Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton
A captivating read in the classic western style.
Story blurb: The American West, especially between 1865 and the turn of the century, was an unforgiving and brutal place to be. Tempers flared as men continued to fight the Civil War on their own terms long after it had been decided. Meanwhile, natives, such as the Lakota Sioux, continued to resist being dispelled from their homelands. The Thunderhead trilogy is a historically accurate approach to the western genre. It is mixed with real and imaginary characters and takes place in the Dakota and Wyoming Territories between 1876 and 1877. Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jack McCall, Colorado Charlie Utter, California Joe Milner, Tim Brady, Wyatt Earp, and other figures are alive and well amid three fictional protagonists. Al Franklin, a photograph artist, befriends Hickok during his last days. “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, falls for an outlaw and follows him and his cohorts from mining town to mining town. Harvey McCafferty, a bounty hunter, relentlessly endeavors to collect the reward on those traveling with Nicky. Nicky’s companions are a gang of road agents lead by the bloodthirsty Quick Maggie DeMarco, a formerly-abused young woman hellbent on finding and killing the man who murdered her family fourteen years ago. When Maggie DeMarco finally meets up with Maguire in Book Three, will she seek the revenge that has eluded her, or will she be content to walk away?
Review by Gerry Burnie
I received a call to review this book sometime ago, but regretfully it is only now that I have had a chance to read it. I say ‘regretfully’ because Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton is such rich and luscious reading that I am surprised it hasn’t attracted more attention.
The story is an amalgam of fiction and history, with a slight bias toward history – especially the three primary characters: Al Franklin, a photograph artist, “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, and Harvey M. McCafferty, a bounty hunter.
What jumps out at you right from the beginning is the due research Ms Braxtion has compiled behind the scenes. It is evident in every character, and frequently in the background scenes as well. This may have intimidated others, but it is very much my cup of tea.
Al Franklin is a hard-working 20-year-old who has made his way from Boston to Deadwood, South Dakota, during the summer of 1876. Al is a talented ambrotype photographer, and is met with all types people, outlaws as well, eager to have their likenesses taken. When Wild Bill Hickok comes to town at the same time as Calamity Jane and Colorado Charlie Utter, Al devises a money-making scheme with Bill to put his picture on cabinet cards to sell to the eager citizens in town. Because of Wild Bill’s reputation as a shootist, a law officer, and one of the stars of Buffalo Bill Cody’s show, the cabinet cards sell very well. And thus a friendship is established between them during Wild Bill’s final days.
“Spittoon” Nicky is a sporting girl who plies her trade out of a saloon called Hootie’s Lager House. Nicky meets up with an outlaw named Chad DeMarco and they fall in love. However, when things get too dangerous for him in Deadwood, Chad asks Nicky to travel with him and his cohorts so they can stay together. The most brutal and bloodthirsty of Chad’s companions is his sister Maggie who seems to live just to find the man who murdered her mother and father when she was very young.
Harvey McCafferty is a former Confederate soldier, now a bounty hunter, whose driving force in life is to get rich as quick. He therefor sets his sights on tracking down the DeMarco gang for the considerable bounty on their heads: Chad, Luke, Ray, and Otto, and in Harvey’s mind, dead or alive usually means dead.
Written in a colourful vernacular that matches the rustic time and setting, it is an enthralling story in the classic western style. Four and a half bees.
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