Book: Finding Billy Battles - An Account of Peril, Transgression, and Redemption by Ronald E. Yatescategories: Book, Kansas, Dodge City, Action Adventure, Tombstone, American Frontier, Colorado, Foreign Correspondent, Historical Fiction
Ronald E. Yatesabout this book: Finding Billy Battles is Book 1 in the award-winning, exciting, and adventure-filled Finding Billy Battles trilogy.
The book begins in 1958 when Billy, a 98-year-old resident in the Leavenworth, Kansas Old Soldiers Home, meets his great-grandson. Years later the grandson inherits Billy's belongings—a trove of two trunks containing the accumulation of a long and productive life, including twelve meticulously detailed journals. Fulfilling his great-grandfather's last request, the great-grandson uses the diaries to reveal an incredible story packed peril, adventure, hardship, and tragedy.
We learn that William Ragland Battles is born on the Kansas prairie in 1860 and that his life ended in 1960. In between, Billy's life is replete with adventure, violence, and calamity. He rubs shoulders with some of the West's biggest legends, including Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and Bat Masterson—all of whom are Billy's fast and loyal friends.
However, Finding Billy Battles is NOT a western in the classic sense. It just so happens that Billy reaches adolescence in Kansas and a series of unintended and ill-fated events bring him into contact with people whose reputations were fashioned on the turbulent American frontier.
I grew up in Kansas and my great-grandparents settled in the state when it was still a territory. As a boy, I listened to the stories of adversity, deprivation, and danger that early Kansans lived with. I wanted to make sure I incorporated these real experiences in the first book of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy.
For much of his 100-year-long life, Billy is a man missing and mostly unknown to his descendants. As his great-grandson works his way through the aging journals and the other possessions he finds in the battered trunks he uncovers the truth about his mysterious great-grandfather—a man whose deeds and misdeeds propelled him on an extraordinary and hazardous journey from the untamed American West to the inscrutable Far East, Latin America and Europe.
As the great-grandson leafs through the pages of the handwritten journals, he learns of Billy's astonishing connections to the Spanish-American War, French Indochina, and revolutions in Mexico and other Latin American countries. But most of all he learns that in finding Billy Battles he has also found a long lost and astonishing link to the past.
Finding Billy Battles, as with each book in the trilogy, blends accurate historical fact with fiction. The books are meticulously researched down to the last detail so readers not only find themselves immersed in a compelling story, but are exposed to historical events and real people that make the worlds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries come alive.
Before writing the trilogy, I spent some 27 years as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. During that time I lived and worked in Asia and Latin America, including most of the places in which my books are set. Therefore, descriptions of cities such as Saigon, Manila, Hong Kong, etc. are based on my personal experiences and observations. Also, during that time, I covered several wars, revolutions, and popular uprisings which greatly aided in the descriptions of conflict that occasionally arise in the trilogy.
My purpose in writing the trilogy (I am currently working on Book #3 and plan to have it available in early summer 2017) was to tell a compelling story that, while fiction, is grounded in historical fact. As such, I was careful to use the vernacular of the time and to describe places and events as they were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
There is no great literary message in the books, other than to demonstrate that many people in the past lived remarkable lives filled with adventure, sadness, struggle, joy, and love just as today. They were not, as so often portrayed in the black and white photographs of the time, wooden, lifeless figures without vivacity and depth. It was a time when the notions of "honor," "fidelity," and "duty" were guiding principles in most people's lives.
The Finding Billy Battles trilogy is targeted at readers who enjoy accurate historical fiction peppered with a generous helping of action and adventure. It takes readers to an earlier time devoid of the constant intrusion of cell phones, the swiftness of air travel, the soulless anonymity of The Internet that is inexorably extinguishing person to person interaction, the insipidness of today's fast food culture, and an overindulged, selfish society that craves and demands instant gratification.
Despite the dearth of the modern conveniences we take for granted today, people who lived during Billy's prime years were not dominated by and yoked to technology the way too many of us are today. They were less harried and stressed and more disposed to stop and smell the flowers than their 21st-century counterparts.
If there is one message contained in my books have it is this: Reading a book is a lot like life; you live it one page at a time.
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