Books by Richard S. Wheeler

Richard S. Wheeler is a five-time Spur Award winner from Western Writers of America and is the acclaimed author of such novels as Sierra, The Fields of Eden, The Buffalo Commons, Aftershocks, Masterson, Eclipse, Exile, An Obituary for Major Reno, and the

Released: Dec. 1, 2011

"Passionate, intelligently written, thoroughly entertaining historical fiction."
Wheeler (The Deliverance, 2003, etc.) brings to life robber barons, Irish immigrant miners and lost souls among the trash heaps and bawdy houses, headframes and smelters of 1890s Butte, Mont. Read full book review >
THE FIRE ARROW by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: May 2, 2006

"Many of the characters are paper-thin, and the prose no better than serviceable, but Wheeler's sense of setting and of history is powerful, and he has a fine command of pace."
Fourteenth in Wheeler's western saga featuring mountain man Barnaby Skye (The Deliverance, 2003). Read full book review >
THE EXILE by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Dec. 1, 2003

"The author clearly believes his subject has been shortchanged by history, but Meagher's failure at almost everything that matters to him makes it difficult to see why the historical verdict should be overturned."
Historical fiction by western veteran Wheeler (The Deliverance, 2003, etc.), based on the life of an Irish rebel who served as a Union general in the Civil War. Read full book review >
THE DELIVERANCE by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: March 1, 2003

"Pages strong as sun-hardened adobe."
Thirteenth in the Barnaby Skye series, famed for its saddle-creaking realism and style tight as set type. In Downriver (2001), as in the overcast Dark Passage and Going Home, Wheeler took a tight grip on afflictions of the heart as Skye, in 1838, embarked on a 2,000- mile steamboat trip down the Missouri. In later episodes about the ugly-faced Mountain Man trapper and guide, Barnaby verges toward his old age in the Rockies, and so Wheeler has gone back to the 1830s and '40s to fill in Skye's earlier years when he was spryer and perhaps more adventurous. Set in 1841, this latest installment begins at Bent's Fort on the Mexican frontier, with Skye having drifted down to Texas with his Crow wife Victoria. At the fort he meets Standing Alone, a Cheyenne mother who has waited for four draining years for her nine-year-old son Grasshopper and twelve-year-old daughter Little Moon to return to her. Now she has had a vision that Skye and Victoria will lead her to them, since they were stolen by the Ute Indians and sold into slavery in Mexico. On the way he meets up with the bizarre Colonel Childress from Galveston, before Skye too is taken prisoner in forbidden Mexican territory. Read full book review >
DOWNRIVER by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Dec. 1, 2001

"Is a damned well-deserved hardcover reprinting of Skye's early paperback originals a-borning? Let Forge paint Skye with a golden sunset."
Well-loved western writer Wheeler takes a big grip on afflictions of the heart in each outing, as he does here in this 44th in over 30 years and the 12th in his Barnaby Skye series—which must be heading for the barn soon with Skye entering late middle age in chilly recent titles like Dark Passage and Going Home (2000). So Wheeler has gone back to fill in his grotesquely ugly Mountain Man hero's early years, this time in a story set in 1838. As ever, Mister Skye (as he insists on being called) is on a journey, now taking a 2,000-mile steamboat trip down the Missouri with his feisty Crow wife Victoria, to accept a job in St. Louis running a fur-trading post. Skye is a binge drinker whose wives (he has a Shoshone one as well, tender young Mary Quill Woman) must take over when his jug is uncorked. Read full book review >
THE FIELDS OF EDEN by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: May 1, 2001

"A kaleidoscope of fact and fiction that touches on some underexplored historical backwaters."
The latest historical western from the Wheeler (Masterson, 1999, etc.) heads out and up to the Oregon frontier in the 1840s. Then under the control of the British (who were determined to stop US expansion well short of the Pacific), Oregon was ripe for settlement and attracted pioneers with its fertile soil, abundant rains, and rich timberlands. The ones we meet here are Wheeler's usual baker's dozen: the immigrant O'Malleys (who are fleeing the potato famine and British oppression), the opportunist Abel Brownell (who can scent the opportunity for a quick profit a thousand miles off), the idealistic missionary Jasper Constable, and the firebrand Garwood Reese (who dreams of uniting the settlers under the American flag and ejecting the British). In their different ways, they all come up against the intransigence of John McLoughlin, head agent of the Hudson Bay Company (owner of the territory), who is responsible both for the welfare of the settlers and the interests of his employers. Read full book review >
GOING HOME by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Dec. 1, 2000

"The kind of writing that leaves you feeling much smarter than a mere mortal."
Eleventh in the Western series featuring legendary mountain man Barnaby Skye, by the glorious Wheeler, who has published over 30 richly researched regional novels. As a westerner, Wheeler is a writer's writer whose prose has the authority of handset type but sparkles like horseshoes on flint rock. In Dark Passage (1998), we saw the aging Skye's trapping days in the Rockies coming to a close and his heading into Canada to recover his Crow wife Victoria (Mary Quill Woman). Now, as in Rendezvous (1997), Wheeler fills in Skye's early days and flight west after he deserted from a Royal Navy frigate. Skye's still wanted by the Navy, and in Mexican California finds himself hiding out in the wilderness, fighting off endless enemies, and sucking life out of leather. Read full book review >
MASTERSON by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Oct. 12, 1999

Keeping Wheeler's printing history straight is not easy, since in a 12-month period he's published Dark Passage, Aftershocks, Sun Mountain (p. 487), Flint's Honor (p. 754) and now Masterson, for a grand total of sharply realistic novels that goes through the roof. This is all good news, however, since Wheeler is among the two or three top living writers of western historicals—if not the best, provided you don't count strong stylist Loren Estleman (see p. TKTK). Some of the works on Wheeler's crammed publishing schedule, we—ve been told, were written earlier but had to wait for print. In 1921, celebrated ex-lawman Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson is writing a column for New York's Morning Telegraph when he's interviewed by Louella Parsons and Damon Runyon about his notorious past. (Runyon later re-immortalizes him as Sky Masterson in the short story that became Guys and Dolls.) "Have you killed twenty-six men? Have you been charged with first-degree murder four times? Did you shoot down seven cowboys and bring their heads in a sack back to Dodge City? Have you owned cathouses?" Louella asks. His life, by now outrageously overblown by Ned Buntline for dime novels, so turns Bat's stomach that he decides to travel with his wife Emma to the old towns where the stories began and straighten out his own history. Strong on character, and as factual as possible, of course, as it moves smartly along, although wife Emma, about whom little is known, is largely a device for exposition. Read full book review >
FLINT'S HONOR by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: July 8, 1999

The dizzyingly prolific Wheeler's thirtysomethingth novel, windup to the trilogy begun with Flint's Gift (1997) and Flint's Truth (1998), which is at heart a saga about western journalism in the 19th century. Big, lean Sam Flint is a peripatetic publisher who, over the course of the past 12 years, has started up about eight weeklies among the boomtown years. Now, he's moved to Silver City, in the newly christened state of Colorado, to foment a rivalry with the established but coarsely vulgar Silver City Democrat, the kind of paper that lets loose editorial guffaws about a local woman's tragic suicide. Flint faces not only hydra-headed editor Digby Westminster, but also big, bald, frost-laden silver king Achilles Balthazar, head of the Mining Association, who buys up mines, has little regard for the lives of his workers, and looks like an eerily unblinking, monocled undertaker. Everyone warns Flint about starting up the Silver City Sentinel, dubbed by Westminster The Bawdyhouse Bugle because Flint has to set up shop in a building owned by whorehouse madame Chastity Ford. All told, a duel of honor arises between the two papers until the Sentinel's printing plant is seized and physically moved by Balthazar. To be set beside Wheeler's well-researched novel/memoir Sun Mountain (p. 487), which tells of the life of western newsman/editor Henry Jackson Stoddard and includes Stoddard's ties to Sam Clemens, a fellow Gold Rush reporter who went on to greater things. Read full book review >
SUN MOUNTAIN by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: May 27, 1999

The staggeringly prolific Wheeler (Aftershocks, 1999, etc.) returns with a memoir, begun on January 1, 1900, of the Comstock Lode as told by reporter Henry Jackson Stoddard at an elderly 61—an age not many men reached in his day. Most lives aren't worth telling, Stoddard thinks, but his is full of amazing events and amazing men and women. Among them is his fellow journalist Sam Clemens, who later became famed as Mark Twain. As a Wisconsin youth who had spent his life around miners, young Stoddard took his nest egg, left his parents, and struck out for the Comstock mines gold rush, locating himself in Virginia City, Nevada, and aiming to become a millionaire while also avoiding service during the Civil War. In Virginia City, he takes up betting on the stock exchanges, wins and loses several modest fortunes, and joins The Territorial Enterprise as a reporter. He's been there a year before Clemens arrives in 1962. Clemens lasts for only two years in Virginia City, having gotten himself into various jams and pulling off some amusing hoaxes, though he sends the Enterprise dispatches from San Francisco. A few years later, Clemens returns, having written "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country," the story that made him a famous humorist. Aside from background on printing presses and news gathering, some of Stoddard's most compelling pages describe the technology of mining and the later introduction of dynamite. The genius of this activity leads to mining metals cheaply and becomes the foundation of the Industrial Revolution. Vastly well researched and understated throughout. Read full book review >
AFTERSHOCKS by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Jan. 8, 1999

Following up on his long series of popular Westerns, Wheeler (Buffalo Commons, 1998; Flint's Truth, 1998; etc.) jumps ahead a few years to the San Francisco earthquake. The cataclysm that leveled the city on April 18, 1906, was one of the greatest disasters of modern times, and Wheeler portrays its impact upon the high, the mighty, the desperate, and the scoundrels: people like Ginger Severance, the missionary with a heart of stone; Carl Lubbich, the corrupt city engineer who learns too late the price of his own venality; Harrison White, an ambitious architect who sees the making of his career in the ruins of a city; and the bohemian Katharine Steinmetz, whose idle photographs become keys to the city's rebirth. Real-life figures such as Caruso and Jack London also make their appearance, although the true star of this history is the city itself, as it struggles to survive the wrath of Nature and God. Formulaic in the extreme, but the local color and historical detail move the story briskly on its way. Wheeler writes to entertain, and he succeeds admirably in his task. Read full book review >
DARK PASSAGE by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Nov. 13, 1998

Winner of the Spur Award and author of more than 30 novels (Flint's Truth, The Buffalo Crossing, both p. 526), with Dark Passage his third this year, Wheeler has deepened over time and is now in top form. The tenth entry in his Flint series opens sweet-tempered and richly written, until Barnaby's wife Victoria—really a Crow named Mary Quill Woman—tires of his drinking and goes to visit her tribe: —I want to be with the People again.— What's even worse news to Skye, the newly tribal Victoria lets herself become second wife to Jim Beckwourth, the wealthy mulatto war chief of the Crows (and his first, 'senior— wife welcomes her). Then the redoubtable killer Bloods, a tribe of the Blackfeet, kidnap Victoria, and Skye trails the tribe into Canada, where he's wanted as a former deserter of a British ship. Ironically, when the Bloods capture Skye, Victoria's ruses save Barnaby. Will he ever forgive her for running off from him? Realistic throughout. Read full book review >
THE BUFFALO COMMONS by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: June 1, 1998

Multipublishable Montanan Wheeler, who apparently writes with three hands at once (over 30 novels, and see below), and who won the Spur Award for Sierra (1996), now gets doubly serious in treating a controversial modern subject: Laslo Honorey, a zillionaire, wants to defeat the spread of agribusiness on the High Plains and—along with federal regulators and environmentalists—nationalize thousands of miles of grasslands and rebuild them as buffalo grazing grounds (a "buffalo commons"). But what of the Nichols family, which has ranched the grasslands for over a century? Must their way of life fade away? Thrumming at an appreciably deeper level of feeling than ever before, Wheeler should attract fresh readers. Read full book review >
FLINT'S TRUTH by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: May 1, 1998

Middle entry in a welcome Western trilogy begun with Flint's Gift (1997), to be followed by Flint's Honor, about frontier journalist Sam Flint, who in Gift was seduced into starting up The Payday Pioneer in Payday, Arizona. Flynn has now moved on to the rich gold fields of Oro Blanco, New Mexico, where he opens the—what else?—Oro Blanco Nugget. But how can a weekly paper stay in business when uprooting corruption and injustice means going against the big mining bosses who can run him out of town after they wreck his case boxes of type? Wheeler (see above) is a master both of frontier detail and the fine points of newspapering, while his storytelling is not likely to upset parents nervous about jalape§o in the guacamole. Read full book review >
RENDEZVOUS by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Dec. 9, 1997

After eight fine westerns detailing the exploits of Barnaby Skye as a mountain man during the 1850s and '60s, old pro Wheeler (Sierra, 1996, etc.) fills in the blanks in his colorful protagonist's background—beginning in 1826, when the frontiersman- to-be arrived in North America, through his backwoods apprenticeship in the Rockies. Shanghaied by a press gang off the streets of London at age 14, Skye spends 7 years aboard a Royal Navy frigate before he's able to jump ship at Fort Vancouver. Evading both the British sailors and Hudson's Bay Co. minions directed to bring him back alive, the seaman makes his way to the Columbia River basin. Once slated to attend Cambridge like his merchant father, young Skye hopes to reach Boston, enter Harvard, and secure the education that will ensure him his birthright. Along his wayward way, however, he falls in with friendly Shoshone Indians who conduct him to a so- called Rendezvous, an annual trappers' fair in the Cache Valley, safely outside Canadian jurisdiction. While at this hinterland jamboree, Skye wins the respect of such high-country legends as Jim Bridger and Jebediah Smith; he also encounters Many Quill Woman, the Crow lass who will soon become his wife. Still bent on reaching the New World's Cambridge, Skye then sets out on his own for St. Louis. Soon relieved of his horses and kit by marauding Blackfeet, he has little time to link up with a crew of freelance nimrods before hard snows hit the mountains. After further adventures, he joins forces with his new associates in the Yellowstone area, helps make the beaver trapping season a financial success, and winters with the Crows. Eventually finding the call of the wild a whole lot stronger than the lure of the classroom, Sky marries his dusky maiden and, come spring, sets out with his westering comrades on another hunt. A promising start in what appears to be an absorbing, authoritative series. Read full book review >
FLINT'S GIFT by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

The first volume of an emerging trilogy tracing the adventures of Sam Flint, intrepid frontier newspaperman. Lured by a civic committee headed by the city's chief entrepreneur, Judge Cutlip, to the frontier hamlet of Payday, Arizona, Flint is enticed to stay on by what is described throughout as an Edenic setting—a place offering perfect climate, good land, and honest people. The townsfolk hope Flint's newspaper, The Payday Pioneer, will entice more settlers to come, ensuring a prosperous future. Though doubtful, the young editor sets to work and succeeds beyond anyone's expectations. But complications soon arise as established cattlemen resist the encroachment of sheepmen and farmers on the previously open range. Things get even more complex when the attractive young wife of a missing rancher captures Flint's heart. Moreover, his dedication to editorial integrity soon gains him the ire not only of the profit-minded merchants but also of the county's most powerful rancher. All conflicts are set aside, however, when Flint's efforts begin to attract a nefarious element and the town fills with thugs, hired gunmen, and even an evil madam, Odie Racine, who's bent on extortion. Racine's malevolence forces Payday's citizens to join forces with the crusading editor, putting aside personal concerns as they fight to save their town. Though his characters never rise off the page, and the action is somewhere on a par with 1950s TV horse operas, Wheeler (Sierra, 1996, etc.) uses rather than merely displays his knowledge of the period, its details, and its attitudes. The Flint series will be a welcome addition to the reading lists of younger western fans, and a happy find for all those who prefer more traditional forms of the genre. Read full book review >
SIERRA by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

With varying results, two young men seek their fortunes in California after America's successful war against Mexico—in another solid historical from the prolific Wheeler (Cashbox, l994, etc.). When, in the spring of 1849, Ulysses McQueen (not yet 21) leaves his Iowa farm and pregnant wife Susannah to hunt for gold in faraway California, he endures a series of soul-testing hardships on the unsparing overland route to El Dorado. Robbed of his mules and gear by marauding Indians, menaced by brigands and disease, he still presses on. Meantime, Stephen Jarvis, an ex-Army officer, decides to try his luck on the West Coast. Hired as casual labor by Johann August Sutter, he's on site when gold is discovered near a sawmill being built by the Swiss ÇmigrÇ. Stephen soon strikes it rich and uses his new wealth to start retailing scarce tools and other goods to eager prospectors, yearning all the while for Rita Concepcion Estrada, a like-minded but well-born Mexican girl whose proud Catholic family wants no part of a Protestant Yanqui. As Stephen is making a name for himself among the merchant princes of Sacramento and San Francisco, Ulysses finally reaches California. Failing to hit pay dirt, he makes a deal for land in the San Joaquin Valley with Stephen, who's interested in developing local sources of fresh vegetables. Unbeknownst to Ulysses, Susannah has arrived in California by way of Panama (a journey that cost their infant daughter her life). The two finally find each other in 1851 and resolve to make a fresh start by returning to their agricultural roots. And at the 11th hour, Stephen's Latin ladylove kicks over the traces and that new pair sail off to make a new life for themselves in South America. Absorbing and eventful, replete with authoritative details on the mortal risks, primitive conditions, and sometimes rich rewards awaiting those who joined the gold rush to California. Read full book review >
GOLDFIELD by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: April 1, 1995

Wheeler's forte is big, character-rich tales of the last days of the West (Cashbox, 1994, etc.), and this one—his 29th novel—is no exception. Goldfield, Nev., was the scene of the last great American gold rush in the first decade of the 20th century; here, the story follows the interwoven fortunes of a dozen typical boomers- -most especially that of Maude Arbuckle, a feisty woman with a knack for finding gold, whose lazy drunk of a husband, Harry, seems to handle good and bad fortune with equally ill grace. Maude and Harry own a claim that has just begun to produce high- grade ore. But Harry, unfortunately, has neglected to do the minimum to preserve the claim. A benevolent geologist, Hannibal Dash, wards off the claim-jumpers (with a hand from Wyatt and Virgil Earp, probably the best-known of the real-life characters who make cameos). Finally successful, Harry begins to spend his fortune like a drunken sailor. At the same time, we follow the careers of Big Sam Jones, a con man trading wildcat mine stock; Delia Favor, a gold-digger of another sort who comes to town in search of a rich husband; a whore named Daisy, who hopes to earn enough to save her embezzling husband back in San Francisco; and Olympus Prinz, a crusading newspaper editor. The story follows these characters up to the time when the energy of the gold rush comes to be diverted into the hands of conglomerates buying up the mines. Wheeler paints with a broad brush and isn't likely to be singled out for the grace of his prose. Still, he tells a crisp story that packs an undeniable punch—as in this well- constructed, large-scale American historical. Read full book review >
CASHBOX by Richard S. Wheeler
Released: June 1, 1994

The author of the paperback series Skye's West brings a small Montana mining town to life and tells the story of its citizens' pursuit of their dreams. ``Cashbox. Where no till is empty,'' reads the sign that greets new arrivals in 1888. In just two years Cashbox has grown from nothing into a town of 800 souls. Sylvie Duvalier has left a loveless marriage for independence and her own business. Alighting in Cashbox from the same coach is Con Daley, the Silver Fox, a shrewd businessman who could transform a raw camp into a fair city. May Goode, a woman desperate to escape her past, comes to Cashbox from prison and is as afraid of love as she is of detection. These characters join in a town already populated by hard-working Cornish miners, mine owners, dishonest newspaperman Willard Croker, gambler One-Eyed Jack Wool, and an assortment of madams, prostitutes, and scoundrels—one of whom is a lawyer, J. Ernest Potter-Pride, who almost gets hanged for doing the bad guys' dirty work. Two years after Sylvie's arrival, the town is riding high. The passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Bill lends stability to the local economy, and a railroad line is promised. Sylvie and Con have fallen in love, and May Goode agrees to marry the local constable. By 1893, however, gold interests win a battle that sends silver prices plummeting; the mine fails, and Cashbox becomes a ghost town. Only Sylvie Duvalier remains, refusing to abandon the town that once provided her with everything she needed for happiness. A vivid portrait of the life and death of a frontier town, but its citizens never become more than standard genre characters. Read full book review >