Kings of Colorado
By David E Hilton
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781439183823, 288pp.)
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
List Price: $24.00*
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A heartfelt portrait of a bygone age.
William Sheppard had never ventured beyond his Chicago neighborhood until, at thirteen, he was sent away to the Swope Ranch Boys’ Reformatory, hundreds of miles from home, for stabbing his abusive father in the chest with a pocketknife. Buried deep in the Colorado mountains, Swope is shrouded in legend and defined by one prevailing rumor: that the boys who go in never come out the same.
Despite the lack of fences or gates, the boundaries are clear: prisoners are days from civilization, there exists only one accessible road—except in the wintertime, when it’s buried under feet upon feet of snow, and anyone attempting escape will be shot down without hesitation in the shadow of the peaks. At 13,000 feet above sea level, the mountains aren’t forgiving, and neither are the guards.
With twenty-four months of hard time ahead of him, Will quickly learns to distinguish his allies from his enemies. He also learns about the high price of a childhood lost. At Swope, herds of mustangs are trucked in to be broken by a select group of inmates. Once the horses are gentled, they are sold to ranchers and landowners across the Southwest. Horses come and go, delinquent boys come and go. The boys break the horses, Swope Reformatory breaks the boys. Throughout this ordeal, Will discovers three others who bring him into their inner circle. They are life preservers in a sea of violence and corruption.
But if the boys are to withstand the ranch, they must first overcome tragedy and death—a feat that could haunt them for years to come.
David E. Hilton earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University in 1998. He wrote Kings of Colorado mostly in his apartment’s stairwell just after the birth of his first son. He spends his spare time either writing or training his miniature dachshund to run in the annual Buda Weiner Dog Races. He lives just outside Austin.