1860. Kansas. A little boy is born in some East of Nowhere remoteness, his dad is killed in the Civil War, (referred to as the War of Rebellion by the Northerners), when he was 5 years old. Things got dangerous out in all that isolation, so mom and son move to Lawrence, Kansas. And so begins the life of an engaging and adventuresome man named Billy Battles.
Billy was first and foremost a newspaperman, a journalist, a ‘scribbler’, as he calls himself, and we learn of his adventures from a biography of sorts, which he writes in his elderly years by referring to his private journals which he kept all his life. He leaves all his papers to his great grandson, in a trunk to be opened only on the death of the young man’s grandmother.
When Billy was working for his first newspaper in Dodge City, his mother asks him to go out to their original homestead which she still owned, and look it over with an eye to selling it. He and his newspaper publisher and another man arrive to find it occupied … by dirty, no-good, low-down varmits. Hey, it’s something of a western, you know, and I wanted to create some atmosphere. Anyway, one dastardly thing leads to another, and Billy ends up killing two of the intruders in order to save the lives of the guys he was with. And the stage is now set for a thread to run throughout the rest of the book as the family of the dead ‘uns continue to hunt down Billy in revenge for the killing.
It was a great read, fast-paced and filled with characters to love, (well, except for those dirty, no-good, low-down varmits I spoke of), and we even get to meet and come to know Bat Masterson, and the Earp family. How cool is that! Billy ends up living and working for another newspaper in Denver, and we take leave of him in his early thirties when he embarks for Asia, with more adventures in store.
Which brings me to my gripe: we are promised early on in the journal that we will have his entire story. But the author stops at that point, and says: To Be Continued.
You all know how I feel about this kind of thing. The book doesn’t say it is part of a series, (let me go check just to make sure) OK I’m back, and nope, no hint that this is not complete. In fact the full title is Finding Billy Battles: An Account of Peril, Transgression and Redemption. I see nothing that says Volume I. That saddens me. Kind of sneaking it past us that if we want to know ALL about the Redemption we will have to wait for further volumes.
Oh, well, nevertheless, it is still a fun read, stirring around fact and fiction in a stew of colorful situations and characters, and you will LOVE the lingo.
PS – I need to add a ‘My bad’ here. Actually, in the front of the book, it DOES say this is volume one of a TRILOGY. So just ignore all that rant about To Be Continued. If I could read, I could get a real job.