The Whipping Boy by Speer Morgan

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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."
--Wally Lamb

"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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Morgan is author of four novels, such as The Whipping Boy, and a collection of stories. He is currently Editor of The Missouri Review.
Published May 5, 2010 by Speer Morgan. 326 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Westerns, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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As a teenager, Tom Freshour, a mixed-blood Choctaw Indian, is brought by the orphanage where he has been raised to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to witness, along with other foundlings, one of the last executions ordered by Isaac Parker, the famed ``hanging judge.'' Spotted by a local merchant in need of...

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