A couple of deadly beasts will be profiled in major book releases in February. Hat tip to Wade McKnight for scouting the first one out—a recounting of one of the greatest hunting tales in history.
No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History
At the turn of the twentieth century, in the forested foothills of the Himalayas between India and Nepal, a large Bengal tiger began preying on humans. Between roughly 1900 and 1907, the fearsome beast locals called the Champawat Man-Eater claimed 436 lives. Successfully evading both hunters and soldiers from the Nepalese army and growing bolder with its kills, the tiger—commonly a nocturnal predator—prowled settlements and roadways even in broad daylight. Entire villages were virtually abandoned.
Desperate for help, authorities appealed to Jim Corbett, a then-unknown railroad employee of humble origins who had grown up hunting and tracking game through the hills of Kumaon.
Like a police detective on the trail of a human killer, Corbett questioned villagers who had encountered the tiger and began tracking its movements in the dense, hilly woodlands—while the animal began to hunt Corbett in return. When the big cat attacked a teenager and dragged her away, he followed the blood trail deep into the forest—a harrowing, dramatic chase that would ultimately end the maneater’s long reign of terror, and turn the young Corbett into a living legend.
In this rip-roaring adventure and compelling natural history, Dane Huckelbridge recreates one of the great adventure stories of the twentieth century, bringing into focus a principled, disciplined soldier, hunter, and conservationist—who would later earn fame for his devotion to saving the Bengal tiger and its habitat—and the beautiful, terrifying animal he patiently pursued.
There can be no substitute for reading Corbett’s own writings, but I think it’s just great that his epic duel with the maneater is getting this kind of treatment, which will put a truly fine man in front of an audience that would probably never discover him otherwise. It also gives me the opportunity to — yet again — run a pic of the Rigby rifle Corbett was presented with in honor of slaying the monster.
James Butler Hickock was a magnificent beast himself: For all his flamboyance, he was a real-deal Frontier Partisan scout and fighting man, who came to a sad and sordid end. Bestselling author Tom Clavin is taking on the yarn.
Wild Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier’s First Gunfighter
In July 1865, “Wild Bill” Hickok shot and killed Davis Tutt in Springfield, MO — the first quick-draw duel on the frontier. Thus began the reputation that made him a marked man to every gunslinger in the Wild West.
James Butler Hickock was known across the frontier as a soldier, Union spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, and actor. He crossed paths with General Custer and Buffalo Bill Cody, as well as Ben Thompson and other young toughs gunning for the sheriff with the quickest draw west of the Mississippi.
Wild Bill also fell in love — multiple times — before marrying the true love of his life, Agnes Lake, the impresario of a traveling circus. He would be buried however, next to fabled frontierswoman Calamity Jane.
Even before his death, Wild Bill became a legend, with fiction sometimes supplanting fact in the stories that surfaced. Once, in a bar in Nebraska, he was confronted by four men, three of whom he killed in the ensuing gunfight. A famous Harper’s Magazine article credited Hickok with slaying 10 men that day; by the 1870s, his career-long kill count was up to 100.
The legend of Wild Bill has only grown since his death in 1876, when cowardly Jack McCall famously put a bullet through the back of his head during a card game.
Attentive readers will note that I’ve been spending a LOT of time in the Revolutionary War-era Mohawk Valley of late. Here’s what’s up: Some of you may recall that a year ago I told you that Thayendegenea — Captain Joseph Brant — had stalked out of the treeline and taken over my Frontier Partisan studies. Well, he won’t go away.
I cannot seem to escape these men who walked a strange and often dark path winding and weaving between and among cultures in the borderlands. Captain Brant seems to be their leader and spokesman, which suits his shade quite nicely, methinks. Brant was always one to push himself forward — and he’s always tended to get his way.
So, I’m putting my Cowboy Revolutionaries project on the back burner for a bit and giving in to the demand (and I use the term seriously) that I tell these stories. This, then will be Vol. II of Warriors of the Wildlands. Working title: Ghosts On The Red Road.
Look, you’ve got to go where the Muse bids you travel — especially when the Muse is a badass Mohawk and United Empire Loyalist armed with a tomahawk, a long rifle and a pair of Scottish pistols…
Speaking of the Mohawk, the Season 4 finale of Outlander leaves Young Ian among the Shadow Lake Mohawk. He is pleased. So am I.
While we’re on the subject…
I stumbled upon what looks like a fun National Treasure-type story while working on the Tim Murphy pieces. A feller named Michael Karpovage, who hails from the old Iroquois country and is a Mason (like Brant and many other figures of the American Revolutionary generation) built what appears to be a ripping yarn around the discovery of Lt. Thomas Boyd’s campaign journal. You’ll recall that Lt. Boyd was a rifleman and ranger who got himself ambushed during Sullivan’s Campaign in 1779 and was tortured to death most horribly by enraged Senecas.
Anyway, story looks like fun and I think I’ll make it a nightstand read…
With the discovery of a campaign journal from an American Revolutionary War officer who fought against the Iroquois Indians, the U.S. Army calls in their top field historian to assess its contents. Jake Tununda, combat vet, Freemason, and half-Seneca Indian is stunned when he gleans from the journal’s cryptic Masonic passages clues to the location of an ancient shaman’s crown once protected by the White Deer Society, a secret cult of his forefathers.
Jake soon realizes why his ancestors’ history was best kept buried. And why peaceful, rural central New York’s Finger Lakes region can be deadlier than any battlefield he had ever faced.
Crown of Serpents, a mystery thriller set in the former heartland of the Iroquois Empire, takes Jake on a fast-paced hunt to find the elusive crown and protect it. He teams up with Rae Hart, an alluring state police investigator, as they snake their way across a politically turbulent landscape marked with murder, arson, lies, and deceit. Deciphering codes, digging up war loot, and fending off the henchmen of billionaire Alex Nero, a ruthless Indian casino magnate, Jake and Rae’s survival skills are put to the test. The clues to the crown ultimately lead them deep within sacred Indian caves hidden under the abandoned Seneca Army Depot where the magnitude of the crown’s power is revealed.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m stuck like Claire Fraser in the 18th Century. The Red Road is a long one, and it winds through centuries and across many borderlands. At some point this month, I will produce the long-delayed last entry in my Wild Ones trilogy, the violent tragedy of The Apache Kid. Talk about a ghost on the Red Road.