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A request from the father he never knew summoned him to the Circle M home ranch, brought Rae Marsh into Fletcher’s Hole. He rode a long way to claim what was rightfully his, a share of a spread and a new life.
But at the Circle M, a new beginning was not meant to be, for he had to challenge his own family.
“I’m running this spread now,” the man in the red shirt told Rae. “And we ain’t hiring. Neither are we free lunch for grub line tramps. You git one meal, with the crew, an hour from now. Then you’re on your way.”
Rae Marsh drew in a long angry breath. “I’m part owner of this ranch and I don’t figure on leaving in a hurry.”
Red Shirt dropped his hand to the level of his holster. “The hell you say, stranger. You got two minutes to get off this land. Now—git!”
But what the man in the red shirt did not know was that you can’t talk like that to a pardner of Billy the Kid, fresh from Lincoln County. Not if you want to stay above ground!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Leopold Haas was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1926. His imagination was inspired by the stories of the Civil War and Reconstruction as told by his Grandmother, who had lived through both. Ben’s father was also a pioneer operator of motion picture theatres, “ ... so I had free access to every theatre in Charlotte and saw countless films growing up, hooked on the lore of our own South and the Old West.”
Largely self educated (he had to drop out of college in order to support his family), Ben wrote his first story, a pulp short for a western magazine, when he was just eighteen. But when he was drafted into the Army, his dreams of becoming a writer were put on hold. He served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1946, and saw action in the Philippines.
Returning home to Charlotte (and later Sumter, in South Carolina) in 1946, Ben married Douglas Thornton Taylor from Raleigh four years later. The father of three sons (Joel, Michael and John), Ben was working for a steel company when he sold his first novel in 1961. The acceptance coincided with being laid off, and thereafter he wrote full time.
A prolific writer who would eventually pen some 130 books under his own and a variety of pen-names, Ben wrote almost twenty-four hours a day. “I tried to write 5000 words or more every day, scrupulous in maintaining authenticity,” he later said.
Ben wanted to be a mainstream writer, but needed a way to finance himself between serious books, and so he became a paperback writer. Ben’s early pen names include Ben Elliott (his grandmother’s maiden name), who wrote Westerns for Ace; and Sam Webster, who wrote five books for Monarch. As Ken Barry he turned out racy paperback originals for Beacon with titles like The Love Itch and Executive Boudoir. But his agent was not happy about his decision to enter the western market, and suggested he represent himself on those sales. Ben had sent a trial novel to Harry Shorten of Tower Books. Ben’s family remembers it being A Hell of A Way to Die, written for Tower’s new Lassiter series. It was published in 1969, and editor Shorten told his new author to create a western series of his own. The result was Fargo.
The success of Fargo led to the Sundance series. Jim Sundance is a half-Cheyenne gunslinger who takes on the toughest jobs in order to raise funds to fight the corrupt Indian Ring back in Washington. The short-lived John Cutler series followed, and then perhaps Ben’s crowning achievement, the Rancho Bravo novels, published under the name Thorne Douglas.
Ben Haas died from a heart attack in New York City after attending a Literary Guild dinner in 1977. He was just fifty-one.
Fan favourite James Reasoner has hailed Ben as “one of the best action writers of all time”. In TWENTIETH CENTURY WESTERN WRITERS, David Whitehead
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About the Author
Ben Elliott was the pseudonym for Benjamin Leopold Haas born in Charlotte , North Carolina in 1926. In his entry for CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS, Ben told us he inherited his love of books from his German-born father, who would bid on hundreds of books at unclaimed freight auctions during the Depression. His imagination was also fired by the stories of the Civil War and Reconstruction told by his Grandmother, who had lived through both. “My father was a pioneer operator of motion picture theatres”, Ben wrote. “So I had free access to every theatre in Charlotte and saw countless films growing up, hooked on the lore of our own South and the Old West.” A family friend, a black man named Ike who lived in a cabin in the woods, took him hunting and taught him to love and respect the guns that were the tools of that trade. All of these influences – seeing the world like a story from a good book or movie, heartfelt tales of the Civil War and the West, a love of weapons – register strongly in Ben’s own books. Dreaming about being a writer, 18-year-old Ben sold a story to a Western pulp magazine. He dropped out of college to support his family. He was self-educated. And then he was drafted, and sent to the Philippines. Ben served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1946. Returning home, Ben went to work, married a Southern belle named Douglas Thornton Taylor from Raleigh in 1950, lived in Charlotte and in Sumter in South Carolina , and then made Raleigh his home in 1959. Ben and his wife had three sons, Joel, Michael and John. Ben held various jobs until 1961, when he was working for a steel company. He had submitted a manuscript to Beacon Books, and an offer for more came just as he was laid off at the steel company. He became a full-time writer for the rest of his life. Ben wrote every day, every night. “I tried to write 5000 words or more everyday, scrupulous in maintaining authenticity”, Ben said. His son Joel later recalled, “My Mom learned to go to sleep to the sound of a typewriter”.