The first of Edgerton's novels set outside North Carolina: a slim western tale as entertaining and lively as his five previous books (In Memory of Junior, 1992, etc.). Inspired by some real-life episodes in the Mormon settlement of the West, this genial and irreverent narrative relies on Edgerton's familiar technique of allowing his characters to speak for themselves. And although no wisteria vine speaks here (as it did in The Floatplane Notebooks), the author gives one paragraph to the mean and nasty dog of the title -- a snarling, evil-eyed mutt that's trained to exact revenge on behalf of its master. Cobb Pittman, a mysterious bounty-hunter, seeks to atone for his participation in the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, in which a group of Mormons under Brigham Young responded violently to federal harassment by slaughtering innocent pioneers. One of the conspirators still lives under an alias in nearby Mumford Rock, Colo., where he hopes to exploit Indian cave dwellings as evidence of a Lost Tribe of Israel. Some archaeologists are also exploring the Mesa Largo dwellings for their pre-Spanish artifacts, but no one wants to support their expedition. The only hope for preserving the site depends on the never-ending entrepreneurial instincts of Billy Blankenship, a true gildedage huckster who sees great tourist potential in them thar hills. Blankenship's get-rich schemes, which involve a number of the main characters here, provide the low-humorous high jinks typical of Edgerton's fiction. The trial tourist outing -- later known as the Eagle City Shootout of 1892 -- ends in some bloodshed and plans for a Wild West Show. The simple moral (""careless passion and wrong were caught in the jaws of defeat, right prevailed"") is in keeping with the amiable tone of this spirited historical re-creation.