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Los Angeles, late 1940s: As brush fires begin to eat at the dry grass in the hills rimming the San Fernando Valley, a more ominous threat is taking shape. All over Hollywood, the U.S. government is ordering people to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee as part of the crusade to uncover Communist influence in the movies.
John Ray Horn has little use for politics, but as a former B-movie cowboy star who fell into prison and disgrace, he knows a few things about outsiders. And when his ex-lover Maggie O’Dare asks him to come to the aid of an old friend of hers who has been targeted by the committee, he can’t refuse. Owen Bruder, a brilliantly talented but notoriously difficult screenwriter, is accused of having belonged to the Communist Party—a charge he strongly denies. If Horn can discover Bruder’s secret accuser, they might have a chance to clear his name. But no one is willing to talk. People are scared—perhaps more frightened than they…[more]
Randall’s ties to the victims force him to acknowledge debts that go back decades. Drawing on his investigative skills and his roots in the region, he sets out to discover who is behind the killings. His search takes him the length of the state—a land once split by civil war, where history lies close to the surface and tales of murder and betrayal weigh heavily on the town of Pilgrim’s Rest. Before all the answers are in, more people will die, an old score will be settled, and the dead will finally tell their stories.
John Ray Horn is still working for his former sidekick, the Indian Joseph Mad Crow, recovering gambling debts and adding extra muscle when Joseph finds himself in a bad situation. One night they go to a small, seedy bar to intimidate a man who has been bothering Joseph’s niece, a waitress at his casino. As they leave, a woman clutching a highball glass says, “You don’t remember me, do you, John Ray?” By the time Horn places this faded beauty from his past, she’s disappeared. Tracking her down, he’s shocked to find his former costar Rose Galen in such diminished circumstances.
Young, beautiful, and improbably talented for her B-movie surroundings, Rose played the female lead in Horn’s second film as cowboy Sierra Lane. Now Rose is a shattered creature, drink-sodden and heavy with sadness. Something happened to her years ago, long before she met Horn, that has left her broken. Something she was once able to conceal. Hoping to uncover her long-kept…[more]
John Ray Horn used to be Sierra Lane, hero to countless youngsters who faithfully watched his B westerns. Now, after two years in prison, he lives on the margins of postwar Los Angeles. His wife has left him. Blacklisted by the studios, he makes ends meet by collecting debts for a gambler, who just happens to be his old Indian sidekick from the movies. Then things happen to shake Horn out of his cynicism and self-pity.
Scotty Bullard, an old friend, contacts Horn soon after the death of his own father, a powerful real estate developer. Among the elder Bullard’s possessions Scotty has found a collection of obscene photographs of underage girls, one of whom he thinks is Clea, Horn’s stepdaughter before his divorce.
Within two days, Scotty is dead, having fallen—or been pushed—from his apartment window. And soon after, Horn’s…[more]