Fourteen year old Shawn Brodie did what anyone would have done when they found the bawling cow with the broken leg from stepping in a dog hole. He put the animal out of it’s misery. As he was out hunting meat for his mother and nine year old sister, he did the natural thing, cutting out a haunch instead of letting the whole carcass rot. He ended up being charging with thievery by gentleman rancher Fen Dillard and sentenced to three years in Yuma Territorial Prison.
THE SNAKE DEN tells the story of his incarceration, a young boy amongst all manner of people. The warden wants him to mend his thieving ways. The Mexican Zapata threatens him the first day at meal time. Tin Can Evans, the legless boss/con who runs the prison underground and wants him to do things for him. And the brutal Sergeant of the Guards has perverted desires of his own. After all. he’s a fair-haired young man. Finally, there’s the snake den where misbehaving cons are sent, a cage hanging in a dark cave, so named because of the propensity of snakes to crawl in with the cons.
Shawn gets a bit of luck though. He shares a cell with three men: Shoo Lee, an oriental, Sylvester Blanchard, a gambler, and Gary “Kid” Pringle, a gunfighter. They look after him and, when the head guard begins his brutal tactics, Shoo Lee begins to train him in Kara Ti, the ancient martial art of self defense. Blanchard teaches him how to use the cards and Kid Pringle carves him a wooden gun, gets a cheap holster made, and teaches him what he can about using a short gun while having no bullets. And there’s the warden’s wife, who starts teaching him to read.
Shawn soon gets word that his mother has married Fen Dillard, the man who framed him through Tin Can, Dillard’s cousin, and worse, that his nine year old sister is living in a “sporting” house.
All sorts of pressures on a young man. But he decides to make a stand.
THE SNAKE DEN by Chuck Tyrell is the first novel from Solstice Publishing in their new e-book line of westerns. It was the first purchased by The Tainted Archives’ Gary Dobbs before he had to leave because of a long time commitment to his acting career. Nik Morton now is in that position, so the new line is still in good hands. I have the second in the line, Mead’s Quest, and expect it to be a fine western also.