Cover image for Kelly and the three-toed horse : a novel featuring Yelowstone Kelly, Gentleman, and Scout
Kelly and the three-toed horse : a novel featuring Yelowstone Kelly, Gentleman, and Scout
Bowen, Peter, 1945-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
326 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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

On Order



When the fossilized skeleton of a small, three-toed horse found inside a local bar turns out to be a hot commodity among the scientific elite from back East, Yellowstone Kelly is commissioned as a scout to lead one of several competing research parties into the wilds of Wyoming. In this dangerous and unpredictable territory, where angry Sioux and Cheyenne lurk behind every corner and a maniacal killer named Blue Fox is stalking the parties, each new discovery could mean scientific fame, and every move could mean instant and violent death.Full of ingenious twists and turns, and the wily wit that fans of Peter Bowen's novels have come to love, Kelly and the Three-Toed Horse is a rip-roaring tale of adventure, told with an amoral panache that's at once fun and refreshing.This novel and its predecessors are based on the real-life exploits of Luther Yellowstone Kelly, a hunter, scout, rancher, and ambassador between the white and native people of the 19th-century West.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Luther "Yellowstone" Kelly hires on with paleontologist Jonathan Cope and his stunning assistant, Alys de Bonneterre, to find the remains of a long-extinct three-toed horse. Any expedition in the late-nineteenth-century West is fraught with danger from Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, unforgiving elements, and outlaws. As Kelly, a hunter, scout, and sometimes ambassador to the beleaguered Native Americans soon learns, none of the standard dangers holds a candle to the treachery of ambitious academics. As the adventure progresses, the band is stalked by Blue Fox, a Dartmouth-educated Cheyenne with a homicidal twist, and a romance develops between Kelly and Alys, who, in her own blue-blood fashion, is every bit a match for the rough-hewn westerner. The Kelly novels, loosely based on a real person, reinforce the growing stature of Bowen, who receives deservedly rave reviews for his Montana mysteries featuring Gabe DuPre. Both series feature an endearing, slightly mysterious protagonist who always has one more unexplored trait, unparalleled dialogue that hints at ethnic or regional inflections, and a very sly sense of humor. --Wes Lukowsky

Publisher's Weekly Review

Yellowstone Kelly, gunfighter, scout, tracker, ladies' man and legend in his own lifetime, makes his fourth appearance in this rollicking western set in the 1870s that is not so much a mystery as a bawdy comic yarn enlivened by Kelly's own unique take on the period and the place a take often gruffly sympathetic to the Native American point of view. After the discovery of a rare fossil skeleton (the horse of the title), an ambitious professor hires Kelly to lead a party through Wyoming Indian territory in search of further specimens. Along for the trip is a tough, pretty blonde, Alys, who records the finds and finds Kelly pretty hard to resist. Dogging their trail is Blue Fox, a Dartmouth-educated psychopathic Cheyenne who keeps coming up with increasingly bloodthirsty ways to kill off the collection of immoral scoundrels surrounding Kelly. Kelly keeps on thinking Blue Fox is finally dead. Blue Fox keeps on returning for more. And so it goes. The author clearly has fun with these books (Imperial Kelly, etc.), and while period authenticity is not his highest priority, real-life characters like Wild Bill Hickock do show up from time to time. The Old West is a wonderfully wild place in Bowen's hands. (Apr. 6 ) FYI: Bowen is also the author of Cruzatte and Maria (Forecasts, Feb. 12) and other Gabriel Du Pr‚ mysteries. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One We was all drunk that day.     After years of graft, corruption, chicanery, double-dealing, theft, death, and all them other exercises in basic American character the two mobs of thieves had finally met in Utah, and the railroad stretched from coast to coast.     "I'm so happy I don't know whether to puke or go blind," says 3-Card Thurman. He had gotten fairly rich from the fool laborers on the Union Pacific, whose callused fingers couldn't feel his shaved decks of cards, 3-Card could gamble honest if he had to, and he only had to if some smart feller had an assistant stick a gun in his ear.     We was back a ways from the big party, around the spot where the two tracks met, what with all the nobs and speculators and politicians and journalists clubbed up close to where the Golden Spike was to be drove home. Me and 3-Card was on top of a water tower, and we could see good right down to the spot where Durant and Crocker was going to symbolically nail the nation together.     It was quite a ceremony.     After some speechifying, Durant staggered over to the tie that binds and a flunky handed him a sledge. He was grass-grabbin' drunk, and he swung the sledge up, damn near busting the jaw of some scribbler, and he dropped the head wobbly-like and it hit the tie and bounced off and got a politician in the knee.     "This ain't as bad as it could be," I says to 3-Card. "A couple of 'em might die."     A couple of Durant's toadies lifted him off the ground he'd folded up on and one of 'em held the sledge up high and the other wrapped Durant's fingers around the handle.     Durant hit the dirt and fell over, nose down on the rail.     He didn't move, and the flunks lifted him up and a feller in rough honest workingman's clothes drove the spike home. Durant's head was lolling.     Then Charley Crocker of the Central Pacific lumbered forward to take his swings at the spike the sledgeman had set. Charley was so damn fat he couldn't see the spike over his belly, and time he bent over far enough to tell where it was, he'd missed it again.     He did manage to get a lawyer's foot, though, with his last swing.     "How the hell can you tell it's a lawyer?" says 3-Card.     "He was tryin' to pick Crocker's pocket," I says. "What else could he be?"     The lawyer's foot was poorly for it. He was writhing on the ground and screaming.     Finally, Charley Crocker wore hisself out swinging, and he dropped the sledge and gasped and put a hand to his chest. I was hoping for him dropping dead, but after a few heaves he seemed fine, damn it, and he stood with Durant, while Durant's flunks held him up, and photographers set off a lot of flash powder and everybody hurrahed, everybody near 'em, anyway. A lot of us on the outside had a different opinion.     "More riffraff," says Blue Fox, a Cheyenne acquaintance who'd gone through Dartmouth College and didn't think much of it. I sorta suspected he was the Indian who come up to one of General Grenville Dodge's sentries three years before and asked in a plummy English accent for directions; it seemed his hunting party had got lost. The poor soldier got all helpful and ended up dead and scalped and all Dodge's horses were stolen.     When I asked Blue Fox about that he got all horrified-looking and said he was desolate that I could think such a thing of him. Well, it was goddamned easy. The horse thieves had been Cheyennes and I purely couldn't think of one of them had English good enough to pull that off, but ...     There was a boom toward the west, and a big cloud of smoke with timbers flying everywhere and I even saw a couple bodies flopping through the air. Some Irish lads had set off fireworks by way of celebration.     "Shit," says 3-Card, "there's that goddamned Luke Gooding. I will see you boys around," and he slid down the timbers and rode off casual-like. Luke was a Federal Marshal, and if he wished to speak with 3-Card, it was a sure bet 3-Card would really not like to speak to him.     Luke was sort of not looking but looking and finally he seen me and he began to mosey over toward the water tower me and Blue Fox was on.     "As concerned citizens," says Blue Fox, "perhaps we should have made a citizen's arrest."     "You ain't a citizen," I says to Blue Fox. "And besides, Luke is a good man and maybe he'll just shoot you by way of the public good."     I couldn't help liking that Cheyenne son of a bitch. And I sure as hell couldn't blame him for killing every soldier and track layer he could manage. This damn railroad meant the end of his people, and he knew it.     Luke was gettin' closer, slipping through the crowd, never looking up. He went round the back of the water tower, to cut off escape, and I heard him cuss a little and then he clambered up.     "I'd like to swear out a complaint," says Blue Fox.     "I'll goddamn bet you would," says Luke. "Likely arrest and hang everybody here."     "What a wonderful idea," says Blue Fox.     "Kelly," says Luke, keeping an eye on Blue Fox, "I know damn well you been with 3-Card. Now where is he?"     Luke was a good man, but not a real patient one, and if I hemmed and hawed, he'd throw me off the tower, see it improved my memory.     "Left when he seen you," I says.     "3-Card cut a whore over to Rosie's couple days ago," says Luke, "for no more than laughin' at his pecker."     "CUT A WHORE!" me and Blue Fox beliers together.     This was one of them things just ain't allowed out here. Whores is just as good as anybody else out here, and that is that.     "That bastard," I says.     Blue Fox had stood up on the timber.     "Rosie's is a good place," he says.     Was, too. You come in, you take your bath and put on clean clothes, you go to the big parlor, pick your girl out, and go on upstairs. You behave. You don't, Rosie's bouncer, a four-hundred-pound Kraut named Wolf, beats hell out of you and then throws you out the third-floor window. A couple of drunk drummers pulled guns on him once, shot him five times. He smashed their heads together so damn hard Rosie had to put new wallpaper in the room, since the old wallpaper was covered in spatters of brains.     "Cut her and left her tied," says Luke, "and sneaked off."     "Didn't know Luke had them habits," says Blue Fox. This from a feller once slowly skinned a couple soldiers, for three days, while sixteen of us was bottled up in a blind canyon, just to make sure we didn't sleep so good.     Us whites was just as bad, and you don't hear the stories because we won, whatever that is.     "Well," says Federal Marshal Luke Gooding, "I expect I'll just have to go after him."     "Stuff and nonsense," says Blue Fox. "Kelly and me are headed that way. 3-Card's a good cheat, but he ain't what you'd call a plainsman."     Christ on a stickhorse, here I was being volunteered to ride with one of the worst cutthroats I ever knew, and I knew plenty, after goddamned 3-Card. Still, cutting a whore was about as bad a thing as you could do out here.     "When you catch him," says Luke, "arrest him and bring him to the nearest stop on the railroad."     "Guaranteed," says Blue Fox.     "I mean it," says Luke.     "Of course you do," says Blue Fox.     "This all right with you, Kelly?" says Luke.     "No," I says, "but it'll have to do." I had business on toward Cheyenne, and Blue Fox would be a handy companion. He wouldn't kill me because he was smart enough to know I might be of use to him some day.     "I got to go west a little," says Luke. "Them damn Loper brothers robbed a train a hundred miles west. Thing ain't even been built all the way through, and they're at it." And he slid down to the ground and went off to kill the Loper brothers. Thing about Luke was he hated paperwork, and it was a rare time when whoever he was after survived. I'd seen a report of his.     "Whun i fend hem he's shotted," it read.     Blue Fox and me was sober, maybe the only ones in the ten thousand or so celebrants all clustered around the Golden Spike. We got some grub on our way east and settled into a lope along the old trail. 3-Card would stay on it till he got over the mountains, at least.     We come on his tracks soon enough, and long before sundown we caught up to him. He was maybe a half mile ahead, bouncing along in the saddle like his ass was india rubber.     Blue Fox was riding along beside me easy as you please, and then I looked south for a moment--something had moved--and he tore the reins out of my hand and slipped the headstall off my horse just like that and spurred his horse and left me. Mine slowed down and looked at me, not knowing what to do.     I watched. Blue Fox held close down on his horse's neck, and he come up behind 3-Card, and I saw his war club, a stone in a rawhide quirt, whirl up and come down. 3-Card threw his arms up and fell back, his skull smashed.     Blue Fox had tossed my headstall onto a greasewood bush. I got down and put it on my horse. Time I was back up Blue Fox was gone.     I rode past 3-Card, facedown, blood leaking from his head. His horse was rearing, scared bad, but the gelding calmed when I grabbed the reins. I got down and made a hackamore out of my rope and slipped off 3-Card's saddle and left it by him and went on.     I needed a spare mount, and there wasn't a thing I could do for 3-Card.