Authors: Terry Irving
“action-packed adventure that includes nefarious government forces, intramural tribal conflict, and motorcycle gangs”
“Irving’s (Courier, 2015) historical thriller, the second in his Freelancer series, offers a provocative reinterpretation of the infamous Wounded Knee incident.
Irving reprises the picaresque role of Rick Putnam, a motorcycle-riding courier and war-hardened Vietnam veteran. Set in 1973, the story centers on the Wounded Knee debacle in South Dakota, in which members of the American Indian Movement seized and occupied a small town within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
In this fictional version, the activists, surrounded and beleaguered by U.S. law enforcement, are increasingly threatened with the possibility of a final, deadly raid that ends the standoff once and for all. Rick joins his Native American friend, Eve [Buffalo Calf], in an attempt to sneak badly needed supplies past the blockade surrounding the town.
The area is crackling with violence, riddled with various tribal factions all deeply territorial, suspicious of outsiders, and accustomed to spontaneous bouts of violence. Rick, troubled by the political intrigue he encountered (and barely survived) in the previous novel, uncovers yet more subterfuge regarding the collusion of the federal government with corrupt officials within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
What follows is an action-packed adventure that includes nefarious government forces, intramural tribal conflict, and motorcycle gangs. Rick remains the constant through the two volumes: he’s still a chain-smoking, wisecracking tough guy haunted by memories of service in Vietnam. His character can be a bit overdrawn, flirting with caricature as the wounded but incorruptible warrior with “eidetic memory.”
However, his developing romance with Eve humanizes him, adding a layer of complexity and vulnerability. Once again, the story’s pace is torrid, moving from one taut scene to another while the historical drama of Wounded Knee facilitates Irving’s principal strength: rendering the wildly implausible believable. Rick’s irrepressible wit will help readers through the sometimes-dark material. In response to a Native American introducing himself as Pete Talltrees, Pawnee out of Oklahoma, Rick responds, “Rick Putnam, BMW out of Washington DC.”
“Warrior takes off like a crotch rocket. Wounded Knee with more action than Custer’s Last Stand and the intrigue of spy master David Ignatius novels. It’s Philip Marlowe on the mean streets inside the Beltway and the dusty dirt roads of Indian country…"
ABC NEWS Special Events Producer
“Warrior is a novel of danger and heartache, a tense military story that digs into the American Indian past and present, a narrative with lyrical passages of natural description from which the smell of cordite rises…”
Mr. Glamour, One Lost Summer
“After years of watching them you’ve probably realized broadcast news guys are more than a little nuts. The good ones are. Overcoming deadline pressures and technology challenges isn’t possible without doing crazy things. Novelist Terry Irving is a broadcast news guy. So is Rick Putnam, the protagonist of his new novel, Warrior, who learned to do crazy things to live through the Vietnam war and brought that craziness home to a Nixon administration America uncertain how to treat the warriors who made it back alive. Putnam had to kill to survive Vietnam firefights, but, on most nights, survivor’s guilt brings to his nightmares the faces of those who died and any chance of sleep ends with his screams.
“In Courier, the first novel in this series, Putnam finds solace and some escape from the guilt when he takes a master’s command of motorcycles which respond to his every whim. But the craziness isn’t gone during the hours Putnam is awake. He employs it to take insane chances while racing through traffic just to deliver on time the exposed film his network needs for nightly newscasts. In Warrior, he puts it to better use in harrowing chase scenes as he tries to stop a madman from both defiling children and ruining Indian land for energy exploitation. Too often, action and suspense novels don’t deliver on the suspense. Readers know that, whatever the odds, heroes like Clancy’s Jack Ryan or Child’s Jack Reacher will beat them and prevail. It’s fun, but the reader knows the good guy will always win. Not so with Rick Putnam.
On the surface, Putnam shares the tough guy qualities we’ve come to expect in the genre. He constantly works out to keep his body in fighting form and, in well written action sequences, certainly knows how to fight. “Putnam’s guilt is key. He skilled at killing but doesn’t want to add more faces to those nightmares. Even in life and death struggles, Putnam risks himself and others by trying to stop the bad guys in some way other than death. His aversion is so strong, the reader is left to wonder whether the always present guilt has created a subconscious death wish that guides both his fighting and the motorcycle exploits Irving has written so well you know they’ll translate easily to the big screen. Putnam is a survivor but, in Irving’s hands, you just don’t know whether Putnam’s ghosts will keep him from surviving anymore. That’s the tension, and it keeps you turning the page.”
Veteran Washington DC Journalist
Ronin Robot Press
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Rock Creek Consulting, LLC 9715 Holmhurst Road
Bethesda MD 20817
Copyright © Terry Irving 2015 Cover art by Nick Castle Design
Terry Irving asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
First Edition —7/1/2015 ISBN-10: 0986087386
Printed and Distributed in the United States by IngramSpark
A .50 caliber machine gun bullet tore through the sky. Rick Putnam felt the hair on the top of his head suddenly rise up from the pressure suction, and in the split-second before he heard the
of the bullet, he’d already begun his dive to the ground. Fighting the pressure of the harness across his shoulders, he reached forward and grabbed the backpack of the woman in front of him and took her down with him.
Both of them slammed hard into the dirt, driving the air from their lungs. Rick could feel her intake of breath—the prelude to a sharp complaint. He scrambled up the length of her body and slid a hand over her mouth before she could speak.
"Stay quiet," he whispered urgently in her ear. "A round just went over. There could be more."
After an instant, there was a soft kiss on his palm and Eve Buffalo Calf remained silent.
Rick Putnam raised his head slowly and scanned the South Dakota prairie that surrounded them. It was a quarter moon and its wan light didn’t even compete with the broad stripe of the Milky Way as it illuminated the low hills and ravines. Someone standing still in the darkness or lying flat, as they were, was effectively invisible, but he knew that he would easily spot any headlights, flashlight beams, or, most likely, the red glow of lit cigarettes.
He relaxed his grip on Eve. "I think we’re OK," he said, his voice just above a whisper.
Eve rolled onto her side as far as her backpack would allow and looked up at Rick. "What happened?" she asked softly.
"Machine gun round," he said. "Big one. It had to have been less than a foot over my head. I could feel the bow shockwave in my hair. I reacted because where there is one, there are usually more."
"Well, yeah, it would make sense that machine gun bullets would tend to travel in herds."
In her voice was a gentle humor, but her eyes held a sense of urgency. Rick knew that she felt helpless—pinned by the massive aluminum carrier frame that curved at least eight inches over her head—but there was no evidence of fear in her voice.
It had been her decision to walk essential supplies in to feed the American Indian Movement activists now blockaded in the tiny crossroads town of Wounded Knee. Now, with fifty pounds of flour, corn meal, and dried milk pressing her into the dry dirt, she was as determined to continue as she’d been hours before when they’d started walking.
Rick quietly popped the release buckle at his waist and slipped out of his own, much heavier, pack. Once he'd struggled free, he lifted the massive rig of aluminum tubes and bungee cords off Eve so she could wriggle out, stand up, and stretch her sore muscles.
As he stretched, he took another long look around, seeing nothing but dim outlines of dirt, rocks, and sparse prairie grasses until he looked east, the direction they were heading. There were faint streaks of red and slowly falling pinpoints of white on the horizon. Rick thought they might even have been beautiful if he hadn’t known they were the tracer rounds and parachute flares of the U.S. Marshalls and other government forces as they continued to keep pressure on the radicals who had stood them off for months now.
It didn't look much like a standoff tonight—more like a pitched battle.
In the cold silence of the prairie, Rick could make out a low mutter, the distant sound of hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds being fired.
For a moment, he wondered why the sight of combat wasn’t bringing back his own bitter memories of bullets zipping and buzzing through elephant grass under a blazing jungle sun. He loosened his rigid self-control for a moment and dared to hope that his constant visions of Vietnam were beginning to fade. Then he shook his head; he knew full well he wasn’t that lucky. Most likely, it was simply that distance had reduced the intensity of combat into insignificant lights on the horizon.
The nightmares would be back.
"They're getting pounded in Wounded Knee tonight," he said. "If they were getting hit by air cover, this could be a night attack on a Cong strongpoint."
At that moment, he saw the lights of two fighter jets coming in low and fast over the tiny village, and he thought, "The universe definitely has a sense of humor." They were outrunning the sound of their own engines and so were heading straight for Rick and Eve in an eerie silence.
"Jesus," muttered Eve. "Can they see us?"
"Not at that speed," he said. "Anyway, I don’t think they’re looking for us." The jets then went into a vertical climb, rolled over, and leveled out high over the small town. Now, the scream of the Phantom engines rolled across the flat plain.
"They're just showing off."
"That reminds me, why was someone shooting at us a minute ago?" she asked.
"I don't think they were," he answered. "The bullet wasn't going that fast when it went over me—it would have been a lot louder. That would mean it was just a stray round from a long way away."
He pulled the oversized aluminum frame with its load of desperately needed supplies back upright, crouched, and carefully began to arrange it across his broad shoulders. "It's funny. You think you're hidden out here in the dark, but a stray round can still find you. Bullets go a hell of a long way before they hit the ground."
With a grunt, he stood and re-buckled the waist belt. Then he lifted the smaller pack that Eve carried. She stood patiently while he placed it on her shoulders as gently as he could. For a few moments, he worked to adjust and settle the big pack into a position that was, if not comfortable, at least bearable.
When he had finished, he kept patting and tweaking the aluminum frame with one hand while he reached down and slid the other along the soft curve of her jeans. He could see the flash of her teeth in the darkness as she turned toward him, smiling. "None of that, trooper," she said. "We've still got a few miles to walk."
"More than a few," he said. "We won’t be anywhere near Wounded Knee until right before dawn."
"Let's hope it's just a bit earlier." She turned and resumed a slow but steady walk toward the firefight. "It's really hard to make anything out in the false dawn. Things can just disappear."
Rick knew she was referring to Larissa Iron Crow, the young Lakota woman—just a teenager, really—who had prepared their packs of supplies and then walked with them under a beautiful sunset before sending them off on their nightlong journey. She'd been softly singing the entire time.
She said it was a song to give them the power to walk unseen. They would be like mist as they passed the state police, marshals, and Tribal Council goons who were trying to choke off Wounded Knee's fragile supply line.
There was no doubt that they were walking into danger. Both the radicals of the American Indian Movement and the supporters of the elected reservation leaders were capable of violence, but there were a lot more of the Tribal Council's quasi-official militia. They called themselves "goons" which, in a strictly tongue-in-cheek way, stood for the Guardians of the Oglala Nation. The cops and marshals might arrest you, but at least you'd end up in a jail cell. A dozen people who had started out on this long trek with packs of food had simply disappeared.
The reservation was a big place to hide a body. "Maybe Larissa's song magic will work," he said, half-joking.
Eve's voice was totally serious. "It could. Lakota singers are powerful, and this is their land. The government has blockaded Wounded Knee for months, and food still gets in and journalists keep getting their story out."
"Maybe they have a courier," he said wryly. "Miss the bike?" she asked over her shoulder.
"Hell, yeah. We'd have been in there hours ago and have front row seats for the fireworks if we were on a good dirt bike." He walked for a moment. "Of course, the noise would have woken every cop from here to the Montana border, but there's a downside to every great idea."
"You are right as usual, trooper," she replied. "Just keep walking."