This Violent Land

This Violent Land

by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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In this powerful new novel, William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone chronicle Smoke Jensen’s early years, long before he became a legend . . .
Kirby—later Smoke—Jensen has just earned his first paying job as a deputy U.S. marshal for the Colorado Territory and is sent to the lawless town of Las Animas. There, he finds a sheriff too cowardly to face the outlaw leader Cole Dawson, whose six-gun has left a lot of good men dead. Young Smoke feels no such fear. He takes Dawson down fast. Then the real fight begins.
It turns out Dawson is only a cog in a crooked plot hatched by someone hiding behind the law. For a young deputy marshal, going up against the powerful and corrupt is almost certainly a fool’s mission, but doing nothing is not a choice. When Smoke strikes, he’s in all the bloody way, and what follows will become the stuff of legend. Braving bullets, blood, and treachery to face down the most dangerous outlaw in Colorado Territory, Smoke will earn a reputation for justice and the rule of law in a wild, violent frontier.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786036448
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 09/27/2016
Series: A Smoke Jensen Novel Series , #2
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 356
Sales rank: 131,364
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

William W. Johnstone is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of over 300 books, including PREACHER, THE LAST MOUNTAIN MAN, LUKE JENSEN BOUNTY HUNTER, FLINTLOCK, SAVAGE TEXAS, MATT JENSEN, THE LAST MOUNTAIN MAN; THE FAMILY JENSEN, SIDEWINDERS, and SHAWN O’BRIEN TOWN TAMER. His thrillers include Phoenix Rising, Home Invasion, The Blood of Patriots, The Bleeding Edge, and Suicide Mission. Visit his website at or by email at
Being the all-around 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.  
He 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 hard—and learned.
“Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling. ‘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.’”

Read an Excerpt

This Violent Land

A Smoke Jensen Novel of the West

By William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone


Copyright © 2015 J. A. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7860-3645-5


Northwest Colorado Territory, August 1870

The snowcapped crag known as Zenobia Peak towered above the two men on the small, grassy plain at its base. At some point in the past, a slab of rock in the shape of a crude rectangle had tumbled down into the field from those rugged slopes above. The rock was small enough that one man could move it — if he was a very strong man.

The rock sat up on its end, the passage of time having sunk its base slightly into the earth. That, along with the sheer weight of it, discouraged anyone from tampering with it — which was good because the stone marked a place special to the two men who stood beside it.

A simple legend was chiseled into the rock.


The few words couldn't sum up the man's life. It took memories to do that.

Smoke Jensen stood at the grave of his father, his hat in his hands, and remembered.

The images that went through his mind seemed to have a red haze over them. His father and his older brother Luke going off to war. The evil in human form riding up to the hardscrabble Jensen farm in the Missouri Ozarks. His sister being raped, his mother brutally gunned down. And the vengeance he had ultimately taken on the animals responsible for those atrocities, Billy Bartell and Angus Shardeen.

Red was the color of that vengeance. Red for blood ...

The memories cascaded faster and faster through his thoughts, out of all order. They were each part of what had made him the man he was. Hearing about the death of his brother in the great conflict that had split the nation. His father's return after the war, to find nothing left to hold him and his son — the only remaining Jensens — on the farm. His sister Janey leaving. No telling where she was or if she was even still alive. And the day Emmett Jensen and his son, whose given name was Kirby, set off for the frontier, bound for the unknown.

Battles with the Indians, meeting the old mountain man called Preacher who gave him his current name. "Smoke'll suit you just fine. So Smoke it'll be." His father's killing. The long and so far fruitless search for the men responsible.

Smoke scrubbed a boot in the dirt. And the reputation building around him as one of the fastest guns the West had ever seen ...

Years of memories — long, bloody years — had come back to him in a matter of heartbeats.

He drew a deep breath and looked down at the rock-turned-tombstone, glad that time and the elements had not erased the words he had chiseled there. Preacher stood some distance away, having told Smoke that he needed some private time with his pa.

It was hard to know if Emmett could really hear him, but Smoke spoke to his father anyway, telling him what he had done, how he had settled part of the score for the wrongs done to the Jensen family.

And that he wasn't done yet. Not by a long shot.

He stood there in silence for another moment, then he put his hat on and turned toward Preacher.

"He was real proud of you, boy," the old mountain man said. "I know that for a fact. Same as I am."

The lump in Smoke's throat wouldn't let him reply.

"Where are you goin' now?" Preacher asked as they walked back to their horses.

"I'm heading back to Denver to turn in my badge. I don't reckon I'll be needing it anymore."

Preacher scratched his beard-stubbled jaw. "Oh, I wouldn't be so quick to do that, Smoke. A tin star can come in mighty handy from time to time." He paused, then added, "Most 'specially iffen you're still wantin' to go after them fellers what kilt your pa."

Denver, Colorado Territory

The low-lying building was made of white limestone. A United States flag flew from the flagpole out front, flapping gently in the breeze. Chiseled above the doorway were the words United States Federal Office Building.

Smoke Jensen, taller than most men, with shoulders someone once described as "wide as an axe handle" walked inside. On his shirt, he wore the star of a deputy United States marshal.

"Hello, Deputy Jensen," Annie Wilson greeted him as he hung his hat on the hat rack just inside the door. Middle-aged but still quite attractive, she flashed him a welcoming smile.

"Hello, Miss Wilson. Is the marshal in?"

Uriah B. Holloway was the chief U.S. marshal for the Colorado District. A while back, he had appointed Smoke as a deputy U.S. marshal for the purposes of locating Angus Shardeen, who had once ridden with John Brown and had personally taken part in the Pottawatomie Massacre in which several pro-Southern sympathizers were murdered.

After John Brown's death, Shardeen had started his own group and made his presence known by burning homes and killing innocents in Southwest Missouri. Shardeen had killed Smoke's mother, then stood by and watched as his men had used Smoke's sister Janey.

Smoke would have gone after Shardeen anyway, but the appointment, though temporary and without pay, had made his vendetta legal.

"He's in his office, Deputy. If you wait just a moment, I'll let him know you're here."

Smoke walked over to look through the window as Annie went into the office to announce him. He saw a couple boys sitting on the ground with their legs spread, playing mumblety-peg with a pocket knife.

"Ha! You lose, you lose! You have to root the peg out with your teeth!" one of the boys said triumphantly.

Smoke smiled as he recalled playing that game with his brother, back before the war. They'd played a different variation of the game. The object had been to see who could throw the knife into the ground and stick it the closest to their own foot. When Luke left for the war he was still carrying a scar on his right foot from where he had thrown the knife too close.

That was a much more innocent time. In fact, as Smoke thought back on it, it was the only innocent time he had ever known in his entire life.

"Deputy Jensen?" Annie said, coming out of Holloway's office. "The marshal will see you now."

"Thank you, Miss Wilson."

Holloway was standing behind his desk when Smoke stepped into his office. "Hello, Smoke," he greeted as he extended his hand.

Smoke took it and shook.

"How's that old horse thief, Preacher?"

"Preacher's doing well," Smoke said, speaking of the man who had become not only his mentor but also the closest thing he had to a father since his own pa had been killed.

He took the badge from his shirt and placed it on the desk in front of Marshal Holloway.

"What's that for?" Holloway asked with a puzzled frown.

"I want to thank you, Marshal, for putting your trust in me and making me your temporary deputy. That helped me take care of my business."

"It wasn't just your business, Smoke. If it had been, I would have never let you put on that star in the first place. There were federal warrants out for Shardeen and his men." Holloway pointed to the star. "There's too much prestige attached to wearing that badge, and too many men have died defending its honor, to give it out to just anyone. I would have never let you wear it if I hadn't thought you deserved it."

"I appreciate the trust, Marshal."

"Do you appreciate it enough to wear that star permanently? With proper compensation, I hasten to add."

"Are you offering me a full-time job, Marshal?" Smoke asked.

"Yes. You do need a job, don't you? I mean, you don't plan to eat off Preacher's table forever, do you?"

Smoke laughed, admitting, "I am getting a little tired of game and wild vegetables." He reached for the star, picked it up, and held it for a long moment, examining it.

He looked up at the man across from him. "Marshal, you do know that I'm after Richards, Potter, and Stratton, don't you?"

"Those are the men who killed your brother?"

"Yes, sir. And as far as I've been able to determine, they aren't wanted anywhere."

"You suspect that they killed your father, too, don't you?"

"I more than suspect. I know they did."

Marshal Holloway held up his finger. "Listen to me carefully, Smoke. You suspect they killed your father, don't you?"

Smoke wasn't sure where the marshal was going with that statement, but he picked up on the inference. "Yes, sir, I suspect they did."

"Then as a deputy U.S. marshal, you can always hold them on suspicion of murder."

"You do know, don't you, Marshal, that they aren't going to let me do that?" Marshal Holloway smiled. "You mean they might resist arrest?"

"Yeah, they might." Smoke smiled, too. "They might even resort to gunplay in resisting."

"Well, as a deputy U.S. marshal, you would be fully and legally authorized to counter force with force."

"All right, Marshal." Smoke pinned the star back onto his shirt. "You've just hired yourself a new deputy."

Holloway shook his hand. "And now you'll be drawing forty dollars a month and expenses."

"Sounds good to me."

"But I'll be expecting you to do more than just look for those three men. Are you ready to start earning your pay?"

That surprised Smoke. "You have a job for me already?"

"Yeah," Holloway said. "I want you to go to Red Cliff over in Summit County. Go see Sheriff Emerson Donovan. He's a friend of mine ... who was once my deputy, by the way. An outbreak of cattle rustling is so severe it's causing some of the ranchers to go out of business."

"Cattle rustling? Wouldn't that be a state crime?"

Holloway smiled. "It would be, if we were a state. But Colorado is still a territory, therefore any crime that's committed here is a federal crime." He handed Smoke a piece of paper. "Here is an arrest warrant signed by a federal judge. You can put whatever name or names on it that you need."

"What if the names are Stratton, Potter, and Richards?"

"Who knows? Someday, those may be just the names you put on there."


Bury, Idaho Territory

The town began as a "Hell on Wheels" settlement. As an End of Track location during the building of the Union Pacific, there had been high hopes for the town in the beginning. It had a bank, probably the best school building — a large two-story — in that part of the country, and a weekly newspaper, the Bury Bulletin. Businesses included a large mercantile store, several saloons and cafés, a large hotel, a leather shop, and a brothel. It boasted a sheriff, a deputy, and a jail. A handful of ranches and a lot of producing mines lay around the town, as well.

Nearly all of it was owned by three men — Muley Stratton, Wiley Potter, and Josh Richards.

Some citizens resented the presence of the three men, believing that they were bad for the town. Others thought differently.

"You have to admit that the town has grown considerably since they arrived," someone had said.

"Yes, but grown how?" asked another, pointing out that there were more saloons than any other type of business. "Most of the newcomers who work for Potter, Stratton, and Richards are riffraff of the lowest element. Why, I believe most of them are gunfighters and outlaws. How can a town grow, and survive, with such people?"

What was not owned by Stratton, Potter, and Richards was the Pink House.

Billing her place as a "Sporting House for Gentlemen," Flora Yancey even advertised her services in the town, hiring boys to tack up handbills.

The Pink House Is a Sporting House for Gentlemen Where Beautiful and Cultured Ladies Will provide you with every Pleasure

She made no apologies about running a brothel. "Why should I be ashamed of it?" she would reply to anyone who questioned her. "I give my girls a clean place to stay and I insist that the gentlemen callers be on their best behavior. If they are not well-behaved, I don't let them return."

Flora had been in town for more than four years, having arrived as a member of a theater group. The owner of the repertoire company for which she'd worked had lost all the box-office receipts in an after-show poker game. Rather than face his troupe with the disgrace of his betrayal, he'd made an attempt to recover the money at the point of a gun. That attempt had failed, and he was shot dead. He now lay buried in the Bury Cemetery under a marker sporting an epitaph.

Here lies McKinley Hall A thespian of renown He took his final curtain call When one slug from a .44 put him down

Disgruntled and betrayed, the rest of the theater company had left town, but Flora, seeing potential business opportunities, had stayed. She was a beautiful woman and her role in the theater had inflamed the fantasies of many men. She knew that she had only to play upon those fantasies to become very successful. It was rumored that she had once been the mistress of Crown Prince Ferdinand of Austria. Another rumor had it as Prince Leopold of Belgium.

Whenever questioned as to whether or not the rumors were true, and if so, just which crowned head had she been with, Flora always replied, "A lady never informs upon the indiscretions of gentlemen of station." She knew that such rumors fed the fantasies of men who wanted to "do it with a woman who had done it with a prince," so she did nothing to dispel the rumors.

When Flora had made enough money she'd built the Pink House and hired only the most attractive women she could find. She then went into semiretirement, preferring to manage the affairs of "her girls" over providing her personal services to the customers.

Janey Jensen, who had been calling herself Janey Garner, sat in the parlor of the Pink House with Flora, one of her "girls" named Emma — no last name available — and Sally Reynolds, the local schoolteacher.

Sally had met Janey the day she first arrived in Bury and found herself in the middle of a shoot-out. Shortly thereafter, Sally had learned that the Pink House was a brothel, that Flora was the owner or madam of that house, and that Janey Garner was not only the business manager of the PSR Ranch, she was also the mistress of Josh Richards, who was the majority owner of the ranch.

Despite what she'd learned, Sally passed no judgment on anyone. On the contrary, Flora and Janey had become her closest friends. She'd also become friends with all the girls who worked at the Pink House.

At the moment, Emma was Sally's partner in a game of whist. It became obvious that they were losing the hand.

Emma sighed. "Oh dear. I'm afraid I overbid the deal. I'm such a nincompoop."

"Nonsense, you are just a woman who bids with a degree of unbridled courage," Sally said, and the others laughed.

As the game continued, conversation picked up.

"You being from the Northeast, you more'n likely didn't see much of the war, did you," Emma asked Sally, making the sentence more a declarative statement than a question.

"I didn't see any of the war, except for what I read in the newspapers," Sally replied.

"You were lucky," Emma said. "I lived in Corinth, Mississippi. We had a very big battle real close by."

"Yes, I read about Pittsburg Landing," Sally acknowledged.

Emma shook her head. "No, it was Shiloh."

"In the South, you called it Shiloh. In the North, we called it Pittsburg Landing."

"How odd. Well, I remember all those wounded boys being brought into town. I was very young then, but I remember it very well. Wounded boys were lying out on the lawns of people's houses, on their front porches, even." Emma shook her head again and sighed at the memory. "It was just awful."

Sally reached across and put her hand on Emma's. "Oh, you poor dear. I'm sure it must have been bad for you."

"Let's change the subject. I see no reason we should talk about such horrid things." Janey had her own terrible memories of the war, memories that she didn't want to share. "Tell us about New York," she said to Sally. "I know you once said you had been there."

"Yes, I've been there. I have an aunt who lives there."

"Oh, please do tell us about it," Emma said.

"It is almost indescribable. Trains whiz along on elevated tracks throughout the city. The streets are crowded with carriages and wagons that never seem to stop. And at night the entire city uses gaslights, so that when you look out your window it is as if you are gazing at a huge, sparkling jewel.

"But it is most impressive at Christmas. All the stores, even the lampposts, are decorated for the holiday. Swags of green are stretched between lampposts from one side of the street to the other so that when you travel, you are traveling under a green canopy."


Excerpted from This Violent Land by William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone. Copyright © 2015 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.

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