The Wagon Wars: A Sequel to the Last Free Range

James A. Ritchie, Author
James A. Ritchie, Author Walker & Company $20.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8027-4157-8
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A burned-out wagon and a family slaughtered by outlaws mark a grim welcome for Ben Hawkins and his two saddle partners as they return to Arizona in this sequel to The Last Free Range (1995). Weary of cowpunching, looking for a better life as horse ranchers, Hawkins and his pals settle into Globe, Ariz. Seeking to earn enough money for their dream ranch, they buy into a blacksmith shop, become muleskinners and start a wagon-freight business in competition with the only other freight hauler in the territory, rich tough guy P.G. Murphy. The trio of partners are hardworking and hard-fighting, with big appetites for bad whiskey and giggling floozies. Their business soon puts them at odds with Murphy and his rowdies, but the real danger comes from Apaches who want their scalps and from outlaws who want everything else. Indian attacks, ambushes, bushwhacking, gunbattles and vigorous fistfights keep Hawkins and his muleskinners fit and alive as they blast volleys of lead and profanity. The plotting, action and gunplay flow until near the novel's end. There, however, the grit is replaced by cuteness in a wind-up that would have a real muleskinner cussing up a storm. (Apr.)
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