The Yard Dog takes place near the close of World War II, when a large number of Nazi POWs were incarcerated in camps scattered across the prairies of the United States.
At Waynoka Divisional Point, near POW Camp Alva, the disillusioned Hook Runyon is assigned by the railroad to run off hobos and arrest pickpockets. Left behind in the war because of the loss of his arm in a car accident, Hook lives in a caboose, collects rare books, and drinks busthead liquor. When a coal picker by the name of Spark Dugan is found run over by a reefer car, Hook and his sidekick, Runt, the local moonshiner, suspect foul play and are drawn into a scheme far greater than either could have imagined. This conspiracy reaches the highest echelons of the camp and beyond and will push Hook and Runt to their physical and mental limits.
Hook is a complex character, equal parts rough and vulnerable, an unlikely and unwilling hero. He is more than matched by Dr. Reina Kaplan, a Jewish big-city transplant to Camp Alva who is battling her own demons and has been put in charge of educating the Nazi inmates in the basics of democracy before their eventual return to Germany.
Vivid descriptions of period detail, stark landscapes, and unique characters make this first book in the Hook Runyon series a fascinating mystery full of tension and deep insight.
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About the Author
Dr. Sheldon Russell has taught at the University of Louisville and is professor emeritus at University of Central Oklahoma. He is the author of four previously published novels. Empire, a suspense novel; two historic frontier novels, The Savage Trail and Requiem at Dawn, which was voted a Finalist in the 2001 Western Writers of America, Inc. Spur Awards competition; and Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush, which won the 2006 Langum Prize for Excellence in American Historical Fiction and the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction and was selected as an Official Oklahoma Centennial Project. He lives in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
DR. SHELDON RUSSELL, Professor Emeritus, University of Louisville, and University of Central Oklahoma, is the author The Yard Dog, The Insane Train, and four previously published historical novels. He lives in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Read an Excerpt
Men gathered around the reefer, their breaths rising in the morning chill. The switch engine puffed and sighed, and steam shot from her sides. Ten or so German POWs watched from atop the ice deck. Ross Ague pushed back his hat and wallowed a cigar stump into the corner of his mouth as Hook approached.
“It’s a goddamn mess, Runyon,” he said, “and there’s cars waiting to ice. That produce goes to mush, someone’s ass is going on the line, and it ain’t going to be mine.”
Leaning down, Hook looked under the car, his stomach lurching. An arm was severed and tossed against the rail, its fingers curled. Caught by the undercarriage, the torso had dragged backward down line, the skin and muscle scoured away by bedrock. There was no mistaking the frayed cuffs or the wear of Spark Dugan’s heels.