Cover image for Dakota kill
Dakota kill
Brandvold, Peter.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tom Doherty Associates, [2000]

Physical Description:
288 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Forge book"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Western

On Order



After a seven year absence, Mark Talbot returns to the Dakota Territory looking for a little peace and quiet. But peace isn't what he finds: greedy landholder King Magnussen of the Double-X ranch wants sole reign of the Bench, a fertile and prosperous control in the Dakota Territory. And Magnussen always gets what he wants.When Talbot meets beautiful young Suzanne, King's beloved daughter, he learns quickly that Suzanne always gets what she wants, too. And she wants Talbot. Then there's Jacy Kincaid, the little-girl-next-door, who has grown into a stunning, strong-willed woman, fighting against King and his thugs.Before Talbot can rest his tired bones, he finds himself confronted not only with a land war, but a love war too....

Author Notes

Peter Brandvold Peter Brandvold was born and raised in North Dakota and educated at the University of North Dakota and the University of Arizona. He taught for five years on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in northern Montana and lives with his wife on their turn-of-the-century farmstead near Underwood, Minnesota.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Mark Talbot left the Dakota Territory seven years ago, first to soldier, then to look for adventure in Mexico, and finally to go to sea on a fishing boat. Now, with a little cash in his pocket, he heads home to find some peace and quiet with his brother on the family ranch. Instead, he finds that his brother was murdered five years earlier, and the same range war that killed him and other small ranchers is about to erupt again. He also finds a land baron named King Magnusson, his beautiful daughter, Suzanne, Magnusson's vicious son, an ineffectual sheriff, an imported gunman, and the pretty little girl next door who has blossomed into lovely womanhood. It's a standard cast of characters, to be sure, but Brandvold has given them considerably more substance than is usually found in formula westerns. Talbot, of course, does find peace and quiet--and love--but only after the gunsmoke finally clears. It all adds up to an action-packed, entertaining read for fans of traditional westerns. --Budd Arthur



CHAPTER 1 Sixty tons of Alaskan salmon freshly hauled from her gut, the schooner Bat McCaffrey lay at a long T-wharf in San Francisco Bay. The high masts groaned with the gentle teeter of the ship, and the stout hemp moorings complained against their stays. Occasionally the massive hull cracked and sighed when a shiver ran down her keel. Mark Talbot sat in his bunk in the fo'c'sle, under a brass hurricane lantern that swung back and forth with the slow roll of the ship. The air smelled of seal oil, bear grease, rotten fish, piss, farts, and cheap alcohol. If any of the half-dozen men remaining shipboard considered him at work in the shunting half shadows of his lower bunk, they no doubt would think him repairing an old shirt. At least, that's what he hoped they'd think while continuing to primp and preen in their shaving mirrors. If they studied him, however, they would no doubt see the torn scraps of an old blue-and-white-striped sea jersey he was sewing together, quilt-like. Given time, even the dullest witted of his cabin mates would probably figure out he was fashioning a money belt for transporting a cache of greenbacks the size of which most of them had never seen before and probably never would again. Thrifty, most seamen were not, Talbot had found. And that's what kept them bound to cramped ships captained by mad loners and boisterous miscreants. That's what separated them from him, Mark Talbot, the sailor home from the sea at last. As of tonight, the twenty-seven-year-old Talbot was an exdrifter who had come by most of his two thousand dollars honestly. At least as honestly as anyone else who'd spent seven years rousting about this country and Old Mexico and another year working his way up the western seaboard on a fishing vessel. Now he plucked his booty from the crude compartment he'd carved in the planks beneath his bunk, and secured the cache in the belt. Stuffing the bills in the pockets and patting them flat, he smiled, imagining how thrilled his brother, Dave, was going to be when he saw the booty his long-lost brother was bringing home. Talbot planned to hand over every penny of it to Dave, to help fortify his older brother against the creditors he knew were the bane of even the hardest-working frontier rancher. He figured it was the least he could do, having left his sibling to ranch alone in Dakota while Talbot went off to fight in the Apache Wars with General Crook in Arizona. When he'd mustered out of the cavalry, the battle-weary veteran went down to Mexico looking for his fortune in gold but instead found himself hip-deep in another war, fighting on the side of a poorly organized band of peons against a small army of landed rogues. It wasn't that he loved war, it was that meeting people here and there about the country had made him a sucker for the vanquished--the single man against many, the proud peon fighting the pampered nobleman for a small plot of ground on which to grow his peppers and beans and to raise his kids. When the money appeared evenly distributed, Talbot wrapped the belt around his waist, then covered it with his two alpaca sweaters and wool-lined calfskin vest, a gift from a Mexican peon's daughter. He ran his hand over the vest, remembering the warmth of the girl's lips on his, the silky feel of her naked thighs under his work-roughened hands. Pilar had been her name. Enough time had passed that he could think of her now, remember her almond eyes and her long black hair swinging across her back as she rode her dusty burro through a mesquite-lined arroyo--without feeling the rock in his stomach, the unbearable swelling in his throat. She and her father, the widowed Don Luís, had nursed him back to health after he'd been ambushed in the Cerro Colorados by Yaqui bandits. Talbot had remained on their farm for two months, doing light field work while he recuperated, and falling in love with Pilar, his smoky-eyed Mexican peasant queen. Then one morning while Talbot was off gathering firewood with a tired old mule, government soldiers raided the farm. Talbot saw the smoke and heard the gunfire, but when he'd managed to coax the mule back to the farm--his wounded left leg was still useless for running--the soldados were gone, and Don Luis lay bullet-shredded by the burning jacal. Talbot found Pilar in the stable, beaten and raped, her skirt twisted around her waist, her lovely throat cut, her sightless eyes pinning him with a silent cry for help. Well, maybe enough time hadn't passed, he thought now, appraising his garb through a veil of tears and trying to suppress the memory. Satisfied the money was well concealed, Talbot checked the time on his pocket watch. He had over three hours until his train left San Francisco. He knew the burgeoning California seaport was no place for a peace-seeking man alone at night, especially one with over two thousand dollars on his person. He considered pulling his army-issue gun out of his war bag but decided against it. He was tired of the damn things. Instead of preventing trouble, weapons often only attracted it. Too antsy to remain aboard ship--he'd been anticipating this for too long--Talbot grabbed his war bag, bid farewell to his cabin mates, and headed up the companionway. On deck he strolled aft and gazed over the bulwarks. It was a foggy, haunted night, and full dark. Somewhere in the surrounding hills, bells tolled in a steeple. It was a forlorn sound on a quiet winter's night. Not unpleasantly forlorn. It bespoke land. How long had he waited to set foot again on land? On American soil? Without even glancing around to consider the ship and to bid farewell to the past seven years of wandering, the tall, broad-shouldered young man with a thick mass of curly brown hair snugged his watch cap onto his forehead, lowered himself lightly over the bulwarks, descended the long ramp, and stepped upon the freight-laden wharf with an involuntary sappy grin. A landlubber once again and forever more! He would have knelt and kissed the rough wooden dock but wasn't sure he'd be able to regain his feet; his sea legs gave him the precarious, slightly intoxicated feeling of treading water on land. Swinging the war bag over his shoulder, he picked his way down the wharf and through the dockyards. He found the internationally famous Baldwin's Saloon a half hour later, sandwiched between a brewery and a closed market from which the noise of live geese and ducks issued. Baldwin's was everything he'd heard it would be. Three front doors, several levels divided by mahogany rails, a halfmile long bar, and a clientele composed of everyone from doctors and lawyers to immigrant street workers and heavy-eyed night clerks on their supper breaks. The Chinese market gardeners tended to seclude themselves in the shadows, but their conversations were no less boisterous than those of the Prussian-born bankers from Polk Street. Talbot found a table and stowed his war bag beneath his chair. When one of the half-dozen shiny-faced, impeccably dressed waiters appeared, he ordered a long-anticipated meal and a stein of the beer brewed next door. In spite of the rank odor of wort and hops issuing from the aging vats, he was curious. Ten minutes later he dug into a bowl of thick pea soup laden with ham, heavy slabs of underdone roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and two sides of fresh vegetables. When the waiter returned looking amused, Talbot ordered dessert: suet pudding, which came liberally seasoned with butter and sugar. When it was all over, he shoved his chair out from the table, gave a belch, and loosened his belt. He kicked his legs out before him and crossed his ankles. "Will there be anything else, sir?" came the uppity voice of the waiter. "Another stein," Talbot said. "And what time is it?" "A quarter of ten, sir," the waiter said, glancing haughtily at the big Regulator clock over the bar. Talbot said, "Another now and keep them coming until eleven. I have a ferry to catch at eleven-thirty and a train to catch at one." "Of course, sir." "Let me know when it's time to go, will you?" The man flashed a look of exaggerated reverence. "Why, of course, sir!" Talbot was working his way to the bottom of a third stein and feeling quite dreamy, gazing about him with warm, gauzy, half-tight objectivity. A Chinese busboy, about fourteen, strode past with a tray heaped with dirty dishes balanced on his left shoulder. The boy had a look of concentration on his gaunt, tired face. Probably on the thirteenth hour of a fifteen-hour shift, Talbot thought. He was watching the boy and ruminating on the harshness of life when a leg swung out from one of the tables and a shoe connected with the boy's backside. The blow pushed him awkwardly forward, head snapping back. The tub of dirty dishes fell backward off his shoulder with a raucous crash. Glass flew. The boy gave an indignant scream that seemed meant not only for the fat, red-faced gent who'd assaulted him, but for all the gods in heaven. "Hey!" yelled one of the bartenders above the din, fixing an angry gaze on the boy struggling to his knees. The boy's face was bunched with grief. He wagged his head and blinked back tears. Talbot fought the impulse to intervene. Forget it; it's not your war, he told himself. You're going home. But the voice in his head was drowned out by the image of the poor lad before him, fumbling and sobbing amid the broken glass, and of the man who'd assaulted him--who sat smoking with his compatriots, red-faced with laughter, reveling thoroughly in the boy's humiliation. Talbot pushed his glass around on the table and brooded, hearing the grating laughter of the fat businessmen and feeling his ears warm with anger. "Ah, shit," he sighed, reluctantly pushing himself to his feet. He walked over to the man who'd assaulted the busboy. The man was short, with a paunch and a round face framed by graying muttonchops. The three other men at his table looked like the first and were similarly dressed. Well-to-do businessmen. They were all laughing at the busboy, fat cigars clutched in their fingers. Talbot stopped at their table and gazed down coolly at the round-faced man. "Okay, you've had your fun. Now kindly help the boy gather his dishes." The fat man frowned and lifted his red face to the tall, broad-shouldered sailor standing before him. His laughter had died, replaced by a quizzical grin. "I beg your pardon?" "Help the boy gather his dishes," Talbot repeated, hating the whole mess. "Well!" the man grunted, instantly indignant. "I guess I won't!" He slid his eyes to his companions, who all looked equally outraged. They were not used to being challenged by those beneath them, and they were incensed by such an affront. The Chinese boy mumbled something as he scrambled to retrieve the unbroken plates and beer steins. Talbot thrust out an open hand to him. "Wait." The boy looked up at him, confused. "Stop," Talbot said. "This man is going to help you." The boy squinted and parted his lips, betraying his discomfort with English. But he seemed to realize the gist of Talbot's intervention. Instinctively he recoiled at the thought, shaking his head gloomily. "No," he said. "I...I pick up." "No, he pick up," Talbot said, pointing at the red-faced man, who slid his glowering gaze between the Chinese boy and Talbot, as though he'd just found his calfskin shoes covered with dog shit. "Who the hell do you think you are!" the man yelled at Talbot, standing slowly and puffing out his chest. The tables around them were growing silent. The bartenders were watching, half amused, grateful for the diversion. Frozen with terror, the Chinese boy sat on his butt, watching Talbot and the fat man. His lips moved but he said nothing. An angry red curtain welled up from the corners of Talbot's eyes. From deep in his brain rose Pilar's high-pitched screams for him, who was too far away to save her. "I'm the one who just told you to help that boy pick up his dishes," he said tightly. "I will not!" the man yelled hoarsely, looking to the other tables for help. Talbot's voice was reasonable. "You made him drop them, you'll help him pick them up." "And I told you I won't do it!" Talbot's arms moved so quickly that no one in the room knew what had happened until the sailor's hands hung again at his sides. Then it was obvious from the fat man's stagger backward into his table and from the mottled glow on his cheek that he'd just been slapped. Backhanded. The other men at the table rose slowly and backed away, watching Talbot as though he were some escaped circus animal. Two large, muscular men in frock coats appeared from nowhere, hurrying between the tables. They'd been hired to keep order, but a "Hold it," grunted by one of the barmen, stopped them in their tracks. They looked at the barman witlessly. The barman jerked his head back, and both bouncers retreated. Talbot did not say another word. "Be careful, Albert," one of them whispered to the fat man. "These sailors hide knives in their clothes and know how to use them. Just itch for a reason to, in fact." The fat man, leaning back against the table, pushed the table away. He rubbed his raw cheek and looked up at Talbot with enraged eyes. The man's friends were silently watching behind a veil of cigar smoke, shamed by their fear and inability to help, but also amused. The room was nearly silent. Someone coughed. Talbot could hear the quiet hiss of the gas jets. His heart was pounding but his face was taut and expressionless. The fat man looked at him. The fear in his drunken, glassy eyes was growing, the pupils expanding. "Now help that boy gather his dishes," Talbot said. The man took one more look around the room. No one appeared willing to lend a hand. In fact, they seemed to be enjoying the spectacle. Figuring he could not be any more humiliated than he'd already been, and figuring the only way to end the spectacle without getting stabbed was to comply with the young brute's wishes, the man pushed himself forward, sinking to his hands and knees and gathering the dishes that had rolled under chairs and tables. Too startled to move, the Chinese boy only watched him as he worked, wheezing and cursing under his breath. The others watched as well, though several, unable to endure the fat man's humiliation any longer, returned to their tables and their drinks. They shook their heads and smiled wryly, throwing back their drinks. "Next time you feel like having fun at someone else's expense," Talbot told the fat man when he'd finished filling the tub and was regaining his feet, wheezing and brushing sawdust from his trousers, "remember what goes around usually comes around." Lifting his dark eyes to Talbot's, the man said again, "You'll pay for this, you son of a bitch." He retrieved his crisp bowler from the table and made a beeline to the nearest double doors. His ears and the back of his neck were crimson. Adjusting the hat with the first two fingers of each hand, hiding his face, he pushed angrily through the doors. After Talbot had regained his seat, the waiter appeared with a fresh beer. "This one's on the house. It'll probably be your last." He gave a haughty smile. "Enjoy!" Copyright (c) 2000 by Peter Brandvold Excerpted from Dakota Kill by Peter Brandvold 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.