There's no peace for Mason Hawke from the ghosts of his past. A drifter and a loner, he's not looking for trouble when he rides into Wyoming Territory –– but it's waiting for him nonetheless. Coming to the rescue of a wealthy landowner's daughter who was kidnapped by a pair of inept outlaws, Hawke finds himself an unlikely hero in a town called Green River.
But his unsought celebrity has earned him some powerful enemies, including a land–hungry lady with a crooked official in her pocket and a ruthless killer on a leash. Justice, it seems, is an illusion in this place where fraud and fortune hunting dance with cold–blooded murder. But all that is about to change in a brutal hail of gunfire now that Hawke has come to play.
About the Author
Robert Vaughan is a retired army officer and full-time novelist. His book Survival (under the pseudonym K.C. McKenna) won the Spur Award for best western novel (1994). He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Read an Excerpt
Hawke: Showdown at Dead End Canyon
Seconds earlier the lucky dog saloon had been peaceful. A card game was in progress in one part of the room, the teases, touches, and flirtatious laughter of the bar girls were in play in another. Mason Hawke, who had only been in Buffalo Creek, Colorado, for six weeks, was at the piano, his music adding to the gaiety and celebratory atmosphere of the evening.
But all that changed in an instant when Ebenezer Priest shouted out, "By God, you'll play what I tell you to play, or I'll kill you where you sit!"
The music, conversation, and laughter stopped, the loudest sound in the saloon the ticking of the Regulator clock that stood by the door that led out to the privy. There were twelve people in the saloon, ten men and two women, and all eyes were directed toward the piano where Priest stood just behind Mason Hawke. Priest had his gun out and was aiming it at the back of Hawke's head.
Ebenezer Priest was a small, gnarled-looking man. In a world without guns, he would barely draw a second look, let alone command fear and begrudging respect. But this was a world with guns, and Priest had to be taken seriously because he had proven his skill with the pistol, and had a known propensity, almost an eagerness, to use it. He enjoyed watching bigger, stronger men quake in their boots when he addressed them. No one had ever defied him and lived.
Those thoughts were on everyone's mind now as they watched and wondered how this drama, so rapidly unfolding before them, would play itself out.
"Did you hear what I said, piano player?" Priest asked. His voice was a low, evil hiss. "I told you toplay 'Marching Through Georgia."
"I don't know that song," Hawke replied calmly.
"You know it, you Rebel son of a bitch. All you Rebel bastards know it. I was in the Union Army, and we sang it as we marched through Georgia. Now, play it. Play it, or I'm going to splatter your blood and brains all over the front of that piano."
"Leave 'im be, Priest," the bartender called. "He ain't nothin' but a piano player. What do you want to go shucking a piano player for?"
With his left hand, Priest pointed a finger at the bartender, all the while keeping his gun pointed at Hawke's head.
"You just stay the hell out of this, Kirby. This ain't none of your concern." He turned his attention back to Hawke. "Now, start playing," he ordered.
Hawke began to play. It took but a few bars of music before Priest realized that he wasn't playing "Marching Through Georgia." He was playing "The Bonnie Blue Flag," the Confederate marching song.
The saloon patrons laughed at the joke. With a yell of rage, Priest pulled the trigger on his pistol. The laughter stopped and everyone gasped, expecting to see the back of Hawke's head blown away. What they saw instead was the destruction of a mug of beer sitting on top of the piano. The glass shattered and beer splattered. Even as people's ears were still ringing from the noise of the gunshot, they could hear the hum of the soundboard as the piano strings vibrated in resonance.
Hawke quit playing and sat quietly on the bench.
"Now, Mr. Piano Player, I'm through playing with you," Priest said in a low, menacing voice. "You had better play 'Marching Through Georgia,' or by God the next bullet is going to go through your head."
Hawke sighed. "I told you I don't know it."
Priest cocked his gun, the action making a double click as the sear engaged the cylinder and rotated a new bullet under the hammer. "You had better learn it real quick, music man."
"As I said, I don't know it, but I do have the music in my bench. I'll have to get it out."
"All right, do it. And be quick about it."
Hawke stood up, then turning around so that he was facing Priest, opened the top of the bench. As the bench lid came up, it shielded Hawke's hands from Priest's view.
"You know, it seems to me like you could have picked a better reason to get yourself killed than this," Hawke said. "Marching Through Georgia' isn't even that good of a tune."
"What do you mean, get myself killed?" Priest asked, confused. "You're the one that's going to get yourself killed. If you don't find that music in the next five seconds, I'm going to shoot you where you stand."
"I don't think so," Hawke said.
Priest wasn't used to anyone taking his threats so casually. And he especially didn't expect such a calm reaction from a piano player. "One.he said, beginning his count.
"Are you really this anxious to die?" Hawke asked.
"What the hell are you talking about? Two.. ." Priest said, continuing his count.Hawke: Showdown at Dead End Canyon. Copyright © by Robert Vaughan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good western action series. Each story has its own story line but continues with the main character "Hawke".