WILD BILL HICKOK
Reprinted from Steve Myall's Western Fiction Review blog...
A series of eight books published by Leisure Books from February 1999 to May 2001. Judd Cole is a pseudonym used by John Edward Ames. The books weren't numbered, but are shown in the correct order.
Marshal, gunfighter, stage driver, and scout, Wild Bill Hickok had a legend as big and untamed as the West itself. No man was as good with a gun as Wild Bill, and few men used one as often. From Abilene to Deadwood, his name was known by all—and feared by many. That’s why he was hired by Allan Pinkerton’s new detective agency to protect an eccentric inventor on a train ride through the worst badlands of the West. With hired thugs out to kill him and angry Sioux out for his scalp, Bill knew he had his work cut out for him. But even if he survived that, he still had a worse danger to face—a jealous Calamity Jane.
Wild Bill Hickok was a legend in his own lifetime. Wherever he went his reputation with a gun proceeded him—along with an open bounty for $10,000 for his arrest. But Wild Bill was working for the law when he went to Kincaid County, Wyoming. Hundreds of prime longhorn cattle had been poisoned, and Bill was sent by the Pinkerton Agency to get to the bottom of it. He didn’t expect to land smack dab in the middle of an all-out range war, but that’s exactly what happened. With the powerful Cattleman’s Association on one side and land-grant settlers on the other, Wild Bill knew that before this war was over, he’d be testing his gun skills to the limit if he hoped to get out alive.
Even among the toughest hardcases in the West, Abilene, Kansas, was known as pure hell on earth, a wide-open wild town that was reined in only briefly—when Wild Bill Hickok was its sheriff. Ever since he rode out of Abilene, Wild Bill had never wanted to go back. But now he had to. A lot of people were dying there. The Kansas Pacific Railroad was laying track where somebody obviously didn’t want it, and bullets were flying thick and furious. The Pinkerton Agency needed their best operative to get to the bottom of it and that meant only one man—Wild Bill. But as hard as it was for Wild Bill to go back, he knew there was a bigger challenge ahead of him—staying alive once he got there.
When the Danford Gang terrorized Arizona, no one—not the U.S. Marshals or the Army—could bring them in. It took Wild Bill Hickok to do that. Only Wild Bill was able to put them in the Yuma Territorial Prison, where they belonged. But the prison couldn’t hold them. The venomous gang escaped and took the Governor’s wife and her sister as hostages. So, it was up to Wild Bill to track them down and do the impossible—capture the Danford Gang a second time. Only this time, the gang’s ruthless leader, Fargo Danford, had a burning need for revenge against the one man who had put him and the gang in prison in the first place, a need as hot as the scorching Sonora sun—and as deadly as the desert trap he had set for Bill.
All Wild Bill Hickok wanted as he set out for Santa Fe was a place to lie low for a while, to get away from the fame and notoriety that followed him wherever he went. But fame wasn’t the only thing that stuck to Wild Bill like glue. He’d made a lot of enemies over the years. And one of them, Frank Tutt, has waited a good long time to taste sweet revenge. He knew he was ready for him—ready and eager to make him pay. But he was in no hurry. After all these years he could wait a bit longer, long enough to play a little game with his legendary target. Oh, he would kill Wild Bill, all right—but first he wanted Bill to know what it was like to live in Hell.
Deadwood, South Dakota, held a special place in the pantheon of frontier hellholes. Even to a man like Wild Bill Hickok, that was the toughest town in the West, a town where only the strongest and most daring could survive. But that’s exactly where Wild Bill had to go, whether he liked it or not. He was sent there by the Pinkerton Agency to investigate reports of stealing at a particularly dangerous mine, dangerous even by Deadwood standards. The mine guarded by Regulators, vicious hardcases who made sure no one interfered with their plans. Three Pinkerton men had already been killed when they went up against the Regulators—and Bill was determined not to be the fourth.
The U.S. Army needed help. Someone seemed intent on driving the Sioux off their reservation. Someone was slaughtering their animals and poisoning their water. Were these the acts of renegades, like some thought, or something far worse? Whoever was responsible, the army knew it wouldn’t be long before the Sioux fought back and left the reservation for the war path. The army also knew there was only one man who could restore peace before all hell broke loose—Wild Bill Hickok. Bill had to ride point on a dangerous trail drive to bring cattle to the reservation before the simmering Sioux were pushed too far. But this was no ordinary cattle drive—it was a trip through pure hell, with enemies on every side.
Leland Langford, owner of the Overland Stage and Freighting Company, had a dangerous but essential job and he knew there was only one man for it, the legendary Wild Bill Hickok. Leland knew that only Wild Bill could ensure that an important gold shipment travel safely by stage from the Black Hills to the U.S. Mint in Denver. With Wild Bill as driver, the stage had to make it through. But there was an even more important part of Bill’s mission. Bill had to break up one of the cleverest and most vicious rings of thieves ever to terrorize the West, and send one message loud and clear: Steal gold from the U.S. Treasury and you’ll face the harshest law in the West—gun law.
Two artists fronted the books, Ken Laager’s work appeared on book one, and probably book seven (but not confirmed). All the other books used paintings by Shannon Stirnwiss (although book eight isn't confirmed).