The Greatest Western Writers Of The 21st Century
They survived the perilous thousand-mile journey to the far edges of the Texas frontier. Now the family that tamed the Wild West must fight to defend their home from a ruthless band hell-bent on stealing g it away.
A Kerrigan Never Back Down
Kate Kerrigan has seen the blood-soaked face of war. But nothing has prepared her for the assault on her land that begins with an eviction order hammered onto the door of her family's cabin. Beautiful, cold-blooded Savannah Saint James has her sights set on the Kerrigan propertyand twelve of the deadliest hired guns in Texas are ready to back her play. Kate has her sons by her side, a ragtag group of ranchers who don't like outsiders messing with their cattle, and a fighting spirit passed down from her Irish ancestors. One thing's for sure: the Kerrigans aren't giving up what's theirs without a scrap. When the battle is joined, only one side will prevailand the end will be written in gun smoke.
About the Author
William W. Johnstone is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of over 300 books, including the popular Ashes, Mountain Man, and Last Gunfighter series. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net.
Being the all-round assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone. Bill, as he preferred to be called, began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western History library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hardand learned. "Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling and creating believable characters. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,' he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.'" The Loner marked the debut of Tennessee-based J.A. Johnstone as a solo author.
Read an Excerpt
The Kerrigans A Texas Dynasty The Lawless
By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
It was not the Comanche Kate Kerrigan feared but the three white men who rode with them.
The Comanche were on the move a mile to the south of her wagon. As was their custom, mounted warriors led the column. Behind them, also on horseback, came the young women of childbearing age. Then, walking in dust, the old people, little respected in Comanche culture. Taking up the rear, in thicker dust, staggered the slaves, mostly Mexican, but here and there were white and black faces. The slaves, about two hundred in number, were chivvied along by boys who made free use of their willow-wand whips on bent backs.
The three Comancheros, scarred, hard-eyed brutes dressed in the vaquero style then becoming popular among Texas drovers, broke away from the column, drew rein a hundred yards off, and watched Kate's ox-drawn wagon trundle past. She had a milk cow and a lanky buckskin horse tied to the rear.
Beside the wagon, his wary eyes on the Comanche column, walked old Moses Rice. His sweating face was black as obsidian and he had a huge Colt's Dragoon stuck into his waistband. At a distance of a few feet, seven times out of ten Moses could be depended upon to hit his target. "Miz Kerrigan ..."
"I see them, Mose," Kate said. "Get the children into the wagon. Trace, Quinn, grab your rifles and stay by me."
Moses loaded Kate's nine-year-old twins Ivy and Niall and five-year-old Shannon into the wagon and told them to hush now and that he would make sure nothing happened to them. The youngsters were frightened and so was Moses. He didn't want to think how Miz Kerrigan felt.
"Ma," Trace said, "they're just sitting their horses, watching us." Like his mother Trace carried a sixteen-shot Henry rifle, a purchase that back on the Brazos had left the family broke for a three-month.
"They want what we have, Trace." She looked at her oldest son, gauging his maturity, then said, "But most of all they want me."
"Over my dead body, Ma," Trace said.
"And mine." She took the sting out of that with a smile. "The Comanche are almost out of sight. I think those three renegades will go on after them."
Quinn Kerrigan's stare reached out to the three men, his knuckles white on his .58 Springfield. "I don't think they plan on going anywhere except after us."
"Well, let's find out," Kate said. "Quinn, your Springfield can reach out far. Get into the back of the wagon. Trace, up on the driver's seat with me. And Moses, you choose where you want to be."
"I want to be back at our old place on the Brazos, Miz Kerrigan. That's where I want to be," Moses said, looking as soulful as only an old man can.
Kate smiled. "Our future lies to the west, Moses, and nothing will stop us from getting there, especially Comanchero scum like those three."
Kate cracked her whip and the pair of oxen lurched into motion. Behind her, Shannon quietly sobbed, her child's sixth sense inherited from her Irish mother telling her that something was amiss. The adults were tense, slightly fearful, and the little girl felt it in her very soul.
Trace stuck his head around the canvas of the converted farm wagon and glanced behind him. "They haven't moved, Ma."
"Any Comanche with them?" Kate asked.
"No, only those three."
She nodded. "They're biding their time."
An hour later, flat scrubland gradually gave way to gently rolling country covered with pecan and mesquite. Here and there Apache plume, yucca, and thickets of white honeysuckle added a splash of color. Almost hidden from sight among a few wild oaks was a burned-out cabin with three walls and part of the roof still standing.
"There might be water there," Kate Kerrigan said to Trace. "If there is, we can fill our barrel."
"Ma, the Comancheros are following us," Trace said. "Jesus, Ma, they're close."
"I know they are. And please don't take the Savior's name in vain, Trace. I thought I'd taught you better than that."
Kate stuck her head into the wagon. "Now you children be quiet as church mice. In a little while you might hear guns going off, but I want you to stay right where you are."
"Mama, I'm scared of those bad men," Shannon said.
"Don't be scared, little one, I'll let no harm come to you." Kate smiled and put her forefinger to her lips. "Now remember, quiet as a mouse."
She rummaged through a small trunk behind the driver's seat and brought out an emerald-green silk scarf with the famous war cry of the Fighting 69th, the Irish Brigade, Faugh a Ballagh, printed along its four sides. Translated from the Gaelic, the cry meant Clear the Way, and that's what Kate intended to do ... clear the way for her young family.
Trace had seen his mother use the scarf to tie back her glorious, flaming mane of red hair only once before, when a band of marauding Apaches attacked their cabin on the Brazos. Now she did it again. A lump in his throat and fear spiking at his belly, he knew what it meant ...
Kate Kerrigan was going to war.CHAPTER 2
After telling Trace and Quinn to stay behind guarding the wagon, Kate advanced on the three Comancheros. Since he would not consider leaving her alone, Moses was at her side. She held the Henry close to her, hidden in the folds of her dress, the hammer back.
The three men watched her, grinning as they made comments about her walk, her breasts, her hair, and her ultimate fate.
The Crate brothers, Sam, Jake and Andy, had lived with the Comanche for five years and were content to pick up whatever scraps fell from the bowls of the Lords of the Texas Plains. In their time, they'd murdered, raped, and thieved whatever took their fancy, and Jake, the fastest with the iron, had killed seventeen men, not one of them near his equal with the iron.
Living in a warrior-dominated society for so long, they had no regard for women and considered them things to be used for their pleasure and amusement. But in Kate Kerrigan, they knew they'd hit the jackpot. They'd take their pleasure with her and then sell her in Old Mexico, where white women with red hair brought a premium price.
Many years later when belted men talked of Kate Kerrigan, they wondered if the Crate brothers would have underestimated her so badly had they known that she'd killed three bad men in a revolver fight and had fought Apaches. The answer was, probably not. They were vicious, the Crates, but they were also quite incredibly stupid.
Before she stopped walking, Kate estimated her distance carefully. The fact that the three men had not touched the booted rifles under their knees told her much. The Crates were draw fighters, a new breed of gunmen Texas had produced in large numbers after the war. Had she been a gun-toting man, they would have closed the distance, but she was only a woman and didn't merit such caution.
Kate had a fine voice for talking or singing, and it carried. Ten yards from the Crate brothers, she spoke. "Why are you following us? If you need coffee or food, you can have it and welcome."
"We want you, little lady," Sam said. "Tonight, once you have a taste of the Crate brothers, you'll throw your arms around our legs and beg us for more. Jake, Andy, ain't that so?"
"Damn right." Andy was a scar-faced savage with a thick-lipped wide mouth. "Lady, this is your lucky day. Sam, take a squeeze of them bobbers. Make sure they're real. And kill the Negro while you're at it. He's in the way."
Kate had an Irish temper that some compared to an erupting volcano, and she unleashed it. "You foul-mouthed white trash. I'll kill the first man who tries to put a hand on me."
That last brought gales of laughter from the Crates, and Sam was still bellowing as he began his climb out of the saddle. But he needn't have bothered. Kate blew him out of it.
Suddenly, Jake and Andy realized they had a she-wolf by the tail. The violent surprise stunned them for just a moment, giving Kate all the time she needed. She levered another round and shot from the hip, putting a bullet into Andy's throat. The man's eyes went big. Gagging blood, he fired wild, then slumped over in the saddle. Jake drew and for a split second, her life hung in the balance.
Moses two-handed his .44 cannon to eye level and cut loose. Maybe because he knew what a disaster a miss would be, the old man's aim was true. The .44 ball tore a great hole in Jake's chest. Moses, to his own surprise, managed to score another hit before the man fell out of the saddle.
In those unreal moments that follow a gunfight when ears clang and what has just occurred in the space of a few seconds has not as yet reached the combatants' full consciousness, Kate and Moses stared at the dead men on the ground as through a tunnel.
Kate was snapped back to reality by a shriek behind her. It came from the wagon! She turned and saw Trace beckoning to her.
"Ma! Ma!" he yelled. "Niall's been shot."
Panic surging through her, she dropped her rifle and ran, unaware that Moses had fired again, shooting the dying, bent-over Andy Crate out of the saddle. Then, as Kate had done, the old black man ran to the wagon.
Niall had died instantly. Andy Crate's wild bullet had hit him in the center of the chest and the boy's small body could not survive such a wound. The young girls huddled around him, crying. Trace and Quinn, trying hard to be men, stood in stunned silence, shocked by the time and manner of their brother's death.
Kate Kerrigan was inconsolable. It was a time for grief, for lament, a time for rebellion against God's will. Moses, more sure of his manhood than the teenage boys, let his tears flow, cutting channels through his dusty cheeks.
Moses watched Kate throw herself on her dead child and said nothing. Born a slave and the son and grandson of a slave, he'd witnessed grief many times before. Since he could neither cure nor help, he waited stoically and silently until the time Miz Kerrigan would need him.
That time came at midnight when she left the wagon and stepped into firelit shadow. Trace and Quinn had dragged away the bodies of the Comancheros, and their horses grazed nearby. The guns and saddles of the dead men were valuable and had been piled up near the campfire.
If she noticed, she did not say. She called Moses to her side. "We will take my son with us to his new home. I will not bury him in foreign soil."
Moses bowed his head, then said, "That is not the way, Miz Kerrigan. Old Moses is feeling the daytime heat and the farther west we travel, the hotter it will become." He gave a great, shuddering sigh. "Master Niall would not wish to travel in such heat, no."
"Ma, Moses is right," Trace said. "We could be weeks on the trail and high summer is coming down on us."
"You would bury your brother in this vile wilderness?" Kate asked, a storm gathering in her eyes.
As he had done many times before, Moses jumped in to shield one of the children from their mother's wrath. "Miz Kate, Master Niall's soul has moved on from this place. Now he has a shiny, heavenly body and he sits at the right hand of God. We will bury his poor little bones, grieve for a while longer, and remember his life. Then we will all smile again."
"It's a hard thing for a mother to bury her child," Kate said.
"I know, and I seen it too many times in my life," Moses said. "You ever wonder why black women always ask merchants for empty Arbuckle coffee crates? 'Cause they make good coffins for their dead children. Black women bury their little ones and grieve just as white women do. Miz Kerrigan, we can't take Niall with us, no."
A horned moon rode high in the sky and night birds pecked at the first stars. Coyotes yipped close to camp and a rising wind rustled in the tree branches. Kate Kerrigan walked to the fire and gazed into the flames. Without turning she said, "Come first light we will bury my son."CHAPTER 3
A week after Niall's death, the Kerrigan wagon pushed along the south fork of the Llano River into Lipan Apache country. Hereditary enemies of the Comanche, the Lipan were disposed to be friendly with whites, but like all Indians they could be notional. When Kate drove into the settlement of Menardville she had seen no sign of them.
Menardville claimed to be a town, but consisted of a general store, saloon, and blacksmith shop only. However, the community served as a trading post and a welcome stop on the north and west cattle trails.
When the Kerrigan wagon creaked to a halt outside the general store, it caused a stir among the loungers sitting on the saloon porch. As usual, Kate, a beautiful woman at any time, attracted her share of attention even after hard weeks on the trail, but it was the three blood horses tied to the back of the wagon, standing with the milk cow and the buckskin, that started tongues wagging. Since the war ended, fine horses were few and far between in Reconstruction Texas.
Kate and Moses stepped into the store with the girls while Trace and Quinn guarded the wagon. Most of their grub had been shot on the trail, but they lacked necessities like bacon, flour, salt, coffee, and sugar. Shannon and Ivy soon made it clear that candy canes and mint humbugs should be included in that list.
Moses was window-shopping with the girls when a tall man approached Kate as she stood at the counter. He touched his hat. "Howdy, ma'am. Are those your horses out there?"
Kate said they were.
"Are they for sale?" The man wore a frayed frock coat and collarless shirt, very dirty along the band. A Colt Navy in a cross-draw holster hung on his hips and he had the flat black eyes of a carrion eater.
"The horses are not for sale," Kate said. "We paid dearly for them."
The man smiled. "You got real purty hair, ma'am." His grin was not pleasant. "And you got real purty everything else."
"If you'll excuse me, I'm quite busy here," Kate said.
"Too busy for the likes o' me, is that it?" the man said.
The storeowner, a gray-haired man with mild brown eyes, spoke up. "Let the lady finish her shopping in peace, Jansen."
"You shut your trap"—Jansen's hand went to the butt of his gun—"or I'll shut it permanent."
"And I'll see you hang," Kate gritted out.
The outlaw took a short step back. "Whoa! Uppity, ain't we? You know how I tame a woman like you, little lady?"
"We don't want to know," Moses said. He had the dragoon in his hand. "If I was you, mister, I wouldn't draw that hogleg, no."
Jansen was caught flatfooted and he knew it. The old black man had the drop and no doubt would kill him.
"Get out of here while you still can," Kate said. "One more thing, a lowlife like you couldn't tame me on your best day."
Malachi Jansen was six feet tall when he walked into the store. He felt half that height as he walked out. But he was a man given to grudges and primed to plot his revenge.
"You take care, ma'am," the storekeeper said. "Jansen has only been in town for a month and he's already killed two men."
"I'll bear that in mind," Kate said as she and Moses lifted their packages from the counter.
Menardville boasted a two-story hotel, but Kate, mindful of her diminishing dollars, considered it an unneeded luxury. The family camped next to a creek five miles south of town within sight of the Blue Mountains, the peaks that marked the northern limit of the Edwards Plateau.
The tall grass country around the campsite supported stands of oak, mesquite, and juniper. A single cottonwood grew on the creek bank. The Kerrigans ate a supper of fried bacon and pan bread, then settled down for the night. Massive ramparts of black thunderheads loomed above the mountains. In West Texas, more often than not, clouds did not always mean rain. Often, thunder banged and lightning flashed, but not a single drop hit the ground. For that reason, Kate did not think it necessary to bed the girls down in the wagon.
Exhausted from the trail, the Kerrigans slept soundly. Midnight came and went and the moon dropped lower in the sky. A gray fox approached the camp on silent feet, her eyes filled with firelight. She stopped and sniffed the air. Alarmed, she slunk into the night like a gray ghost.
And out among the mesquite, Malachi Jansen made his move.
Excerpted from The Kerrigans A Texas Dynasty The Lawless by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. Copyright © 2015 J. A. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was juvenile predictable and a total waste of time and money; i couldnt even finish it wish i could get a refund i didnt want to give it any stars but it wouldnt let me leave it blank
thought this a good read. enjoyed the story.
I was shocked, after reading the Kerrrigans first published, I thought I found another good series to read. I was very disappointed . I received the Kerrigans A Texas Dynasaty: The Lawless, it was pitfull , no story at all. It began, with Kate shooting a man who entered her home and they a few papa of her husband killed in the war. It ended as she was going to tell a Ranch hand the Kerrigan story..........Either all the bood didn't get leaded down to my nook or the Author was asleep at the wheel. I have read most all the William Johnstone novels . Not sure I will read any more.