- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Son of A Wanted Man tells the story of Ben Curry and his adopted son Mike Santos. In a remote corner of California’s High Sierra Mountains lies the secret outlaw kingdom of Ben Curry. For fifteen years Curry has ruled supreme. But the king is getting old, and he wants to turn his legacy over to someone and get out -- someone like Mike. Mike is a young man who can handle a knife, a gun, his fists, and who’s been trained in every criminal skill. But so far he’s never broken the law. Now, as treachery explodes among Ben’s riders, Mike must choose -- between his loyalty to Ben or his yearning for a different life.
The winter snows were melting in the forests of the Kaibab, and the red-orange Vermilion Cliffs were streaked with melting frost. Deer were feeding in the forest glades among the stands of ponderosa and fir, and trout were leaping in the sun-sparkled streams. A shadow moved under the ponderosa, then was gone.
Five deer fed on the grass along the bank of a mountain stream back of Finger Butte, their coats mottled with the light and shadow of sunlight through the leaves.
It was very still. Water rippled around the roots of a tree where the soil had washed away, and gurgled cheerfully among the rocks. A buck's tail twitched, twitched again, and the regal head lifted, turning its nostrils to the wind, reading it cautiously, but the reading was betrayal, for the shadow under the pines was downwind of him.
A faint breeze sifted through the grass and stirred the leaves, and with the breeze the shadow moved into the sunlight and became a man, standing motionless not twenty feet from the nearest deer.
Straight and tall he stood in gray buckskins. He wore no hat, and his hair long. Lean and brown, his black hair loose, he waited until the buck's head lifted again, looking right at him.
A startled snort and the buck sprang away. The others followed. Mike Bastian stood with his hands on his hips,watching them go.
Another man came through the trees behind him, a lean, wiry old man with a gray mustache and blue eyes alive with humor.
"What do you think of that, Roundy?" Bastian asked. "Could your Apache beat that? Another step and I could have touched him."
Roundy spat into the grass. "No Apache I ever knowed could do better, son. An' I never seen the day I could do as well. You're good, Mike, really good. I am surely glad you're not huntin' my hair!" He drew his pipe from his pocket and began stoking it. "We're headin' back for Toadstool Canyon, Mike. Your pa sent for us."
"No trouble, is there?"
"None I know of, although things don't look good. They don't look good at all. No, I think your pa figures it's time you rode out with the bunch."
Mike Bastian squatted on his heels, glancing around the glade. This was what he liked, and he did not want to leave. Nor did he like what he was going back to face. "I believe you're right, Roundy. Pa said I was to ride out in the spring when the boys went, and it is about time."
He tugged a blade of grass and chewed on it. "I wonder where they will go this time?"
"Whatever it is, and wherever it is, it will be well planned. Your pa would have made a fine general, boy. He's got the head for it. He never forgets a thing."
"You've been with him a long time, haven't you?"
"Mighty long. I was with him before he found you. I met him in Mexico during the War, longer ago than I care to remember. I was just a youngster then, myself."
From the grass he took up a fallen pine cone. "Son! Look!" He tossed the pine cone into the air.
Mike Bastian palmed his gun and it belched flame, then again. The second shot spattered the pine cone into flying brown chips.
"Not bad," Roundy said, "but you shot too quick. You've got to get over that, Mike. Most times one shot is all you'll get."
Side by side they started back through the woods. The earth was spongy with a thick bed of pine needles. An occcasional break in the trees offered a glimpse of the far-off San Francisco peaks, with clouds shrouding their summits. Roundy was not as tall as the younger man, but he walked with the long, easy stride of the woodsman. Coming to a break in the forest that permitted them a long view of the wild, broken canyon country to the east, Roundy spoke. "Your pa picked mighty well. Nobody in God's world could find him in all that."
"There's Indians," Bastian reminded, "and some of the Mormons know that country."
"He doesn't bother them and they don't bother him," Roundy said. "That's why his outfit needs a tight rein."
They walked on, in silence. Several times Bastian paused to study the ground, reading the tracks to see who or what had passed since they had passed. "This here is somethin' you better not do again," Roundy suggested, "comin' back the way we went out. Somebody could be layin' for us."
"Ah, now. That's the question. Nobody is supposed to know your pa's plans for you, but there's always the chance somebody might. Believe me, son, nothin' is a secret for long, an' you can just bet some of the boys have been doin' some thinkin' about you."
They paused again, studying the country around, and Roundy put the question that had been bothering him for months. "Mike? If Ben's ready for you to go out, what will you do?"
"Go, I guess. What choice do I have?"
"You're sure? You're sure you want to be an outlaw?"
"Wasn't that why he raised me? To take over from him?" There was an edge of bitterness in Mike's tone. "Wasn't I to take over when Ben Curry stepped aside?"
"That's what you were raised for, all right." Roundy poked at the pine needles with his toe. "But it's your life you have to live. Ben Curry can't live it for you, and you can't live his life for him, no matter how much he wants it.
"The thing to remember, Mike, is that things have changed since Ben an' me rode into this country together. It's no longer wild and free like it was. Folks are movin' in, settlin' the country, buildin' homes.
"Getaways won't be so easy no more, and the kind of men you ride with will change. Fact is, they have already changed.
"When Ben an' me rode into this country it was wide open. Most banks had been mighty hard on a poor man, ready to foreclose at the slightest chance, and the railroads gave all the breaks to the big cattle shippers, so nobody cared too much if a train was robbed or a bank. If you killed somebody, especially a man with a wife and kids-well, that was something else. If you just robbed a bank or train the posses would chase you more for fun than actually to catch you. It was a break in the work they were doin'. They'd get out, run an outlaw for a while but not too serious about it.
"Kill a man? That was different. They'd chase you for keeps then, and they'd catch you. That's why Ben Curry wouldn't stand for killin', an' he's been known to personally kill a man who disobeyed that order."
"He actually did?"
"Seen it myself. It was Dan Peeples, and Dan was a high hand with a gun. They'd robbed a bank in Wyoming an' as they were ridin' out of town this young feller came out of an alley, blundered right in the way, and Dan Peeples shot him.
"Folks seen it. Folks knew it was deliberate. Well, we rode on three, four miles an' Ben pulled up. He turned to Dan Peeples an' he said, 'I said no killin', Dan.'
"Dan, he just grinned an' said, 'Well, he got in the way. Anyway, what's one farm kid, more or less?'
"Ben Curry said, 'When I say no killin', I mean it.'
"Dan, he says, 'So?' And Ben shot him. Dan saw it comin' and reached but he was too slow, so Ben left him layin' there for the posse to find."
"What if they got cornered?"
"That was different. If they had to fight their way out, well an' good, an' a time or two that happened. Your pa was against needless killin', an' the word got around. The outlaws knew it, but the townsfolk, ranchers, an' lawmen knew it, too."
"I've heard some of the stories."
"No way you could miss. Ben Curry's kind breed stories. In them old days many a man rustled a few head to get started, and sometimes a broke cowhand would stand up a stage and nobody took it too serious, but it isn't like that anymore. The country is growin' up and changing viewpoints. More than that, it is Ben himself."
"You think he's too big?"
"What else? Your pa controls more country than there is in New York State! Right under his thumb! And he's feared over much of the west by those who really know about him, but not many do.
"Outside of his own crowd nobody has seen Ben Curry in years, at least, not to know who he was. Mighty few know his power, although there's a rumor around that somewhere there lives a man who rides herd on more than a hundred outlaws. Much of his success lies in the fact that nobody believes it.
"His men ride out and meet at a given point. They ride alone or in pairs, never more than three together at a time until the job is pulled, then they break up an' scatter.
"He plans ever' job himself, with maybe one or two settin' in. He's scouted or had the job scouted by somebody he can trust. It is planned, rehearsed, then done.
"Mostly folks lay the robberies to driftin' cowhands, to Jesse James or somebody else. He pulls jobs anywhere from Canada to Mexico, and from San Antone to Los Angeles."
Roundy started off along the trail. "He's been the brains, all right, but don't ever forget it was those guns of his kept things in line. Lately, he hasn't had to use his guns. Kerb Perrin, Rigger Molina, or somebody else will handle discipline. He's become too big, Ben Curry has. He's like a king, and the king isn't gettin' any younger."
He stopped in the trail and turned around. "How d'you suppose Perrin will take it when he hears about you takin' over? You think he'll stand still for that?"
"I doubt if he will," Mike said thoughtfully. "I imagine he's done some planning on his own."
"You can bet he has! So has Molina, and neither one of them will stop at murder to get what they want. Your pa still has them buffaloed, I think, but that won't matter when the showdown comes. And I figure the time has come."
"Now?" Mike was incredulous.
"Mike, I never told you, and I know Ben hasn't, but Ben has a family."
"A family?" Mike Bastian was shocked. "But I-!"
"He has a wife and two daughters, and they have no idea he's an outlaw. Wouldn't believe it if you told 'em. Their home is down near Tucson someplace, but occasionally they come to a ranch he owns in Red Wall Canyon, a ranch supposedly owned by Voyle Ragan. Ben visits them there."
"Who else knows this?"
"Nary a soul, and don't you be tellin' anyone. Ben, he always wanted a son, and never had one, so when your real pa was killed down at Mesilla, Ben took you to raise. That was nigh onto eighteen years ago, and since then he's spent a lot of time an' thought on you. A long time later he told me he was going to raise you to take over whatever he left."
"What about my real father? My family?"
Roundy shrugged. "I never did get the straight of that, and there may be other stories. The way I heard, it was your real pa was killed by 'Paches whilst you was off in the brush somewhere. They come down, killed your pa, stole your horses, and looted the wagon. They were bein' chased by soldiers out of El Paso or somewhere an' it was a sort of hit-an'-run thing. The soldiers brought you back to town an' Ben took you to raise."
"Kind of him."
"Yes, it was. Not many men would do such a thing, them days. Most of them just didn't want the responsibility or wouldn't take the time. For several years it was just you an' him, an' he tried to teach you everything he knew.
"Look at it. You can track like an Apache. In the woods you're a ghost, and I doubt if old Ben Curry himself can throw a gun as fast and accurate as you. You can ride anything that wears hair, an' what you don't know about cards, dice, roulette, and all the rest of it, nobody knows. You can handle a knife, fight with your fists, and open anything made in the way of safes and locks.
"Along with that he's seen you got a good education, so's you can handle yourself in any kind of company. I doubt if any boy ever got the education and training you've had, and now Ben is ready to step back an' let you take over."
"So he can join his wife and daughters?"
"Uh-huh. He just wants to step out of the picture, go somewhere far off, and live a quiet life. He's gettin' no younger and he wants to take it easy in his last years. You see, Mike, Ben's been afraid of only one thing. That's poverty. He had a lot of it as a youngster. I reckon that was one reason he taken you to raise, he knowed what you were up against, if you lived at all.
"Now he's made his pile, but he knows he can't get out alive unless he has somebody younger, stronger, and smarter to take control of what he's built. That's where you come in."
"Why not let Perrin have it?"
"You know the answer to that. Perrin is mean and he's dangerous. He'd have gone off the deep end long ago if it hadn't been for Ben Curry. He's a good second man but a damn poor leader. That goes for Molina, too. He'd have killed fifty times if he hadn't known that Ben would kill him when he got back.
"No, neither could handle it, and the whole shootin' match would go to pieces in sixty days left to either of them. More than that, a lot of people would get killed, inside an' outside the gang."
Little of what Roundy was saying was new to Bastian, yet he was curious as to why the old man was saying it. The two had been together a lot and knew each other as few men ever did. They had gone through storm, hunger, and thirst together, living in the desert and mountains, returning only occasionally to the rendezvous in Toadstool Canyon.
Obviously there was purpose in Roundy's bringing up the subject, and Bastian waited, listening. Over the years he had learned that Roundy rarely talked at random. He spoke when he had something to say, something important. Yet even as they talked he was aware of all that was about him. A quail had moved into the tall grass near the stream, and ahead of them a squirrel moved in the crotch of a tree, and only minutes ago a gray wolf had crossed the path where they walked.
Roundy had said he was a woodsman, and it was true that he felt more at home in the woods and wild country than anywhere else. The idea of taking over the leadership of the outlaws filled him with unease. Always he had been aware that this time would come, and he had been schooled for it, but until now it had always been pleasantly remote. Now, suddenly, it was at hand.
Was he afraid of responsibility? Or was he simply afraid? Searching his thoughts he could find no fear. As for responsibility, he had been so prepared and conditioned for his role that it was a natural step.
He thought of Kerb Perrin and Rigger Molina. Was he afraid? No, he was not.
Excerpted from Son of a Wanted Man by Louis L'Amour Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 22, 2012
Posted December 22, 2010
I Also Recommend:
Son of a Wanted Man did not keep my attention because the plot was hard to follow, it wasn't realistic, and the word choice was hardly interesting. A community of outlaws staying in semi-good peace for years is complete boloney. Also, a clean shaven, non-alcoholic, and smart law breaker could never exist. Mike Bastian is better than any of the men I have ever met, and he is an outlaw! Of course, the story just would not have worked without a valiant character to save the damsel in distress, decide who he really was, walk across the Grand Canyon on a wire, shoot down a traitor while tied up, and come out even better than before. I thought Ben Curry was alright, but still an impossible outlaw. Now the outlaws like Fernandez and Ducrow were real ones. Drucilla was great! I love that she is a city girl, but when her life is threatened, she'll pull daddy's gun from the wall hooks and shoot down the danger. She reminds me a lot of Victoria Devereaux in the book my cousin and I are writing. Overall, the people in the story are alright, but could be more interesting. Tyrell and Borden confused me. There were places where the two detectives made deductions that were completely out of the blue. It was almost like falling asleep for a split second and waking up to find that you missed something important within that short amount of time. Because of this, the plot did not quite fit together. To this day, I am still not sure who was ordering the outlaws around behind Ben's back or how Tyrell and the sheriff ended up on the same train. The ending was so pathetic! Mike and Drucilla obviously loved each other, so why didn't they at least kiss? What I did like was the overall theme that I pulled from the novel. The little emotion that Louis L'Amour could incorporate into his writing showed that "Your parents may have left a legacy, but you do not have to follow in their footsteps, because sometimes that path is not for you." Mike could have made an amazing leader of the outlaw gang, but he questioned it, and decided in the end that what Ben Curry laid out for him was not what he desired for his life. A child in the world today might have parents that smoke and drink. It seems their destiny, but if they decide that this is not what they want with their life, they don't have to follow it. The setting was perfect. The Grand Canyon is a dangerous, easy hiding place, perfect for a community of outlaws. I went to the north rim and stood over a steep ledge while I was reading this book. How did Mike keep his sanity as he scooted across on a slippery cable? That had to be terrifying! It sparked my curiosity about myths, legends, and ghosts of the canyons. I would say that Son of a Wanted Man targets the males. It is strength, weapons, hunting, hardly romantic, and a whole lot of showing off. My mom is the only female I know who reads Louis L'Amour. I would not suggest this to just anyone. If you have a background of out-doorsy or country life, then this is a great novel.. Those who live in an urban setting and don't care much for guns and fights would not enjoy this in the least. It reminded me of Ghost Town Treasure because of outlaw legends and the canyon setting, though the main character is a little boy. This was an alright book because the action was thrilling, but there were some flaws and it was not altogether very difficult to read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 24, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
Posted November 11, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted December 30, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted December 30, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted March 21, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted September 4, 2011
No text was provided for this review.