Valley of fire, p.1

Valley of Fire, page 1


Valley of Fire

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Valley of Fire


  The Despoilers

  “Boggs’ historical asides are aided by a narrative style that drives the story along full gallop.”

  —True West

  “Boggs has once more written a humdinger of a book with wonderful characters, even the villains. The Despoilers tears at one’s heart, which is what really good fiction should do.”


  “Johnny D. Boggs tells a crisply powerful story that rings true more than two centuries after the bloody business was done.”

  —The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)

  The Lonesome Chisholm Trail

  “Boggs is among the best western writers at work today. He writes with depth, flavor, and color, all of which are evident in this rite-of-passage tale . . . Boggs tells the familiar story with authenticity and power.”


  “Realistic dialogue, a little humor to lighten up the dramatic tension, a strong plot, and a sense of place that leaves one sneezing from the dust makes for one of Boggs’s best novels.”


  Ten and Me

  “Informed by accurate detail in almost every regard . . . Boggs’s narrative voice captures the old-fashioned style of the past and reminds a reader of the derring-do of western legends of yesteryear.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “This is an entertaining western in the classic mold. The characters possess enough human frailty to be believable, the author includes interesting stuff on the weaponry of the times, and there is enough gunplay to satisfy genre purists.”


  Once They Wore the Gray

  “Another dramatic story by a finalist for the Spur award of Western Writers of America.”

  —Amarillo Globe-News

  “Well worth reading, especially as it treats . . . an aspect of the Civil War that is often slighted in the history books.”

  —The Shootist

  Hannah and the Horseman

  “I think Johnny D. Boggs is well on his way to being a major western writer.”

  —The Shootist

  “This book displays an admirable sense of percolating pace and point-blank prose.”

  —The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)

  “Johnny D. Boggs moves his narrative at a lively clip, and it never turns mawkish.”

  —Fort Worth Star-Telegram

  This Man Colter

  “Humor, action, and a wonderful character in Gwen McCarthy make this a delightful read.”


  “If you’re into the true wild west, you will enjoy this rugged tale set in west Texas.”


  Foundation of the Law

  “As is to be expected with a Johnny Boggs novel, Foundation of the Law is full of those authentic historical details that make his stories so rich and believable.”

  —The Shootist

  Law of the Land

  “Making bad guys into sympathetic characters is not the easiest feat but Boggs succeeds.”

  —Southwest BookViews

  “It is an engrossing story, and is told with Boggs’ meticulous attention to authentic detail and believable characterizations. If his characters, including the Kid, don’t look like, sound like, and behave like Boggs describes them, they should have.”

  —The Shootist

  “Boggs’ unique approach to the Lincoln County War’s legal skirmishing is both eye-opening and memorable.”

  —True West

  The Big Fifty

  “While I was reading The Big Fifty sometimes I would forget ‘my favorite son’ had written it.”

  —Jackie Boggs, Johnny’s mother

  “Johnny D. Boggs has a keen ability to interlace historically accurate information amid a cast of well-described characters and circumstances.”

  —Cowboy Chronicle

  “A fine novel that will leave you with the taste of grit in your mouth, and the smell of spoiled buffalo carcasses in your nose.”


  Spark on the Prairie




  —Persimmon Hill

  “This . . . continues a long-needed look at those who brought law and order to the frontier—not with six-guns but with law books.”

  —True West

  “A finely crafted historical novel with fully developed characters playing out their lives against the backdrop of early Texas settlement.”

  —American Cowboy

  East of the Border

  “This is an amusing glimpse at a decidedly different side of some of the Old West’s most famous names.”

  —The Denver Post

  “We need more books like East of the Border.”


  “East .of the Border is a fun, lighthearted look at the thespian deep within every cowboy.”

  —True West

  “Boggs takes the historical facts . . . and gives us a fascinating tale of West meets East.”

  —The Shootist

  Dark Voyage of the Mittie Stephens

  “Delightful entertainment, which combines elements of the traditional western with an Orient Express–style whodunit and a Titanic-like romance.”


  “Based on a real disaster aboard the Mittie Stephens, this novel supplies suspense, a love story, betrayal, loyalty, bravery, and deceit wrapped up in a tight plot supported by wonderful, three-dimensional characters and a sense of place that evokes the smell of burning cotton bales and the screams of terrified passengers.”



  “Spur Award–winner Boggs takes a common western plot—old gunslinger looking for redemption—and injects it with genuine humanity. Solid fare from a reliable genre veteran.”


  “Boggs is unparalleled in evoking the gritty reality of the Old West, whether it’s the three-dimensionality of the characters or the look, sound and smell of the muddy streets and smoke-filled saloons.”

  —The Shootist

  “Johnny D. Boggs deftly charts the dual resurrection of a dying Colorado town and a perishing breed of man.”

  —True West


  “Lively and entertaining . . . a vibrant retelling of the Old West’s most notorious and deadly bank robbery.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “A fast-moving and strangely poignant tale that never pauses to rest.”

  —The Denver Post

  “This book stands head and shoulders above others of its kind.”


  “The kaleidoscopic effect pays handsome rewards, fueling the action from all vantage points in concise, frenetic bursts that might even leave you feeling a mite poorly for those doomed outlaws.”


  Camp Ford

  “Boggs’ carefully researched novel boasts meticulously drawn characters and captures in a striking way the amazing changes America underwent during the span of one man’s life. An unusual, very rich western that should attract not only genre readers but also baseball fans and Civil War buffs.”


  “As baseball stories go, Camp Ford by Johnny D. Boggs is a home run . . . Think The Longest Yard . . . about baseball and without the glamour . . . Timeless.”

  —USA Today Sports Weekly


  “It takes a skilled author like Johnny D. Boggs to drive the genre into new literary railheads, as he does in his novel Killstraight.”

  —Tucson Weekly

  Doubtful Cañon

  “Boggs’s quirky western doesn’t take itself too seriously, making this a fanciful and fun
ride into some dangerous business.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Boggs delivers a colorful, clever and arresting tale.”

  —Santa Fe New Mexican

  “Uses its non-serious side to appeal to younger readers . . . well-flavored tale.”

  —The Tombstone Epitaph

  Walk Proud, Stand Tall

  “The author’s deft hand at characterization and the subtle way he fills in the blanks as the story progresses makes Walk Proud, Stand Tall a tender story hard to resist.”

  —The Denver Post

  “Boggs deftly balances the bitter and the sweet, the harsh landscapes and the humanity. That he manages it entertainingly is our reward.”

  —Santa Fe New Mexican

  The Hart Brand

  “Though an ocean away, Kidnapped and Treasure Island come to mind when reading this Western; Boggs’ tale nearly matches the quality of those written by Stevenson.”

  —True West

  “Some consider William Dale Jennings’ The Cowboys the best Western coming-of-age novel. Others would argue it’s All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy or When the Legends Die by Hal Borland. With The Hart Brand, Boggs stakes his own firm claim.”

  —Santa Fe New Mexican

  “Boggs, who writes with a finely honed sense of character and a keen eye for detail, combines historical fact with fiction to create a Revolutionary adventure from the vantage point of an average participant.”


  “Johnny Boggs has produced another instant page-turner . . . don’t put down the book until you finish it.”

  —Tony Hillerman

  “The relationships and setting shine: Daniel—striving at once to solve the case and reconnect with Comanche ways—is a complex, winning protagonist.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “A rousing story with an emotional and philosophical depth that will surprise readers who don’t expect complexity from a Western.... Explores the clash between white and native cultures . . . fundamentally different and strikingly similar.”


  Soldier’s Farewell

  “This is not a simple Western . . . Boggs’ familiarity with the landscape . . . puts the reader right into New Mexico and particularly through the rugged landscape along the Río Chama. And while this may seem to be a fairly traditional Western, the conclusion is anything but. Another good read.”—The Roundup

  “Boggs . . . showcases his talent for period detail, atmosphere, complex characters, and the ability to evoke a stark landscape.”


  “Ultimately, Soldier’s Farewell is a tale of two brothers falling far short of what their father expects of them, and what they expect of each other. This is another fine novel by one of today’s better writers of Westerns.”

  —Tucson Weekly




  Kensington Publishing Corp.

  All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.

  Table of Contents


  Title Page







































  Copyright Page

  For Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum


  The Lord works in mysterious ways.

  Yeah, you’ve read that before. So have I, and I ain’t much when it comes to picking up books. Well, ain’t nobody ever accused me of being a writer. Rapscallion. Gambler. Liar. Whoremonger. Drunkard. Cardsharp. Horse thief. Two-bit assassin. Son of a bitch. Been called them things, and worser. Yet I have come to believe that, indeed, the Lord does work in mysterious ways.

  How else could you explain why I sit, one more time, in this damp, stinking dungeon in Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, legs shackled, sentenced to hang? Fitting, I guess. The padre who frequented that old orphanage always said I was bound for the gallows, so I’ve accepted his prophesy as gospel. In eight hours, it will all come true.

  But how I, Micah Bishop, wound up here . . . well, that is one thing I’m still trying to figure out. And I ain’t got much time to reach some satisfactory conclusion.

  These words I write for the undertaker and the ink-slinger reporting on my execution for the Las Vegas Daily Optic. These is the facts, or best guesses, as I know them.

  My name is Micah Bishop. Maybe. I’m an orphan, but that’s the name the Sisters of Charity told me that my ma or pa had given me. I am thirty years old, or thereabouts. I have been accused of killing a gambler in this burg a few months ago, which, if you must know, is true. It wasn’t, though, exactly murder. I called it self-defense, but nobody believed it. Nobody on the jury, or in the entire courtroom, or anywhere in the territory believed it.

  Except two people. Maybe. Sister Rocío and Sister Geneviève, would believe me, but they wasn’t around to testify on my behalf. It don’t matter. Besides, they wasn’t in that bucket of blood when I dealt this b’hoy named Gomez out of the game, permanent-like. The county solicitor would likely have objected to anything them two nuns had to say under oath regarding the untimely passing of Manuel Gomez, since those two nuns didn’t witness the shooting.

  But if not for Rocío and Geneviève, I wouldn’t be here. If I’d never heard of the Valley of Fire, if Geneviève had not busted me out of jail, if Sean Fenn hadn’t been such a greedy bastard, if priests and Spaniards hadn’t done such a dirty, rotten thing more than two centuries ago, if Sister Rocío hadn’t been so damned honorable and good, if and if and if and if . . . well . . . it’s like I said. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

  So here I sit. Alone. Just me, a candle, a couple writing tablets and a few pencils. There’s a Bible over in the corner, next to the slop bucket, but I haven’t cracked its spine yet. Too busy writing.

  Is this my confession? I don’t know. Maybe. I’m trying to figure that out, too.

  Just like I was always trying to figure out Sister Geneviève Tremblay. And even old Sister Rocío.

  Maybe it’ll all make sense to me when I’m finished writing. Or more than likely, I won’t know the truth till some trusty hangman springs that trapdoor open and I get dropped into eternity.

  For me, it all started here in Las Vegas after I’d sent Gomez to meet his maker, after I was first sentenced to hang. It began like this....


  Continental Arms Company calls its little pepperbox pistol “Ladies Companion,” and, honestly, it ain’t much of a gun. But when that five-shot .22 is an inch from your eyeballs, it might as well be a cannon.

  Even when it’s held by a nun.

  “I didn’t bust you out of that hellhole ten minutes ago,” Sister Geneviève said, her hand not wavering a bit, “to have you quit on me now. So sit down, Mister Bishop, or I scream,
and that mob hauls you back to jail, or, more than likely, straight to the gallows tree”—her finger tightened ever so slightly on the trigger—“providing I don’t wallpaper this pigsty with your miserable brains.”

  We was in a hotel room, and it was a pigsty, but not as bad as the one I’d been in just minutes earlier. I was in that pigsty on account of a sawed-off little runt called Gomez, who caught me dealing off the bottom over at Hernandez’s Gambling Parlor on La Plazuela, then had the stupidity not only to pull a pistol out of his waistband, but to send a ball through my hat, part my hair, and scar my scalp. He would have done a lot more damage had he gotten off his second shot. He didn’t, but only because I put a bullet in his gut. After which, the good citizens of Las Vegas bruised me considerable, hauled me off to jail, and sentenced me to hang in less time than it has taken me to write this all down. There wasn’t no grand jury or coroner’s inquest. They hadn’t even given me a trial. How was I supposed to know that the late Gomez was Felipe Hernandez’s brother-in-law? Felipe Hernandez owned not only Hernandez’s Gambling Parlor on La Plazuela, but a big freight line than ran from Raton Pass to Santa Fe, and an even bigger rancho just north of town. And by now you’ve likely figured out that he also owned the mayor, marshal, and some mercantile in New Town, where the hangman had bought his rope.

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