WILD BILL WILLIAMS, the new novel from Gary Dobbs writing as Jack Martin, delivers to us a marvelous new character. William Williams is a transplanted Welshman, stowing away at fifteen on a ship bound for the States, knocking around a few years in the east before heading west to find his fortune.
Wild Bill is a talker, something he comes by honestly from his family line. One tale he tells, no one is sure if it’s true, is his being the only survivor of the Big Horn slaughter. He makes his living as a gambler, being good with the cards, good with a gun, and relaxes by knitting horse blankets. Those long needles had been known to save his life on occasion.
One stumbling block comes when he steps into a beating going on in a saloon. A kid, barely more than a boy, braces a man there and is being beat to death while another holds the kid’s arms. No one else seems willing to stop the big man from killing the boy.
As the pair are backing from the saloon, a gun comes down on the back of Bill’s head and when he comes to, he finds himself locked up, charged with vagrancy and threatening behavior. The kid is up foe attempted murder.
In the town of Stanton, Wild Bill had run afoul of the Stanton family. The man beating the kid was Caleb Stanton, the grandson of the old Patriarch Abbadon Stanton.
It was a true kangaroo court with the old man the judge, two of his sons on the jury, and the sheriff under his thumb. The kid was to get a hanging in two days, Wild Bill was relieved of his bankroll, $1,200, as a fine and escorted out of town.
It wasn’t really an escort, so much as an execution. Set to dig his own grave, when the chance came, Bill reacted and left two dead deputies in the grave intended for him.
There wasn’t time to ride for the nearest town for help, Bill didn’t know the area that well anyway, so his only choice seemed to be to head back to town and see what he could do.
Gary Dobbs is Welsh and took the opportunity to make his character so as well, even to having from his own home town. The back cover says official records say 80,000 Welshmen came over to America, likely more than that as Welshmen were often listed as English, something that didn’t happen with the Irish or Scotsmen.