Author: Weston Jost
Genre: Western Historical Fiction
It’s the 1870s. Two notorious Texas outlaws and their bandit gang have kidnapped four Texas women whom they plan to sell to a brothel in Monterrey, Mexico…if they can get past the Indians. What the outlaws don't realize is that one of the young women has some very surprising ways to take revenge. To rescue the women, a Laredo, Texas marshal has to illegally pursue them into Mexico, but he’s worried because his hastily assembled posse resembles more of a circus act than a team of capable lawmen. Can he rescue the women before he and his posse are killed? And who’s going to rescue the marshal from his…unusual horse? It’s a race against time and a rollicking ride into the wilder side of the wild west with some of the most colorful characters this side (and the other side) of the Rio Grande. A real hoot in boots!
“Any funny business, Salero, and I will put a bullet from this Colt right through your top floor,” said Marshal Thomas Ryan, who was riding double with Pepper Salero on the killer’s horse. Ryan sat behind Salero gripping the outlaw’s belt with his left hand while holding his Colt Peacemaker with the 7.5” barrel to the back of Salero’s head. Salero’s hands were tied together but he held the horse’s reins and kept his horse at a steady trot. His right thumb had been shot off and a piece of bone stuck out from the wound. The rope tying his hands together had been tight enough to serve as a tourniquet, but his wound still leaked blood down his beige pants and brown saddle.
“Too bad ‘bout yer horse, marshal. I’d never shoot a good horse on purpose. A marshal, yes, but not a good horse,” smiled Salero, who had accidentally shot Ryan’s horse in a shootout with the marshal earlier that morning in El Indio, Texas.
“Well, Salero, I can get another horse, but where are you going to get another thumb?” replied Ryan, smiling back. “Anyway, I assure you your thumb pain is going to be over soon.”
Ryan’s sarcasm riled the murderer and he gritted his teeth thinking about the hangman’s noose that would be waiting for him in Laredo, Texas, where Ryan’s office was located. Pepper Salero continued thinking about what he had been thinking about since surrendering to the marshal that morning; how to escape and get back to his gang. As if Ryan knew what Salero was thinking, he pressed the barrel of his Colt against the back of Pepper’s right ear.
Pepper Salero was a member of the notorious Heck Hastings gang. The 15-member crew of criminals was famous for cattle rustling and a string of bank, stagecoach, and train robberies. They were also wanted for kidnappings, murders, and rapes across 23 south Texas counties over the past two years. After accumulating their ill-gotten gains, the gang would cross over into Mexico to live like kings and return to Texas when their funds grew low. Their leader, Heck Hastings, was the fastest gun anyone had seen in Texas. His gun speed was mainly due to the fact that he had a malformed right arm that gave him unfair quick access to his gun, which sat in a custom-made holster he wore across the middle of his chest. As a child, he had fallen from the high loft of a barn and shattered his right elbow. An alcoholic doctor had done a bad job of mending the break so that Hasting’s forearm had become permanently raised and bent upwards like the arm of a praying mantis. Because of its locked position, his right hand rested on the pistol grip of his Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolver when holstered, which gave him a distinct advantage in getting his gun out quickly when he shot straight from the chest. He didn’t care if anyone thought he had an unfair advantage in a gunfight. He told anyone that challenged him that they were welcome to put their hand on their pistol grip as well, knowing that the challenger still had to raise their gun after drawing it, and his gun would already be in a position to fire as soon as it was drawn.
And Heck was a man who enjoyed killing. As an unattractive child, he had been mercilessly teased and rejected because of his looks and malformed arm, and he grew up to be an unattractive, bitter, and cruel man. Nobody teased him anymore; at least not to his face; a 45-year-old red, blotched, sunburned face sparsely covered in a scraggly, light-colored beard and with small, beady, pale blue eyes like the eyes of a blind snake. Hastings found that killing somehow made him feel whole. In his mind, the long-barreled gun gave his arm the proper length, and the bullet gave him the reach and punch for those who offended him. He often felt offended. But he was not a stupid man, and his clever schemes for criminal activities and elusive tricks for evading capture helped him to attract the coldblooded misfits he needed to perpetrate his crimes. Hastings was a successful criminal, and his success made it easy for him to recruit like-minded thieves, murderers, and rapists.
Marshal Ryan was going over in his mind the events of the morning shootout with Salero. He was thinking about his horse, Brownie. He was going to miss the handsome, good-natured, chestnut brown stallion he had owned for three years. There was also some sentimental value to the horse since it had been given to him by his father who had died a year before in a freak shooting accident in the Laredo saloon. His father, Winston Ryan, had been a Texas Ranger in his earlier years of law enforcement and then had served 15 years as Laredo’s previous marshal. He had been playing in a five-man poker game when he was accidentally shot in the head by a drunken saloon girl who had tried to shoot an abusive cowboy with his own gun. Thomas had been his deputy before being unanimously voted into his father’s post by Laredo’s citizens after his father's death.
Ryan shook his head as he thought about the fact that his father had survived 30 years of law enforcement with some of the most dangerous outlaws and Indians in the West Texas territory only to be shot dead by a drunken saloon girl. Still, Ryan knew his father would have thought it very funny because of his great sense of humor. The guys at the poker table also said it was unfortunate because Winston had the winning hand with a royal straight flush in spades. They donated the pot to Ryan since his mother, Jane Ryan, and younger sister, Polly Ryan, were also deceased that same year. They were killed, along with three dairy cows, a pig, several chickens, and a goat, by a huge tornado that demolished the barn where they had sought shelter.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
It is an unconventional western that introduces new concepts into the western genre. The novel has a wide cast of unique characters and combines dramatic confrontations, unexpected plot twists, and offbeat humour to provide a very enjoyable and entertaining read. Most of my reviewers have given BULL a 5-star rating.
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Weston Jost was born and raised in Texas. He has also spent many years living and working in Asia, which included 18 years as a Hong Kong resident. He has traveled the world, attended college on a ship, written and performed comedy, and fathered three wonderful children with his lovely, Russian wife, Irina. He currently resides in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bull is his first novel.