Cover image for The Red Ripper
The Red Ripper
Newcomb, Kerry.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
271 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



September 1829.With visions of wealth and adventure, William and Samuel Wallace board a ship sailing from New Orleans to Mexico. The Patience, a three-masted barque with a fool for a captain and an untested crew heads into the tail end of a savage squall. Battered and broken, the boat is destroyed, leaving only a handful of crewmen to arrive upon the shores of Mexico. The crisp white sands soon turn crimson as a savage band of freebooters sets upon the survivors. William watches in horror as his brother is among the murdered. Escaping certain death, William Wallace lives only to avenge his brother's death. On his quest for vengeance, Wallace will dare the howling wilderness, tempt fate in the arms of a fiery senorita, and find himself embroiled in the fight for Texas independence where his wildly heroic actions are destined to transform the man into the legend known as...The Red Ripper.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Headed for Mexico, William Wallace has nothing on his mind but sharing a happy future with his brother, Samuel. Then their storm-struck ship founders and sinks, and Samuel is murdered moments after the raging sea spits them up on the beach, where they are greeted by vicious young Don Diego Guadiz, his venomous twin sister, Paloma, and a squad of dragoons. Rescued by Captain Mad Jack Flambeau, a retired pirate known as the Butcher of Barbados because of his knife-fighting skills, Wallace quickly masters the killing blades and swears to avenge his brother's death. Making a host of "Texican" friends and with Mad Jack in tow, Wallace soon finds himself deeply committed to Texas' struggle for independence. He barely misses being caught at the Alamo during Santa Ana's attack and puts an early end to Don Diego's career as Mad Jack sends Paloma to her reward. Despite few surprises, readers are rewarded with an entertaining tale of high adventure and low villains. --Budd Arthur

Publisher's Weekly Review

The ornery, pugnacious and legendary William "Bigfoot" Wallace, a sometime Texas Ranger and full-time knife-fighter, strides through early 19th-century Texas history in this rangy, fast-moving historical novel. WallaceÄ"Bigfoot" to his friends, "The Red Ripper" to his many enemiesÄcarves his way across Mexico and Texas, armed with a pair of big knives (he dubs them "Old Butch" and "Bonechucker") and assisted by an old pirate called Mad Jack. Juan Diego Guadiz, a homicidal Mexican army officer, and his cold-blooded sister, Paloma, have murdered Bigfoot's only brother. Seeking revenge, Bigfoot slices up soldiers, Indians, bandits and anybody else who gets in the way of his cutlery. So far, so violentÄbut there's a war on, too. It's 1836, and Texas is trying to slice itself right out of Mexico. Bigfoot gets swept up in the conflict, fighting for the Lone Star Republic, and swept off his feet by the beautiful and mysterious Esperanza, who's married to one of Bigfoot's best friends. Though Bigfoot embraces Texas independence, his real nature tells him that "whiskey and sex were as good a reason as any to start a revolution." Bolstered by tequila and hoping to skewer Guadiz, Bigfoot finds himself inside the Alamo. But rather than dying with Davey Crockett, Bigfoot escapes, carries a message to Sam Houston and helps the heroic Anglos win the Battle of San Jacinto. Even that patriotic victory, though, cannot still Bigfoot's wanderlustÄmuch less his passion for Esperanza. Newcomb (Call Down Thunder) clearly enjoys retelling, and amending, the historical Bigfoot's adventures, explaining that "what isn't true, ought to be." Readers entertained by the action-filled plot, the broad-brush sagebrush scenes and the romance of the Texas Republic will probably not object. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Red Ripper 1 "I WAS BORN READY!" September 1829 Iridescent bolts of blue lightning pinned the roiling clouds to a witch's brew of bone and blood and black water. A raging wind drowned the cries of men about to die. The Patience , a three-masted barque with a fool for a captain and an untested crew, had tried to outrace the squall ... and failed. With the Mexican coastline barely visible through the driving downpour, the storm pounced and caught the ship running with full sails. At the last moment, the more experienced hands climbed into the rigging to trim the canvas before the barque capsized. Pulleys jammed. Knots tangled. In desperation, the crew aloft slashed at the ropes in an attempt to cut the swollen topsails free. Too late. A treacherous jawline of jagged rocks seemed to rise from the ocean floor and grind into the barque's battered hull. The ship lurched violently; wood groaned. The impact snapped the weakened foremast like a chicken's neck and spilled the helpless sailors into the maelstrom. Angry swells engulfed their prey, crashed against the ravaged hull, then surged past the gunwales and raked the deck in search of more victims. The Patience , in its death throes, shuddered andthrashed as foam-capped waves buried the stern. One last time the barque fought free. Forked lightning sizzled and cracked off the starboard bow. Its lurid glare revealed a deck littered with sodden whipcord and the massive remnants of the shattered foremast. Trapped men, passengers and crew, struggled beneath that crush of timber and downed rigging. But the weight of the wreckage was simply too great. Bound to the deck, the desperate souls were doomed to go down with the ship. Still they fought to free themselves, exhorting one another to be brave. They called out to their shipmates and to heaven for help. But the rain beat them down, blinded them; the wind and thunder stole their prayers. And the Lord didn't hear them. But Wallace did. Suddenly the mass of timber and whipcord shifted, and slowly the pressure eased. For a moment the wreckage threatened to settle again; then, inch by inch, it lifted free. "By all the saints, it's a miracle!" one of the injured cried aloud. "William Wallace!" a merchant hoarsely exclaimed, awed by the apparition towering over them. Thunder cracked and lightning split the dark, tracing their benefactor in phosphorescent fire. Wallace straddled the legs of a fallen seaman to prop fifteen feet of shattered foremast on his own powerful shoulder. In that moment, buffeted by wind and rain, his limbs aglow with an unearthly blue flame, the nineteen-year-old seemed born of both flesh and iron--from woman drawn yet forged by the hammer of God. His features contorted in pain beneath the terrible weight. Splintered wood tore his shirt and dug into his flesh. Blood streaked his thickly muscled chest. Wallace readjusted his footing on the slick deck and,working his shoulder down the length of timber, squirmed for all the leverage he could muster. He gritted his teeth, lifted, and took one step forward, then another. Around him the remainder of the passengers, clutching the most precious of their belongings, abandoned the ship as it reeled and tossed before the punishing elements. Torn canvas streamed from battered spars. The ship's wheel spun crazily where the captain had forsaken his post. "C'mon!" Wallace shouted to the men crawling out from the debris. "This load has plumb worn me out. I don't know how much longer I can stand to it. Any man looking to survive this night had best be quick!" In truth his collarbone felt about to break and the lacerated flesh burned like fire. Still he held his ground, refusing to abandon the trapped men struggling to free themselves from the tangled ropes. "William! For heaven's sake the damn ship is breaking apart!" a voice shouted from behind him. He recognized his older brother striving to be heard above the storm. Samuel Wallace, eleven years William's senior, staggered along the deck, lost his footing, steadied himself, then, leaning into the wind, fought his way to William's side. "There is still one johnnyboat tethered near the stern!" "Help them," William managed to growl. Samuel shook his head in disbelief, then crouched on the trembling deck and helped to untangle the remaining couple of seamen from the wreckage. Although Samuel Wallace was a big man in his own right, William stood a head taller, and what he lacked in quickness and agility was compensated for by sheer brute strength. No matter how the ship tossed and twisted, William's legs were like twin oaks rooted to the deck. Samuel trusted his younger brother, but every manhas his limits and he could tell William was nearing his. "Thank God," Samuel muttered as the last passenger scrambled free. "You've done it, Will!" He gestured to the black smoke billowing from the hold. A fire had broken out belowdecks. "Looks like we can drown or fry." Wallace nodded and shoved clear of the wreckage. He fell backward into Samuel's steadying embrace, allowing the foremast to crash onto the deck once again, this time for good. Ropes and pulleys and another pair of spars split from the rigging and came hurtling down. The two brothers darted out of harm's way and made for the last of the johnnyboats as the stern surrendered to the pounding waves. It was a sodden pair that reached the larboard side of the ship near the bow only to discover the last of the longboats had drifted away. To their credit, the men in the johnnyboat dug their oars into the black water and fought to remain within reach of the brothers. Samuel wiped a forearm across his eyes and stared at the treacherous-looking spray. William's hair was matted to his skull like a dark red cap; blood flowed free from his cuts and mingled with the rainwater washing his naked torso. "Curse our captain, he's ruined us for true," William bemoaned. "But the man's fish food now. I saw him go under!" "Courage, little brother!" Samuel shouted, glancing aside at his powerful sibling. "We aren't finished yet." He patted a pouch of gold coins secured to his belt--seed money for their grand aspirations. "Mexico's ripe for a couple of bold hearts like us." Samuel hung a leg over the gunwale and prepared to leap. "Are you ready?" William's green eyes twinkled with a sense of anticipation that belied the perilous situation at hand. It wasas if he could already reach beyond the storm and seize the dream they shared. "I was born ready!" He vaulted over the gunwale and leaped into the savage sea.   "They say Texas is prettier than a dream in Venice," William remarks. "It's the place for us. A whole new world, like a plum ripe for the picking. And if the Mexican government is willing to issue land grants to settlers, then I say we light a shuck for Mexico City before summer ends and claim our share. You've a golden gift for words, Samuel. I warrant the Mexican president will listen to you." "Seems like yesterday you were an eleven-year-old boy. Eight years later, you're carving an empire out of the wilderness," Samuel dryly observes, a bemused expression on his face. He thinks of their hardscrabble farm in the hills of Virginia. Even then, young William had the wanderlust, toiling long hours on the rocky soil but his eyes ever on the horizon. "Not alone. We can divide our land grant into smaller tracts and sell them off to colonists and make a profit." William is positively beaming. He's got it all figured out and is quite proud of himself. "Lawyering may be fine for you, big brother," he adds, "but I've got a hankering for something that can't be found in books." Samuel crosses the law office to stand at the window overlooking Bourbon Street. The thoroughfare below is crowded with street vendors and pushcarts, townspeople ambling along the stone walkways, gentlemen planters in their carriages, merchants, ladies in velvet dresses gossiping in the shade of gaily colored parasols. Leaving Virginia hadn't been easy. Moving south to New Orleans and apprenticing himself to a lawyer and living hand-to-mouth only made Samuel's success that much sweeter. "I promised Mother on her deathbed I'd look after you, Will. I have raised you as best I could. We've made a life for ourselves here. Are you so eager to risk it in the wilderness, fighting redsticks and bandits, hard winters and drought?" William moves to his brother's side. For the first time that he can remember, they are talking as equals. He knows Samuel is tempted by the vision. But how to make him commit? ... "I intend to make my mark," William begins, "to match myself against whatever the world throws my way. Call me fortune's fool, but I would rather fall trying to fly than wait for a wind to knock me out of the nest." Samuel Wallace smiles. "Now who has the golden tongue? So be it. We'll go together." He extends his hand to seal the pact.   William reached out to his brother but found himself alone, immersed in a blackness no light could penetrate. "Samuel!" His brother had to be alive. That was part of the dream. "Samuel!" The only reply was the thunder of the waves crashing against the rocks. Copyright (c) 1999 by Kerry Newcomb. Excerpt from Mad Morgan copyright (c) 2000 by Kerry Newcomb. Excerpted from The Red Ripper by Kerry Newcomb All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.