When You’re Dead, You’re Dead
Before I get into the heart of this novel of the old west, let me say that my time in California allowed me to visit Death Valley and portions of Nevada. This experience brought forth this novel.
It was a time when liars were heroes and killers walked free. Jake McBride is a San Francisco assistant district attorney who watches the killer Johnny Rheingold go free on a technicality. Rheingold laughs at Jake in the courtroom and so does his wild girlfriend Pam Grayson. Jake retreats to the rest room and splashes cold water over his face. He can’t believe Rheingold’s lawyers have wiggled out of drug and murder charges.
When Jake turns, a corridor has opened in the tiles and a man in a vested suit, carrying a cane approaches him from inside the mysterious corridor. He is Mr. Melbourne, and he offers Jake a chance to obtain the justice that was denied in the courtroom. He refuses and thinks he has gone mad.
Jake plays hand ball with his best friend Jim Coltraine and doesn’t respond until Rheingold goes on a killing spree.
Again, Melbourne pitches his ability to provide justice.
Finally, an exasperated Jake walks on down the corridor in the wall and is told he must remember that if he dies in this new existence he will indeed as the novel’s title infers, be dead.
He emerges in a western saloon as Marshal Jake McBride from Brinson, Nevada.
Here’s where the novel Segways into a realistic western story. Jake has no recollection of Melbourne or his revenge against Rheingold.
Silver on the way to the US mint in Carson City disappears from Overland Train 924 outside Brinson.
Rheingold, also a part of the 1882 cast of characters arrives in town on the evening stage and the quest for justice begins. Rheingold is the outlaw/cowboy Johnny Ringo. There are no reports of Johnny Ringo in the time period from March until June of 1882 which gives me a little more umph to using poetic license.
Remember like the characters in the wizard of Oz movie people in McBride’s San Francisco life are part of the plot, including Jim Coltraine who own’s the town’s hotel.
Jake tries to make sense of the 924 flipped over in the desert outside of town- all the silver and people missing. And now Johnny Rheingold is in Brinson and the US Army has arrived.
In this book you’ll read about wide areas of Death Valley and isolated stretches of Nevada that I still find fascinating.
The wagon ruts lead south toward Arizona Territory, but Jake is diverted by the seductive
Pam Grayson through the night at the Coltraine Hotel.
Jake senses something duplicitous about Rheingold before he leaves with Soaring bird, a Shoshone toward Arizona territory to the south. Ubehebe crater, a volcanic remnant in Death Valley is featured in this story. I have hiked into that crater and thus it plays a part in the saga of the missing silver.
Jake believes that someone is tracking them, and it his friend Soaring Bird who saves his life.
The silver has been stolen and it is the comradery of Jake and the townspeople that combines to track down the people responsible for the heist.
I will tease the reader and say there is a great scene involving a runaway railroad train.
Also, the historic figures of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, under assumed names in Tombstone Arizona aka Rhyolite City are a part of this novel along with the mining camps outside Tombstone, Arizona.
The last portion of this book involves Johnny Ringo and written within the history of 1882.
When human emotions reach a crescendo it’s difficult to separate vengeance and justice. Justice in the old west required honesty, integrity, fortitude, and a moral compass, some Jake McBride was denied in the bureaucratic, politically correct world where bad people are not brought to justice.
When you’re Dead you’re Dead is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback and the audiobook sold on Audible.com.