The Oklahoma Territory was a bleak, brutal place in 1894, and Speer Morgan's compelling novel begins, appropriately enough, with a botched public hanging. Witnessing this unsettling ritual is Tom Freshour, a striking half-Indian who knows nothing of the world beyond the orphanage where he's been raised by a sadistic minister. But Tom is about to get a bracing education, thanks especially to two people: Jake Jaycox, an aging hardware salesman who takes Tom under his wing, and Samantha King, a beautiful, mysterious woman who attaches herself to the two men and promptly seduces Tom.
The wild and bawdy adventures of this colorful trio begin with a horrific flood, but the story turns darker when Tom and his companions run afoul of a scheme to steal thousands of acres from depression-ravaged farmers. Before long, they are being chased by a hired killer; meanwhile, Tom's searing memories of his childhood drive him back to the orphanage and a violent confrontation with the man who made him a whipping boy. Ultimately, Tom learns that the real villains in this unforgiving territory are not the outlaws with six-guns but the heartless businessmen who will do anything to amass wealth and property.
In the tradition of Pete Dexter's Deadwood, this is a richly imagined yarn about frontier life by a superb storyteller. Remarkable for its suspense, rich characterization, and seamless prose, the Whipping Boy is both a hugely entertaining tale and an utterly fresh evocation of a legendary American landscape.
"With The Whipping Boy, Speer Morgan delivers a rollicking page-turner. I read it once with a fierce compulsion to find out what would happen, a second time for the pleasure of the language and craft."
"Here is the real West in its lurid twilight--the Oklahoma Indian Territory when the last land grab was under way. Here too is a good mystery, a bawdy romance, and characters with blood, not ink, in their veins. Every vignette of frontier life--flood, train wreck, blizzard, bank, brother, or church--is authentic. Forget L'Amour; what really happened is so much better, and done here by a better hand."
--Will Baker, author of Hell, West, and Crooked
"In a tale as plainspoken as a country conversation and as relentless as a prairie wind, Morgan tells of a young man's search for wholeness in a time when the violence of the American frontier was giving way to a new kind of lawlessness. The Whipping Boy brings alive the pain and shame of a little-read chapter of history, when greed ruled, thievery wore a frock coat, and guile was the governing virtue."
---Charles Gusewelle, columnist, Kansas City Star
About Speer Morgan
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Published May 5, 2010
by Speer Morgan.
History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Westerns, Literature & Fiction.