THE WILD STALLIONS
By John Benteen
Leisure Books, 1973
The Appaloosa horses bred by Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce Indians were the finest anywhere. That’s why the Army wanted to get its hands on the herd—so it could breed up top-quality remounts and ride the Indians down even easier. To do it, they hired a sadistic horse-trader named Luke Drury.
There was just one problem. Jim Sundance had no intention of letting Drury or the Army get their hands on the Appaloosas. Instead, he planned to sell them to an English aristocrat and have them taken out of the country.
But Drury played rough … up to and including cold-blooded murder. So now it became a race against time. Hunted every step of the way, Sundance, and the beautiful Lady Bucknell, had to get the horses to the relative safety of Mormon country, and then get them shipped out to England. But they were going to have a fight on their hands … one that could only end in wholesale slaughter …
Most of the early Sundance books are based on real historical events. This one has some of that in it, but I believe the main storyline about hidden stallions is fictional. The author does include real people, such as Calamity Jane, and gives the reader loads of background about the Nez Perce and their treatment by the white man, the U.S. Army in particular.
There’s also the question of where this book fits into the series. As you’ll see my copy (pictured above) doesn’t carry a number and I’ve seen it recorded as the seventh book in numerous lists. However, I have seen the exact same cover with a number six printed on it. Figuring its place in the series becomes even more complicated when you read the book as there is a lot of reference to The Battle of the Little Bighorn and Sundance’s involvement in Custer’s death. In fact, the book reveals just what did happen between the two men. None of this has yet turned up in a Sundance book if read in listed order, as the book usually said to be number nine, Taps at Little Big Horn, covers Custer’s last stand. To confuse things even more, my copy of Taps at Little Big Horn has a large number seven printed on it. Many of the Sundance books have been put out by Piccadilly Publishing as ebooks, and they’ve altered the originally order so the books run chronologically by storyline, thus their Taps at Little Big Horn is number five and The Wild Stallions is number seven. I suggest you use Piccadilly Publishing’s order to get the best enjoyment out of the early entries in the series.
John Benteen is a pseudonym for Ben Haas, although later other authors would take over the series. Haas mixes historical fact seamlessly with fiction in an exciting storyline that sees Sundance and Lady Bucknell struggle to get the horses to safety.
The book starts with Sundance riding into Deadwood to meet Lady Bucknell’s husband so a deal can be made to sell the stallions to the Englishman. Sundance is the only person who knows where the horses are hidden. Things don’t go to plan and soon Sundance and Lady Bucknell are prisoners, held captive by Drury and his gang. I must admit how Sundance and Lady Bucknell escape stretched my belief somewhat as I just couldn’t see how certain elements of the escape could possibly happen.
Once Sundance and Lady Bucknell head out to retrieve the horses the story really picked up and became a gripping read. Haas introduced some excellent Nez Perce characters and the problems they all faced in getting to the horses and then driving them to Mormon country meant I found the book hard to put down. Haas includes some neat little plot twists; some terrific action scenes and the story had a great ending. All this left me looking forward to reading another Sundance book soon.
And just to mess with your head some more after my thoughts on when this book should be read in the series, I’ll finish with this note. For some reason Leisure published The Wild Stallions again in the series, but under the name of Ride the Man Down, the 22nd book in the series.