Pony Girls

Pony Girls

5.0 9
by Richard Hoyt

Strange doings: European jumping horses have died mysteriously. Now prime Spanish mustang stallions are being killed all over the West. A beautiful young television newswoman is chasing the story, and some weirdo is posting obscene clues on the net.

John Denson, Annie Dancer, and Willie Sees the Night are retained to find the horse killers. Denson prefers

…  See more details below


Strange doings: European jumping horses have died mysteriously. Now prime Spanish mustang stallions are being killed all over the West. A beautiful young television newswoman is chasing the story, and some weirdo is posting obscene clues on the net.

John Denson, Annie Dancer, and Willie Sees the Night are retained to find the horse killers. Denson prefers logic, Annie her computer skills, and they share a lively bed. The shaman Willie reaches beyond reason: He again sends Denson flying into mysterious realms to find the truth. Are the animal spirits Denson sees real? Has Willie Sees the Night been fighting the shape-changing Koonran since the beginning of time? Is this the true source of all evil? Or is the monster part of us all, coursing through our blood?

Pony Girls is John Denson's wildest adventure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Richard Hoyt's Pony Girls: A John Denson Mystery, the ninth in the series (after 2003's The Weatherman's Daughter), mixes myth, metaphor and mystery, with sometimes confusing results. PI Denson investigates the deaths of more than 20 Spanish mustangs spread over a large area of the Western U.S. He also engages in a cosmic battle of good vs. evil that may or may not be metaphoric. Agent, Jacques de Spoelberch. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Denson, Dancer, and Sees the Night (The Weatherman's Daughter, 2003, etc.) are hired to rope in a serial killer stalking stallions. Ex-reporter John Denson, ex-FBI agent Annie Dancer, hallucinatory drug maven Willie Sees the Night are soft-boiled dicks operating out of Portland, Oregon-operating, as usual, in a style uniquely their own. Sees the Night, for instance, is a shaman, a crack out-of-body investigator who does his best work after imbibing certain controlled substances. Twenty-two valuable stallions have been murdered in diverse ways on the hooves of 16 European jumping horses. Are the two sets of horrors actually one? And are they connected to the beaching of 41 sperm whales? Denson, at his office/home in Whorehouse Meadow, gets a call from peerless TV journalist Erika von Bayer seeking help. Her dad, though defunct, remains a leading suspect in this hairiest of horse operas, and she wants his name cleared. Turns out the family album is chock-full of leading suspects: Erika's loopy mom, her vengeful grandmom, plus the gorgeous, dubious TV queen herself. Will Denson, Dancer, and winged Willie sort it all out? Not until after the customary jazzy sorties into what might or might not be a parallel reality. Plotless, aimless, relentlessly silly. Only the most charitable readers will suspend disbelief.

Product Details

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
John Denson Series, #8
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.95(d)

Read an Excerpt

1 In the fog

A surreal fog had settled over the northern Oregon coast on the morning of the best clam tide in a decade. Receding far to the west, the retreating tide revealed a vast stretch of wet sand, virgin territory for clam diggers. The gods endowed with the ability to deliver such bounties as great clam tides and grand weather had on this occasion, perversely, given us a far-out fog. You might find and dig clams in abundance this morning, but you wouldn't see oncoming traffic, the center line, or the shoulder of Highway 101. Such a fog! Wet and white, cold as a corpse's kiss.

I drove my Volkswagen microbus south past the gas station and convenience store that called itself Chokecherry Bend. Concentrating on the white fog line, I stared, transfixed, at the side of the winding coastal highway. Beside me, Annie Dancer also strained to see the line.

Never mind that the State of Oregon had placed fancy guardrails on the curves that dropped straight down into the Pacific Ocean; riding on the edge of a precipice in the densest fog imaginable was an unnerving experience.

Suddenly, two dim lights dead ahead.

"Watch it!" Annie cried, alarmed.

I moved to the edge of the road as another doughty traveler, driving a Suzuki SUV, passed in the other direction. I said, "I remember a fog like this about ten years ago. Willie and I were—"

"Pay attention!"

Another pair of headlights.

Annie said, "If you had any brains, you'd pull over to the side of the road and wait until this burns off."

"Right. And miss the best clam tide in ten years."

"The clams can wait. I want to enjoy my cup of coffee tomorrow morning."

"I am John Denson, intrepid moron. No veteran driver of a VW bus is more skilled than me. Nobody ever accused me of having brains or of being sensible. That's offensive!"

"Concentrate," she said.

There was the turnoff leading downhill. Yes! Although I had been down the road many times, how I had seen it in the fog was beyond me. It was a narrow gravel road carved from a cliff overlooking the beach that was our favorite place to dig clams. The road down the face of the cliff was ordinarily too much for tourists. Clam diggers drove from Portland on Highway 26 to Highway 101, an important red line on their road maps, to take advantage of the best tides.

The problem with the red-line highways, as opposed to the thinner black-line roads, was the annoying number of lumbering "recreational vehicles," driven mostly by retirees who felt it was a perquisite of age to clog up the highways if they damn well pleased. Saving for their future like everyone said they should, they had yielded their lives to the drudge of nine-to-five. They had been obedient and patient, the necessary drones of the consumer economy. Now, joints aching from arthritis and bowels unresponsive to mere prunes, it was their turn to cram a little fun into what remained of their lives. Maybe they didn't hump a whole bunch anymore, but they could afford the payments on an RV. The rest of us could stuff our complaining and be patient.

The nameless beach was narrow and rocky except at extreme low tides. Most people balked at the idea of driving a vehicle down a narrow road chiseled from the side of a precipice by gleeful engineers. To the left, rock. To the right, nothing. An unnerving experience. The narrowness of the beach, the rocks, and the spooky drive down the side of a cliff made most people avoid the place.

The beach was flanked by barnacle-covered promontories of solid rock that took a hard pounding from the surf at high tide, sending gauzy sheets of salty spray high into the air. In our many clamming trips to this beach, we had yet to meet another digger, which is why we liked it.

Having successfully negotiated the road to the bottom of the cliff, I parked my bus. Annie and I piled out.

"Call me John Sees the Fog," I said.

"Right," Annie said dryly.

I slid open the side doors of the bus, and we eagerly retrieved our plastic buckets and clam shovels. This was the southern edge of razor clam range on the Oregon coast, and we were hopeful of scoring our limit of the delicious, long clams. There were other good clams as well, but the fun was going home with razor clams to sauté in Tillamook butter, to hell with the cholesterol. Well, that and the pungent-smelling wild onion that was akin to garlic but not quite.

• • •

Bundled against the chill morning wind sweeping in from the ocean, wearing gloves and stocking caps to keep our ears warm, we set out through the fog in the direction of the distant surf that was a muted roar to the west.

Annie suddenly stopped. "Hear that?"

"I didn't hear anything," I said.

"Shush, listen," she said.

Then I heard it, barely discernible, a kind of high-pitched, fearful squealing, a desperate crying out. And not just from one beast, from many. It very nearly gave me goose bumps.


We both began walking rapidly in the direction of the squealing.

"Spooky," Annie said.

In ever-quickening, urgent strides, all but running, clam gear rattling in our plastic buckets, we plunged into the enveloping fog, heading north where the beach ended at the base of a peninsula of solid rock. We could see nothing. But the farther we progressed toward the distant roar of the surf, the louder the squealing, which was coming from multiple sources.

"What are they?" she asked.

"We'll find out soon enough," I said.

As we drew near the source of the crying out, the air was filled with the squealing.

A pathetic chorus of eeeeeeooooooeeeeee it was.

Louder it got, louder still.


The agony of the chorus of lamentation was startling. Then we were there, at the barnacle-encrusted base of the promontory. The crying out, loud and insistent, was all around us.

I stepped on something. It moved. I jumped back as if I'd stepped on a snake. "Jesus!" At the same time, I saw the forms looming all around me.

"Beached whales!" Annie said.

I had stepped on the edge of a flipper. I bumped into the whale's underbelly.

"My God. What do we do?" Annie asked.

I said, "No reason to be afraid of them. They'll all die if they don't get back in the water. They're mammals and can breathe, but their bodies are used to being supported by the water. Here on the beach, they're being crushed by gravity."

"What happened to them?" she asked. "How on earth did they manage to beach themselves with an entire ocean out there?"

"Maybe they got mixed up in this fog, confused," I said. "Something."

"Mixed up? Confused? You want to tell me how that happened?"

"Happened to the captain of the Exxon Valdez," I said.

Annie said, "The Exxon Valdez was an oil tanker. How could this many whales possibly run aground all at once? What's the connection?"

I said, "The connection is that they somehow failed to follow elementary rules of navigation. The captain of the Exxon Valdez had the proper chart, but didn't pay attention to it. A whale has an internal chart. Nobody understands how they could possibly beach themselves. But this isn't the first time they've run aground. It's happened on the Oregon coast three or four times that I can remember."

"It has?"

I said, "Forty-seven whales once beached themselves on the coast of Massachusetts. Or maybe it was thirty-seven. Something awful. Let's see if we can find out how many there are in this disaster. The adults are too heavy to move, but if there are babies, maybe we can wrestle or drag them into the water."

I felt my way along the flank of the whale next to me until I came to its head. The whale, likely feeling my hand, was silent. Then I came upon a large, mournful eye. The whale was watching me. It cried out silently, seeking my help. Beseeching. Pleading. I see you standing there, two-legged animal. Help me. Do something. Stupidly, as if the whale could understand English, I said, "We'll do everything we can, pal. Hang tough." Such was the crude dialogue between us mammalian cousins.

I used my cell phone to call 911. A woman answered. I told her what Annie and I had found.

"What? Say again, please."

"Stranded whales. Dozens of them. It's awful. We need help getting them back into the water." I gave her the directions to the beach.

"Stay put. Do what you can for them. I'll alert the fire departments at Seaside and Tillamook. Seaside has a chopper."

"Got it," I said. I hung up and took a deep breath.

• • •

I couldn't stand to remain in front of that whale's hopeful eye. I moved on. How many whales were there? Scores at a minimum. It was impossible to get an accurate count. Annie and I moved among their distraught forms. Even if we did find babies, it would be hard to do anything for them when we couldn't see.

After hiding the full extent of the hideous disaster from us, the fog suddenly thinned like a curtain lifted by a heavenly puppeteer, revealing the stricken whales under a warming morning sun. As it did, the squealing began to lessen in intensity. Were the whales wearing out? Or, able to see for themselves the full extent of their predicament, were they becoming resigned to their fate, quickly losing their resolve?

Slowly, Annie and I were able to make out the full extent of the disaster. A herd of forty-one sperm whales had somehow managed to run aground at this narrow beach at high tide, and now, with the water far beyond their reach, they were doomed to die. Of these, six were babies, their bodies small enough that they were better able to withstand the crushing gravity.

One of the whales, by far the largest, a hoary old bull, most likely the leader, was also the farthest inland. It was apparently this misguided old bull, whose skills as a leader had likely waned, who had led the ill-fated turn toward the beach.

We could try to get the babies back in the water, but to what fate? A baby whale, like a human, was slow to mature and needed the protection of its mother in order to survive. Still, we had to try. We humans and whales were in the same fix. All life was transitory. Whether it was man helping man or man helping whale, the difference was not critical. Better that the whales die in the water, a natural place for a whale to meet its end, than to smother, stranded on a rocky beach, surely a pathetic end. Turned around, better for a human to be buried in Mother Earth than to float around in the water, food for seagulls and passing fish.

Copyright © 2004 by Richard Hoyt

Read More

Meet the Author

Richard Hoyt, a graduate of the University of Oregon, is a former fellow of the Washington Journalism Center and holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Hawaii. He served as U.S. army counterintelligence agent, wrote for daily newspapers in Honolulu, and was a stringer for Newsweek magazine. He taught journalism at the University of Maryland and at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Or.

Hoyt is the author of the John Denson mysteries, the James Burlane thrillers and numerous other novels of adventure, espionage and suspense including two under the pseudonym of Nicholas van Pelt. In researching and writing in more than two dozen countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, he has ridden trains across the Soviet Union and riverboats down the Amazon. He now lives in the Philippines.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Pony Girls 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*Rushes over to Soarin then digs around in her backpack and pulls out a white satin drawstring bag, a ziploc full of foldable spoons and a bottle of water.* "Here Soarin, its willow bark and it'll help with the pain."*hands him the spoonful of white powderand turns around.* "Will some one please go and find an ice pack to keep the swelling down. And please get the school nurse too. I know a few tricks but I'm certainly not a prefessional."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Oh dear Celestia!!" She ran to Sourin and looked at his ainkle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Flies around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whens the soccer game?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
((Silverspeed is off for the day, Pinkie is on, however!))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SwiftStar looked at her toes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know all about sprained ankles I've sprained mine many times. *Reaches into her sports bag and pulls out an Ace bandage. Then takes an ice pack out of her lunch box. Runs into the school and comes out with a pair of crutches.* I have it all!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thirty-six sperm whales died on an isolated Oregon beach. Two months later, sixteen European jumping horses followed by twenty-two Spanish Mustangs are murdered in various atrocities. A group forms called the Ad Hoc Committee to Save the Spanish Mustang. They hire Portland, Oregon based private investigating partners John Denson, Annie Dancer, and Willie Sees the Night to learn who and why the horses are being slaughtered................................. The trio goes down their own paths trying to solve the mystery. Former reporter John seeks logical links even tying the dead horses back to the whale tragedy; ex-FBI agent Annie uses her information technology skills and links to look for serial killer patterns. Willie using hallucinatory drugs walks the out of body ethereal path of following the souls of the horses in their afterlife. As the threesome converges, evidence points towards the family of TV journalist Erika von Bayer, but which member and his or her motive remain unknown.............................. Readers will have to expand their horizons to accept what is reality in this weird private investigative tale in which anything is possible in the Hoyt universe. The story line is fun to follow due to the strange sleuth partners. John tries to emulate Holmes; Annie applies profiling to identify an animal killer; while Willie is tripping on some other plane that perhaps the Amazing Randi might debunk or be convinced. To appreciate the center of weirdness theme inside and outside a fine who-done-it, readers will need to shelve reality, but it is worth the trip............................ Harriet Klausner