Friday, February 14, 2014

Finding Billy Battles by Ronald E. Yates: Spotlight, Excerpt and Review

 


BOOK INFORMATION


Title:  Finding Billy Battles

Author:  Ronald E. Yates

Published:  November 26th, 2013

Publisher:  Xlibris

Word Count:  127,000

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Adventure

Recommended Age:  17+

 

Synopsis: Western Kansas 1860. Billy Battles is born on a remote homestead just off the storied Santa Fe Trail. More than one hundred years later a great-grandson inherits two trunks filled with Billy's personal effects.
 
In those trunks are several secret journals that reveal an astonishing life of adventure and violence that until now was obscured by the haze of time and Billy's desire for secrecy. The journals tell of a man both haunted and hunted who, in a desperate search for peace and redemption, journeys far from the untamed American West to the Far East, South America, and Europe. In amazing detail they describe Billy's interaction with a wide assortment of men and women--some legendary, a few iniquitous, and many lost to history. They also recount his participation in such cataclysmic events as the Spanish-American War, turmoil in French Indochina, and violent revolutions in Mexico and South America.

Complying with Billy's last request the great-grandson assembles the journals into a compelling trilogy that reveals a man often trapped and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond his control, but who nevertheless manages to persevere for ten decades.
 


 EXCERPT



Excerpt from Finding Billy Battles by Ronald E. Yates: 

Kansas City, 1948 
My full name is William Fitzroy Raglan Battles, but most folks call me Billy Battles. My good friends call me Billy “Rags” Battles. More on that later.
Let me begin by owning up to some pretty terrible things I did during my life. That way, you can make up your mind right now if you want to read further.
I have killed people. And I am sad to say the first person I killed was a woman. It was entirely unintentional, and to this day, the incident haunts me. The next person I killed was that woman’s grown son, and that was intentional. If you decide to read on, you will learn more about these two people and how they came to die at my hands.
You will also learn about other things I did—some of which I am not proud of, some of which I am. In the course of my life, I got into a lot of brawls where I had to defend myself and others in a variety of ways. I did so without regret, because in each case, someone was trying to do me or someone else harm.
Now I know the Christian Bible says it is a sin to kill, and in some of these imbroglios, I probably could have walked away and avoided the ensuing violence. I chose not to because I learned early in my life that walking away from a scrap is too often seen as a sign of weakness or cowardice and simply incites bullies and thugs to molest you later on. There were a few individuals who tried their damndest to put an end to me, but fortunately, I was able to dispatch or incapacitate those malefactors before they could apply the coup de grâce.
So there you have it—a forewarning about me and my sometimes-turbulent life. As the Romans used to say, “Caveat emptor,” if you decide to continue reading.
I don’t know if anybody will ever read what I am putting to paper here, but I figure I should do it anyway. A few folks have told me my experiences are fascinating because they show what it was like in Kansas and a lot of other places in the last century, when life could turn violent and capricious without warning.
As I am writing this, I am eighty-eight years old, and the year is 1948. I am not sure how much longer I will be on this earth, so I figure I had better write pretty fast before I join the Great Majority. I have been fortunate in that my memory still serves me quite well, but I must admit that for much of my life, I kept several journals, and it’s those journals that have kept my mind on the trail when it was inclined to wander off into the brush.
It’s also those journals that helped me make sense, now that I am an old man, of some of the things I saw and did during my life. It’s a funny thing, but as you grow older and you have time to look back on your life, things begin to make more sense to you. I guess that’s what they call wisdom—not that I’m necessarily a wise man. I’m just somebody who had the good fortune to see and do a lot of things—some pretty awful, some pretty wonderful—and the good Lord has blessed me, or cursed me, with the capacity to remember most of them.
There are some things I wish I could forget—things other people did and things that I did. But I cannot. Consequently, I have lived for decades with many ghosts—not the kind that appear as apparitions in the night, but the kind that grab hold of your mind and force you to remember even when you don’t want to.
I know what it is like to be a hunter of men, and I know what it is like to be hunted. I can tell you, I much prefer the former over the latter. I have known and caused terrible fear. I have experienced and inflicted dreadful pain. I have loved and been loved, and I have been, without doubt, hated by some.
But I have always tried to live my life as my mother taught me—with uprightness, reliability, and consequence. I wasn’t always successful. Sometimes my disposition turned dark, and I did things I truly regret today. I am, after all, one of God’s wretched creatures—a simple mortal with all the imperfections and deficiencies of that species.



REVIEW

5 STARS

This book captures the unique personality, flavor, and wildness of the old American West as we follow the life and adventures of a young man through a period of about 30 years. The prologue gives the backstory and generally held my interest, but once I began reading the first chapter I was a goner.  The tale just seemed to flow from the page on my kindle into my thoughts and mind. I love books which allow me to become so immersed into the story that I lose track of time and forget my sense of self for a while. This book did that.  The descriptive detail was phrased with such care that I could see, hear and smell the surroundings.  The people were colorful, and when they spoke the cadence, rhythm, and turn of phrase seemed quite authentic to the time period. Even though there were some turns of phrases I was totally unfamiliar with, they still felt genuine. It was magnificent!

I personally feel this book deserves a brighter, more interesting cover.  It is dark and drab; does not well depict the mesmerizing story that lies within.  Besides the lackluster cover, I have one other minor peeve, and it is this.  Especially in the first half of the book, and usually at the ends of chapters, there are short glimpses forecasting future events or repercussions.  For me, already fully engaged in the story as it is unfolding, these quick teasers felt, for the most part, unnecessary. In fact, they actually pulled me out of the zone as they tended to force my mind to bounce around in new directions briefly trying to figure out how and when the new revelation would occur. The exception is the last bit at the end of this book. With Billy embarking on a significant new adventure, it is obvious that this journey will further test the mettle of a man already made strong, resilient, and forthright from the challenges he has faced. That forecast made me particularly eager to read the next book in this series so I can find out what transpires next for Billy Battles. If you enjoy historical fiction set in the American West then this novel is one you will not want to miss reading.  The well-written prose combined with the often humorous dry, witty vernacular of the period will surely appeal to even the most discriminating historical aficionado.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest review.

Reviewed by Laurie-J


AUTHOR BIO

Ronald E. Yates is a former award-winning foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Dean Emeritus of the College of Media at the University of Illinois where he was also a Professor of Journalism.

He is the author of Finding Billy Battles, the first in a trilogy of novels published Nov. 2013 and The Kikkoman Chronicles: A Global Company with A Japanese Soul, published by McGraw-Hill. His books also 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.

Yates lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in Japan, Southeast Asia and Latin America where he covered several major stories including the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975, the 1989 Tiananmen Square tragedy in Beijing, and revolutions in Nicaragua, El Salvador an Guatemala. He is a graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.


GIVEAWAY 

Giveaway Details:

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
Two print copies of Finding Billy Battles (US & Canada only)
Three eBook copies of Finding Billy Battles (INT)
 


 
TOUR INFO
 
 
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