“The Shakespeare of the Western range.” —Kirkus Reviews, praise for the author
When Samuel Cross was growing up, he was rarely found without a book in his hands and that was the way his mother, a widow, wanted him raised. His uncle, Stephen Larkin, a frontiersman like Sam’s father, wanted him to be strong and able to fend for himself, so he would take him into the mountains every summer to teach him how to fight and use a weapon.
He proved to be as adept at these subjects as he had been at book learning, but when he was eighteen and his mother died, he took a job working for Chandler, the trader at Fort Bostwick, for whom he was a well-paid clerk and, eventually, watchdog of the business. What he didn’t understand was that he looked forward to troublemakers coming into the shop so that he could confront and deal with them. It was during a visit from the district marshal that he learned of Chandler’s crooked ways and of his own notoriety and reputation as a safety killer, one who never fights unless he knows that the law is sure to protect him.
When the marshal tells him to leave the fort and learn how to live right, Cross decides to head East. His strength and skill with a gun make Cross both friends and enemies on the boat he is taking down the Mississippi. He is saved one night from a fatal stabbing by Charles Granville, a well-to-do Southerner, who recognizes a startling resemblance between himself and Cross. He proposes that Cross repay him by taking part in a daring deceit. Feeling indebted to Granville, Cross agrees and heads to New Orleans.
But can Cross actually pull off the masquerade and fool Granville’s parents, friends, and especially his beautiful sister, Nancy. And what is behind Granville’s desire to have Cross take on the role of himself?
A double dose of Western action from one of the genre’s acknowledged masters
The first story, “The Rodeo Killer,” is a smoldering tale of the violent intersecting conflict between New Mexico cattle ranchers, cattle buyers, and men breeding horses for the rodeo circuit. Greed, deceit, trickery, and murder mix with romance and gripping examples of human and animal courage in this thrilling and dramatic tale.
The title story, “Mission Creek,” references a waterway in the Red River region of Texas that serves as the background for the fiery tale of Ruel Starrett, a man that worked against the odds his whole life to establish his own ranch. He finally gets his chance when he’s offered a half interest in the Spade Ranch from a woman named Susanna Dahlhart. But she isn’t all she appears. By the time Starrett learns what he’s gotten into, it may be too late to get himself out without a fight.
Johnny D. Boggs turns the battlefield itself into a character in this historical retelling of Custer’s Last Stand, when George Custer led most of his command to annihilation at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in southern Montana in 1876.
More than forty first-person narratives are used—Indian and white, military and civilian, men and women—to paint a panorama of the battle itself.
Boggs brings the events and personalities of the Battle of the Little Bighorn to life in a series of first-hand accounts.
John Henry Cole, working as a deputy US marshal out of Judge Isaac Parker’s court in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was on assignment in the Indian Nations when he was shot and seriously injured. Now, fifteen years later, employed as a deputy for Judge Roy Bean in Texas, Cole receives a personal summons from Judge Parker to appear in his court within thirty days. Cole isn’t inclined to go, but he knows whatever’s on Judge Parker’s mind is serious and decides he has to go.
It was dusk when Todd Duncan sighted the man and his camp at a small oasis on the edge of the desert. Duncan, on his way to New Mexico to find work, knew better than to barge into a stranger’s camp. After riding in and dismounting, he decided to make coffee before waking the stranger. When he called to the man, there was no response, so he walked over to find the man dead from a gunshot wound. It is then that he finds himself surrounded by Sheriff Matt Berryhill and his posse, their guns drawn. They identify the dead man as Jerry Swindin, who had been shot during an attempt to rob the express office. Assuming that Duncan is Swindin’s partner, young Parton, who had shot and killed the express agent, the sheriff wastes no time arresting him, despite the fact the he claims his name is Todd Duncan and has letters to prove it. The only way to convince them that he’s innocent is to track down the real killer.
John Henry Cole’s life has quieted down from what it had always been, and he can now settle down and make improvements on his small ranch. But everything changes when an old rancher named Wilson rides in with his two sons.
Wilson is willing to pay Cole $5,000 to help get back his wife, Lenora, who has been taken hostage by Lucky Jack Dancer, an outlaw who had robbed the train on which she was a passenger. She is being held prisoner in Gun Town, a safe haven for outlaws.
Cole had sided Lucky Jack Dancer years ago when both of them had operated as US marshals in the Indian Nations, but that was before Lucky Jack had quit the service and become an outlaw. The situation becomes complicated when Cole learns that Wilson’s son doesn’t want the woman back and that Wilson’s health is seriously compromised.
John Henry Cole worked for years in Cheyenne, Wyoming—first as a policeman, and later a detective. He enjoyed the work, despite its dangers, but it was time for a change. So he decided to open his own agency, one staffed by former lawmen like himself. In practice they might be bounty hunters, but he hired men he had worked with before that he knew and trusted to be honorable and professional—and then they got to work.
And work it was. Cole’s agency was located in just about the most dangerous place it could be: Red Pony, in the Cherokee strip, a region often referred to as a no-man’s-land because of its rampant outlawry. But the way Cole saw it, what better place to hunt for outlaws with bounties on their heads?
But Cole’s team may have bit off more than it can chew when it sets out to capture the notorious Sam Starr and his outlaw gang, and bring them all to justice.
“Death of a Gunfighter”
Walt Street is on a stagecoach bound for Escalante, Colorado, where he hopes to reunite with his wife after two years of living without violence at her request. But when fellow passenger Ben Rawlins recognizes him as a man with a bounty on his head, a struggle ensues and Rawlins ends up dead. Walt switches identities and all is well until he finds out that Rawlins has inherited a small ranch that the neighboring Gunhammer Ranch wants. He can’t sell because he’s not Rawlins, but the Gunhammer crew thinks he just needs some strong-armed persuasion.
Sloan Hewitt was just a passing stranger. All he wanted was to sell his wagonload of buffalo hides, get a drink, a bath, and a good night’s sleep. Hewitt didn’t know about the town’s dark desires. As a former soldier, he’d had his fill of killing. But when three gunmen ambush, rob, and leave him for dead, Hewitt sees just how hungry the town is for blood.
Soon after Sloan Hewitt takes care of the sidewinders who’d bushwhacked him, someone decided to pin a marshal’s badge on him. He didn’t want the job, but someone had to teach this town a lesson, and he’s just the man to give this place a dose of its own lead poisoning.