"An entertaining story with lots of plot twists." Booklist
The Greatest Western Writer Of The 21st Century
In a small Texas town in 1950, a Pinkerton detective interrupts an old-timer's game of dominos to learn the truth about Butch Cassidywho is still very much alive and well. In fact, he's the old-timer playing dominos.
Seems that after surviving the infamous shootout in Bolivia that claimed the life of his partner the Sundance Kid, Butch returns to Texas searching for a place to call home. When he comes across a dying rancher who'd been shot by some rustlers, Butch promises to avenge himand take over the ranch after his death. Assuming the name Jim Strickland, Butch begins a new chapter in his life. But trouble has a way of finding Butch. A corrupt railroad baron pulls him into the most dangerous train robbery he's ever attempted. But if Butch Cassidy is going to ride again, it'll have to be with a newer, and wilder, Wild Bunch. . .
"Johnstone is a masterful storyteller, creating a tale that is fanciful and funny, exciting and surprisingly convincing. . .great fun." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Wlliam W. Johnstone has written nearly three hundred novels of western adventure, military action, chilling suspense, and survival. His bestselling books include The Family Jensen, The Last Mountain Man, The Eagles, MacCalllister, Sidewinders, Luke Jensen, Bounty Hunter.and the thrillers Home Invasion and The Blood of Patriots.
J.A. Johnstone learned to write from the master himself, Uncle William W. Johnstone, with whom J.A. has co-written numerous bestselling series including The First Mountain Man, The Brothers O’Brien, and Sidewinders.
Read an Excerpt
Butch Cassidy the Lost Years
By William W. Johnstone, J.A. JOHNSTONE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
When I saw the blue norther coming I would have found a place to hole up and wait it out, except there didn't seem to be any such a thing in these parts. It was a damn fool stunt to begin with, starting from San Antonio to El Paso on horseback in December. But I had never spent that much time in Texas, and I wanted to take a gander at some of the country. You hear Texans bragging about the place all the time, as they're in the habit of doing, and after a while you want to see it for yourself.
So I bought a couple of good horses and some supplies, figuring I'd use one of the animals as a packhorse and the other as a saddle mount and switch back and forth between 'em, and set off across country. I figured I'd probably run into some fences along the way, at least until I got farther west, but ... well ... fences have never bothered me all that much, if you know what I mean.
I could've bought a car and driven to El Paso, I Suppose—you could do that, even that far back—but while I could handle one of the contraptions if I had to, I'd never been comfortable doing so. The worry that the damned thing might blow up on me always lurked in the back of my mind.
So it was horseback for me, and that's how I came to be out in the middle of nowhere when the sky turned so blue it was almost black and the wind began to howl out of the north, bringing with it a bone-numbing chill. I lowered my head, hunkered deeper in my sheepskin coat, and kept going. Wasn't nothing behind me, so I knew it wouldn't do any good to turn around.
At least it wasn't raining or snowing, even though a thick overcast hung above me. I knew there had to be a ranch house somewhere ahead of me, and if I kept moving I'd find it. I knew that because if there wasn't, I stood a good chance of freezing to death before morning.
The light was starting to fade when I heard popping sounds. With the wind blowing so hard and making such a racket it was hard to be sure, but I thought they might be gunshots. It was hard to tell exactly where they came from, too, but I turned my horses in what I hoped was the right direction.
Now, you may think it was foolish of me, riding toward gunfire rather than away from it, but I looked at it like this: whoever was shooting that gun probably had a place to get in out of the weather, and that was what I needed more than anything else tonight.
The last of the gray light disappeared, and I was left to plod along in darkness. There had been only a handful of shots, and the shortness of the volley could mean almost anything, so I didn't see any real point in speculating about it. Keep going and I might find out, that's the way I looked at it.
My horse stopped short and shied back a step. I said, "Easy there, fella." I couldn't see what had spooked him.
I wasn't carrying a handgun, but I had a Winchester in a scabbard strapped to the saddle. I drew it out and worked the lever to throw a cartridge into the chamber. Then I swung a leg over the saddle and slid to the ground. The packhorse's reins were tied to the saddle horn. I hung on to the reins of the animal I'd been riding as I moved forward cautiously.
It only took a couple of steps to tell me why my horse had stopped. The ground fell away into a gully. I could barely make it out as it twisted across the plains like a snake.
If the gully wasn't too deep and the sides weren't too steep, the horses and I could climb down into it and get out of the wind, at least. I might find enough wood to build a small fire. It was a slender hope but better than nothing. Ever since night fell I'd been looking all around, searching for a yellow pinpoint of light that marked the window of a ranch house but I hadn't seen anything except endless darkness.
I put the rifle back in its sheath and hunkered on my heels at the edge of the gully. I reached into my coat and fished a match from my shirt pocket. It lit when I snapped the head with my thumbnail, but the wind snatched the flame right out. Trying to get one burning up here was just going to be a waste of matches. I slid a foot over the edge and used it to explore the slope. It wasn't a sheer drop-off, so I had hopes of being able to get the horses down there.
The prairie was dotted with mesquite trees, their limbs skeleton-bare at this time of year. I tied the saddle horse's reins to one of them and went back to the edge of the gully. I was going to have to explore it by feel until I got down out of the wind.
I turned around so I was facing the slope and started climbing down. The gully wall was rough enough that there were plenty of places to brace myself. When I got down low enough that my head was out of the wind, the night was still plenty cold but not as breathtakingly raw.
My right foot came down on something soft that let out a loud groan.
I like to think my nerves are pretty steady, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't let out a holler and jump up in the air. When I came down I lost my balance and started rolling.
I was lucky that gully wasn't very deep. I only turned over a couple of times before I hit bottom. Even so, I landed hard enough to knock the wind out of me and send my hat flying.
"What the blue blazes!" I yelled when I got my breath back. I probably said a few things that were worse than that, too, but I disremember.
Whoever or whatever I'd stepped on groaned again.
That pained sound, mixed in with the howl of the wind, gave me the fantods. I sat up and scuttled backward a little, well aware that I'd left my Winchester up on the flat with the horses and cussing myself for doing such a foolish thing. I hadn't expected to find anything in this gully, but I'd been around long enough to know that whatever you expect in life usually ain't what happens.
I didn't know if my companion could answer me or not, but I said, "Who's there?"
The answer came back in a weak voice.
"You have any ... whiskey ... amigo?"
Despite calling me amigo, he didn't sound like a Mexican, but I'd already discovered that in that part of Texas, most people, white and brown alike, spoke a mixture of the two lingos. And as a matter of fact, I did have a flask in my saddlebags. But before I fetched it, I wanted to find out more about what was going on here.
"Are you hurt, old son?" I asked.
The man tried to laugh, but it came out more like a pained grunt.
"You could ... say that. Got a couple of ... bullet holes ... in my guts."
Well, that was bad, and a damned shame to boot. One bullet hole in the belly was enough to kill a man. Two and he was a goner for sure. But I said, "Hold on, I'll see what I can do." I started to crawl toward the sound of his voice, then paused and asked, "You ain't fixin' to shoot me, are you?"
"No reason to," he said. "You ain't ... one of the varmints who shot me. They've long since ... took off for the tall ... and uncut."
I found another match and lit it. This time I was able to keep it going by cupping my hand around the flame, although the wind caused it to dance around quite a bit. The feeble, flickering glow from it revealed a stocky man with a close-cropped white beard lying against the bank like he'd slid part of the way down it. His coat must have hung on something and stopped him. He had both arms crossed over his belly.
A glance over my shoulder told me that the gully was about a dozen feet wide, with a sandy, fairly level bottom. Clumps of brush grew here and there.
"Let me help you lay down, old-timer," I said, "and I'll take a look at those wounds."
"I told you ... I want whiskey. Ain't nothin' you can do ... about the other."
I figured he'd be more comfortable stretched out, though, so when the match burned down I shook it out and got hold of him, lifting him as gently as I could and easing him down so that his legs were in front of him on the gully floor and his back was leaned against the bank. He muttered some things I didn't under stand, most likely complaints because I hadn't fetched that flask yet.
It took me only a few minutes to find my hat, gather some dry branches from the brush, place them in a heap, and get a fire burning. Once the flames were going, they gave off enough light I could see a broken-down place in the bank where I thought I could get the horses down.
"I'll be back," I told the gut-shot old man.
"I ain't ... goin' nowheres."
I brought the horses down one at a time and tied them to a sturdy-looking bush. They were close enough to the fire to draw a little warmth from it. Then I got the flask from my saddlebags and knelt next to the wounded man.
I uncapped the flask and held it to his mouth.
"Here you go."
He sucked at it greedily as I tipped it up. I didn't give him too much. The stuff was going to burn like fire when it hit the holes in his guts. He might pass out from it, and I wanted to know what happened to him.
Whoever shot him might still be roaming around, I thought, and I was curious just how trigger-happy they might be.
I set the flask aside and asked, "Who shot you, mister?"
"Abner ...," he struggled to say.
"Somebody named Abner ventilated you?"
"No ... damn it! That's ... my name ... Abner ... Tillotson. Don't want to ... cash out ... without somebody knowin' who I am."
"All right, Mr. Tillotson. What happened?"
"Thought you was gonna ... try to patch me up."
"I decided there wouldn't be a whole lot of point to it," I told him honestly. His coat was open enough for me to see how black with blood his shirt was underneath it.
He chuckled and said, "You're right ... about that. I'll tell you ... what happened ... I was shot by three ... no-account rustlers ... that's what."
"You've got a spread hereabouts?"
"We're on it ... the Fishhook."
"You have family there?"
"Naw ... no family anywhere ... just me. Three or four Mex hands ... work for me part-time. None of 'em there now. I knew there was a norther comin' ... so I rode out to ... check on my critters. That's when I come across ... them rustlers ..."
"Who'd be out wide-looping cattle in weather like this?"
"Those no-good Daughtry boys ... Stealin' comes as natural ... as breathin' to them. They don't care ... what the weather's like. They were pushin' ... a dozen of my cows ... toward their place. I yelled for 'em to stop ... and they turned around and started ... burnin' powder at me." Abner paused. "I could do with ... another drink."
I gave him one. He winced, but he got it down.
"Where's your ranch house? I'll get you back there."
"Two miles ... due west of here. It backs up ... against a butte. You'll find it." He raised a blood-smeared hand and waved vaguely in the direction he'd mentioned. "But you'll have to ... come back and get me later ... if the coyotes ain't dragged me off. You got ... somethin' else to do tonight?"
"I wasn't planning on doin' anything except trying to keep from freezin' to death," I said.
"No ... you're gonna go after ... them Daughtrys ... and settle accounts for me."
"Why the hell would I want to do that?"
The words came out of my mouth a mite harsher than I'd intended, but he had startled me with that flat pronouncement.
"Because I'm gonna ... give you my ranch in return for ... avengin' me."
I started to say something else, but he held up that bloody hand again to stop me.
"I've seen ... a thousand drifters like you ... in my time, son."
I doubted very seriously that he'd ever seen anybody exactly like me, but I wasn't going to argue with a dying man.
"I know what ... you need," he went on. "You need a home. You ain't ... as young as you used to be."
Well, he was right about that, I thought. I was pushing middle age, pushing it pretty hard, when you come right down to it.
"You're bound to be ... gettin' a mite tired. You need a good place ... to settle down ... and the Fishhook's a fine spread. I'll sign it over to you ... right here and now ... if you give me your word you'll settle those rustlers' hash."
"You said there were three of 'em. Three against one ain't very good odds."
"Yeah, but I can tell by lookin' at you ... You still got the bark on you, boy. I'm bettin' my ranch ... you can do it." He laughed again. "Of course ... I'm losin' one way or the other ... ain't I?"
To this day, I don't know what made me do it. Maybe I just wanted to ease his way from this world into the next. But I said, "All right, Mr. Tillotson, I'll do it. I'll go after those rustlers. Can't promise you I'll kill all of them, but I'll do my damnedest."
"That's all ... anybody can ask of a man. You got paper and ... a pencil?"
"Get it. Write out a bill of sale ... I'll sign it. But gimme ... another drink first."
I did that, then took out a book I'd bought in San Antonio. I'd picked it up because it was a story about a cowboy named Cassidy who had a bum leg, and that struck me as funny. The book had a blank page or two in the back, so I tore one of them out, flattened it on the cover, and after pausing to build up the fire a little and make it brighter, I used a stub of a pencil to scrawl a bill of sale transferring ownership of the Fishhook Ranch from Abner Tillotson to ...
Until that moment I hadn't thought about what name I was going to put down. I had gone by several different names in my life. Sometimes it came in handy for a man in my line of work to be somebody else. I'd used the name Jim before, and to be honest I just plucked Strickland out of thin air. I didn't recall ever knowing anybody by that name.
So I wrote down "Jim Strickland," and then I read what I'd written to Abner. He managed a weak nod and said, "That'll be fine. You're a good man ... Jim."
I don't know if he just ran out of breath before he said the name, or if he was telling me in his own way that he knew it wasn't real and didn't care.
He held out his hand and said, "Gimme the pencil. Afraid I'm gonna get blood on it."
"Don't worry about that," I told him.
He took the pencil. I held the book where he could sign his name on the page. His hand was shaking some, but I could read his signature. I didn't think anybody would dispute the bill of sale, since he didn't have any family, and anyway I wasn't sure I would ever use it. While the idea of settling down held some appeal, I didn't know if I could do it. I'd been on the drift for a long time.
When he was finished his hand fell back in his lap. He said, "You better ... get after 'em now. They got a shack ... couple miles north of here. Ain't much more than a lean-to ... built against a little rise. Don't trust 'em ... they're tricky bastards. I never should've ... give' 'em any warnin' ... Should've just started shootin' first myself. You might want to ... bear that in mind."
"I sure will, Abner," I told him. "You better get some rest now, hear?"
"You think you could ... see your way clear to leavin' that flask with me ... while you go after those skunks?"
"Sure, I can do that." I pressed the silver flask into the hand that had held the pencil. He had dropped it on the ground beside him.
"Much ... obliged."
He seemed to be having trouble keeping his eyes open now. His head rested against the dirt wall behind him. His chest still rose and fell, but slow, slow.
I knew if I piddled around a little before riding out after the Daughtrys, Abner would be dead and I could forget the whole thing and go find the ranch house. His horse was long gone, doubtless having run off after the shooting, but I could pack his body in on my extra animal. I could even toss that bill of sale into the fire and watch it burn. A part of me wanted to. If I'd wanted to live the life of a rancher, I could've stayed in Utah when I was a kid.
Anyway, I couldn't rightfully condemn the Daughtry boys for rustling. My own past was not without blemish in that respect, and I never cared for the idea of being a hypocrite.
But shooting an old man in cold blood ... well, I had to admit that rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't really know a blasted thing about Abner Tillotson, but I like to think I'm a pretty good judge of character, and my instincts told me he didn't deserve to go out like this.
I folded the page with Abner's signature on it and stuck it in my hip pocket. Then I went over to my horse and put the book back in the saddlebags. I looked at Abner but couldn't tell if he was breathing or not.
"I'll be back, Abner," I told him anyway.
Excerpted from Butch Cassidy the Lost Years by William W. Johnstone, J.A. JOHNSTONE. Copyright © 2013 J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another very entertaining tale from the Johnstone's! Well written! Would recommend for ages 12 and up..
Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite Johnstone has done it again! True to the tradition of great Western novels, "Butch Cassidy, the Lost Years" is a gem. The premise of the novel is: What if Butch Cassidy had lived? And, had he lived, how would his story have played out? Johnstone is so convincing in his tale that most readers will accept the tale as an original and pass it on as fact. Butch, who was known as Robert Leroy Parker by those who truly knew him, had a rich history as an outlaw. He is said to have died in a shootout but the author speculates that while the Sundance Kid died, Butch Cassidy went on to live a rich and fulfilling life. As the story opens, a young man approaches a man named Hank Parker, asking about things he has found in the estate of his grandfather who has researched famous gunslingers. Parker then begins to weave a tale which leaves more questions for the young man than it does answer. The story takes place at the turn of the century at about the time of the first World War. It is told in retrospect and is absolutely charming in its detail of the time as well as in the development of the various colorful characters. Parker himself is a highly convincing story teller who just exudes charm and confidence. His sense of adventure combined with a strong sense of poetic justice captivates the reader and leaves us wondering what really separates the good guys from the bad guys. Kudos for another great Western!
I dont think butch died either. I won a contest and got an advanced copy of this book. It is destined to be a winner if the Johnstone’s decide to make this a new series. I have read many books on Butch but this was really good. I firmly believe he was not killed with Sundance so it does fit into the realm of possibilities. The book flows really well from scene to scene and is very believable. What it does do is open up the way for many more to come. Watch Butch as he does what he does best. It also proves why butch and the kid were so hard to find. Butch inspires loyalty every step of the way and leaves the readers wanting more. I refuse to give away the plot LOL. Trust me tho, you will like it and clamor for more. I hope the Johnstone’s keep most of the same characters. They are great. Oh, and let’s not forget the bad guys. They do get their comeuppance in the end. Run dont walk to the store.
A super read by a great story teller! One of the few books that's hard to put down till you reach the end.
Not necessarily a western fan but do like Johnstone from time to time. An absolutely fascinating tale. Extremely well written. Kept my attention on every page. The best Johnstone book that I have read. Started it this morning and finished it tonight. Long time since I have dedicated a day just to finish a book. Highly recommend for all ages from about 10 on up. Lots of history and just a bang up good story. Central Texas Reader