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Toby Ryker, a colorful, likable old mountain man and lord-knows-what-all, moseys into the western town of Laramie and stirs up a saloon brawl just for the fun of it then collapses of a heart attack. Like J.B. Books in Swarthout's "The Shootist," Ryker spends the rest of this story coming to grips with his mortality. He looks up David Stewart, an old friend homesteading with his family, and the two decide to go on a last hunting trip. Ryker learns that McQuiston, a bounty hunter, has trailed him to town over a shooting in Deadwood. McQuiston kills a local cowboy and the chase is on with Ryker and Stewart hunting elk, McQuiston hunting Ryker, and the sheriff hunting McQuiston. The final shootout leaves McQuiston dead but with an ending that is not what it appears to be.
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"Do you have any idea where this McQuiston is now?" David asked.
"Sure do. He's lurking somewhers out yonder." Ryker gestured to the vast wilderness surrounding them. "Got away from him once, but he's still out there, you can bet your bottom dollar on that. I've seen his kind before. I can almost smell him, and he smells me, too. Got the scent of my blood burning in his brain, and he won't stop until he collects the reward or until he's dead, one or the other."
"Toby, you and I are more than a match for any bounty hunter," David assured him.
"I reckon you're right, if we know when he'll show up, but we don't. He's got surprise on his side."
Believable, Real-to-life Characters!
"TOBY RYKER is the kind of premier novel that earns its author a hearty welcome to the family of western writers. Steven Ulmen creates believable, real-to-life characters we feel we have met along the trail and incorporates them into a seamless story that leaves the reader looking forward to his next work. Congratulations, Stevn Ulmen, wonderful job!" - Ralph Cotton, author of 25 western novels, Pulitzer Prize nominee, and best selling USA Today author.
A Lightening-paced Western!
"Toby Ryker is a lightening-paced, granite-touch western told in the classic mode. Steven Ulmen's style cracks like a whip, and his characters remain with you a long time after you come to the end, which you won't want to. As a reader, I anticipate many more hours of pleasure from this author. As a writer, I need to get cracking before he runs me over." Loren D. Estleman, author of 53 novels and scores of short stories and articles. An expert in both Criminal History and the American West, he writes in both genres and has received numerous writing awards including the Spur Award, the Shamus, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He recently authored "The Undertaker's Wife."
From All-Time Best Western Author Elmer Kelton
"TOBY RYKER's hero harks back to the likes of Wallace Beery, old and fat, yet raunchy and ready to fight, a man who strangles a buzzard just for the fun of it. Ulmen's novel has humor and movement, and a fine story telling technique, which weigh much in its favor." - Elmer Kelton, author of 40 western novels, winner of seven Spur Awards, four-time winner of the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy hall of Fame, and voted all-time best western author by the Western Writers of America.
Reviews for "Toby Ryker"
|Reviewed by B.R. Jones
|The title character in this powerfully woven western novel rides into Laramie, Wyoming, looking for a friendly scuffle. An aging mountain man, built like the mountains he rode out of, Toby Ryker still has enough fight and spit left in him to wrestle with the best of them and an overwhelming urge to satisfy his lust for brawling. He finds just what he’s looking for at Kelly’s Saloon—a room full of cowboys he can easily aggravate. The fighting ensues, tables and chairs are broken. He pays the bartender for the damages, impresses everyone as the friendly but cantankerous fellow he is, and leaves Kelly’s a happy man. Then drops from a heart attack right outside of the saloon.
After regaining his strength and begrudgingly accepting a bottle of nitroglycerin tablets from a frustrated Doc Swensen, Toby sets out to complete the mission that brought him to this area in the first place—to look up an old Cavalry buddy, David Stewart, who has a ranch a few miles outside of Laramie. After arriving at the Stewart ranch and spending some time with David, his wife and children, Toby suggests to David that they go off on a high country hunt in the Medicine Bow Mountains, just the two of them, like old times. David readily agrees, but what he isn’t aware of is that a bounty hunter named John McQuiston is tracking Toby for the murder of a banker in Deadwood.
McQuiston is a nasty, soulless character, intent on collecting the reward money. Whether he brings Toby back to Deadwood dead or alive is of no consequence to him. Toby and David set out for the mountains on their much anticipated hunt, John McQuiston sets out after Toby, and the sheriff of Laramie, upon learning that McQuiston, himself, is responsible for a murder in Laramie, sets out after McQuiston. They all come together high in the mountains in an explosive ending that will leave you anxiously awaiting the sequel.
Written with marvelous detail and rich characterization, Steven Ulmen has done a wonderful job capturing the texture and quality of the Wyoming Territory of the late 1800’s. Toby Ryker is an endearing bear of a man whom you’ll come to love. I laughed heartily throughout the book at the witty and humorous dialogue, especially the exchanges between Toby and his friend, David Stewart.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking to satisfy their hunger for tales of the old west. From quirky cowboys to brave and compassionate heroes to saloon girls and sinister bounty hunters, this novel has become one of my favorites.
Reviewed by: B.R. Jones
|Reviewed by Janet Bellinger
|This looks like a great Western. Natural language. Well done.|
|Reviewed by Steven Ulmen
|"Toby Ryker" was originally written as a screenplay and still exists in that medium. The story is a character-driven western like those made popular on TV shows like "Gunsmoke" back in the 50's and 60's. Ol' Ryker has been bunking with me for nigh onto 25 years now in one form or another so I'm glad to see he's finally in book form and out on his own. He's a colorful old fart, and I hope you enjoy reading about his adventures as much as I enjoyed writing about them. *******
Steven M. Ulmen, author of "Toby Ryker"
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