THE GREATEST WESTERN WRITERS OF THE 21ST CENTURY
The accidental gunslinger Dooley Monahan has quit wandering and settled down to a farmer’s life. But when the itch for adventure gets too strong, he packs up and rides west. Along with his horse General Grant, and Blue, a dog who’s too smart for his own good, Dooley rides for the Black Hills to strike it rich in the gold fields of Colorado. But fate has other ideas.
When the trigger-happy Dobbs-Queeg gang holds up the Omaha bank, Dooley is mistaken for one of the robbers, and a price is plastered on his head. With every lawman in the territory hot on his trail, Dooley has no choice but to join up with the murderous outlaws. If the hangman doesn’t get him, his new friends will, but Dooley won’t turn back. With Blue and General Grant at his side, Dooley will make his fortune—come hell, high water, and everything in between.
BECAUSE WHEN YOU’RE DOOLEY MONAHAN, TROUBLE AIN’T FAR BEHIND
Also Available in Audiobook
About the Author
William W. Johnstone is the nationally bestselling author of over 300 books, including PREACHER, THE LAST MOUNTAIN MAN, LUKE JENSEN BOUNTY HUNTER, FLINTLOCK, SAVAGE TEXAS, MATT JENSEN, THE LAST MOUNTAIN MAN; THE FAMILY JENSEN, SIDEWINDERS, and SHAWN O’BRIEN TOWN TAMER. His thrillers include Black Friday, Tyranny, Stand Your Ground, Home Invasion, The Blood of Patriots, The Bleeding Edge, and Suicide Mission. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being the all-around assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone.
He began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western history library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hard—and learned.
“Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,’ he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.’”
Read an Excerpt
The Trail West
By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
As he rode west down the wide, muddy street, Dooley Monahan felt content. He had a belly full of coffee and biscuits and gravy, a newspaper article — torn out from page three of the Council Bluffs Journal — and enough supplies, or so the merchant at the general store had told him, that would get him to the Black Hills of Dakota Territory, where Dooley had decided he would make his fortune at that gold strike up yonder. And a fellow he had met at the Riverfront Saloon had sold him a map that would take him to the Black Hills and avoid any Sioux warrior who might be after a scalp or two. Two blocks back, he had even tipped his hat to a plump blonde who had not only smiled at him, but also even offered him a "Good morning, sir."
"Yes, sir, ol' Blue," Dooley told the blue-eyed dog walking alongside his good horse, "it sure is shaping up to be a mighty good day."
That's when a bullet tore through the crown of his brown hat.
A couple of years had passed since, as best as Dooley could remember, somebody had taken a shot at him — but Dooley had not been farming for so long that he forgot how to survive in the West. Ducking low in the saddle, he craned his head back down Front Street where the shot had come from while his right hand reached for and gripped the Colt .45 Peacemaker he wore in a well-used holster slickened with bacon grease.
On one side of the street, that plump blond girl dived behind a water trough. On the south boardwalk, a man in a silk top hat pitched his broom onto the warped planks, slammed one shutter closed, and dived back inside the open door of his tonsorial parlor.
What looked to be a whole danged regiment of cavalry charged toward him, the hooves of wild-eyed horses churning up mud like a farmer breaking sod — but only if that farmer had Thoroughbreds instead of mules, and a multidisced plow that could rip through the ground at breakneck speed.
"The James boys!" came a shout.
"It's the danged Youngers!" roared another.
"The Reno Gang!" yelled someone.
"We're the Dobbs and Handley boys, you stupid square-heads!" shouted a man with a walrus mustache. He rode one of those wild-eyed horses that were coming straight for Dooley Monahan; his dog, Blue; and his gelding, General Grant.
Dooley had read about St. Albans — not in the Council Bluffs Journal, but some other newspaper, maybe one in Des Moines back when he was living with his mother and father and long before he got the urge to ride west and find gold and had made a name for himself as a gunman who had killed a few outlaws. St. Albans was a town in Vermont or New Hampshire or Maine or maybe even Minnesota — but not Iowa or Nebraska — where Confederates had pulled a daytime robbery of a bank during the Civil War. So whenever the James-Younger boys or the Dobbs-Handley Gang or some other bunch of cutthroats or guerillas robbed a bank in daylight hours, folks still cried out ...
"St. Albans! St. Albans! Foul murder! Robbery!"
"Get your guns, men, and let's kill these thievin' scum."
The men of Omaha, Nebraska, had taken up arms by now. Bullets whined, roared, and ricocheted from barbershops and rooftops, from behind trash bins or water troughs. Panes of glass shattered. The riders thundering their mounts right at Dooley Monahan answered in kind.
General Grant did two quick jumps and a stutter step, which caused Dooley to release the grip on his walnut-handled Colt. His left hand held the reins. His right hand gripped the horn. And seeing his dog bolt down the street, leap onto the north-side boardwalk, and move faster than that dog had ever run gave Dooley an idea.
He raked General Grant's sides with his spurs and felt that great horse of his start churning up the mud of Front Street himself.
Later, when Dooley Monahan had time to think everything through, when he came to realize everything that he might have done — should have done — Dooley would realize that perhaps his best move would have been to dive out of the saddle and over the hitching rail and fall onto his hands and knees on the boardwalk. Then, he imagined, he would have crawled rapidly east — toward Iowa — until he reached the water trough, where he gallantly would have dived and covered the body of the plump blonde, shielding her with his own body, earning much praise for his heroics and chivalry from the editor of the Council Bluffs Journal and maybe even Omaha's Weekly, World, Herald, Regi ster, Call, and Mormon Prophet. General Grant, most likely, would have galloped off after Blue, found shelter down an alley, and Dooley Monahan would have avoided confusion and near death. A parson would have found his horse and dog and led them back to the saloon on Front Street where Dooley would have been talking to the plump blonde. She would have kissed Dooley full on the lips for saving her life, Dooley would have been given a couple of cigars and a bottle of whiskey, and he would have continued on to the gold mines of the Black Hills — if there were mines — or maybe he would just have filed a claim on some creek. Either way, he would have been well on his way to a fortune, and not running for his life.
Yes, that is what Dooley should have done.
But when a man is mounted on a fast-running horse and facing a charging horde of rough-looking men, with bullets slicing dangerously close, even an experienced farmer turned cowboy turned gunman turned gold seeker turned amnesiac turned recovered amnesiac turned farmer turned fortune hunter does not always elect to do the smart or proper thing.
Instead, Dooley did what came to him first. He spurred his horse, and General Grant led him westward down Front Street. He leaned low in the saddle, and almost not low enough, for one bullet grazed the skin tight across his left shoulder blade.
The frame, sod, and bricked buildings of busy Omaha seemed blurry as Dooley glanced north and south. He saw the flashes of guns from a few windows or doorways, but none of the bullets came that close. Still, he managed to yell, "Don't shoot at me, you fool Nebraskans! I'm just trying to save my own hide!"
They couldn't hear him, of course. Not with all the musketry and the pounding of hooves and, perhaps, even Dooley's own heartbeat.
General Grant had always been a reliable horse, and as fast as many racehorses. But Omaha's streets had become a thick bog after a bunch of spring rains, and the fine bay horse had spent the past couple of years on an old farm a few miles outside of Des Moines — so he wasn't quite up to his old form. Before he knew it, Dooley felt riders on both sides of him. He wanted to slow down, but even as he eased off his spurs, General Grant kept running as hard as his four legs could carry him. And Dooley understood that the bay gelding really had no choice. Too many horses were right behind him. Even if the horse or Dooley could have stopped, they would have been trampled by outlaws and bank robbers trying to get out of Omaha as fast as they could. Dooley could not go to the left, because a bearded man on a buckskin mare blocked that way. Dooley could not veer off to the north side, either, because a tobacco-chewing man wearing a deerskin shirt and riding a black stallion held Dooley and General Grant in check. There wasn't much Dooley could do except ride along with the flow of the outlaws and pray that he didn't get killed.
Of course, later, Dooley thought that maybe, had he drawn his pistol and shot one of the bad men riding along either side of him, he might have been able to leap General Grant over the dead man and save his own hide.
Which never would have worked in a million years.
On the other hand, had Dooley possessed the sense of mind to draw his hogleg and put a bullet through his own brain, that might have been the easy, if a coward's, way out.
The man with the deerskin shirt pulled ahead of Dooley, but a rider in striped britches on a pinto mustang quickly filled the opening. The man in the deerskin put his black mount right in front of Dooley and General Grant.
That, Dooley decided, wasn't such a bad thing to happen. No fool Nebraskan would now be able to shoot Dooley dead, mistaking him for one of the bank robbers. At least these men of the Dobbs-Handley Gang were protecting Dooley's life.
By now, Dooley was sweating. His lungs burned from breathing so hard. His butt and thighs ached from bouncing around in the saddle. Mud plastered his face from the black stallion galloping ahead of him. Mud splattered against his denim trousers and stovepipe boots. He glanced to the south and saw the bearded man riding the buckskin mare stare at him. Dooley tried to smile. The man turned away, raised the Remington .44 in his right hand, and snapped another shot toward some citizen and defender of Omaha, Nebraska.
Then the outlaws, with Dooley right among them, turned north.
More gunfire. More curses. More mud and shouts.
Dooley glanced up at a three-story hotel. A man on the rooftop stood up, did a macabre dance as bullets peppered his body. The Winchester rifle — or maybe it was a Henry — pitched over the hotel's façade, and the protector of Omaha — for Dooley glimpsed sunlight reflecting off a tin badge on the lapel of the man's striped vest — followed the repeating rifle and crashed through the awning and onto the boardwalk in front of the hotel.
That caused Dooley's stomach to rumble. He thought he might turn to his side and lose the whiskey he had downed at the Riverfront Saloon and the biscuits and gravy and coffee from Nancy's Diner. But he did not vomit, and he thought that power might have saved his life. For surely had he sprayed the man on his right, the man in the deerskin shirt on the black stallion would have shot him dead.
And that man was a mighty fine shot, for he was the one who had killed the lawman on the rooftop of the hotel.
The horses kept running, though by now the gunfire was dying down. And the buildings weren't so close together anymore. Before long, the Dobbs-Handley Gang had put Omaha, Nebraska, behind them.
They kept their horses at a gallop.
And Dooley Monahan had no choice but to keep galloping with them.CHAPTER 2
Eventually, the lead rider's horse began to tire — as did the mounts ridden by the other outlaws — and the pace slackened, but did not stop. Dooley wanted to say something, but, on the other hand, he really didn't want to get killed. He swallowed any words he thought of, especially when the men to his side began shucking the empty shells from their revolvers and reloading. They filled every cylinder with a fresh load — most men, including Dooley, usually kept the chamber empty under the hammer to make it less likely to blow off a toe, foot, or kneecap. When they had their six-shooters loaded, they began filling their rifles or shotguns, too.
They did this while their horses kept at a hard trot.
Which took some doing.
Dooley kept both hands on his reins. He didn't even look at the Colt in its holster. At least, Dooley thought he still carried the revolver. For all he knew, it might have been joggled loose during that hard run and was buried in Omaha's mud or the tall grass they now pushed through.
They turned south, swung a wide loop to avoid any trails, farms, travelers, or lawmen, and kept their horses at that bone-jarring, spine-pounding trot. Dooley felt, more than heard or saw, a couple of the riders in the rear pull back. Most likely, he expected, to watch their back trail and let them know if any posse took off after them. From Dooley's experience, posses could be slow in forming — especially when that posse of well-meaning but not well-shooting citizens knew it would be going up against the likes of Hubert Dobbs and Frank Handley and the murdering terrors who rode with them.
South they traveled without talking. General Grant, though, kept tossing his head back, hard eyes trying to lock on Dooley, and probably cursing him in horse-talk for running him like this for no apparent purpose. Dooley wondered what had happened to that blueeyed dog of his. Well, Blue wasn't actually Dooley's. The dog didn't belong to anyone, as far as Dooley knew, but he had more or less adopted the dog some years back. Fed him. Befriended him. He sure hoped he hadn't lost him again. Good dogs — any dogs — were hard to come by.
Of course, when the outlaws finally stopped running, Dooley would be able to go back to Omaha and maybe find old Blue and —
When they stop, most likely, they'll kill me.
The thought almost caused Dooley Monahan to pull back on the reins, but he quickly stopped an action that would have caused quite the horse wreck. And if spilling members of the Dobbs-Handley Gang, maybe laming a mount or two, and busting collarbones and wrists and arms of outlaws, didn't incite murder among those owlhoots ...
Ahead, he saw the river, and now all of the horses slowed down. Oh, no one stopped. The leader jumped off what passed for a bank, and Dooley and the men riding on either side followed.
The water felt good as it splashed over Dooley's wind-burned, mudblasted, sweaty face. General Grant's hooves found solid bottom, and the gelding pushed through the water toward the shore.
This, if Dooley had his bearings straight, would be the Platte River. Wide, but not that deep, even after all those thunderstorms and being fairly close to where the river flowed into the Missouri. It was wet, though, and Dooley took a moment to scoop up some with his right hand. He splashed it across his face, repeated that process, then found another handful and brought it to his mouth. There wasn't that much to swallow, but what did go down his throat felt good, replenishing, but most of the wetness just soothed his dried, chapped lips.
The two riders on his left and right pulled ahead of him, but Dooley knew better than to try to escape now. He tried to think up various options, but no matter what idea came to him, the end result most likely would lead to Dooley Monahan's quick and merciful death. Unless Handley or Dobbs decided to stake him out on an ant bed, cut off his eyelids so the sun would burn his eyeballs out before the ants started eating him alive. Then that death wouldn't be anything close to quick or merciful, but it would most certainly be eternal death.
Those three riders had reached the banks about twenty yards ahead of Dooley now. He heard horses snorting, and men grunting behind him.
Water cascaded off the horses as they climbed up the bank. The riders — that bearded man on the buckskin mare, the man in the deerskin shirt, with a cheekful of chewing tobacco, on the powerful black stallion, and the puny gent in the striped britches, who rode a brown and white pinto mustang — turned around, drew their revolvers, cocked them, and waited.
The Platte began to get even shallower, and soon General Grant was carrying Dooley out of the wide patch of wetness. Behind him came the other riders, who grunted or cursed or farted. Dooley let his bay horse pick its own path up the bank until he reined in in front of the three men. He stared down the barrels of a Smith & Wesson, a Colt, and a Remington. Behind him he heard another noise.
You never forget what a rattlesnake sounds like. Maybe you think you know how it sounds — or how it makes you feel — but once you hear that rattle, you know exactly what it sounds like and you know it will practically make you wet your britches.
Quite similar to the whirl of a rattler is the cocking of a single-action revolver ... the thumbing back of two hammers on a double-barreled shotgun, and the levering of a fresh cartridge into a Winchester or Henry rifle or carbine. Those were the sounds coming from behind Dooley Monahan.
Not the rattlesnake, of course. Not that sound. Though right then, Dooley would have preferred it to those metallic clicks.
Dooley eased the reins down, letting them drop in front of the horn. The horn he gripped with both hands, and leaning forward, he nodded his head at the men in front of him.
"Who the hell be you?"
That came from the man in the deerskin shirt. He wore a wide-brimmed dirty hat that might once have been white but had been dirtied up and sweated through over some years. Or it could have been gray, but had been faded from so much alkali dust and the blistering sun of the Great Plains. Dooley didn't think the hat had ever been black.
Brown juice came out of the man's mouth like he had opened a spigot, and he wiped the tobacco juice off his lips with a gloved left hand. The right held a large Smith & Wesson pistol that looked just a tad smaller than a cannon. He was the biggest of the men, which explained why he rode that giant black stallion. Dooley couldn't quite guess, but he had to figure the man stood six-foot-four in his boot heels, and had to weigh around two hundred and forty pounds. Maybe more.
Excerpted from The Trail West by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. Copyright © 2017 J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just a little bit to unbeivible.
How soon ???
great book, a story worth reading.