Pay It Forward Week is the brainchild of author Bethany Turner that’s been adopted by the Rave Reviews Book Club to profile, promote and propel a different fellow club member to a place in the sun for a whole day via our blogs. It’s a really neat and thoughtful process and Paying it Forward can be done for all kinds of reason – like a thank you to people who’re hosting a Blog Tour for you! 🙂 So, as I’m currently ‘on the road’ with the MILELE BLOG SAFARI, today it’s my great delight to present my host for day 2 – RONALD E. YATES
A BIT ABOUT RONALD – by Ronald
My new book, Finding Billy Battles, is the first in a trilogy of novels. I am also the author of The Kikkoman Chronicles: A Global Company with A Japanese Soul, published by McGraw-Hill. Other books include Aboard The Tokyo Express: A Foreign Correspondent’s Journey Through Japan, a collection of columns translated into Japanese, as well as three journalism textbooks: The Journalist’s Handbook, International Reporting and Foreign Correspondents, and Business and Financial Reporting in a Global Economy.
I am a native of Kansas City, Mo. and a proud graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. I am also a veteran of the U.S. Army Security Agency.
FINDING BILLY BATTLES
(description from Amazon)
When a great-grandson inherits two aging trunks and a stack of meticulously detailed journals penned by his great-grandfather, he sets out to fulfill his great-grandfather’s last request: to tell the story of an inconceivable life replete with adventure, violence and tragedy. The great-grandfather’s name? Billy Battles–a man often trapped and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond his control.
For much of his 100-year-long life Billy is a man missing and largely unknown to his descendants. His great-grandson is about to change that. As he 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 perilous journey from the untamed American West to the inscrutable Far East, Latin America and Europe.
As he flips through the pages of the handwritten journals, he learns of Billy’s surprising 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 his past.
My 4.5* review of Finding Billy Battles
I’m not entirely sure why this misses the 5th star because there’s very little to fault with the writing which is, almost without exception, engaging and well-paced. Possibly it’s to do with the understandable lure of embedding the historic fiction around real historical figures. I was pleased however that the temptation of including the OK Corral episode was resisted although it was mentioned in passing just a little too often coupled with the reappearance of Wyatt Earp, especially at less impactful points in Billy’s life, which began to get a little cheesy for my taste, although it was interesting to see the famous supporting players at more mundane periods in their timelines. Doc Holliday’s story held my interest most in fleshing out his better known characteristics, and it’s in portraying the more sedentary and domestic aspects of life in the western states in the late 1800s that the writing starts to fascinate and appeal most (or maybe I’m just plain contrary).
Billy himself is a very likeable hero, both in flashback at the end of his life in mid-20th century America and as a young man earning his spurs and cub reporter’s pen in Dodge City and Denver. Life on the wild frontier is plausibly described, with decent and disreputable settlers, claim-jumping, rustling, gambling, gun-fights and whoring all fitting into the picture in a way that charms whilst stripping away the ‘Randolph Scott’ veneer of romantic twaddle that surrounds the Old West of Hollywood and 50s and 60’s TV cowboy fare. The parts that worked best for me were the more urban and international flavours that came into the mix, with the struggling ‘chinaman’ who actually came from what would be called Vietnam and the urban sections in Denver or in Chicago. Moments of drama and pathos too in Billy’s homelife with him risking life and limb on the prairie while hist wife birthed their first child, and then some years later as she falls fatally ill at the train station after an idyllic vacation. So tons of atmosphere and emotion to help a cracking story along and 4 stars very thoroughly earned.
Highly recommended read with authentic writing and scenery to match!