Merlin Fanshaw is the "Bodacious Kid." Now, as a young man, he finds himself the proud new owner of a blood-bay thoroughbred race horse. After his parents' death, Merlin had been semi-adopted by livery owner Walt Finkleman. But now old Walt is dead and Merlin is alone, except for the prized horse the kind old man left to him.
The Bodacious Kid is a novel alive with humor, suspense, romance, and authentic frontier atmosphere gained through a lifetime of living, researching, and depicting the West.
When U.S. Deputy Marshal Merlin Fanshaw mistakenly kills an innocent boy during a bank robbery in Miles City, Montana, he abandons his career as a lawman and rides out into a vast and sparsely settled region known as The Big Open. Hired as a cowhand by ranch woman Billie Hart, Merlin is soon drawn into a deepening conflict between Billie and a ruthless cattleman who will stop at nothing to possess her ranch. When violence threatens, Merlin takes a stand, and exorcises the ghosts of his past.
The chance discovery of a virtual mountain of copper brings incredible wealth and power to two men: Irish immigrant and miner, Marcus Daly, and merchant, banker, and investor, William Andrews Clark. The two men become bitter rivals, employing armies of workers from every corner of the world as they battle head-to-head for control of "The Richest Hill on Earth." And then, in the spring of that year, the stakes increase dramatically. News of an assassin stalking Daly reaches the Territorial Capitol...
There are a few white settlements, including Fort Custer on the Bighorn River, a trading post or two, a couple of missionaries, and the town of Medicine Lodge, some 20 miles south of the new Crow Agency. There are two big cow outfits in the area and a couple of small ranches, all trespassing on tribal land. There are a dozen or so farmers along Medical Lodge Creek, and they're trespassing, too.
The Montana gold camps attracted thousands, outlaws and miners alike. The leader of the evil doers was Henry Plummer. Plummer was elected Sheriff and organized the outlaws into a band called the "Innocents." This vicious group murdered 102 people over two years. All of the Innocents were hanged by vigilantes between 1863 and 1864. It is against this background that Vigilante Moon is set, bringing to life Montana in its heyday and the historical characters that peopled it.
U.S. Deputy Marshal Merlin Fanshaw is out of town on the day George Starkweather and his outlaw band hold up the Cattleman's Bank of Dry Creek. Upon his return, Fanshaw's boss, U.S. Marshal Chance Ridgeway, suggests the deputy volunteer to infiltrate the gang as an undercover agent. Fanshaw hesitates only a moment before agreeing. He and Starkweather have a dark history, and he's eager to bring his old nemesis to justice.
When Thane McAllister's daughter Julie disappears from her home and a ransom note signed by the notorious Coldwater brothers arrives at the ranch, the cattleman calls on his longtime friend Chance Ridgeway to deal with the situation. Marshall Ridgeway deputizes cowboy Merlin Fanshaw and sends him and tracker Hoodoo Hawks to deliver the ransom and rescue Julie. The job is supposed to be a simple one, but Merlin soon learns that a "simple assignment can sometimes be the most difficult of all."
Sheepman Abel McKenzie and cattleman Zack Rainford were once the best of friends, but are now, in 1887 Montana Territory, mortal enemies. Their escalating feud threatens to throw the people of Meriwether County into a bloody range war. Three ranchers have already been killed, and the investigation into the homicides received only cursory review. One of those three men was McKenzie's employee. Deputy United States Marshal Merlin Fanshaw is sent to investigate and enforce the law.