LSBBT Tour: Rio Bonito by Preston Lewis


The Three Rivers Trilogy, Book 2
Categories: Western / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Pub Date: August 18, 2021
Pages: 336 pages

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With Lincoln County teetering on the edge of lawless turmoil, small rancher Wes Bracken avoids taking sides, but his goal is complicated by his devotion to what he sees as justice and by his friendship with William H. Bonney, who’s developing a reputation as Billy the Kid.  

As Lincoln County devolves into explosive violence, Bracken must skirt the edge of the law to guarantee the survival of his family, his spread, and his dream. But dangers abound from both factions for a man refusing to take sides. Before the Lincoln County War culminates on the banks of the Rio Bonito during a five-day shootout in Lincoln, Bracken is accused of being both a vigilante and a rustler. As the law stands idly by, Bracken’s ranch is torched, and his wife is assaulted by the notorious outlaw Jesse Evans. Survival trumps vengeance, though, as Bracken tries to outlast the dueling factions aimed at destroying him. 

At every turn Bracken must counter the devious ploys of both factions and fight against lawmen and a court system skewed to protect the powerful and politically connected. Against overwhelming odds, Bracken challenges the wicked forces arrayed against him in hopes of a better life for himself, for his family, and for New Mexico Territory. And throughout it all, Bracken stands in the growing shadow of his sometime pal, Billy the Kid.  


Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of 40 westerns, historical novels, juvenile books and memoirs.  He has received national awards for his novels, articles, short stories and humor.   

In 2021 he was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters for his literary accomplishments.  Lewis is past president of Western Writers of America and the West Texas Historical Association.   

His historical novel Blood of Texas on the Texas Revolution earned a Spur Award as did his True West article on the Battle of Yellow House Canyon.  He developed the Memoirs of H.H. Lomax series, which includes two Spur finalists and a Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award for western humor for his novel Bluster’s Last Stand on the battle of Little Big Horn.  His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin and two of his YA novels have won Elmer Kelton Awards for best creative work on West Texas from the West Texas Historical Association. 

He began his writing career working for Texas daily newspapers in Abilene, Waco, Orange and Lubbock before going into university administration.  During his 35-year career in higher education, he directed communications and marketing offices at Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Angelo State University.   

Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University and master’s degrees from Ohio State in journalism and Angelo State in history.  He lives in San Angelo with his wife, Harriet. 

Excerpt from Rio Bonito

By Preston Lewis

Wes glanced toward home and saw a tower of black smoke rising above the mountain crest that screened his view of his property. He kicked his sorrel’s flank and slapped the reins against his neck, sending Charlie charging down the trail. He looked over his shoulder and glanced Jace dropping in his saddle and reaching for his Henry, which he jerked out of the scabbard and charged after Wes, who left his Winchester carbine sheathed so not to delay his race to check on his wife and boys. The sorrel outpaced his partner’s dun, and Wes soon reached the Y in the road and shook the lines so his sorrel galloped toward home. As he made the turn, Wes felt like he had been gutted with a dull knife. 

His barn had been torched!

Wes screamed at Charlie to fly ahead. His gut knotted when he spotted the wide-open front door of his home. “Sarafina! Sarafina!” he yelled as he raced homeward, panicked over the safety of his wife, his boys and his horses. 

The barn still flamed, but it had collapsed on itself and was now just a burning pile of debris. Drawing closer to his place, he scanned for his breeding stock, but observed only clumps in the corral, reminding him of Tunstall’s dead horse. Wes knew that his breeding horses had been slaughtered, but he could accept their loss if only Sarafina and his boys survived. Terrified over the fate of his family, Wes never thought to look for the attackers, turning off the road toward his house and urging every ounce of energy from the stallion. Charlie dodged one furry lump in the trail, then another, and Wes realized Nip and Tuck had been shot too.

“Sarafina! Sarafina!” he cried. 

“I’m right behind you,” called Jace. “Find your family. I’ll kill the bastards that did this.” 

Nearing the house, Wes spotted a white form on the ground between the adobe and barn, realizing it was his Sarafina. He raced to the lump, jerked on the reins and leaped from the saddle, landing on his feet and running to his wife. “Sarafina, Sarafina, talk to me.” He fell to his knees beside her and grimaced at her bloody face and the knot on her forehead. Gently, he slid his arm under her shoulders and lifted her head, uncertain if she was alive or dead. 

Jace raced by on his dun, circling the house and the bunkhouse before charging to the demolished barn and riding around the debris. He cursed. “Bastards!” he yelled, galloping to Wes and yanking back on the reins at the same time he jumped to the ground. Landing on his feet, he ran to Wes, tossing his Henry aside and squatting by the couple. “How is she?” he gasped.

“I don’t know. God, please let her live.”

In an instant, Jace shot up from the earth and raced to his dun, untying the canteen from the saddle horn and yanking the cork from its mouth. He stepped to his partner, pulled his kerchief from around his neck and doused it with water, offering the wet cloth to Wes, who took it and gently wiped his wife’s face. 

Sarafina’s head twitched, and she tried to lift it, moaning at the effort. Her eyelids fluttered, opened and then narrowed into slits to limit the bright sunlight prying at her eyes. She seemed to recognize Wes, a slight smile worming its way across her lips, then disappearing. “Mi esposo,” she whispered, “¿dónde están mis hijos?

“She’s asking about the boys, Jace, where are they?”

Jace handed Wes the canteen and jumped up, retrieving his Henry and brushing the dirt off as he sprinted to the house. “Luis, Roberto, where are you? Boys?” he cried as he ran through the open door. 

Wes took the container and tipped it to Sarafina’s lips, which parted enough to take a sip.

Jace ran back out the door. “I can’t find them,” he shouted, before retreating inside again. 

Mis hijos,” Sarafina said, choking on her drink of water and coughing. 

“Who did this?” Wes asked, pulling the canteen from her lips.

Mis hijos,” Sarafina repeated.

“Who did this?”

Her eyes widening, Sarafina understood. “A la que llaman Jesús.”

“Jesse? Was it Jesse?”

Sarafina nodded. “Y otro hombre.” 

That other man, Wes knew, had to be Tom Hill.

Jace barged out of the house, carrying the two boys. “I found them, Sarafina. I found your sons. They were hiding under your bed. Luis was protecting little Roberto.”

Wes gritted his teeth, vowing to punish those that had done this to his wife, to his boys, to his horses and to his place. 

1st: Signed copies of Rio Ruidoso & Rio Bonito; 
2nd: Signed copy of 
Rio Bonito. 
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 9/17/21)

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  1. Uh-oh -- I smell a strong dose of revenge on the horizon. Great excerpt. Thanks for sharing.


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