Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Yellow Doll by David Soma

What does one expect when diving into a novel of historical fiction that covers a period in U. S. history which must indeed have been a wild time in an untamed western territory?

General Custer had just been defeated by the Native Americans, and President Grant declared the closing of all freight roads that crossed the dangerous Sioux reservation. Black Hills became a hot spot for those who wanted to strike it rich, but the difficult travel and inherent dangers created a challenging adventure to those so inclined to leave the civilized east and head to the uncultured west.

In The Yellow Doll, Rubee (with Chinese mystique) and Niles Dewey (seemingly a fairly regular guy) had made previous trips to the badlands with Rubee as a merchant and Niles being a photographer with bulky equipment in tow. Certainly these were noble, legitimate endeavors-- serving the miners, soldiers and other adventurous individuals who had chosen to go out west; however, all is not necessarily as it appears, and people aren’t always precisely who you think they are.

The rugged western setting will fascinate readers who possess an affinity for this era and location. I’ve never personally visited the Black Hills, but I have extensively traveled out west. Growing up in Southern California, I was fortunate to be born to parents who loved exploration. A few of my own brief recollections of the wild west are:

1-Entering a tiny, dusty town called Kanab, just over the southern Utah border as you enter from Arizona. My dad had an acquaintance there, who conducted some type of mysterious business. Mom and I felt grossly out of place as we entered a small café, where the only inhabitants were Native American men, sipping their coffee as they stared at us with eyes that silently called us intruders.

2-Many visits to Calico Ghost Town near the remote desert town of Barstow, California. This replica of an old mining town, complete with saloon, one room schoolhouse and mining train, always intrigued me.

3-A side trip to Jerome, Arizona, which when I was a kid, appeared to be a genuine tumble weed-tossed ghost town that we stumbled upon during our travels. Riding through that town when I was eleven seriously scared me.

These experiences actually enhanced my reading of The Yellow Doll, as there were times when my parents and I were maneuvering across the miles of western desolation when I could visualize a band of Indians lined up on their horses, positioned all along the top of a looming cliff in the distance. I could almost see them patiently awaiting the arrival of the next wagon train that was rolling across the prairie. They salivated in anticipation of the pending attack on the unsuspecting trespassers from the east. Okay, I know I have always had a vivid imagination.

Back to The Yellow Doll, however. This book contains surprises, and I do love surprises. If you think that its title suggests a sweet story about a favorite toy, lovingly clutched by a child as she and her parents head west, you’ll want to think again. It’s more about an unlikely group, traveling to a western destination called Deadwood.

I won’t be a spoiler by revealing too much information, but this story encompasses a quest for a better life, a little bit of semi-romance, greed, violence, photography as was experienced in the 1870’s (no digital camera efficiency here), prejudice, a blur between upholding the law and breaking it, smuggling, murder, fear, outlaws, rudimentary commerce, illicit activity, deceit and definitely adventure.

This is one of those books that prompted me to pause when I read the final words. I wanted to know more about that place, era, location, history and the facts on which The Yellow Doll is based. This selection made me curious, entertained and intrigued me. It offered me an enhanced vision of the wild west as 19th century inhabitants must have known it.

Book Description

As America celebrates her centennial in the summer of 1876, the gold rush in the Dakota Territory of Deadwood Gulch draws an eclectic crowd of villains and heroes. There are those who want to seek their fortune and those who will do anything to destroy them. 

Traveling photographer Niles Dewy sets out with his business partner, Rubee, to photograph the excitement—and do a little business on the side. It doesn’t take long for his new friend and traveling companion Sarah Culbert to discover Mr. Dewy isn’t everything he seems, especially when they have a strange encounter with Sheriff Clay involving the Yellow Doll. But Sarah has a few secrets of her own …

The group arrives in Deadwood, and Niles crosses paths once more with Wild Bill Hickok. But Hickok’s death starts a chain reaction that has explosive results. With the law closing in and a host of unsavory characters just waiting to destroy him, Niles’s run of good luck is about to expire, and only time will tell if he’ll survive.

Amazon page:

Why Did Soma Write The Yellow Doll?

“For ten years as I performed as James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok  in Deadwood, South Dakota, I was constantly asked, "Why did Jack McCall kill Wild Bill?" The myth of that legend made no historical sense to me, and I began to research the events taking place in the Deadwood Gulch mining camp in 1876.  I found there was a series of killings in the camp on the first three days of August that year, and Hickok was just one of them.  There very likely was a connection between all the murders.  Thus the novel The Yellow Doll, which is my historical theory on why Wild Bill Hickok was assassinated by McCall in Nuttles & Manns Saloon on August 2, 1876 in Deadwood Gulch, Dakota Territory.”
About David Soma

David Soma was born and raised the Badlands of western South Dakota. History has always been his passion, studying history and journalism at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.  In the 1960s he began to live that history - as a western character actor at Old Tucson Studios, appearing in dozens of motion pictures and television westerns, eventually performing in the Gunfight At The OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona and finally as Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, South Dakota.  After retiring, his time is divided between the mountains of western Wyoming and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.   While wintering in Myrtle Beach, he teaches American western frontier history through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Coastal Carolina University offering classes in the Myths And Legends Of The American West, Myths Of The Hollywood Westerns and Before During And After Lewis & Clark.  He also performs historical one-man shows as Wild Bill Hickok throughout the country.  The Yellow Doll is his third novel. 

Closing Thoughts

As previously stated, The Yellow Doll is full of surprises. Prepare for a wild ride to Deadwood and beyond! See you soon with another selection...Reading is the best possible escape!

Mary Anne Benedetto

Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect and From Italy with Love & Limoncello.


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