What they're saying about HELLGATE
Historical Novel Society review, May 2018:
It’s 1879 in Arizona Territory, a rough and rowdy—not to mention dangerous—place. Rose LaBelle knows that all too well, since the stagecoach she had been riding in has been shot up, and she has been dragged off by four grubby, lecherous outlaws. Except that one of those outlaws, Caleb Connor, is strangely sympathetic and protective of her. While her family mounts an effort to save her, Rose finds herself imprisoned in the town of Hellgate, where she must ward off the attentions of an entire town full of outlaws.
From the title, the lurid red and black cover, and the author endorsements that tout savagery and violence, I was expecting a Quentin Tarantinoesque bloodbath of a story. While there’s no shortage of pistols firing and arrows piercing flesh, the tale is more nuanced and full-bodied than a mindless shoot-em-up. Well-rounded, sympathetically drawn characters pull the reader instantly into their world—a stark place with love and loss, but room for niceties like gardens and frilly ribboned hats.
Written with skill, care, and attention to detail, Hellgate is both a satisfying read and a worthy addition to the Western genre.
"In HELLGATE, P. Grady Cox delivers an edgy, relentless novel about a savage West that, in spite of its violence, reveals just how much the human spirit can endure."
Johnny Boggs, 7-time Spur Award winning Western author
"Action packed and violent, but the action proceeds from brilliantly conceived, well-developed characters. Longtime readers of western novels and first-time readers will both find a lot to like."
Thomas Cob, bestselling author of Crazy Heart and With Blood in Their Eyes
"Rose LaBelle, traveling to join her father and aunt in the territorial capital of Prescott, Arizona, is kidnapped by Mason McCabe's outlaw gang. McCabe deals in kidnapped women, and his hideout, Hellgate, is aptly named. With help from one of McCabe's men and her own iron will, young Rose fights to save herself and other prisoners. The violence might shock some readers, but the characters are well realized and the plot action packed."
Western Writers of America
"An outlaw gang led by Mason McCabe has established a formidable headquarters called Hellgate in an extinct volcano close to Prescott, Arizona. McCabe’s purpose is to have his henchmen rob, terrorize, and kill in their pursuit of gathering wealth and kidnapping women and children to transport to Mexico to be sold into slavery. In the holdup of a stagecoach on its way to Prescott, the desperadoes capture Rose and haul her to Hellgate. The brutality of Hellgate is hinted at by the stench of death noticeable a mile away. Rose, her chains removed and suffering through her days in a filthy tent, finds a would-be rescuer in a piano-playing man. Together they plot an escape plan for themselves and the many women and children being held. Hellgate is a brutally violent story. The bad guys are extremely bad, and the good guys, including Rose, are only marginally better. The brutal nature of Cox’s latest (after Chasm Creek, 2015) may shock traditional western readers but could find a crossover audience of horror fans.
Reg Quist, Booklist Reviews
Chapter One - An excerpt
“In this land of precarious fortunes, every girl should know how to be useful . . .”
Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, author of The Girl’s Own Book
Somewhere between Phoenix and Wickenburg, Arizona Territory, November, 1879
Rose LaBelle lay where they had shoved her, sharp pebbles pressing into her cheek.
The boot poked her ribs again.
“You know how to cook?”
She closed her eyes against the image the deep southern drawl evoked—the recent memory of him hauling her from the stagecoach, a big man with big hands that had held fast against
her struggles—but now her eyes shot open as bloody bandaged fingers hooked into her blouse’s collar. He pulled her up a ways from the ground, then let her drop.
“Ah said, kin you cook.”
“No!” She threw a handful of dirt at him; he swore and slapped her. Blood dripped from her lip, and her full bladder released warm wetness down her inner thigh.
There were four of them. The other three busied themselves setting up camp for the night. The tall one, called Caleb, knelt over a pile of sticks, held a match to them, and blew gently. His hair hung down on either side of his face, and she hoped it would burst into flame, but the flickering fire erupted without incident.
“Jesus, Sam!” A high-pitched voice came from behind her. “You oughta know a fine lady like her woulda had a cook.”
“Shut up, Eddie. She bit my finger half off. Since when does fine ladies do that?” His heavy boots scraped the sandy dirt, and a shadow fell across Rose as Sam passed between her and the campfire, on his way to join the others.
They’d tied the horses nearby. Steam rose from a pile of fresh manure, and scurrying beetles crawled over the droppings while the outlaws finished setting up. She guessed the one called Dodger was the leader, since he was always yelling orders. She sat up, pulled her clothing together as best she could with her bound wrists, and huddled into her cape. Images stabbed her mind, fresh and vivid and brutal. She couldn’t stop the memories that carried her back to what had happened only hours ago, when she was on that road with her arms pinned behind her and Sam’s hot breath huffing against her neck.
The driver and the guard, sprawled across the top of the stagecoach, stared with dead eyes. Dangling arms waved each time the nervous horses pulled against their harnesses. Caleb spoke soothing words and settled the team. On the road behind the stage, the bodies of the extra guards lay beneath the film of dust their fleeing horses had left behind.
A bolt of fabric unraveled in the dirt where Eddie threw it as he searched the stage’s boot for valuables. White silk for her wedding gown fluttered in the breeze like a flag of surrender.
Sam’s hold on her arms tightened when Dodger sank dirty fingers into her cheeks, and turned her head so she had to look into his jaundiced eyes framed by stringy black hair.
“You married? Ever been with a man?”
Stories of the
FIVE STAR PUBLISHING, A DIVISION OF CENGAGE - Available April 2018
Hellgate. The name strikes fear throughout Arizona Territory. Mason McCabe’s
nightmarish village huddles in an extinct volcano’s crater. His business is stolen goods
and stolen women. All criminals welcome. An outlaw, Caleb Connor, is protecting the captive
Rose LaBelle, but her life is endangered when McCabe takes a personal interest in her.
Rose fights the horrors of Hellgate while her Aunt Mary Alice, at her home in Prescott, the
territorial capital, struggles with her own bondage to laudanum, alcohol, and morphine.
The gothic darkness of Hellgate juxtaposed with the civilized territorial capital provides
the perfect backdrop for this story of courage, redemption, and triumph over despair.
Patricia Grady Cox