Kings of Colorado

David E. Hilton, Simon & Schuster, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4391-8382-3
Hilton debuts with a stark novel of violence and fierce friendship in a 1960s Colorado juvenile penitentiary. After 13-year-old Will Sheppard stabs his abusive father while trying to protect his mother, he's sent to Swope Boys Reformatory, a work ranch where the only rule of law is that of a greedy warden, corrupt guards, and vicious fellow inmates, the worst of them a boy named Silas Green. Shepherd befriends a few boys—Coop the literary mind, Benny the kid with the big heart, and Mickey the ornery runt with an ironclad outer shell—and they must all survive the brutishness of head guard Frank Croft and the nihilism of Silas and his cronies while doing back-breaking labor in the horse stables and out in the fields. Hilton's portrayal of adolescent friendship is authentic and touching, and the story moves at a speedy pace as the boys' innocence is shattered in ever deeper and more profound ways. While the writing can flirt with melodrama, the characters are well drawn and their trials are harrowing, a sort of Stand by Me behind bars. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
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Paperback - 276 pages - 978-1-4391-8383-0
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