The Demise of Billy the Kid: My Review

The Demise of Billy the KidPreston Lewis has once again combined his sense of humor and gift for story telling to give readers the real life history of the Lincoln County War as told by someone who claims to have been involved in most of the momentous events that shaped Western lore, H. H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax.
In the first of a series of books featuring the adventures of this fictional character, the author begins with his purported discovery of Lomax’s memoirs while conducting research at Texas Tech University. While acknowledging that most historians have dismissed their authenticity, he expresses his own tongue in cheek confidence that they were indeed written by H. H. Lomax but he “can’t vouch for their veracity.”
So begins the humorous recollections of Lomax’s association with Billy the Kid, the legendary cattle baron John Chisum, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and the factions that fought over cattle interests and control of the dry goods business in the New Mexico Territory in the late 1800s.
Lewis certainly captures the violence of the period. The Lincoln County War began with the cold blooded murder of John Tunstall by the Jessie Evans Gang. Tunstall, an Englishman, was a newcomer to the territory who challenged the monopoly of the local general store known as “The House.” Billy the Kid was in the employment of Tunstall at the time, so he and his “Regulators” followed up his murder with a revenge killing of their own. The ensuing feud resulted in countless deaths and continued until 1881 when Pat Garrett finally hunted down and killed the famous gunman at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Lewis ameliorates the historical accuracy of his narrative with his typical wit and humor. H.H. Lomax rides a mule named Flash, is frequently mistaken for a conman and swindler by the name of Gadrich Lomax who pays in counterfeit money, sells a blind horse, cheats at cards, and peddles bad liquor, and Lomax also has the same love interest as Billy the Kid, the hot-tempered señorita, Rosalita. Of course all of these lead to hilarious circumstances and outcomes, indelibly establishing H.H. Lomax as someone who “had the good or bad luck to be where Western History was made,” and whose subsequent exploits will link him to the Outlaw Jesse James, the Gunfight at the
O.K. Corral, and Custer’s Last Stand.
I’ll definitely be along for the ride!

The Fleecing of Fort Griffin: My Review

The Fleecing of Fort Griffin Book CoverI can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much. Preston Lewis has crafted a story chocked full of indelible characters whose antics in pursuit of money will keep you smiling throughout.
The locale is Ft. Griffin, the westernmost Army post and town in Texas. It is the Spring of 1878, and royalty has arrived by stagecoach in the person of English Baron Jerome Manchester Paget, who proposes to buy land upon which he plans to establish a buffalo ranch.
The absurdity of this idea is highlighted even more by the $25,000 equivalent in British currency that he carries about in a satchel and openly flaunts in a frontier town renown for its lawlessness. The expression “a fool and his money are soon parted” becomes the prevailing attitude amongst both residents and visitors in Ft. Griffin, all of whom scheme to swindle the baron out of his money.
There’s Cat Tails, a Tonkawa Indian with an unquenchable thirst for whiskey and the feline appendages from which he derives his name.
There’s Colonel John Paul Jenkins, the commander of the military garrison whose Buffalo soldiers bear no love for their leader.
There’s the widow Flora Belmont, whose five previous husbands have died under suspicious circumstances.
There’s the Reverend G.W. (God Willing) Tuck, whose sermons and apparent miracles serve to line his pockets, not give hope or redemption to sinners.
There’s the gunman One-Eyed Charlie Gatliff, who aims to kill the baron and take his money, and the professional gambler Joe Loper, who won’t let that happen before he can get the baron in a poker game and cheat him at cards.
There’s the husband and wife team Wanda and Wallace Sikes, who use her sexuality to get men into compromising situations so they can be blackmailed.
There’s Lop-Eared Annie Lee, whose disproportionate bosoms keep customers lining up for a peek and a poke. And… so many more!
Baron Paget must use his wits and the services of fourteen-year-old orphan Sammy Collins and a rooster to ward off this colorful cast of characters.
Someone is certainly going to get fleeced, but who and how is at the heart of this humorous western classic that will have readers guessing and howling with laughter.

______________________________

COMMENT:  Some followers of this blog are going to notice book reviews that have appeared previously on other literary websites such as Goodreads and Amazon. My purpose in re-posting them here is to reach the widest possible audience.

Memorial Day 2018

 

May 28 (1)

Every year I wonder how many Americans pause on Memorial Day to reflect on the sacrifice made by the men and women who have been killed fighting the nation’s wars. Because society no longer bears a collective responsibility securing our freedoms, it is only military families that truly share and understand the anguish, pain, and pride of losing someone under combat related circumstances.

The cost in human lives has been and is staggering. The following numbers reflect combat related deaths in America’s principal wars and combat operations since World War I. They do not address the number of wounded, missing in action, or the psychological toll of veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Battle Deaths:

WWI – 53,402   WWII – 291,557   Korea – 33,739   Vietnam – 47,434   Iraq (Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel) – 6,855   Afghanistan (2001-2017) – 942.

Think about those numbers for a moment and let them sink in. Then think about countless other wars from the American Revolution to the present that are not listed. Then think of the ongoing war against terrorism. Freedom is not free!

Today we have men and women stationed in hot spots around the globe protecting America’s interests. The reality is that many of these individuals will also give their “last full measure of devotion” to preserve our democracy.

If you really want these numbers to sink in, visit one of the 147 national cemeteries or 24 permanent American burial grounds on foreign soil. Gaze upon the row upon row upon row of headstones. It is both overwhelming and inspiring. Finally, get on your knees and give thanks for such courage, commitment, and love of country. You may have not known a single one of them, but you owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

God Bless the deceased and God Bless America!

 

 

 

 

Killers of the Flower Moon: My Review

Killers of the Flower Moon Book CoverFrom 1921 to 1926 a series of murders were perpetrated against the Osage Indian Nation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The murders were calculated to cheat the Osage out of their rights to land that had been forced upon them by the United States government. Once large deposits of oil were discovered the Osage became some of the wealthiest people in America, but unscrupulous individuals, including prominent citizens, local law enforcement officers and members of the judiciary all conspired to take their wealth from them.
In his meticulously researched book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” author David Grann reveals the corruption, prejudices, and Old West attitudes that resulted in this “Reign of Terror.”
In their day the murders were headline news, but Grann not only sifts through old newspapers, but court records, eyewitness accounts, descendent interviews, and FBI files to get at the truth. In doing so he recounts the early formative days of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, its director J. Edgar Hoover, and the men hand-picked to impartially investigate the murders and establish the FBI as the nation’s premier law enforcement agency.
What may shock readers, however, is the magnitude of the conspiracy and the great many murders that were never investigated.
The book is a window into a very dark period in American history; an account that definitely deserves telling, will have the reader invested in the story that unfolds, and provides yet another chapter in the saga and legacy of poor treatment of Native Americans

________________________________

COMMENT:  The content of this blog includes works that I have authored, books that I’ve read of my own volition, and promotions on behalf of Lone Star Literary Life. I wrote of my intent to help promote the Texas literary scene working with LSLL on March 23rd, and I have since used this site for several of their Book Blog Tours. Whenever I write in that capacity it should be evident by the use of their logo.

 

 

East Jesus: My Review

 

East Jesus Book CoverI wasn’t sure where to begin my review of “East Jesus.” Having just read and reviewed the prequel, “Blood And Remembrance,”there are elements within the book that I would not have recognized had I read them in the sequence in which they were written and published. Nonetheless, each book stands on its own and there is no requirement to have read them in any particular order, or for that matter any less enjoyment for having read just one or the other.
Obviously, the setting and most of the characters carry over, as does the the violence and threat of violence that is pervasive in both novels. However, the resignation and desperation that dominate the narrative in “Blood And Remembrance” are tempered in “East Jesus” by the innocence and optimism of children unwilling to just accept their fate and, unlike the adults who simply go about their lives trapped by their circumstances and poor decisions, actually hold out hope of a brighter future.
From the very first chapter the reader knows that a day of reckoning is coming, that there will be a climactic confrontation to end years of mental and physical abuse. Still, the ending you expect is not what Chris Manno delivers. The looming disaster that has been building throughout the entire book plays out, but not in any way that you could have envisioned.
The WOW factor aside, Chris Manno has written a coming of age story the likes of which I have not encountered since reading “The Last Picture Show” by Larry McMurtry. The year is 1969 and seventeen year old Travis Carlisle must first deal with the situation at home – Pop who promises yet more abuse; “unfinished business” that will be settled once and for all when he rolls his big rig back into town, Momma whose daily routine involves endless cigarettes and alcohol to cope with a life of repeated beatings and meaningless sex, his little sister Bean who is traumatized by what she’s seen and at age five hasn’t spoken a single word, and his Uncle Otis recently released from Huntsville State Penitentiary, who frightens almost everyone in the West Texas town of Conroy but is pledged to protect both Travis and Bean.
If that isn’t enough drama for anyone at this age, Travis is also experiencing the angst and exhilaration of being a teenager in a small rural town. There may not be much to Conroy, Texas… nobody new ever settles there and few even pass through because it’s on the road to nowhere, but he and his best friend Buster still chase after the local girls hoping to get past 2nd base, work hard to make the varsity football team to play under those Friday night lights, sneak a cold brew whenever and wherever they can, hang out at the Dixie Dog and Alamo Cafe, participate in pick-up baseball games with their friends, look forward to the annual Fair in Lubbock, marvel at astronauts landing on the moon, and try to comprehend through letters written by Buster’s older brother Bo what it is like to travel halfway around the world to fight on foreign soil in a place called Vietnam.
Once again I found myself totally immersed in a Chris Manno novel. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Texas, but I was able to project my own experiences onto the tapestry of life, death, pain, sorrow and redemption that is “East Jesus.” If you appreciate flesh and blood characters, their interwoven story lines, and an ending that will blow you away, this book is a must read!

Thrilling Supernatural Read!

  
TANGIBLE SPIRITS 
BOOK BLITZ 
by
BECKI WILLIS
Genre: Paranormal / Thriller / Suspense 
Publisher: Clear Creek Publishing
Date of Publication: May 13, 2017

Number of Pages: 316

Reporter Gera Stapleton has a difficult choice to make: write the story of a lifetime or save the legacy of a town—and a man—she has come to love. Assigned to a piece in Jerome, Arizona about a once-friendly ghost gone on a crime spree, Gera stumbles upon an amazing tale of greed, deception, and family honor—and murder. When the killer targets her as the next victim, an unlikely savior comes to her rescue. Smart dialogue, plenty of action, and a touch of the supernatural make this a must-read novel.

Praise for the book:

“Becki Willis blends bits of history with bits of fancy and weaves a tantalizing tale you won’t soon forget.”

 “A delicious read. It has ghostly whispers, a brave leading character, bad guys, fun, danger and love. ”

“Oh, how I love this writer! She has freshened the genre of ghost stories by her unusual point of view.”

“Tangible Spirits” is an excellent story for those who love history and ghost towns as well as those who just love a good romance novel.

“A spine-tingling novel set in the real-life ghost town of Jerome, Arizona.”

Quotes from the book:

“I’ve seen things. Heard things, felt things. Sensed things. Things that cannot be readily explained. Call them what you may, but we have tangible spirits among us.”

“There are things in life that are beyond explanation. The smell of the mountain air after a spring rain. The beauty of a sunset beyond those hills yonder. The translucent prisms of a rainbow across the clear Arizona sky.” She turned her vivid gaze toward Gera. “And the eternal and often tangible spirit of life.”

 

CLICK TO PURCHASE
AMAZON     SIGNED PAPERBACK

2018 Best Paranormal Fiction
by The Association of Texas Authors 
2018 RONE Award Nominee for Paranormal Long
Crowned Heart Recipient from InD’Tale Magazine


CHECK OUT THE TRAILER!

ABOUT THE RONE AWARDS:
Each year InD’tale Magazine honors the very best books in the Indie and Small publishing industry by awarding the prestigious RONE award (Reward of Novel Excellence). To achieve this award, a book must go through the most comprehensive process in the industry today, with three distinct areas of focus— highly rated and reviewed, loved by fans, and critiqued by qualified judges. No other award system today compares, making the RONE award the very highest of honors bestowed on a novel in the publishing industry.

 The first round of voting (happening May 7-13, 2018 for TANGIBLE SPIRITS) allows the reading public to choose their favorites. Books with the most votes proceed as finalists. The books chosen as finalists will then be read by a group of industry professionals and will be judged based on a specific list of requirements. Those scores will then be tallied by a professional company unrelated to InD’tale or its employees to determine the winner of the coveted RONE award.
Tangible Spirits RONE Awards
CAST YOUR VOTE
FOR TANGIBLE SPIRITS! 
Please register now at www.indtale.com and cast your vote for TANGIBLE SPIRITS by Becki Willis. http://indtale.com/2018-rone-awards-week-four *Please Note* To maintain honesty and fairness in the voting process, only registered InD’Tale website subscribers can vote. Registering is completely FREE and does not require any commitments whatsoever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: To the delight of readers around the world, Becki Willis writes memorable characters in believable situations. Best known for Forgotten Boxes and The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series, Becki has won numerous awards, but says her biggest achievement is her family and her loyal reader base.

TANGIBLE SPIRITS
COMING TO

LONE STAR BOOK BLOG TOURS
JUNE 27-JULY 6, 2018
   blog tour services provided by
  

 

Blood And Remembrance: My Review

e7308-cover2bbnr2bnarrow2bborder2b-2bcopyHenry David Thoreau wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” The loss of hope, the acceptance of life’s disappointments, the rash choices made to fill the resulting void in our lives, and the consequences of those decisions and actions are at the heart of “Blood and Remembrance.” The difference is that the descriptions of desperation in Chris Manno’s prequel to his award winning novel, “East Jesus,” are not quiet. They are loud, violent, vulgar and… absolutely riveting!
His characters are flesh and blood, their interwoven stories presented in such a way that you’re not only along for the ride. You live and breathe their experiences.
These are experiences most of us never encounter; life inside prison, booze and drug soaked evenings trying to hook up at the local bar, VFW, honky-tonk, or pancake house, broken relationships, rundown trailer parks, and dilapidated vehicles. This is the side of Texas we try not to see.
There’s Ray, incarcerated at Huntsville State Penitentiary. He’s trapped not just by iron bars, cement walls and razor wire, but a system that strips away any sense of human dignity and reduces inmates to animalism just to survive. He will do anything to make it through another day, including murder. He stays hopped up on drugs to negate the monotony and drudgery of life in the Pen. His only escape is the occasional conjugal visit. He knows, however, that he will never get out and that even if he were to once again experience freedom, he would only revert to the same behavior that put him behind bars in the first place.
There’s Verlene, Ray’s girl. She realizes that she has no future with a convict yet she continues the conjugal visits knowing that she will experience only rough sex, not love or intimacy. She’ll be used, but she’s accustomed to that. She exudes the kind of sexuality that drives men mad, and while she is “cock sure” of her ability to manipulate the opposite sex, she is also insecure and vulnerable. Tequila hides her insecurity and vulnerability, at least in public. In the privacy of a public bathroom or her trailer home she cries her eyes out until she once again washes her face, touches up her makeup, and repeats the same destructive behavior.
There’s Randy Mac, the Cowboy. He works as a ranch hand five days a week from sunup to sundown, letting off steam on the weekends. He loves the land and he loves the lifestyle. He dreams of traveling west to New Mexico and Colorado, of buying his own spread one day, and settling down. The only obstacle… Verlene. He knows he’s on the road to hell, but simply can’t get enough of her. Though he tries to force himself to put her out of his mind, he’s haunted by her perfume, by the memory of their trysts, and the continued temptations she throws in his direction. He’s damned and powerless to do anything about it.
There’s little resolution to any of these story lines at the end of “Blood and Remembrance.” After all, this is a prequel. But I’m absolutely hooked. My next read… “East Jesus!”
There is also little to suggest a happy ending. This is a Greek tragedy, albeit the setting is Texas. Nonetheless, I or anyone who reads the first of these two novels by Chris Manno will appreciate his ability to immerse us in a world populated by characters that we genuinely care about, in settings that make us uneasy, in a narrative that makes us want to influence or somehow alter an outcome that we know can only end in disaster, and has us rushing to the physical or online bookstore to get a copy of his companion book.