In the Moon of Red Ponies (Billy Bob Holland Series #4)

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Overview

"James Lee Burke tells a story in a style all his own, in language that's alive, electric. He's a master at setting mood, laying in atmosphere, all with quirky dialogue that's a delight." — Elmore Leonard

In James Lee Burke's last novel featuring Billy Bob Holland, Bitterroot, the former Texas Ranger left his home state to help a friend threatened by the most dangerous sociopath Billy Bob had ever faced. After vanquishing a truly iniquitous collection of violent individuals, ...

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In the Moon of Red Ponies (Billy Bob Holland Series #4)

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Overview

"James Lee Burke tells a story in a style all his own, in language that's alive, electric. He's a master at setting mood, laying in atmosphere, all with quirky dialogue that's a delight." — Elmore Leonard

In James Lee Burke's last novel featuring Billy Bob Holland, Bitterroot, the former Texas Ranger left his home state to help a friend threatened by the most dangerous sociopath Billy Bob had ever faced. After vanquishing a truly iniquitous collection of violent individuals, Billy moved his family to west Montana and hung out a shingle for his law practice. But in In the Moon of Red Ponies, he discovers that jail cells have revolving doors and that the government he had sworn to serve may have become his enemy.

His first client in Missoula is Johnny American Horse, a young activist for land preservation and the rights of Native Americans. Johnny is charged with the murder of two mysterious men — who seem to have recently tried to kill Johnny themselves, or at least scare him off his political causes. As Billy Bob investigates, he discovers a web of intrigue surrounding the case and its players: Johnny's girlfriend, Amber Finley, as reckless as she is defiant — and the daughter of one of Montana's U.S. senators; Darrel McComb, a Missoula police detective who is obsessed with Amber; and Seth Masterson, an enigmatic government agent whose presence in town makes Billy Bob wonder why Washington has become so concerned with an obscure murder case on the fringes of the Bitterroot Mountains.

As complications mount and the dead bodies multiply, Billy Bob is drawn closer to the truth behind Johnny American Horse's arrest — and discovers a greater danger to himself and to his whole family. How Billy Bob strikes back at evil and protects his kin is the masterful triumph of In the Moon of Red Ponies.

Beautifully written, with an intriguing plot and characters whose conflicts seem as real as life itself, this novel shows James Lee Burke again in the top form that has made him a critical favorite and a national bestseller.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Lipez
As in the Robicheaux books, the writing in the Holland series is just terrific … With a few incisive strokes, Burke can show all-too-recognizable ruinous arrogance in character and in history.
The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
Entrusting his many grievances to Billy Bob Holland, the former Texas Ranger and assistant United States Attorney whose mission it is to defend the defenseless in this robust Western series, Burke grinds his teeth over the mistreatment of Indians by corporate crooks, prejudiced lawmen and a judicial system that doesn't seem to care. But he also raises a wide range of hot-button issues -- including questionable F.B.I. enforcement of the Patriot Act and government ties to companies engaged in war profiteering -- that have been pushing the boundaries of crime fiction since 9/11. While the shotgun spray of Burke's political complaints makes mincemeat of the plot, his passion is so real and raw that it redeems the ragged writing, giving voice to the new anxieties surfacing in genre fiction.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Narrator Stechschulte does an excellent job giving voice to the many eccentric characters in Burke's fourth novel starring former Texas Ranger Billy Bob Holland, last heard from in Bitterroot (2001). Billy Bob and his private investigator wife, Temple, have relocated to a ranch in Missoula, Mont. Not long after he hangs his attorney's shingle, Billy Bob receives a visit from ex-biker/rodeo clown Wyatt Dixon, who he helped send to jail for life in Bitterroot. Wyatt, free on a technicality, once buried Temple alive before spending time in federal prison. Now a born again Christian, he wants Holland to represent his horse-trading business. Here Stechschulte's talent truly shines. His portrayal of Wyatt's vacuous politeness is unnerving. Billy Bob doesn't trust him, nor does the listener. But should we? This is just the tip of a complicated ecoterrorist plot chock full of multifaceted characters, including an ex-mercenary police detective, a Native American Desert Storm hero/activist and a shady U.S. senator. Stechschulte penetrates the psyche of each of these players with incredible acuity, making this an excellent summer listen. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (Forecasts, May 24). (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Burke seems to absorb the mythos of the land he inhabits and then, remarkably, rework the spirit of these legends into his novels. In this fourth Billy Bob Holland tale, Billy now lives Missoula, MT, where he has opened a law practice and, along with his wife and son, has moved the ghost of his former partner in the Texas Rangers, L.Q. Navarro. Billy's first client is Johnny American Horse, a Native American activist who has more problems than Billy can see. In addition, Wyatt Dixon, the man who tried to murder Billy's wife, has been released from his 60-year jail sentence-and has decided to get reacquainted with the Holland family. Burke is able to bring all these stories together in another nonstop-action thriller. At the same time, he shows how a violent man can find redemption through forgiveness and how those ghosts from our past can sometimes show us the right path. An exceptionally good book, performed admirably by Tom Stechschulte; highly recommended for all libraries.-Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wyatt Dixon, the psycho Billy Bob Holland put away forever in Bitterroot (2001), is back-but he's the least of Billy Bob's troubles this time. When a small-town lawyer who's been a Texas Ranger and an assistant US attorney moves to Montana along with his wife, a former deputy sheriff and corrections officer, you might expect he'd have a little peace and quiet. And peace-and-quiet are Dixon's refrain when his conviction is overturned on a technicality and he's back in Billy Bob's face. All he wants is a lawyer who'll handle his horse-trading, he insists; Jesus and his chemical cocktails are keeping him on the straight and narrow. Whether or not the persistently creepy Dixon can be believed, there's plenty of other trouble close at hand. A break-in at the Global Research lab is widely assumed to be the work of homeless half-Lakota Johnny American Horse and his girlfriend, Senator Romulus Finney's wild daughter Amber. Whoever's got the records stolen from the lab, and whoever knows where the thieves or the papers are, is in the sights of blandly ruthless Karsten Mabus, millionaire CEO of Global's parent company. Darrel McComb, the racist detective with a thing for Amber, goes after Johnny; Mabus sics his hirelings on Billy Bob and his vulnerable family. It's all familiar to fans of Burke's thoughtful, volcanic studies of violence and redemption (White Doves at Morning, 2002, etc.). What's new is the implication of this backwoods intrigue in national politics and the determined attempts of several key characters to change their natures. It's a wrenching process; you can hear the gears strain and shriek as they slip their paths. Required reading for anybody who wonders whether mystery plottinghas a future in mainstream fiction. Agent: Philip Spitzer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743466646
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 1/25/2005
  • Series: Billy Bob Holland Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 4.60 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, and named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, is the author of thirty previous novels and two collections of short stories, including such New York Times bestsellers as The Glass Rainbow, Swan Peak, The Tin Roof Blowdown, Last Car to Elysian Fields, and Rain Gods. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

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    1. Hometown:
      New Iberia, Louisiana and Missoula, Montana
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 5, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Houston, Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Missouri, 1959; M.A., University of Missouri, 1960
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

My law office was located on the old courthouse square of Missoula, Montana, not far from the two or three blocks of low-end bars and hotels that front the railyards, where occasionally Johnny American Horse ended up on a Sunday morning, sleeping in a doorway, shivering in the cold.

The city police liked Johnny and always treated him with a gentleness and sense of fraternity that is not easily earned from cops. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in Operation Desert Storm, and some cops said Johnny's claims that he suffered Gulf War syndrome were probably true and that he was less drunk than sick from a wartime chemical inhalation.

More accurately, Johnny was a strange man who didn't fit easily into categories. He lived on the Flathead Reservation in the Jocko Valley, although his name came from the Lakota Sioux, and his relatives told me he was a descendant of Crazy Horse, the shaman and chief strategist for Red Cloud, who actually defeated the United States Army and shut down the Bozeman Trail in Red Cloud's War of 1868. I don't know whether or not Johnny experienced mystical visions as his ancestor supposedly did, but I had no doubt he heard voices, since he often smiled during the middle of a conversation and asked people to repeat themselves, explaining nonchalantly that other people were talking too loudly, although no one else was in the room.

But on balance he was a decent and honorable man and a hard worker, who took pride in tree-planting the side of a bare hill or digging postholes from sunrise to dark, in the way ranch hands did years ago, when love of the work itself was sometimes more important than the money it paid. He was handsome, full of fun, his hands shiny with callus, his face usually cut with a grin, his coned-up straw hat slanted on his brow. His higher ambitions were quixotic and of a kind that are doomed to destruction, but he was never dissuaded by the world's rejection or the fate it would eventually impose on him.

I just wished Johnny hadn't been so brave or so trusting in the rest of us.

Montana's history of rough justice is legendary. During the 1860s the Montana Vigilantes lynched twenty-two members of Henry Plummer's gang, riding through ten-foot snowdrifts to bounce them off cottonwood trees and barn ladders all over the state. Plummer's men died game, often toasting the mob with freshly popped bottles of champagne and shouting out salutes to Jefferson Davis before cashing in. Plummer, a county sheriff, was the only exception. He begged his executioners to saw off his arms and legs and cut out his tongue rather than take his life. The vigilantes listened quietly to his appeal, then hanged him from the crossbeam at the entrance to his ranch, the soles of his boots swinging back and forth three inches from the ground.

But that was then. Today the Montana legal system is little different from any other state's, and the appeals apparatus in criminal convictions sometimes produces situations with which no one can adequately deal.

The most dangerous, depraved, twisted, and unpredictable human being I ever knew was a rodeo clown by the name of Wyatt Dixon. With my help, he had been sentenced to sixty years in Deer Lodge Pen for murdering a biker in the Aryan Brotherhood. On an early spring morning, one year after Wyatt had begun his sentence in Deer Lodge Pen, I walked from the house down to the road and removed the daily newspaper from the tin cylinder in which it was rolled. I flipped the paper open and began to read the headlines as I walked back up the incline to the house, distracted momentarily by a black bear running out of the sunshine into the spruce trees that grew on the hill immediately behind the house.

When I glanced back at the paper, I saw Wyatt's name and a wire service story that made me swallow.

I sat down at the breakfast table in our kitchen and kept the newspaper folded back upon itself so the story dealing with Wyatt was not visible. Through the side window I could see steam rising from the metal roof on our barn and, farther on, a small herd of elk coming down an arroyo, their hooves pocking the snow that had frozen on the grass during the night.

"Why the face?" Temple, my wife, asked.

"For spring it's still pretty cold out," I replied.

She straightened the tulips in a glass vase on the windowsill and lifted a strand of hair off the glasses she had started wearing. She had thick chestnut hair and the light was shining on it through the window. "Did you say something about Johnny American Horse earlier?" she asked.

"He got himself stuck in the can again. I thought I'd go down to morning court," I replied.

"He needs a lawyer to get out of the drunk tank?"

"This time he had a revolver on him. It was under his coat, so he got booked for carrying a concealed weapon."

"Johnny?" she said.

I folded the newspaper and stuck it in my coat pocket. "Meet me for lunch?" I said from the doorway.

"Can you tell me why you're acting so weird? Why are you taking the newspaper with you?"

"No reason."

"Right."

The phone rang on the counter. I got to it before she did. "Hello?" I said, my mouth dry.

"Well, God bless your little heart, I'd recognize that voice anywhere. Howdy doodie, Mr. Holland? I wasn't sure you was still around, but soon as I come into town, I looked in the phone directory and there was your name in the middle of the page, big as a horse turd floating in a milk shake. Bet you don't know who this is?"

"You're making a mistake, partner."

"Sir, that injures my feelings. I have called you in good faith and as a fellow American, 'cause this is the land of the free and the home of the brave. I don't hold no grudges. I have even used your name as a reference in the many letters I have wrote to our country's leaders. In fact, I have wrote President Bush himself to offer my services. Has he contacted you yet?"

"I'm going to hang up now. Don't call here again," I said, trying to avoid Temple's stare.

"Now listen here, sir, I'm inviting you and your wife to a blowout, all-you-can-eat buffet dinner at the Golden Corral Restaurant. Do not hang up that phone, no-siree-bobtail — "

I returned the receiver to the cradle. Temple's eyes were riveted on mine.

"Who was that?" she said.

"Wyatt Dixon. He's out," I replied.

She began to straighten the tulips in the window again but instead knocked over the vase, shattering it in the sink, the tulip petals red as blood among the shards of glass.

As I left the house for work the sun was bright on the hillsides of the valley in which we lived, and to the south I could see the timber climbing up into the snowpack on the crests of the Bitterroots. I turned onto the two-lane into the little town of Lolo, then headed up the road to my office in Missoula. My reluctance to tell Temple that Wyatt Dixon was out of prison had nothing to do with the reasons people normally conceal bad news from their loved ones. Rather, it had everything to do with Temple's own propensity for immediate and violent retaliation against anyone who threatened her person or that of her friends or family.

Back in Texas, before she became a private investigator for small-town lawyers such as myself, she had been a patrolwoman in Dallas, a deputy sheriff in Fort Bend County near Houston, and a corrections officer in Louisiana. She had also been buried alive by Wyatt Dixon.

I parked in my rental space not far from the Oxford Bar, whose doors have stayed open since 1891, and walked down the street toward my office close by the courthouse. The maple trees on the courthouse lawn were in new leaf now, riffling in the breeze, the shadows shifting like lacework on the grass. At the corner, across from a pawnshop and bar, I saw a man watching me, his arm hooked on top of a parking meter.

He was lantern-jawed, his red hair like cornsilk, his eyes as pale and empty as a desert sky, his teeth big and square, his hard buttocks no wider than the palms of a woman's hands. He wore skintight Wrangler jeans, boots that were cracked from age, a beautiful Stetson with an eagle feather in the band, and a heavy, long-sleeved cotton shirt printed from collar to shirttail with a collage from the American flag. When he grinned, his skin stretched back from his teeth, his lips a strange, purplish color in the shade.

"How 'bout I take you down to the Oxford and buy you a breakfast of eggs and corned beef? Guaranteed to put a chunk of drill pipe in your britches," he said.

"You get the hell away from me," I said.

He twisted a finger in his ear and looked down the street at two college-age kids, a girl and boy, jogging through the intersection, both of them sweaty and hot, their faces bright. His eyes came back on mine. "I ain't got no grief with you, counselor. Left that back at the joint. Know why?" he said, his eyes widening.

"Not interested," I said.

"They dusted off the electroshock machine, wired me up, and made blue sparks jump off my Johnson. I was definitely in the spirit when they pulled them electrodes off my head, yes sir."

"Electroshock isn't used anymore."

"They said in my case they was making an exception, although they didn't give me no explanation on that. Put me naked in an isolation cell and hosed me down with ice-cold water, too," he said, fitting his hand on his scrotum, watching the college girl jog by a few feet away. "I'm putting together a company to provide the best rough stock on the Northwestern circuit. Horses you couldn't hold in with a barbed wire hackamore. Need you as my legal point man."

"Are you out of your mind?"

He seemed genuinely puzzled, his jaw hooked forward like a camel's. "I'll pay you top dollar, cash money, Brother Holland," he said.

"Brother?"

"I joined a church when I was inside. You are not looking at the same Wyatt Dixon who traveled the Lost Highway and went to the Wild Side of Life where the scarlet waters flow. You have probably noticed them are lyrics written by the greatest songwriters of our time. I hope you can feel the depth of sincerity in each of them poetic words."

"I want you to work real hard on this concept, Wyatt. You come anywhere around me or my wife or son, if you send any of your neo-Nazi friends after us, if I see that barnyard, white-trash face anywhere near — "

I stopped. Each of my statements seemed to connect with and energize a neuron inside his head, causing his face to jerk, his mouth to flex, his legs to cave, his feet to splay, as though he were being struck with invisible blasts of air. He stared at me, his eyes dilated with awe.

"I did not believe it possible, but once again your word skills has done blowed away this simple rodeo cowboy," he said. "I know now I have chose the right man to recommend me to President Bush. God bless you, sir."

I went inside the office. Through the window I could see him stretched out under a tree on the courthouse lawn, the side of his face propped on his hand, watching the passersby, none of whom had any idea that a man wearing a shirt stamped with the colors and design of the Stars and Stripes was thinking thoughts about them that would cause the weak of spirit to weep.

I called Temple at home, but no one answered. I called the agency where she worked as a private investigator with a man and another woman. "He was waiting for me outside the office," I said.

"He's going to reoffend. Just wait him out," she said.

"Temple?"

"Yes?" she said.

"If he comes around the house and I'm not there, shoot him," I said.

"I'll shoot him whether you're there or not," she replied.

The morning court judge was Clark Lebeau, known for his egalitarian attitudes, short tolerance for stupidity, and unusual sentences for people who thought they would simply pay a fine and be on their way. Businessmen found themselves working on the sanitation truck; animal abusers cleaned the litter boxes at the shelter; and drunk drivers mowed grass and weeded graves at the cemetery. Rumor had it he kept both a gun and a bottle of gin under the bench.

"What the hell were you doing with a pistol?" he asked from the bench.

"I guess I was gonna pawn it," Johnny American Horse replied.

"You guess?" the judge said.

"I was pretty drunk, your honor."

"The officers said it was under your coat. That means while you were passed out you managed to commit a felony. Where's your goddamn brains, son?"

"Left them in the Oxford, your honor," Johnny said.

I winced inside.

"You took a gun to a saloon?" the judge said.

"Your honor," I began.

"Shut up, Mr. Holland," the judge said. "You carried a gun into the Oxford?"

"I don't remember," Johnny said.

The judge rubbed his mouth. He was old and sometimes irritable but not an unfair man. "I'm letting you go on your own recognizance. Come back in here on a firearms charge, I'm going dig up the jail and drop it on your head. Am I making myself clear?"

"Yes, sir," Johnny said.

We walked outside into the brilliance of the morning, sunshine on the hills above the town, birds flying through trees on the courthouse lawn, the noise of traffic, a world of normalcy as dissimilar from life inside a jail as the quick are from the dead.

That is, except for the presence of Wyatt Dixon, who was now sitting up in the shade, sailing playing cards into his inverted hat. His pale eyes looked up at us, a matchstick rolling in his teeth.

"Know that dude?" I asked Johnny.

"You betcha I do," Johnny said. "He was shacked up with a girl on the res. Her ex and a couple of his Deer Lodge buds decided to remodel Wyatt's cranial structure. One of them walks with a permanent limp now. The other two decided to start new careers in Idaho."

Johnny reached down, picked up a small pinecone, and threw it at Wyatt's head. "Hey, boy, I thought you were in the pen," he said.

"Hell, no," Wyatt said, his eyes looking at nothing, his matchstick flexing at an upward angle.

We walked to the corner, then crossed the street to my office. I didn't speak until we were a long way from Wyatt Dixon.

"Why not just put your necktie in the garbage grinder?" I said.

"Telling a man you're afraid of him is the same as telling him he's not as good as you. That's when you have trouble. Fellow as smart as you ought to know that, Billy Bob," Johnny said. He hit me on the shoulder.

"Why were you carrying a gun?" I said.

He didn't answer. Inside the office, I asked him again.

"A couple of guys are here to fry my Spam," he said.

"Which guys?" I asked.

"Don't know. Saw them in a dream. But they're here," he said.

"That'll make a fine defense. Maybe we can get a couple of counselors from detox to testify for us."

He told me he'd work off my fees at my small spread outside Lolo, then went to search for his pickup truck so he could drive back to his house on the reservation in the Jocko Valley.

It's probably fair to say that welfare dependency, alcoholism, glue sniffing, infant mortality, the highest suicide rate among any of our ethnic groups, recidivism, xenophobia, and a general aversion to capitalistic monetary concepts are but a few of the problems American Indians have. The list goes on. Unfortunately, their troubles are of a kind most white people don't want to dwell on, primarily, I suspect, because Indians were a happy people before their encounter with the white race.

The irony is, except for a few political opportunists, Indians seldom if ever make a claim on victimhood. Individually they're reticent about their hardships, do their time in county bags and mainline joints without complaint, and systematically go about dismantling their lives and inflicting pain on themselves in ways a medieval flagellant couldn't dream up.

Johnny American Horse didn't belong in the twenty-first century, I told myself. He lived on the threadworn edges of an aboriginal culture, inside a pantheistic vision of the world that was as dead as his ancestor Crazy Horse. I told myself I would help him with his legal troubles, be a good friend to him, and stay out of the rest of it. That was all decency required, wasn't it?

Temple joined me for lunch by a big window in a workingmen's café near the old train station on North Higgins. Across the street were secondhand stores and bars that sold more fortified wine than whiskey. Brown hills that were just beginning to turn green rose steeply above the railyards, and high up on the crests I could see white-tailed deer grazing against the blueness of the sky. The café was crowded, the cooks sweating back in the kitchen, frying big wire baskets of chicken in hot grease.

"Johnny was carrying a gun because of somebody he saw in a dream?" Temple said.

ard

"That's what he says."

She bit a piece off a soda cracker and stared out the window at a freight passing through the yards, her mouth small and red, her chestnut hair freshly washed and blow-dried and full of lights. "I think Johnny's looking for a cross. If he can't find one, he'll construct it," she said.

I started to speak, then saw her eyes go empty and look past me at a group of men entering the door. Three of them were probably wranglers, ordinary blue-collar men, brown-skinned, their stomachs hard as boards under their big belt buckles, their hats sweat-ringed around the crowns. But the fourth man had teeth like tombstones and a vacuity in the boldness of his stare that made people look away.

"That bastard is actually on the street," Temple said.

I set down the iced tea I was drinking and wiped my mouth. "Let's go," I said.

"No," she replied.

Wyatt Dixon and his friends sat down at a table by the door. Outside, a trailer loaded with horses was parked in a yellow zone. It didn't take long for Wyatt's vacuous gaze to sweep the restaurant, then settle on us.

The cast or composition of his eyes was unlike any I had ever seen in a human being. They had almost no color and showed no emotion; the pupils were black pinpoints, even in bright light. They studied both people and animals with an invasiveness that was like peeling living tissue off bone.

He sat with one booted foot extended into the aisle, causing the waitresses to step around it, his eyes focused curiously on Temple's face.

The waitress brought a chicken basket for Temple, fried pork chops and mashed potatoes and string beans for me. I looked back once more at Wyatt, then picked up a steak knife and started to cut my food. Temple scraped back her chair and walked to the pay phone by the front door, no more than five feet from Wyatt Dixon's table. She punched in three numbers on the key pad.

"This is Temple Carrol Holland, down by the depot on North Higgins," she said into the receiver. "A psychopathic bucket of shit by the name of Wyatt Dixon and some of his friends have illegally parked a horse trailer by the restaurant. Please send a cruiser down here so we don't have to breathe horse sweat while we eat. Thank you."

The level of sound in the restaurant dropped precipitously as she hung up the phone and walked back to our table. Wyatt's jaw was hooked forward, exposing his teeth, a smile denting the corner of his mouth, like a thumbnail's incision in tan clay. He told one of the wranglers to go outside and move the truck, then came to our table.

"Howdy doodie, Miss Temple?" he said, standing above us. " 'Member me? Bet you still think I was one of them men dug a hole and stuck you in it."

"Go back to your table, Wyatt," I said.

"Let him talk," Temple said.

"Truth is, I don't know what I done before I got filled up on chemical cocktails and had my brains electrified at Warm Springs. But in this time of national trial, there is no excuse for one American doing mean things to another. Here's two tickets to an ass-buster down in Stevensville. There you will find this humble rodeo clown entertaining the throngs of people that follows our greatest national sport."

I brushed the tickets off the tablecloth onto the floor. "You're about to have the worst day in your life," I said.

He looked down at the tickets, then back at me in mock disbelief. A waitress stepped around him, a loaded tray balanced on her shoulder. He admired her rump a moment, then squatted down, eye-level with me. He was clean-shaved, his skin without tattoos or scars. I could smell horses and an odor like hay and buttermilk in his clothes. He looked at the steak knife that rested in my right hand. "I had a lot of bad nights up at the Zoo. A lot of time to study on things, Brother Holland. Glad I found Jesus. 'Cause I wouldn't want to act on the kind of thoughts that was tangled up in my head," he said.

Through the window I saw a city police cruiser pull to the curb.

"Your cab is here," Temple said.

Wyatt glanced over his shoulder, then scratched his cheek. "I will not pretend I can contend with the smarts and humor of Miss Temple. Instead, I salute both y'all as fellow Texans and patriots defending the U.S. of A. against the ragheads that is attacking our great country," he said. "I'll be out to your ranch directly with a haunch of sirloin to slap on the barbecue. Y'all live up that gulch right outside Lolo?"

He grinned idiotically, his teeth shiny with his saliva.

Later, after he and his friends had eaten and gone, Temple and I sat in the quietness of the now almost deserted restaurant, the glass in the window vibrating with wind. I felt both inept and angry at myself for reasons I couldn't define. I kept reviewing in my mind what I should have done to Wyatt Dixon, like a schoolboy who has been shoved down in the playground and done nothing about it.

"Forget it," Temple said.

"He spit on us."

"Don't get the ego mixed up in this, Billy Bob."

"I'll see you at home," I said.

"Where are you going?"

I paid the check and went out the door without answering.

The district attorney was a Northern California transplant by the name of Fay Harback. She was a petite woman with a small, attractive face and white skin, and hair that was mahogany-colored and thick on the back of her neck. She'd graduated at the top of Stanford Law and, like many of her fellow Californians in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots, had moved into the northern Rockies.

But her husband, an organic truck farmer, had bad luck in lots of ways. His ideals drove him and his wife into bankruptcy, and after he died in a hunting accident, she became an assistant district attorney, then ran for the D.A.'s job and won, largely because she had helped shut down an industrial waste disposal group that had tried to construct a PCB incinerator on the river, one that would have probably poisoned the entire valley.

I liked Fay and I liked her toughness in particular, even though she was sometimes ambitious, but I could never guess which way her wind vane was about to blow.

"Let's see if I understand. I sent Wyatt Dixon up the road, but I'm responsible for the fact he's on the street?" she said.

"I didn't say that," I replied.

"Look — " she began. She pinched her temples and got up from her chair and stood at the window. I heard her take a breath. "I screwed it up."

"How?"

"Failure to disclose exculpatory evidence. A jailhouse gum ball claimed Dixon was shooting pool with him when the biker was killed. His only problem was he drooled when he was off his medication."

"Why didn't you give his statement to the defense?"

"An A.D.A. we later fired said he'd taken care of it. I forgot all about it. It was worthless information, anyway. But I got sandbagged on appeal," she said.

"Get Dixon for the burial of my wife."

"We can't prove he did it."

"You've got his fall partner's testimony."

"Terry Witherspoon's? He died from AIDS in the prison infirmary last week." She looked at the frustration in my face. Her expression softened. "You were a Texas Ranger?"

"Yes."

"Have days you miss it?" she asked.

"No."

"Montana isn't the O.K. Corral anymore. If I were you, I wouldn't listen to the wrong voices inside my head."

"Box up the psychobabble and ship it back to Marin County, Fay," I said.

"I grew up in Weed. So run your redneck shuck on somebody else, Billy Bob."

Lesson? Don't mess with short women who have law degrees from Stanford.

That night the sky was black and bursting with stars above the valley where we lived, then clouds quaking with thunder moved across the moon and snow began to fall on the mountaintops, sticking on the ponderosa and fir trees that grew high up on the slopes. In my sleep I dreamed of small-arms fire in the dark, the running of booted feet, the smell of wet mesquite, scrub oak, burned gunpowder, and ponded water that had gone stagnant. In the dream I raised my revolver and fired at a man silhouetted against the sky, saw his arms reach out horizontally, then clutch the wound that burst like a rose from the top buttonhole on his shirt.

Fay Harback had asked if I missed my career as a Texas Ranger. The truth was I had never left it. It returned to me at least every third night, in the form of my best friend's accidental death down in Old Mexico.

L. Q. Navarro had long ago forgiven me, as the priests at my church had. But absolution by both the living and the dead did not reach into my nocturnal hours. I woke at 3 a.m. and sat alone in the coldness of the living room, looking out at the moonlight that had broken through the clouds and at the caked snow steaming on the backs of my horses in the pasture.

Just before dawn I fell asleep in the chair and did not wake until I heard Temple making breakfast in the kitchen.

Copyright © 2004 by James Lee Burke

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Customer Reviews

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( 26 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 4, 2013

    Read this book and you'll search for his others.

    Always exciting and kept me on edge. This entire series is well written and I especially enjoy the humanity and frailty of Bill Bob. Burke's scenic and emotional descriptions are unmatched by any writer I've read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2013

    Maplejay

    She sighed and padded in after seeing Thymedust run out. "Velvetstar?" She said gently, sittin gin front of her and lowering he rnow soft amber eyes to eye level.

    •Maplejay•••

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    Wishbreeze

    (^_^ Orionkit, Stormkit, Cloudkit and Dreamkit.)~Wish

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2013

    Jaguartooth

    He padded out

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    Dreampaw

    ((Yeah Dreampaw isn't ready to be a warrior yet..))

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Fawnpaw

    She mews "velvetstar?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2013

    Thymedust

    "Velvetstar. I love you. I couldn't love Rabbit meat more then you! You are pretty, and you are my love. Faithseed may of been flirting, but i only inhanced it with trying to be friendly. Velvetstar, it all changes here. Will you be my mate." He rested his muzzle on her head. <br>
    •~&#8366hymedust~•

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Wolfsun

    Velvetstr can i do he hunting posts the weekends are basically the only time i have to rp because of school.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Fawnstep

    I could do hunting posts, but they will be updated later in the evening.
    ~Fawnstep's RPer

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2012

    I enjoyed the book albeit I will never buy another James Lee Bur

    I enjoyed the book albeit I will never buy another James Lee Burke book without first reading several chapters and maybe not after. I got my NOOK after having serious eye problems and retina surgery that has yet to resolve the issue. I have adjusted the type face to the style and size that is best for the one eye that I primarily use. It is disconcerting to have my comfort destroyed by either the author's or the publisher's capricious use of a tiny type font for three or four words at the beginning of seemingly randomly chosen paragraphs. I used a magnifying glass to get through this book, but I will not repeat the effort. An explanation is due to purchasers of this book, but for me even that is inadequate. I feel that my purchase of both the NOOK and this book was abused by what is probably a writer's ploy.

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  • Posted July 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Reason to give

    What I like about James Lee Burke is his ability to portray his cast, 'heroes' and villains alike, as real people, men and women you could meet in the street, in your own life. Underneath, however, they have these troubled history and souls, often culminating in violence, again as well for good and bad characters. As in his Dave Robicheaux novels, he makes his protagonist out as people you want to explore, touch, get in touch with. I bought this book as a gift, I have it myself, so this goes to show how I like it : I don't recommend it, I give it !

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2005

    The Weakest of the Lot

    I dislike weak main characters. Billy Bob is completely ineffectual and incredibly weak in this fourth outing. I don't mind flaws in a main character, but Billy Bob was too wishy-washy in this story. He spends most of his time wringing his hands or passing out empty threats. The one time he actually goes into action turns pathetic. Lucas and Temple remain the strongest characters in this series, with Wyatt running a very close second. Billy Bob needs to be much tougher if this series continues. The secondary characters were relatively annoying, and overboard self-righteous. My suggestion to Mr. Burke is to shelve the politics, or at least be more subtle about it. This story broke under the weight of the message he obviously was trying to get across. My head still hurts due to the hammer Burke kept hitting me with as I was reading. Mr. Burke is too good a writer to fall under mediocrity, and this story was mediocre at best. However a mediocre Burke novel is still better than no Burke novel at all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2004

    Complex Burke

    The title of this book brings to mind the Southwest and Native Americans. It was set in the Bitterroot Mountains of Missoula Montana, a place I would never have known there were reservations. Mr. Burke writes a story that involves many characters and many happenings and you need to pay attention to so you don¿t lose track of who, what, where and when things are happening. In The Moon of Red Ponies, Billy Bob Holland is a lawyer who gets involved in the troubles of Johnny American Horse and his girlfriend, Amber Finley. There is a cast of players to keep straight, such as, Wyatt Dickson, Senator Findley, Darrel McComb, Greta Lundstrohm, the DA, a less than scrupulous lawyer, Seth Masterson, and Billy Bob¿s wife, Temple and son, Lucas. Johnny¿s cause as an activist for land preservation as well as the rights of his Native American brothers has Johnny up against those with money, power and political connections. Johnny has past military service and that, combined with his teachings as a Native American provide plenty of tactics to keep him one step ahead of the bad guys. Unfortunately, he has become a drunk and this makes him a good target on which to pin the break-in of a research unit. Wyatt has been released from jail and is back to cause trouble for the very people he was sent to jail for trying to murder ¿ Temple Holland. Wyatt found Jesus in jail and between that and the ¿chemical cocktails¿ he takes, he wants to help Billy Bob catch the bad guys. Billy Bob doesn¿t trust him any father than he can throw him and Temple just wants him to leave them alone. Darrel is a good cop that had become rough around the edges and has blurred the lines between good and bad. He gets involved with Greta who leads him down the primrose path but not quite all the way to the end before Darrell catches on to what is happening and makes a last ditch effort to prove he really is the good cop he has always been. The reader, Tom Stechschulte, has a voice that provides each character with its own unique inflection and tone so it is easy to know who is speaking. James Lee Burke describes the mountains and streams; a little of the life on a reservation; and what can happen when money and greed come together. It is a story that is involved and complex. He leaves the story with the problems Wyatt causes unsolved ¿ maybe so he can write a sequel? The ending is less than resolved in this writer¿s opinion but does not leave every question unanswered.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2004

    Burke writes another winner

    I hate coming to the end of a James Lee Burke novel because I realize I am back home in my boring suburban life. No other author transports you into his world better than Burke. You hear the wind in the pines, smell the smoke of the campfires and feel the touch of the strong characters he creates. It seems funny to call his writing beautiful as he can write some of the most violent scenes in crime fiction. But does anyone write better, more believable, dialogue than James Lee Burke? Billy Bob is the perennial 'feet of clay' hero given new life by an author that cares more about character than 'creating' plot twists. Want to truly enjoy his work? Read the book (I suggest slowly) then get the book on tape out of library (unabridged, naturally) and have it read to you while you walk the dog or drive to work. You will enter into another world.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Teriffic thriller

    Former Texas Ranger Billy Bob Holland and his wife Temple relocate to Missoula, Montana where he opens up a law practice. However, Billy Bob is a bit stunned to learn justice did it again as the state freed the most dangerous person he ever met, psychopath Wyatt Dixon (see BITTERROOT) on a technicality. Though concerned that the crazed Wyatt might target him or Temple, he never expected the man to arrive at his law office needing a lawyer to represent his horse-trading business.----- Meanwhile, someone steals important documents from the Global Research lab. The police believe former Gulf War soldier, part Lakota Johnny American Horse and his girlfriend Amber, daughter of U.S. Senator Romulus Finney, are the thieves. Billy Bob takes on Johnny as a client while Detective Darrel McComb targets the half-Lakota veteran perhaps because he desires Amber. Cold-blooded multi millionaire CEO Karsten Mabus will hire anyone to do anything to obtain the papers including killing Billy Bob and his family.----- The violence is typical of Jamie Lee Burke as events spin out of control sort of like a tornado with innocent people being hurt by the spinning funnel clouds of subplots. Most interesting is Wyatt as he struggles with the help of legal drugs and Jesus to control his maniacal behavior. Billie Bob remains the same person wanting a little peace in his life, but somehow is always the eye of the storm as he learns that Tip O¿Neill was right that ¿all politics is local¿ inside the Burke norm of a fabulous ferociously brisk thriller.----- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews

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