by Phil Dunlap
Avalon Books, 2010
Pause for a moment and imagine a quintessential western. If you like classic stories of the Old West, Ambush Creek is well worth a visit.
After a notorious bounty hunter passes through Cochise, Arizona, Sheriff John Henry Stevens calls on U.S. Marshall Piedmont Kelly to look into the situation. Kelly finds an old house riddled with bullet holes. The owner of the house and the three bounty hunters are all missing, and all the signs indicate only one man made it out alive. Kelly is joined by his friend and expert tracker, Spotted Dog from the Apache Tribe, to track the survivor toward Desert Belle.
In Desert Belle, Molly McQueen, owner of the Gilded Lily Mine, faces unsavory news of her own. She’s been running the mine fairly since she took over. She’s paid down the mine’s debts and earned the loyalty of the miners. Business is booming, but her bookkeeper assures her that the mine is on the edge of failing. She must take action quickly, following the puzzling instructions from someone willing to split ownership of the mine to save it. Faced with no other options, she entrusts an important letter to two of her miners, Zebulan Pooder (a young dreamer with a gambling problem) and his friend, Blue LeBeau.
When the delivery of the letter goes awry, the fates of Piedmont Kelly, Spotted Dog, Molly McQueen, and the Gilded Lily all converge to an exciting conclusion.
Ambush Creek is Dunlap’s fourth novel featuring U.S. Marshal Piedmont Kelly. While the book alludes to previous books in the series, you don’t need to read the first three books before picking up Ambush Creek. If you like a good adventure story, old TV Westerns, or well-read favorites by Louis L’Amour and the like, be sure to check out Ambush Creek.
Questions for Book Club Discussions
- What did you think of Piedmont Kelly and Spotted Dog as the heroes of this story? What other figures from western books, movies, or TV shows do they remind you of?
- Zeb and Blue have a variety of misadventures trying to deliver Molly’s letter. Why do you think Zeb continues to gamble and Blue continues to stick with his friend?
- Westerns often are told with a slightly nostalgic feel to them. Did any descriptions of the Old West in Ambush Creek seem nostalgic to you? Would you want to live in this time period? Why or why not?
- We read about two different types of villains in Ambush Creek. What did you think of Snake and the Clutters? Which one made a more interesting villain?
- If Ambush Creek was turned into a movie or TV show, who would you cast as the main characters? Any actors or actress you’d want to play Piedmont Kelly, Spotted Dog, Zebulan Pooder, Blue LeBeau, Molly McQueen, Snake, or the Clutter brothers?