Coyote Revenge

Coyote Revenge

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by Fred R. Harris, Fred Harris
     
 

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Booted out of law school, young Okie Dunn returns home to the warm prairie town of Vernon with high hopes for the future. He finds, though, that the friendly world he left behind is falling apart—and not just because of the Great Depression.

When his childhood friend, Sheriff Dub Ready, is killed, Okie takes over the job, swearing to bring the killer to

Overview

Booted out of law school, young Okie Dunn returns home to the warm prairie town of Vernon with high hopes for the future. He finds, though, that the friendly world he left behind is falling apart—and not just because of the Great Depression.

When his childhood friend, Sheriff Dub Ready, is killed, Okie takes over the job, swearing to bring the killer to justice. But just who wanted Dub dead and why? And was his murder linked to the mysterious, brutal deaths of his parents two years before?

Despite his best intentions, Okie discovers that upholding the law and finding the truth can be difficult, dangerous business, one that will pit him against lifelong friends, business associates, a cold-blooded killer...and even his own heart.

Author Biography: Fred R. Harris is a former two-term senator from Oklahoma and the author of ten non-fiction books. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a professor at the University of New Mexico.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Rural dialect, strict adherence to period detail, and unsophisticated characters mark this debut novel by a former U.S. senator from Oklahoma about murder in 1937 Vernon, OK. Narrator Okie Dunn is appointed sheriff after someone "accidentally" kills his friend Dub during a jackrabbit hunt. Though untrained as a law officer, Okie recognizes the death as murder--just like the supposed double suicide of Dub's parents two years earlier. Okie has plenty of suspects to choose from (Dub's banker father repossessed many farms) and wide latitude in conducting his business (he sleeps with Dub's sister). Slow-going at first, but once Okie becomes sheriff, watch out! For larger collections. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
It's November 1937, which means that both Oklahoma and the young hero of this impressive debut have birthdays looming. Oklahoma will be 30, Okie Dunn 26, and about to experience a rapid-fire series of life-altering events. Hardscrabble Vernon (pop. 700), Okie's birthplace, where he's only recently returned, would be difficult to separate from most other small southwestern towns except for an inexplicable rash of sudden deaths. Among these is that of Sheriff Dub Ready, Okie's oldest friend, who takes two bullets in the back during a community rabbit hunt. Everybody in Vernon knows that ex-pro boxer Okie can handle himself in a tussle and that he's got some law school under his belt, so it seems natural to pass the badge on to him. And that's okay with Okie because it gives him license to do what he was bound and determined to do anyway—track down Dub's murderer. At the outset only banker Marsh Traynor seems a likely suspect, since his hatred of Dub was as unequivocal as it was unconcealed. But Okie knows that Marsh is no back-shooter. He also knows where he really ought to be looking, but when head and heart operate at cross-purposes, things can take a while to get sorted out. You'll guess the murderer sooner than Okie does, but no matter. An unerring sense of place, fully realized characters, and just plain good storytelling make this venture into fiction by Oklahoma ex-US Senator Harris a debut worth noting.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060183967
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/01/1999
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.59(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Old Sore-eyed Cecil and two of his ragged little girls were on the corner in front of the bank, braced against a stiff early-November wind. He heard my cowboy boots on the sidewalk and held out a thin hand. I fished a dime out of my Levi's and gave it to him as I passed.

"Lord bless you," he said.

"I hope He's quick," I said.

Not to Sore-eyed Cecil.

I started up the five semicircular concrete steps to the bank's etched-glass front door. I was a walking prayer myself, a climbing supplication. And nervous as a whore in church, my dad would have said.

Cash County National Bank was a kind of greenback temple in Vernon, Oklahoma, something like a church. It weighted down the northwest corner of Icehouse and Main Streets and was the commanding structure of the town's five-block central business district. On Main Street, two drugstores, two cafes, two picture shows, two dry goods stores, two furniture stores, three groceries, a variety store, a hardware store, three car dealerships, a jewelry, a ladies' dress store, a bakery, a hole-in-the-wall radio-repair shop, two lumberyards, three blacksmith shops, and four beer joints that sold 3.2 beer, the only legal liquor allowed by Oklahoma state law, and, on the northwest edge of town, two cotton gins and a grain elevator--these were the Vernon businesses that had survived hard times or replaced those that didn't. Four vacant storefronts on Main Street were the tombs of enterprises the Depression had killed off for good.

Several of Vernon's downtown buildings were two stories tall. Their second floors housed the offices of four lawyers, five insurance and real-estateagents, two dentists, and three chiropractors. The names and occupations of these professionals were lettered in black or gold on the windows looking down on the asphalt north-south thoroughfare of the town.

Cash County National Bank, itself, was two-story. It was a redbrick cube of a building, in no danger of ever being scooped up by a southwest Oklahoma tornado or carried off in one of the terrible dust storms that had nearly blown us away after the start of the "dirty thirties." The bank was too solid and heavy for that. And besides, I figured, God wouldn't have dared.

The bank wasnt going to go under financially, either. It'd been making money during the hard times.

I took a nervous breath at the top of the steps, squared my shoulders, turned the brass doorknob, and entered the well-lit, highceilinged inner sanctum. Times were getting better, that fall of 1937, but the Great Depression was definitely still on. And I needed to borrow some money.

Marsh Traynor saw me right away when I entered. His desk was in an alcove to the left as you came in. Farther toward the rear, three brass-grilled tellers' cells were backed up against the north and west walls.

"Okie!" Traynor hollered, getting up out of his chair. "Come in this house!" My dad always said, "Marsh Traynor don't talk; he bellers!" He was right.

Red-faced and bald as a melon, Traynor was built like a heavyweight wrestler. But he looked spry as a vaulter as he jumped out from behind his oak desk and came quickly to the low oak rail, bending briefly to open its latched gate, The right hand he grabbed mine with felt nearly as thick as an eight-ounce boxing glove. His other hand gripped my shoulder, and he pulled me off-balance, toward him, in a near embrace.

"Right good to see you, Okie," Traynor yelled. "Right good." He stepped back then. "Come in, come in," he said in a somewhat quieter voice, motioning me through the low gate to one of the two unpadded oak office chairs in front of the desk. He went around and sat down in his own worn, brown-leather chair.

On the wall behind his desk was a twice life-size black-and-white, framed photograph of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's strong and confident face. He'd been reelected for a second term by a landslide the preceding year.

The only thing I have to fear is fear itself, I thought to myself, adapting Roosevelt's words.

Traynor had enthusiastically backed Roosevelt, I knew. I also knew that this had been a singular thing for an Oklahoma banker to do. But it matched the common sentiment in Cash County, for sure. My dad, for example, about as common as they came, liked to say, "When Roosevelt took his seat in '33, we commenced to climb, and we clumb!"

Traynor didn't look like a banker. Didn't dress like one either. And the fact was that he hadn't actually been a banker very longonly since old man Ready, a different person altogether, a tightfisted and sour-turned Methodist deacon, and his wife, both Republicans, had been found dead in their burned-down farmhouse a couple of years earlier. Few people had mourned Ready's death. He'd foreclosed on a sadly large number of Cash County farmers after the Depression struck, running them off their home places. Some of these dispossessed had gone off to California, looking for work. Most of them were still around Vernon, many on relief.

Traynor wore a leather jacket and an open-necked, blue work shirt. And, most unusual for a banker, his round, permanently sunreddened face was lit by a near-perpetual smile.

My dread about coming to the bank was a kind of holdover feeling from Hoyt Ready's days there. When I was a kid, I'd sometimes tagged along when my dad went in to see Ready, and I'd watched my dad change the minute he walked through the bank's front doors. A wiry cowboy kind of a guy with a busted nose, my dad was as tough as a tire iron and not much bigger. But, going to see the banker, he'd always seemed to me to weaken and even to shrink a little. He'd take off his worn Stetson and drop his eyes, like a guy going through a cow lot, careful where he stepped.

It was true that my dad, as he put it, "wore no man's collar," but he came pretty close to buckling one on every time he went to the bank during the time Ready ran it.

Hoyt Ready was from Kansas. My dad called it the state of the three suns--"sunshine, sunflowers, and sunsabitches."...

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Coyote Revenge 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fred Harris has spun a tale which is timeless. The fact the setting was the 1930s is incidental to the basic theme - good verses evil, and the impact of the events touch a nerve in everyone.