By Mark Bannerman
Hale, August 2013
General Sherlock has issued an order to exterminate the bandits of Taney County; shoot them like animals and hang all prisoners.
So when sixteen-year-old Billy Stark falls into a trap and attempts to steal an army payroll, the military are hot on his trail. Fleeing for his life and burdened by a wounded companion, Billy faces extreme peril and is lured into a world where lynching, torture and bullets have replaced the law. Striving to maintain his morality, Billy finds himself drawn deeper into a web of evil….
Like in many of Mark Bannerman’s books the author combines fiction with historical truth and in this story Bannerman’s hero finds himself riding with the Bald Knobbers, a masked gang of vigilantes who don’t need much of an excuse to drive people out of Taney County, and if they don’t go, kill them without a second thought. Of course there is opposition to them in the form of the Anti-Bald Knobbers who seem to take pleasure in ambushing and killing the vigilantes at any opportunity.
If this isn’t enough of a deadly situation for Billy Stark to find himself in, he’s also being hunted by the army, struggles to find anyone he can trust, and is falling in love….
Unusually for a Black Horse Western this story is told in the first person, through Billy Stark. Bannerman writes in an easy to read style that never lets up in pace, and springs surprises along the way. There’s plenty of action as Billy finds himself reluctantly carrying out missions for the Bald Knobbers.
Does Billy escape the clutches of the Bald Knobbers, free himself from the pursuit of the army, and get the girl? Can a story of this type really have a happy ending? Of course I can’t reveal any of the answers here but will say that the closing pages will stick in my mind for a long time.
Missouri Vigilantes is a thoroughly entertaining book that has left me looking forward to Mark Bannerman’s next book, Journey into Jeopardy, published in December. Sadly this may be the last as the author behind the pseudonym of Mark Bannerman, Anthony Lewing, passed away in June of this year.