Book List

Coming September 6th!

The Dig
In Search of Coronado’s Treasure
University of Oklahoma Press Trade Paperback
September 6, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0-8061-4360-6
$16.95 U.S. / $17.26 CAN.

Life couldn’t be worse for archaeology grad student Jim Hunt. Having lost his funding at a major midwestern university, and his partner, he desperately needs a breakthrough to revitalize his work and his life. Could a summer dig in map-dot Lyons, Kansas, jumpstart his fledgling career? Out of options, he packs his bags.

Five hundred years earlier, Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado faces a desperate journey of his own through New World terrain. He must find the legendary golden city of Quivira. But can he trust the mysterious “Turk,” his Indian guide?

Jim and Coronado’s stories interweave in The Dig, intersecting at a fateful point.

Things don’t improve for Jim with his first steps in Lyons—and his trespass upon an ancient mausoleum. His curiosity angers the locals—including Eva, a striking but no-nonsense museum worker Jim is instantly drawn to. A local tough, Mitch Keeper—enforcer for a reclusive, wealthy landowner—seems to go out of his way to harass Jim. The sheriff thinks nothing of throwing him in jail. And then the seemingly innocuous dig turns deadly.

It’s not much better for the conquistador. After days of wandering through dusty lands with no food or water, Coronado and his men are dying. Still, the Turk beckons them on. To continue means death. But to return empty-handed is equally unbearable . . .

Sheldon Russell ratchets the tension and mystery in both narratives as Jim and Coronado close in on—or are eluded by—what they seek. Along the way, the author’s research and craftsmanship shine through. Coronado’s carefully rendered, formal speech contrasts with the casual dialogue authentic to the plains today. Even minor characters, from Stufflebaum, Lyons’s prankster taxidermist, to the inscrutable Turk leap from the page. A historical fiction thrill ride that builds to an Indiana Jones-style standoff, The Dig forces its characters—and readers—to grapple with an age-old proverb: all that glitters is not gold.

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Coming August 20th!

The Hanging of Samuel Ash
A Hook Runyon Mystery #4
Minotaur Books Hardcover
August 20, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-2500-01016
$25.99 U.S. / $29.99 CAN.

Railroad bull Hook Runyon and his dog, Mixer, are chasing persistent pickpockets on the Santa Fe line, when Hook is called to investigate a malfunctioning wigwag signal in the middle of nowhere. A young man has been strung up there, hung from the signal, and left strangled to death. Hook finds no identification on the body, other than a bronze hero’s medal around the corpse’s neck, with the name Samuel Ash engraved on it. Refusing to bury what seems to be a World War II hero in a pauper’s grave, Hook vows to find the dead boy’s family, as well as his killer.

With the casket in tow, and slowed down by an over-educated sidekick, Junior Monroe, and a stream of new tasks from the head of division, Hook finally finds his way to Carmen, Oklahoma. But no one there has ever heard of anyone named Samuel Ash. There are secrets in Carmen, most of them associated with the local orphanage and its disliked director, and Hook is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the hanging of Samuel Ash.

Vivid characterizations, searing descriptions, and a twisty plot make Sheldon Russell’s The Hanging of Samuel Ash a gripping read.

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Dead Man’s Tunnel
A Hook Runyon Mystery #3
Minotaur Books Hardcover
June 19, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-2500-0100-9
$25.99 U.S.; $29.99 CAN

Near the end of WWII, Hook Runyon, railroad bull, and his dog, Mixer, are sent to the West Salvage Yard in the high desert of Arizona. Not far away is the Johnson Canyon Tunnel. Though remote and ordinary as tunnels go, it is the gateway to the steepest railroad grade in North America and a potential bottleneck for the delivery of war supplies. So vital is this tunnel to the war effort that a twenty-four hour military guard has been assigned for the duration. Hook’s orders are to catch copper thieves and to stay out of sight and out of trouble. But things go awry when Hook receives a call that one of the guards has been killed mid-tunnel by an oncoming train. Lieutenant Allison Capron from the Army Transportation Department is called in to help with the investigation. At first, suicide by train is suspected, but the evidence soon suggests homicide resulting from a love triangle. Unable to fit his own findings into either of these theories, Hook suspects something more sinister.

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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The Insane Train
A Hook Runyon Mystery #2

November 9, 2010
St. Martin’s Minotaur Books
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 0312566719
ISBN-13: 9780312566715
$25.99 U.S. / $31.00 CAN.

The Baldwin Insane Asylum in Barstow, Calif., has recently burned to the ground in an inferno that cost many inmates their lives and injured many others. Now, Hook Runyon has been put in charge of security for a train that is to transport the survivors, Dr. Baldwin, the head of the asylum, Dr. Helms, the taciturn attending doctor, and self-sacrificing nurse Andrea, to a new location in Oklahoma.

Hook hires a motley crew of World War II veterans to help and the group sets out for the new destination. But things go awry on the train. Several inmates and attendants are found dead, and Dr. Baldwin seems increasingly disoriented and incapable of running operations. With Andrea’s help, Hook begins investigating the suspicious deaths, and uncovers a trail of revenge that has been a long time in the planning . . .

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Author Q&A


The Yard Dog
A Hook Runyon Mystery #1

September 1, 2009
St. Martin’s Minotaur Books
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 0312566700
ISBN-13: 978-0312566708
$24.99 U.S. / $31.99 CAN.

2010 Oklahoma Book Award Finalist

The Yard Dog takes place near the close of World War II, when a large number of Nazi POWs were incarcerated in camps scattered across the prairies of the United States.

At Waynoka Divisional Point, near POW Camp Alva, the disillusioned Hook Runyon is assigned by the railroad to run off hobos and arrest pickpockets. Left behind in the war because of the loss of his arm in a car accident, Hook lives in a caboose, collects rare books, and drinks busthead liquor. When a coal picker by the name of Spark Dugan is found run over by a reefer car, Hook and his sidekick, Runt, the local moonshiner, suspect foul play and are drawn into a scheme far greater than either could have imagined. This conspiracy reaches the highest echelons of the camp and beyond and will push Hook and Runt to their physical and mental limits.

Hook is a complex character, equal parts rough and vulnerable, an unlikely and unwilling hero. He is more than matched by Dr. Reina Kaplan, a Jewish big-city transplant to Camp Alva who is battling her own demons and has been put in charge of educating the Nazi inmates in the basics of democracy before their eventual return to Germany.

Vivid descriptions of period detail, stark landscapes, and unique characters make this first book in the Hook Runyon series a fascinating mystery full of tension and deep insight.

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Author Q&A for The Yard Dog


Dreams to Dust
A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush
University of Oklahoma Press
Hardcover,Trade Paperback and eBook
First published February 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-8061-4043-8

2006 Winner—Langum Prize for excellence in American Historical Fiction
2007 Winner—Oklahoma Book Award

A young half-breed Indian returns to the Oklahoma Territory in the 1889 Land Rush to make his fortune at Guthrie station. On that day ten thousand strangers poured into a single town site. These were not just homesteaders looking for land, but people drawn from all walks of life, all searching for something: money, adventure, a new way of life. But in the end it was a bargain too good to be true. It was a town born in a day, a town which died as it was born.


Requiem at Dawn
Pinnacle Books
March 2000
ISBN-13: 978-0786011032

Finalist—Best Original Paperback, 2001 Western Writers of America, Inc., Spur Awards competition

They called it Fort Supply, the last outpost of the U.S. Army on the boundary of Oklahoma Territory—home to the damned, the disgraced and the dispirited. Now, Doc McReynolds, a military surgeon who fought his way out of a bloody killing field, has been ordered to establish a redoubt at Cimarron Crossing.

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The Savage Trail
Pinnacle Books
June 1998
ISBN-13: 978-0786005406

A towering novel filled with a new vision of the American frontier, The Savage Trail is a magnificent saga of courage, told in blood: a gritty tale of men and women who matched their bodies and souls against a land that would set them free, or destroy them all.


Evans Publications, Inc., 1993
ISBN-13: 978-0934188395

Doug Ryan, discouraged with the city and a failed romance, takes a teaching job in the small railroad town of Monarch, Oklahoma. It is here in this sleepy town that a tale of intrigue, romance and murder begins.