Henry Chappell has skirted the Spur Award from Western Writers of America twice before. His first book, “The Callings,” was a finalist for Best First Novel in 2002 and he was a finalist in the Novel of the West category in 2005 with “Blood Kin.” This year he hit it out of the park and will pick up a Spur in June for “Silent We Stood.” This is not your traditional story of the West. It begins in pro-slavery Dallas, Texas, in 1859, and takes the reader on a journey into the lives of abolitionists and the slaves they help as they travel the Underground Railroad.
The winner of the Wrangler Award as Best Novel, “The Son” by Philipp Meyer is a far-reaching story that centers on Eli McCullough, the first male born in the Republic of Texas, and takes a back-and-forth look at his life from his capture at age 13 by Comanche warriors, through the generations of his family. This book is a saga in the best sense of the word.
Colt Ballard’s story, aptly told by Steven Law in “Bitter Roads,” is a contemporary novel that is a fast read and solidly written. Ballard is about as low as a man can get when he leaves the rodeo circuit after his team roping partner dumps him. With no money and not many opportunities, Colt heads to New Mexico to work at a camp for underprivileged kids. At the camp Ballard he finds that when he begins to think about others, he has a chance for redemption, romance and maybe even a return to rodeo.
Pierre, S.D., writer Bill Markley is best known for his nonfiction, but he proves that he can switch from magazine articles and history to craft a novel that is just as solidly researched and ell told. In “Deadwood Dead Men Markley” takes the reader to Deadwood, S.D, in 1876 where reporter Jack Jones has an assignment to find General George Crook somewhere out on the Plains after the battle that wiped out George Custer’s command. First, though this reporter must get to the bottom of a rash of criminal activity in Deadwood. Markley blends his fictional folk and events with the real people and events of Deadwood, including Calamity Jane the death of Wild Bill Hickok.
Sherry Monahan has combined her love of history and research with her love of wine to write “California Vines, Wines and Pioneers.” She tells the stories of 50 California vineyards from the history of “mission grapes” raised by of Franciscan monks during the late 1700s to the development of the industry following the California Gold Rush. ❖