Thunder over the Prairie: The True Story of a Murder and a Manhunt by the Greatest Posse of All Time


The gripping tale of a murder in Dodge City
in 1878—and how legendary lawmen chased down the killer
“Written with cinematic clarity and a galloping pace . . . this charming book is the perfect read for anyone lingering over ...

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The gripping tale of a murder in Dodge City
in 1878—and how legendary lawmen chased down the killer
“Written with cinematic clarity and a galloping pace . . . this charming book is the perfect read for anyone lingering over a drink (or two) in a dusty Western saloon on a lazy afternoon.”
—Jay O’Connell, author of Train Robber’s Daughter
“Lawmen, cowboys, songbirds and soiled doves . . . it doesn’t get much better. . . .  Thunder Over the Prairie is a great story from the history of our American West.”
—Dakota & Sunny Livesay, Chronicle of the Old West
The year was 1878. Future legends of the Old West—lawmen Charlie Bassett, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, and Bill Tilghman—patrolled the unruly streets of Dodge City, Kansas, then known as “the wickedest little city in America.”
When a cattle baron fled town after allegedly shooting popular dancehall girl Dora Hand, these four men hunted him down, it was said, like “thunder over the prairie.” The posse’s legendary ride across the desolate landscape to seek justice influenced the men’s friendship, careers, and attitudes toward the justice system. This account of that event is a fast-paced, unforgettable glimpse into the Old West.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
I just finished “Thunder Over the Prairie.” It was fantastic! The story was totally captivating. I love the way we started by meeting Dora, and were given just enough information about her to grow to like her and then she’s taken away from us. I guess that’s kind of how her life was. The reader feels just like the people of Dodge City must have felt, to lose her so early and tragically.  Then we meet the posse. The names are all familiar but their stories not as well known. To hear them swap stories between themselves, then to read their histories, gets us to understand how it is that they are all here at this particular time and together for this event. You feel that they’re destined to succeed in capturing this animal. How could they fail?  I loved the book and have recommended it to others already.

Dale Warshaw, Literary Critic

KMSB TV Tucson, AZ. 

     Thunder Over the Prairie, written with cinematic clarity and a galloping pace, is a wonderful primer for the considerable literature on Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp et. al.  This accessible narrative of a fascinating episode in the careers of these well-known western icons is filled with characters that are archetypal yet utterly fresh at the same time.  This charming book is the perfect read for anyone lingering over a drink (or two) in a dusty western saloon on a lazy afternoon.

Jay O’Connell, author of Train Robber’s Daughter:  The Melodramatic Life of Eva Evans, 1876-1970




     “Lawmen, cowboys, songbirds and soiled doves…it doesn’t get much better.  A shooting, a chase and a trial whose verdict changes all of their lives.  Thunder Over the Prairie is a great story from the history of our American West, warts and all.”

Dakota & Sunny Livesay

Chronicles of the Old West



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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762744930
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 936,321
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Kazanjian is an award-winning producer and entertainment executive who has been producing feature films and television programs for more than twenty-five years. While vice president of production for Lucasfilm Ltd., he produced two of the highest grossing films of all time: Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He also managed production of another top-ten box-office hit, The Empire Strikes Back. Some of his other notable credits include The Rookies, Demolition Man, and the two-hour pilot and first season of J.A.G.

In addition to his production experience, Kazanjian has worked with some of the finest directors in the history of cinema. He has worked closely with such legends as Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Sam Peckinpah, Robert Wise, Joshua Logan, Clint Eastwood, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola. He is a longtime voting member in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Producers Guild of America, and the Directors Guild of America. The California native is also a trustee of Azusa Pacific University.

Chris Enss is an award-winning screen writer who has written for television, short subject films, live performances, and for the movies, and is the co-author (with JoAnn Chartier) of Love Untamed: True Romances Stories of the Old West, Gilded Girls: Women Entertainers of the Old West, and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: Women Patriots and Soldiers of the Old West and The Cowboy and the Senorita; Happy Trails; The Young Duke; and None Wounded, None Missing All Dead; and Thunder Over the Prairie (with Howard Kazanjian). Her recent books include Frontier Teachers: Stories of Heroic Women of the Old West and The Doctor Wore Petticoats.

Enss has done everything from stand-up comedy to working as a stunt person at the Old Tucson Movie Studio. She learned the basics of writing for film and television at the University of Arizona.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One: Murder of a Nightingale
"Some of the proprieties were carefully observed... for example, a woman, no matter whether she was a housewife, a dance hall girl or even a courtesn (and mind you, the last two were not necessarily the same), was treated with grave courtesy on the street. Any man who failed to observe this canon got into trouble."
—Actor Eddie Foy concerning the ladies in Dodge City, Kansas,1913
Dora Hand was in a deep sleep. Her bare legs were exposed under her thick blankets, and a mass of long, auburn hair stretched over her pillow and flowed off the side of her flimsy mattress. A framed, charcoal portrait of an elderly couple hung above her bed on the faded wallpaper and kept company with her slumber.
The air outside the window next to the picture was still adn cold. The distant sound of voices, back-slapping laughter, profanity, and a piano's tinny, repetitious melody wafted down the main thoroughfare in Dodge City, Kansas, and into the small room.
Dodge was an all-night town. Walkers and loungers kept the streets and saloons busy. Residents learned to sleep throught the giggling, growling, and gunplay of the cowboy consumers and their paramours for hire. Dora was accustomed to the nightly frivolity and the clatter. Her dreams were seldom disturbed by the commotion.
All at once, the smack of a pair of bullets cutting through the walls of the tiny room cut into the routine nightly noises of the cattle town with a gusty violence. The first bullet stuck in the dense plaster partition that formed the room's perimeter. The second struck Dora on the right side, just under her arm. There was no time for her to object to the injury; no moment for her to cry out or recoil in pain. The slug killed her instantly.
In the near distance, a horse squealed and its galloping hooves echoed off the street and faded away.

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Table of Contents

Foreword; Acknowledgments; Introduction; Murder of a Nightingale; Cold-Blooded Assassin; A Posse on the Move; Thunder over the Prairie; Caught in a Storm; Beyond the River; Waiting for a Killer; Captured; The Gunman's Trial; End of the Trail; Suggested Further Reading; Index; About the Authors

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