan Poynter. I went to take a look at the site as Solstice Publishing, which published my book The Snake Den, suggested some of their authors might be interested.

Guess what.

No Westerns category.

I emailed one of the men in charge of the competition, Joseph Dowdy, to ask why no Westerns Category. He said, quote: I can't say why because no one came up with it when we created the categories.

Then he went on to say: I'll ask Dan if we can create one. We'll need judges for this category . . . but you can't judge the category you are in.

A few hours later, Joseph wrote: Do you think you could post something about our competition so that we can get judges and more writers in our competition for this category?

Everyone take note. Some people in the industry are blind to Westerns. We can help change that. Here's the URL to the contest.


You bloggers. Spread the word, please

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Read Vulture Gold

Just a reminder. My novel Vulture Gold is available at SmashWords for just $2.99, and I guarantee that it's a good read. We are so lucky to live in an era when so much good reading is available for so little money. It almost feels like dime novels are back. Here's the blurb for Vulture Gold. The novel is also available at CreateSpace in trade paperback for $8.95.

Vulture Gold

Garet Havelock, Vulture City‘s marshal, attempts to stop the theft of $100,000 in bullion from the Vulture Mine headquarters.

An old nemesis, Barnabas Donovan, is responsible and leaves a trail of dead behind him. A kidnapping, gunfights with Indians, and chasing the gold bring the marshal to meet the one woman he can‘t forget and forces choices on him no man should have to make.

Now, Havelock must survive the Apache ―run of death,― and face Donovan‘s gunslingers to get back the gold.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shakin' It Back

This photo, taken by Tim Newfields, shows me reading my story Floating World, from the collection entitled A Matter of Tea. The event was Shakin' It Back, music and literature, held at What the Dickens in Ebisu, Tokyo. Nearly 100 people paid ¥2000 each to benefit the 3/11 quake victims, and all had a great time.

A Matter of Tea is available in eBook form or in printed form.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The way it was, March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m.

The VIDEO was removed as it seems to have been a pirate of National Geographic images. As it was on Youtube, I assumed it was for general consumption. Such was not the case, and I apologize. Proceeds from A Matter of Tea still go to the victims of the quake and tsunami.

This video is 45 minutes long, and it takes you once again through the experience of Japan's recent earthquake and tsunami disaster. Nearly 40,000 dead or missing. 300 miles of seacoast devastated. 150,000 homes and buildings destroyed. 25,000 households driven out of their abodes by radiation. A disaster like this comes along once in a thousand years (last one was in the 9th century).

If you'd like to help me help out here in Japan. Spend a dollar and buy a copy of A Matter of Tea. Hundreds of people have purchased the book, and I hope the word will continue to get around.

Buy the eBook HERE

Or buy a printed version HERE

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Buy this book. Help the victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami


The title story of this collection is the same story that won the 2010 Oaxaca International Literature Competition. This is the first time the story has ever been published. And with it, other stories I have written that are set in Japan, plus a look at a brand new series called Chronicles of the Dark Mirror. A full chapter of the first book, The Seeker.

The only thing I do well is write. When the earthquake hit Kobe in 1995, friends and I hauled food and necessities from Tokyo to Kobe. But this time, the damage and the suffering makes Kobe look like a picnic. (I apologize to the people in Kobe for that simile but the destruction and the death toll and the homelessness in Tohoku is so vast, it defies description.) Aerial comparisons of before and after are shocking to say the least. And the only thing I can do is write.

So I decided to let you read these stories and help the people in Tohoku at the same time. Buy this book for a buck -- well, for 99 cents -- and I and my publisher will give all the income we receive from your purchases to worthy charities that are helping in Tohoku. I will personally pick the charities and I will personally report to you about what has been or is being done.

Help me out. Buy this book of stories about Japan. Get your friends to buy a copy, too. Spread the word. Help me help the victims of Japan's horrendous earthquake and tsunami.

If you'd rather buy from Amazon for your Kindle, the link is HERE. But be advised that the Kindle version is more expensive. Thanks.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A story about Apache County Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens

Clair Huffaker wrote about him, and there have been many stories in magazines and newspapers of Arizona, including microfilms of newspapers of the day. I have them. This story is as close to the truth as I can manage. The characters speak words the record of the events says they spoke. The story's been on the Internet before, but it's worth another read, I think.


The Pleasant Valley War


Charles T. Whipple

Commodore Perry Owens rode in from the south, reining in his blooded horse atop the rise overlooking Holbrook. The Little Colorado below was an ocher ribbon fringed with gray-green willows. Far away to the northeast, the flat-topped hills of the Painted Desert spread pinks and blues across the horizon. He hooked a leg over the saddle horn and contemplated the rowdy cowtown. It looked peaceful that Sunday, September 4, 1887, but the Sabbath was about to be broken by gunfire. Sheriff Owens carried a warrant for the arrest of that kid Andy Cooper . . . much as he dreaded serving it.

Not that he was a coward. He'd proved he wasn’t. The Snider Gang lost nine men in the Round Valley gunfight, for instance. But he'd been in office since January and the Cooper warrant -- for stealing Navajo horses -- was still outstanding.

When Commodore Perry Owens drifted into northern Arizona in 1881, people soon learned the long-haired cowboy had iron nerves and an uncanny skill with horses. John Walker hired him to guard Wells Fargo and army remudas at Navajo Springs.

Navajos regularly tried to steal the horses, but many fell to Commodore Owens's Sharps .50. He could hit a squirrel a mile away with that gun. He reckoned he'd killed at least 50 Navajos by the time he became the sheriff of Apache County.

If the Indians got away with a few horses, Owens would raid them right back, often bringing back more mounts than he'd lost. Andy Cooper sometimes went with Commodore on those sorties. He was a cheerful young man, good with animals. But he had a hot temper and a quick trigger finger. If anyone in the territory could match Commodore Perry Owens with a Colt's, it was Andy Cooper.

When Owens inherited a warrant issued by the county court on March 26, 1886, accusing Andy Cooper of stealing 40 Navajo horses, he ignored it. To him, stealing Navajo horses was no crime. "Kid, I'm sheriff now, so you just stay out of town when I'm here," Commodore said to Cooper. "Or I'll have to serve that warrant on you."

The Sheriff took the warrant to Taylor, leaving instructions with the deputy in the town to serve it if Andy ever showed up. Owens put the warrant out of his mind because Zach Decker, the Mormon gunman, lived in Taylor; Andy would probably steer clear.

Now things had gotten out of hand. The Sheriff was forced to serve that damned warrant. He kneed his mount toward the crossing at Berado's store.

Much of the trouble began in 1884, when the Aztec Land and Cattle Company -- the Hashknife Outfit -- brought 40,000 cattle into Apache County. The Texans who came with Hashknife cows into Arizona were hard men. And they partook freely of other people's stock.

Mart Blevins settled on a rawhide ranch at the headwaters of Canyon Creek late in 1884. With him came four sons -- Hampton, John, Charles, and Sam Houston -- his wife Mary, and daughter Mesa. Mart had a fifth son, Andy, who took the last name of Cooper after a scrape in Llano, Texas. When Andy first came to Arizona, he drove a Hashknife chuckwagon.

In 1884, Commodore Perry Owens had a horse ranch at Cottonwood Seep, about 10 miles south of Navajo Springs. People came from all over to buy his blooded stock, and to see his skill with firearms. Someone would throw a tin can in the air and holler, "Commodore!" In an instant both his guns were out. Lead smashed into the can long before it hit the ground. Shooting with right-hand gun, then left, he'd keep the can moving until it was too shattered to roll.

Although the Commodore's blond hair reached nearly to his waist, no one kidded him. He spoke with a quiet Oklahoma drawl, but he decked anyone who disparaged his hair or the way he wore his guns butt forward. At five foot ten, he wasn't a big man, but once something started, he never said "quit."

Down in Pleasant Valley, the feud that would bury 28 men heated up.

Jim Stinson was the first cowman in the valley, settling on Cherry Creek with 1,200 head of cattle the Mormons traded him for his ranch at Snowflake. He was preceded by mountain man John D. Tewksbury and his three half-Indian sons -- John Jr., James, and Ed -- and followed by Tom and John Graham, natives of Iowa, who set up a ranch upstream from Stinson two years later.

At first the Grahams and the Tewksbury boys were fast friends. But a quarrel over stolen cattle ruined that friendship. After that, eyes narrowed and hands moved toward gun butts whenever a Graham and a Tewksbury passed on the trail.

Above the Mogollon Rim, the Daggs brothers ran thousands of sheep. But A-One Bar cowboys kept them off lush pastures among the San Francisco peaks, the Hashknife outfit barred them from ranges to the east, and Pleasant Valley ranchers guarded the passes off the Mogollon Rim so Daggs' woollies couldn't get in.

By 1886, the rift between the Grahams and the Tewksburys was common knowledge. And the Daggs brothers decided to take advantage of the feud. They offered the Tewksburys a lucrative deal to guard Daggs sheep into Pleasant Valley. They accepted, and the drive began.

The ranchers stood aghast as the woollies poured into Pleasant Valley. Suddenly the enmity between honest cowmen and rustlers evaporated. They faced a new, much larger threat. Andy Cooper was among the crowd that gathered at the Graham ranch one autumn day in 1886 to consider what to do about the sheep. So was Tom Pickett, who had ridden with Billy Bonner.

Andy wanted action. Kill all the sheep and every man with them, he said, but Tom Graham said no. "There must be no killing and no destruction of property," Graham ordered.

"Give them sheep a hold in the valley and there won't be enough grass left for a grasshopper come spring," Cooper countered. "I'll lead the boys. We'll make a raid that'll end it all, and damned sudden."

Graham ordered him to stay put, and faced the young gunsharp down, even though Graham himself had no reputation as a shootist.

Graham's brand of guerrilla persuasion -- shots in the night that holed coffee pots and frying pans -- didn't force the sheep out of the valley. Later, Andy led a rougher bunch. They stampeded sheep over cliffs, shooting any survivors. And they beat up the herders.

In Holbrook, sheepman Sam Brown and druggist Frank Wattron headed the citizen's committee that drafted Commodore Perry Owens into running for sheriff of Apache County.

Incumbent J.L. Hubbell's trading post was an important stop on the outlaw trail. Violence was rampant. Hardcases run out by the Texas Rangers flocked to northern Arizona for respite.
Even the Clanton gang, ousted from Tombstone by the Earps, moved back to their New Mexico ranch and started stealing Arizona cattle.

On November 4, 1886, 500 landowners voted for Commodore Perry Owens and his law-and-order platform; 409 voted for Hubbell. A pall of black-powder gunsmoke hung over Holbrook as the citizens celebrated Owens's victory. Friends organized a dance in honor of his election, with music by a Mormon band from Saint Johns.

Later, his chief deputy, Joe T. McKinney, recalled: "Commodore Owens had a great reputation as a brave man and many wonderful things were promised and expected after he was in the sheriff's office. Lawlessness was everywhere."

Owens moved into the Barth Hotel in Saint Johns and started as Apache County sheriff in January 1887. He appointed strong men as deputies -- Osmer Flake, Lon Hawes, Joe Hershey, John Scarlett, Frank Wattron, Joe McKinney, and the Tewksbury partisan who later turned the Pleasant Valley quarrel into a vendetta, James D. Houck.

The Pleasant Valley conflict turned bloody in February. Shots were fired at one Navajo herder early in the month, but he shot back. The cowboys left for easier pickings. Some days later another Navajo herder was found shot dead. The cowboy roughnecks had declared war.

The Hashknife outfit put John Payne, a big ruthless Texan, in charge of moving sheepmen off Hashknife range. Paine and his riders gave ultimatums to Tewksbury partisans: Leave, or else.
With the sheep out of Pleasant Valley, things cooled down a bit. One sheepherder was dead, but people felt he was just a Navajo. The dead sheep were another matter. They cost the Daggs -- and the Tewksburys -- money. But more than that, the brothers rankled at losing to the Grahams.

As the storm brewed, Commodore Perry Owens rode endless miles to uphold the law in his domain. He left the warrant for Andy Cooper's arrest gathering dust in Taylor, but served countless others. Lawbreakers went to jail, or left the country.

Then Mormon teamsters started losing horses. They would leave their teams hobbled at night and often wake up to find the horses gone, with the hobbles left behind to taunt them. Apache County Critic Editor Frank Reed wrote: "The leader of this gang of rustlers has been cited as one Andy Cooper, who was classed as being a horse thief desperado of the most daring stamp, and the boldest man in his operations as had ever cursed the west."

Nevertheless, Commodore Perry Owens ignored Andy Cooper. As he brought in lawbreaker after lawbreaker and collected license fee after license fee (he was liable for fees that went uncollected), Commodore's reputation grew. But horses and cattle continued to disappear, and the local papers continued to remind Sheriff Owens about Andy Cooper.

For months, Andy Cooper and John Payne ramrodded the wild bunch that harassed the sheepherders. The next casualties hit close to home. Ignoring the advice of his sons, Mart Blevins rode away from his Canyon Creek ranch one morning in late July 1887, looking for missing horses. He was never seen again. Some thought the Navajos killed him, others said horse thieves. Seven years later, a rancher on Cherry Creek found a human skull near a rusty rifle that had belonged to Mart Blevins.

Two weeks passed without word of Mart. The Blevins brothers were convinced sheepmen had killed the old man. Will Barnes, Arizona historian and owner of the Long Tom ranch, was at a Hashknife roundup camp south of Holbrook when John Payne, Hampton Blevins, and six others rode up on August 10. Payne announced they were headed for Pleasant Valley in search of Mart Blevins, and to "start a little war of our own." Barnes and the wagon boss tried to talk the riders out of violence, but Payne's job at the Hashknife was to get rid of sheepmen, so arguments against force meant nothing to the rowdies.

The horsemen passed the deserted Blevins ranch at the head of Canyon Creek -- the Blevinses had rented a house in Holbrook for their womenfolk -- and trailed down Canyon Creek, keeping an eye out for signs of the old man.

Finding none, they headed for the Middleton ranch, where John Payne had ordered everyone to "leave, or else."

Jim and Ed Tewksbury, Jim Roberts, and Joseph Boyer were at the Middleton spread when Payne, Hamp Blevins, Tom Tucker, Bob Glasspie, and Bob Carrington rode up. Payne repeated his ultimatum, saying the occupants hadn't left and they'd have to pay.

According to Jim Roberts, Hamp Blevins reached for his pistol. Jim Tewksbury, deadly with a saddle gun, shot Hamp dead. Jim Roberts fired at John Payne, clipping his ear and splattering the side of his head with blood. Another Tewksbury bullet killed Payne's horse. He jumped away from his mount, but took only two or three strides before Tewksbury bullets dropped him lifeless near the body of Hamp Blevins. Tom Tucker was shot through the lungs; Glasspie and Carrington escaped untouched.

After the Middleton ranch shootout, Andy Cooper and the Graham faction may have gotten the idea that the law had sided with the Tewksburys. Deputy Sheriff Joe McKinney refused to investigate, saying it wasn't his jurisdiction (The Tonto Basin is in Gila and Yavapai Counties; McKinney was an Apache County deputy). Deputy James Houck, a former state assemblyman from Apache County, was a Tewksbury partisan. William Mulvenon, sheriff of Yavapai County, led a posse into Pleasant Valley but failed to arrest a single Tewksbury, even though he had ten warrants. His posse met a group of Graham men led by Andy Cooper at the Perkins store. Andy saw the officers were empty-handed and told them the cattlemen would "take matters into their own hands" and exterminate the sheepmen if the sheriff did not arrest the Tewksburys.

Pleasant Valley being outside his jurisdiction, Apache County Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens still found no reason to serve the warrant outstanding on Andy Cooper.

The Pleasant Valley War is also known as the Graham-Tewksbury feud, but none of its first victims bore those names. The Grahams may not have been involved at this point, because of Tom Graham's orders against killing. Andy Cooper, though, was another matter. His father was missing, his brother dead. He wanted action. So he usurped leadership of the Graham riders every chance he got, hoping to get a Tewksbury in the sights of his guns.

Owens's own deputy pushed the battle past the point of no return. On August 17, 1887, Deputy James Houck killed young Billy Graham from ambush. Suddenly, a range war between cattle and sheep interests became a personal vendetta between Grahams and Tewksburys.

The warrant for Andy Cooper's arrest lay in Taylor, ignored. So the county board of commissioners called Sheriff Owens in for an accounting. Will Barnes was there. "...They asked him why he had not made the arrest. His reply was that he had not been able to locate Cooper." Barnes told the board that he had seen Cooper in Holbrook two days before. The board told Owens to arrest Cooper within ten days or be ousted from office.

Now, as his horse dipped its head to drink from the Little Colorado, Owens considered his odds.
In the few days since the board's command, more men died in Pleasant Valley. Tom Graham, who had been against a shooting war, now wanted to avenge his young half-brother. Graham, Cooper, and a group of riders descended on the Tewksbury ranch as dawn broke September 2, 1887.

They caught John Tewksbury and William Jacobs about a mile from the Tewksbury home, and killed them. The cowboys kept the remaining Tewksburys pinned down inside the house. Hogs came and rooted at the bodies. But when they started to maul them, Mary Ann Tewksbury, John's wife, couldn't stand it. She braved the Graham guns to bury her husband and his friend in a shallow grave she scraped out with an old shovel. Cowboy chivalry protected her.

Commodore Owens rode slowly down Holbrook's Main Street, south of the tracks. He stabled the sorrel at Brown & Kinder's livery. Frank Wattron walked over from his drugstore, a shotgun under his arm, to tell Owens that Andy Cooper had bragged of killing one of the Tewksburys and another man he did not know. He asked if Owens wanted help.

"I don't want anyone hurt in this matter," Owens said. "They've been telling all around the country that I was afraid to serve these Cooper warrants, and a lot of other stuff. I'll show them that I'm not afraid and take him single-handed or die a-trying. You just sit back and watch me do it, that's all I ask."

Owens was in the livery stable cleaning his pistol, when John Blevins came for Andy's horse. "Your man's leaving town," Sam Brown told the sheriff. Owens put his six-shooter back together and walked out of the livery stable with his Winchester .45-60 in his hand.

A few minutes later, Andy Cooper and Sam Houston Blevins were dead, Mose Roberts was dying, and John Blevins was wounded.

At the inquest, Commodore Perry Owens gave this testimony:
. . . I went and got my Winchester and went down to arrest Cooper. Before I got there, I saw someone looking out at the door. When I got close to the house, they shut the door. I stepped up on the porch, looked through the window and also looked in the room to my left. I seen Cooper and his brother (John) and others in that room. I called to Cooper to come out. Cooper took out his pistol and also his brother took out his pistol. Then Cooper went from that room into the east room. His brother came to the door on my left, took the door knob in his hand and held the door open a little. Cooper came to the door facing me from the east room. Cooper held this door partly open with his head out. I says, "Cooper I want you." Cooper says, "What do you want with me?" I says, "I have a warrant for you." Cooper says, "What warrant?" I told him the same warrant that I spoke to him about some time ago that I left in Taylor, for horse stealing. Cooper says, "Wait." I says, "Cooper, no wait." Cooper says, "I won't go." I shot him. This brother of his to my left behind me jerked open the door and shot at me, missing me and shot the horse which was standing aside and a little behind me. I whirled my gun and shot at him, and then ran out in the street where I could see all parts of the house. I could see Cooper through the window on his elbow with his head towards the window. He disappeared to the right of the window. I fired through the house expecting to hit him between the shoulders. I stopped a few moments. Some man (Mose Roberts) jumped out of the house on the northeast corner out of a door or window, I can't say, with a six shooter in his right hand and his hat off. There was a wagon or buckboard between he and I. I jumped to one side of the wagon and fired at him. Did not see him any more. I stood there a few moments when there was a boy (Sam Houston Blevins) jumped out of the front of the house with a six shooter in his hands. I shot him. I stayed a few moments longer. I see no other man so I left the house. When passing by the house I see no one but somebody's feet and legs sticking out the door. I then left and came on up town.

It was signed C.P. Owens.

Owens's version of the gunfight was seconded by several witnesses: C. O. Brown, Will C. Barnes, Frank Wattron, Frank Reed, and William Adams, among others.

The coroner's jury found no fault with Owens.

The Sheriff was a hero for but an instant. Often he served warrants on dead men. Deputy James Houck viciously lynched Jim Stott, James Scott, and Billy Wilson. The Saint Johns Herald wrote: "The common people are beginning to think that our territory has had enough of desperadoes as 'peace' officers, who parade about with abbreviated cannon strapped to their hips. ...The trouble with the desperado-class of officers is that they shoot whom they please, and are acquitted on the plea that their victim 'had it in for 'em' and the shooting was in self defense...."

The Board of Supervisors became antagonistic, often disallowing Owens's expenses. He once had to threaten them at gunpoint to get paid. He didn't run for a second term, choosing instead to become a guard for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. Later he was a Deputy U.S. Marshall under M.K. Meade.

Eventually, Owens moved to Seligman where he ran a saloon. At the age of 50, he married Elizabeth Barrett. She was 23. The couple had no children. In his sixties, Owens' mind failed. Born July 29, 1852, and named after the hero of Lake Erie, Commodore Oliver Perry, Owens died May 10, 1919. He lies buried in an unmarked grave in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The warrant for the arrest of Andy Cooper rests in the archives of the Apache County court in St. Johns, yellow with age. Across the back, Commodore Perry Owens had scrawled: "Party against whom this warrant was issued was killed while resisting arrest."

# # #

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What about the West, then?

Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey and Jack London either lived the West or listened to people who did. I'm a generation behind L'Amour, if you figure a generation to be thirty years. Still, I feel I knew many of the people who "won" the West. That's why I write about the West, and I'd like to let you all know about the sons and daughters of the pioneers that I knew. Let me tell you about Aunt Hat.

Aunt Hat's Chili

Aunt Hat and Uncle Jess lived on the bluff above Show Low Creek. Their house was small, stucco on frame, with one of those wavy galvanized tin roofs. But you'd be surprised how many people it could hold whenever Aunt Hat made chili.

There was always a string of chili peppers hanging in the kitchen. And whenever she'd run low, she'd send Earl over to Orlando Baca's place in Concho to buy another string.

Aunt Hat kept a stock pot on the back of her old wood-burning stove. She and Grandma Em were the only women I knew who still cooked with wood. Bones and meat trimmings went into that stock pot every day. And every morning, after a couple of chunks of juniper went into the stove to liven up the coals left over from the night before, Aunt Hat would fish the bones out of the stock pot, scrape the marrow out, pull off any strings of meat, and toss those bones in the dog pan. She'd skim the grease off the top of the stock pot and put it in a Mason jar. Never did figure out what she did with that grease, but every once in a while, that Mason jar would be empty.

Come time to make chili, Aunt Hat ladled a couple of quarts of stock into a big cast-iron dutch oven. She'd have a pile of meat trimmings, a couple of pounds at least, which would go into the dutch oven to boil with the stock.

"Go get the onions," she'd say to me. "Even a knee-high brat like you can cut onions." So I got to peel and chop a half dozen big ol' onions to put in that pot with the meat trimmings. Talk about tears.

Three or four of those hot chili peppers came off the string, and Aunt Hat ground them up on an old Anasazi metate Uncle Jess had found not far from the house. Grand Uncle Ned found the remains of a rudimentary cliff dwelling in that bluff above the creek. Carbon dating put a wooden beam from the dwelling at ca. 1200. The metate may have been from the same time. It sure made powder out of those chili peppers, seeds and all.

Some folks put the chili powder right in the kettle. Not Aunt Hat. She always roasted the chili powder in a frying pan and then mixed it with lard to make a kind of chili roux. "Rounds it off just a little," she'd say. Into the dutch oven it went, along with two or three grated carrots, a couple of tomatoes, and some roasted, skinned, and chopped California chiles -- mild, but flavorful.

The dutch oven sat and simmered on Aunt Hat's wood stove until the concoction was reduced to dark, reddish-brown liquor, thick with gelatin from the meat scraps. She'd soaked a quart of pinto beans overnight, and they were now plump and swollen. Aunt Hat dumped the beans into the dutch oven, water and all, and set it on the back of the stove where it would stew until the next evening.

Aunt Hat never tasted her chili until the morning of the second day. When she lifted the cast-iron lid of that deep dutch oven, steam rose and the unmistakable fragrance of chile con carne y frijoles filled the kitchen. She'd taste the chili and start adjusting things. Some cilantro. Black pepper. A little vinegar. A bay leaf or two. A touch of honey.

Satisfied, she hefted the big lid back on the oven and let it sit. There on the back of the stove, it wasn't hot enough to boil, but it was too hot to spoil. And all those ingredients just sat there and melded.

The men and boys would start coming just after noon. They'd put two loads of hay in the big barn just over the bluff, and they're ready for dinner. No one in Show Low, Arizona, eats lunch. It's breakfast, dinner, and supper, and the biggest meal of all is dinner.

Aunt Hat's ready. The chili is steaming in a huge bowl in the center of a table that seats twelve. She's cut inch and a half thick slices of the whole-wheat bread she baked on Thursday, and piled them on two platters, one at each end of the table. Pats of golden butter the size of an upside-down coffee cup stand ready for the bread. The deep color of the butter tells you one of Uncle Jess's cows is a Jersey. The apple pie is still in the pantry. After the bread and chili, it will be served with fresh cream and coffee.

In my end of Arizona, bread and chili go together naturally. You butter a slice of that homemade bread. Put in on your plate. And smother it with chili. My mouth waters just writing about it.

Aunt Hat's gone. So's Uncle Jess. Even Earl rides Old Blue in the great beyond. He never did get a driver's licence. Us kids that crowded Aunt Hat's on chili days grew up and moved away. Now we've got kids and grandkids of our own. And while our chili don't hold a candle to Aunt Hat's, we still try.

# # #

(c) Charles T. Whipple

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review of Hell Fire in Paradise

Nik Morton, fellow Black Horse Westerns author and editor in chief of Solstice Publishing has reviewed my novel Hell Fire in Paradise.

And look here for an interview with my humble self by Jean Mead.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Earthquake, etc.

March 11, about 3:30 pm, I was at the hospital for a regular checkup. I'd just paid my bill and received my chit for meds, which I took to the hospital pharmacy. The meds weren't ready. I started to sit down when the building started to shake. That's nothing unusual in Japan. Happens quite often. But the shaking didn't quit. I walked quickly down the hall and outside on the ground floor smoker's deck. The shaking increased. I had to grab an iron post to stay upright. The steel walkway between the emergency ward and the hospital wards twisted and crackled. The van parked in front of the open space where I stood literally danced. The shaking and dancing went on for a good minute. The hospital didn't fall on my head.

Back at the pharmacy, meds were all over the floor. Took the pharmacists another 15 minutes to put mine together. I was last for the afternoon.

Outside, my car was still in one piece. A broken sewer line was spewing water onto the parking lot at the south end. A line from the big diesel fuel tank was broken, too. Maintenance people rushed to attend to the leaking fuel.

I tried to call my wife, but Japan, for some reason, turns all cell phone carriers off when there's a major earthquake. I've never heard a convincing argument on what that happens. Hoping all was well at home, I started the 10-minute drive.

The hospital is located on reclaimed land, which stretches out into Tokyo Bay about five kilometers from the former shoreline. Lots of liquefaction. Some buildings canted. Water seeping out here and there. But the roads were open and the traffic lights worked. I drove over the overpass and up the hill to high ground. On the way, I pulled over once to wait out a strong aftershock. People were already crowding into 7-Eleven to start buying up supplies.

At home, some books were off shelves, one mirror was broken, but nothing major. It felt good to live on high ground.

I didn't sleep that night. Aftershocks were scary. Coverage of the problems at the nuclear plant was on all TV channels. Videos of tsunami washing away entire towns. People crying out, screaming as their houses were swept away with them inside, having thought going to the second story would keep them out of the water. Tsunami carrying ships of thousands of tons inland for two or three kilometers. Cars floating as if they were boats. Water covering the runways at the Sendai Airport, carrying away baggage tractors, trailers, everything.

Nonstop coverage continued the next day. I caught some Zs in the big chair.

Quake epicenters have switched around. The original one that registered 9.0 on the Richter scale was off northeastern Japan seacoast. The next day a 6.8 quake struck in Niigata. Slightly after that, a 6.0 in Nagano, where Japan's last winter Olympics were held. Yesterday, 6.4 on the southern flank of Mt. Fuji. Tonight, 6.4 off the Pacific coast of Chiba, the prefecture in which I live.

I type while watching NTV. They're chronicling the cleanup, the hunt for relatives, the lack of fuel and supplies in the 190 km strip of the Pacific coast that moved 2.4 meters closer to California because of the big quake.

We don't know what will happen with the nukes. We don't know if another monster quake or even a big quake will hit us again before things settle down. We just don't know.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Best course on PACING I've ever seen

Mary Buckham knows her stuff. I'm posting this from her just in case some of you might want to fork over $30 and get sixty-five times that much in useful advice. Mary's really really good.


March 1-25, 2011
Pacing: How To Create a Page Turning Manuscript
by Mary Buckham
$30 at

What keeps a book intriguing enough to have fans turn the pages and not set it down? How can one author's books have you riveted and another's leave you feeling ho-hum? Ever wondered if there are key craft tips and techniques to balance fast-paced conflict, tension, suspense or mystery, action and emotion? In PACING: HOW TO CREATE A PAGE TURNING MANUSCRIPT you'll learn:

* The ingredients of a page turner
* What hooks are and how to maximize them
* The power of effective scenes: common pacing pitfalls to avoid
* The ten elements of strong pacing
* How to use subplots and secondary characters
* How to avoid a sagging middle
* What a beat is and how to use it
* Great beginnings and endings that have your readers wanting more!

Mary Buckham is co-author of BREAK INTO FICTION: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells and an award-winning Romantic Suspense author. She has hundreds of free-lance articles to her credit, a non-fiction book and is a former Magazine Editor. Currently she presents writing workshops online and around the country. Mary encourages you to visit her website at for more information about her and her current writing projects.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Line Rider

David Cranmer says some good words about my latest story -- Line Rider. Go take a look.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Demise of books vastly overstated

Friend and fellow author Mattew Mayo sends word of a healthy book market. Happy reading.

Take a look HERE.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Letter from a reader of Vulture Gold

Hello, Charlie san

I've just finished your book "Vulture Gold".
What a great story it is!
And I'm so glad Havelock made it.

This is the story you wrote last year, right?
I realized when Havelock survived in the desert.

Your stories are always different and I can't tell what's happen next until I've finished it.
That makes me excited.
But this time "Vulture Gold" was difficult to read for me.
There were lots of words I did not know, so I've read with my dictionary.
Even though it took long time, I couldn't stop it because of the characters!
The characters you wrote are always so attractive.
I wanted to make sure if Havelock is happy in the end or not.
So I'm so glad he made it!

And I wanted to say
Thank you so much
for letting me know this great story.

regards, (name withheld to protect privacy)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chuck Tyrell book for pocket change . . . or for free

Vulture Gold is now available at most online booksellers. Smashwords, of course, gives you a choice of formats.

Garet Havelock was a Cherokee half-breed and the marshal of Vulture City. But that wasn't enough to stop outlaw kingpin Barnabas Donovan from sending three armed men to rob $100,000 in bullion from the Vulture Mine headquarters, killing two people in the process.
Havelock set out to catch the thieves and recover the gold and in the unforgiving Mohave Desert, Jicarilla Apaches forced Havelock and Donovan's bunch together in a cave on Eagle Eye Mountain. Then there was Laura Donovan, half sister to the outlaw leader . . . .
Now Havelock must survive the Apache "run of death" and face Donovan's gunslingers to get the gold and the girl.

Buy at Smashwords.
Buy at Western Trail Blazers.

If you want a FREE copy, contact me for details.