Smoke of the .45 (Harry Sinclair Drago, 1923)

A western mystery. A stranger rides into a small Nevada town, takes a room at the hotel, and later that night is discovered dead. It was framed as a suicide, but Johnny Dice suspects murder and sets out to bring the guilty to justice. It turns out that nineteen years before, the man was a mining partner of two of the town’s most prominent residents. When they struck pay dirt, the pair decided they’d rather not split the fortune three-ways and left the man for dead in the desert. Until then, they thought the matter was settled, but when the past came back to haunt them, they saw only one way to prevent exposure.

Inscription: Robert E. Shroule, signed on the front flyleaf.

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Friar Tuck (Robert Alexander Wason, 1912)

An idealistic preacher travels west to escape from the memory of the girl he lost. As fate would have it, he finds Janet in the custody of Ty Jones, an unscrupulous rancher. She appears to have amnesia and it’s not clear how she came to be there, but the word is that Ty has taken her for a wife. After a shootout in which Ty is paralyzed, he confesses that she’s actually his half-sister and he kidnapped her in revenge for their mother keeping her and abandoning him. Janet’s amnesia was caused by a brain tumor. Once the pressure on her brain is relieved, her memory returns and she and the Friar marry.

Inscriptions: Two sentence fragments have been underlined for reasons I can’t fathom. Underlined on page 32 is “The’ was somethin’ peculiar about the Friar’s grin when he first sighted Columbus, and”, and around a dozen lines later on page 33, “So that’s what we made up to do;”. Apart from that, there are no other markings on the book.

Flowing Gold (Rex Beach, 1922)

In the war, Calvin Gray was dishonorably discharged on the false accusations of a fellow officer. The other man, Henry Nelson, is now the vice-president of a bank in Texas. Gray arrives in town and sets about first enriching himself in the oil boom, then using his funds to stage a hostile takeover of the bank and ruin Nelson.

Gray isn’t only driven by spite. He becomes close friends of the Briskows, a family of nouveau-riche “nesters” — quite rustic in character but trying to find a guide to help them enter society. Many are willing to take their money, but Gray seems to be the only one who doesn’t laugh when their backs are turned. Allie, the Briskow daughter, falls in love with Gray.

No inscriptions.

The Vanishing American (Zane Grey, 1925)

Nophaie is a Pahute Indian who was kidnapped at a young age and sent to school in the East. Now that he’s returned West to his people, he struggles reconciling his culturally white upbringing and his Indian heritage, particularly in matters of faith. He intellectually cannot bring himself to believe in the Pahute animist religion, but neither can he accept Christianity, which he associates with being inherently white. It doesn’t help that the Christian figurehead in the region sets a poor example. The Pahute suffer under the missionary Morgan, who, far from being interested in spreading the faith, wishes only to consolidate his power and enrich himself. Also complicating Nophaie’s life is Marian Warner. They went to school together and fell in love, but Marian is white, and such miscegenation would not be supported by either’s relations. Still, she follows Nophaie to the desert.

In the aftermath of World War I, the Pahutes’ condition becomes dire. The price of wool, their primary trade, plummets. Morgan has stolen most of their land, and more, their water rights. They are overworked and starving, and when the Spanish Influenza arrives, they die in droves. Nophaie, who had fought and sustained serious injury in the war, is not spared. As he nears death, he realizes that the “God of Indian and white man” is universal and the same, but the Indians’ days are numbered and they will soon vanish in the face of the whites’ onslaught.

Inscription: On the back of the frontispiece in smudged green ink is a signature that’s very difficult to decipher, but I think it’s Maymie Fitzpatrick.