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Authors: Douglas C. Jones

Winding Stair (9781101559239)

BOOK: Winding Stair (9781101559239)
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Table of Contents
Praise for
Douglas C. Jones
“A superb storyteller and authentic chronicler of the American West.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A master craftsman.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Our finest prose dramatist of the American West.”
The Boston Globe
The Barefoot Brigade
“One of the best Civil War novels I have read.”
—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning
author of
Battle Cry of Freedom
“Jones writes about some of the most haunting men in the history of the American South—the dirt-farm infantry of the Confederate Army. . . . The strength and heart of
The Barefoot Brigade
lie in small events, individual antagonisms, boredom, waiting, slogging, hunger. One senses the men's growing mutual dependence, a reflection of the families they have left behind, the cement that holds the Confederate Army together.”
The New York Times
“Jones's Civil War novel strives for a close-up, life-sized evocation of the conflict as it follows the men of a self-formed squad within the Third Arkansas Infantry Regiment.... This is sturdy, above-average Civil War fiction—strong on unromanticized detail and day-to-day grit.”
Kirkus Reviews
Elkhorn Tavern

Elkhorn Tavern
has the beauty of
and the elegiac dignity of
Red River
without the false glamour or sentimentality of those classic Western films. Unquestionably it has the makings of a classic Western. Mr. Jones is at home among the ridges and hardwoods of a frontier valley: He knows what moves in its forests, how the land changes under the seasons. He holds us still and compels us to notice what we live in.”
The New York Times

Elkhorn Tavern
is undoubtedly Jones's finest novel. The characters are unforgettable, the atmosphere wonderfully detailed, and the action and suspense skillfully maintained.”
—Dee Brown, author of
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
“Douglas C. Jones writes what might be called historical novels, but they are much more than that. They are stirring word pictures of the way things really were in this country not so long ago....
Elkhorn Tavern
is even better than the books that preceded it.”
—The Associated Press
“Jones is a meticulous craftsman whose dialects, dialogues, settings, and sayings seem so right and natural that one had the satisfying feeling of having read a novel without one false note.”
San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle
“In this stunning historical novel, Jones re-creates place, people, and events brilliantly . . . a fine, strong, affecting saga.”
Publishers Weekly
“A fine, uncompromising, unusually angled piece of Civil War fiction—from a master of gritty historical[s].”
Kirkus Reviews
“Jones may do for the historical novel what John Ford did for the Western film.”
Library Journal
Elkhorn Tavern
The Barefoot Brigade
New American Library
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Previously published in a Holt, Rinehart and Winston edition.
First New American Library Printing, December 2011
Copyright © Kemm, Incorporated, 1979 All rights reserved
ISBN : 978-1-101-55923-9
Jones, Douglas C.
Winding stair.
I. Title
PZ4.J7534Wi [PS3560.0478] 813'.5'4
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
ISBN : 978-1-101-55923-9
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

Author's Note
This story is not a historical chronicle of the Rufus Buck gang, all five of whom went to the gallows in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on July 1,1, 1896, and with the exception of Judge Isaac Parker and George Maledon, all its characters are fictitious. But the narrative does describe the kinds of crimes for which the Buck gang and others were tried in the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It is dedicated to the good and decent people—red, white, and black—of the Indian Nations, now eastern Oklahoma, who once suffered the ravages brought on by the complexities of national expansion.
rom the platform under the gallows beam, where the ropes were placed on execution day, you could stand and look out beyond the confluence of the Poteau and Arkansas rivers. You could see between the Ouachita Mountains on the south and the Ozark Plateau to the north, along the flat floodplain extending westward through the Indian country. It was a land given the tribes that had been removed from their farms east of the Mississippi River in the 1830s, given them as their own various sovereign domains and known thereafter as The Nations.
It seemed to me the first time I stood there that no place could be more desolate. In that country across the rivers, terrible things had begun and many had ended here, on the gallows tree. When the condemned fell through the trap, they did not face the land they had savaged but rather the courthouse that had once been an army officers' barracks, and beyond that the frontier city of Fort Smith, its frame-and-brick and stone buildings like sharp-edged beads strung irregularly along Garrison Avenue, eastward from the river for more than half a mile to the Catholic church.
When one looked on this city of 11,000 people going about the usual business of civilization in 1890, there was about it some sensation fascinating and repelling at the same time, improbable of explanation but impossible to forget. I have tried many times to describe it. But if the soul and texture of old Fort Smith remain indefinable, at least some of the facts of which I am aware can be set down. Unfortunately, what I observed was at the lowest level of social endeavor, dealing as it did with crimes almost unimaginable—and their punishment.
A part of the atmosphere came undoubtedly from the reputation of the man who sat on the federal bench there, Isaac Parker. His was a jurisdiction primarily concerned with law in the Indian Territory. He was called the Hanging Judge in most Eastern newspapers, and with some justification. He came to the bench in Fort Smith in 1875, and during the first fifteen years of his office he sentenced more than a hundred men to hang. Of these, some were killed trying to escape; some died of disease in the jail; a few were pardoned by the President of the United States. All the others—eight blacks, nine Indians, and forty-seven white men—were executed.
From a distance, the scaffold looked like a bandshell. It sat at the southwestern end of what had been the old army fort compound, a city block or more surrounded by a six-foot stone wall. Within that larger enclosure a wooden fence large enough for perhaps a hundred spectators had been built around the gallows itself. Once inside the smaller fence, the nature of the structure became apparent. There were the thirteen steps rising ten feet above the ground to the platform that extended twenty paces under a slanted roof and back wall. A trap ran the entire length of the platform, directly beneath the massive oak beam on which it was said eight people could be hanged at one time. By June of 1890, the largest harvest on a single drop had been six.
BOOK: Winding Stair (9781101559239)
12.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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