Today I am honored to participate in the Finding Billy Battles Trilogy Blog Tour. The author, Ronald E. Yates, is an award winning writer of historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy. His extraordinarily accurate books have captivated fans around the world who applaud his ability to blend fact and fiction.
Ron is a former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Illinois where he was also the Dean of the College of Media. His award-winning book, The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles, is the second in his Finding Billy Battles trilogy of novels and was published in June 2016. The first book in the trilogy, Finding Billy Battles, was published in 2014. Book #3 of the trilogy, The Lost Years of Billy Battles, was published in June 2018.
As a professional journalist, Ron lived and worked in Japan, Southeast Asia, and both Central and South America where he covered several history-making events including the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia; the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing; and wars and revolutions in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, among other places. His work resulted in multiple journalism awards, including three Pulitzer nominations and awards
from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Inter-American Press Association, to name a few.
Please take a moment to read an excerpt from his first book, Finding Billy Battles.
FINDING BILLY BATTLES
Excerpt from Chapter Eight
Denver was the most modern city I had ever seen. Not only were most of its
buildings made of brick, as opposed to the false-front wooden structures in Dodge City, it had a population of thirty-five thousand in 1879 and was the first city in the west to have telephone service. I remember this fact very well because one of my first assignments was to write an article about the Denver Telephone Dispatch Company, which had opened for business just a few months before. The one fact I recall about that story was that the Denver telephone exchange was the seventeenth in the nation, opening just nine days after the Minneapolis exchange.
I was sure I was living in the most progressive city in the United States, and I
remember writing my mother a letter to that effect. She answered with a letter pointing out that Kansas City also had telephone service and wondered if I had thought about moving there so I would be closer to her. Lawrence, she said, was only about forty miles from Kansas City—not the five hundred that Denver was. I had no intention of going to Kansas City, nor could I return to Lawrence to resume my education on Hogback Ridge—not without risking arrest and probably imprisonment.
I was sure I had found my niche in the world. The Denver Sun was doing well, the
city was growing, and life was grand. It got even grander a few months later when I met and began courting a girl. Her name was Malvina Sophronia McNab, and I met her at a church social one Sunday evening.
Her father was a banker who played at real estate. In five years or so, he had bought up a half-dozen town lots and was putting up commercial buildings.
“What brought you all the way here to Denver?” Malvina’s father asked me one
evening when I had been invited to dinner in the McNab home.
I knew at the time he was not overly enthralled with my prospects as a newspaper
scribbler, and of course, I had not acknowledged the corn about my own shady past as a killer of men and their mothers.
“Well, sir, after spending two years at the university—”
“What?” Mr. McNab interrupted. “You were at university? I was not aware you
come from the land of steady habits.”
“I have my mother to thank for that,” I said, looking over at Mrs. McNab, a
handsome woman named Marguerita, who was about the same age as my mother. Mrs. McNab, it turned out, was of noble Spanish ancestry. Her family, which once had enjoyed substantial land holdings and political power in Mexico, had fled to the United States in the early part of the nineteenth century when Mexico, after some three hundred years of Spanish domination, declared its independence from Spain.
“Is that right?” she said. “Where might she be from?”
“Illinois country… but the family moved to Lawrence when she was very young.
They were strong abolitionists.”
“Well, doesn’t that beat the Dutch?” Mr. McNab said. “My people come from
That short exchange broke a lot of ice at the table, and from that moment on, I was accepted in the family almost as an equal. At least I was not viewed as someone from the mudsill of society.
When I said as much to Mallie, the nickname she preferred, she told me not to
worry, that in her parents’ eyes I was a “huckleberry above that persimmon.” Mallie had a way of expressing herself I had never heard before. When we met, she was a striking girl of eighteen. She had long amber hair that framed a delicate oval face of high cheekbones, luminous large green eyes, and a small straight nose. She was, in a word, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
I wrote my mother about Mallie and her family. She responded by hinting that she
might travel to Denver to meet this girl I was so enthralled with. I quickly wrote back that the relationship was not that serious. Nevertheless, I spent every free day and evening with Mallie, and I knew things were getting serious when I celebrated the New Year with the McNab family.
“Now that we are in a new decade, my boy, I think it is only appropriate that I
inquire as to your intentions regarding my daughter,” Mr. McNab said as we watched a fireworks display usher in the 1880s. “I have discussed your prospects with Mr. Harris, and he says you have a bright future at his newspaper.”
“Indeed, he did. And furthermore, I believe he is ready to give you more
responsibility by sending you off on a grand assignment.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of that last comment. What grand assignment? Why
hadn’t I been told of such plans? And why was Mr. McNab poking his nose into my
affairs? Then it occurred to me that Mr. McNab and Mr. Harris were both leading
members of the Denver Businessmen’s Association and had many opportunities to discuss business and other less significant topics, such as me.
Still, I wasn’t exactly exultant at the idea of being checked up on by the father of the girl I was besotted with.
“Don’t be silly,” Mallie said one Sunday evening. “Papa is just looking out for me.”
As it turned out, it was a bit more than that. Nevertheless, for the first time in
months, things were looking up. The 1880s were going to be a great decade for me. I could just feel it.