top of page


When we think of the calvary in westerns, most of us have a Frederick Remington/John Ford picture in our mind of men riding across the land with authority, dressed in crisp blue with yellow trim. It embodies the esprit de corps of honor and bravery. Fort Misery, kicking off a new series under the name of William W. Johnstone and nephew J.A. Johnstone takes a more Peckinpah approach.

The book opens with description of the Arizona borderland Fort Benjamin Gierson, a.k.a. Fort Misery occupies-

...sprawled like a suppuratus sore on the arid edge of sandy plains and dunes relieved here and there by outcroppings of creosote bush, bur oak, and sage...and white skeletons of the dead, both animal and human.

Looking over this is our central character, Captain Peter Kellerman as he prepares to execute a deserter. After exceptional performance during the civil war, Kellerman was caught with another officers wife and was shipped off to Arizona to look over rapists, thieves, and killers who chose the Army over prison. To help keep the rabble under control, he depends on Saul Ollinger, his loyal sergeant major and James Hall a spit and polished lieutenant who was relocated to Fort Misery after questionable bookkeeping with regimental funds. Kellerman finds himself struggling with his situation as well as the bottle.

But these aren't the worst of his problems. Santiago Lazardo, a bandit who operates basically as a wild west mob with robbery, white slavery, and kidnapping has grown to be his biggest adversary. Fort Gierson and the troop stand in his way from a straight route into Mexico. When thwarted once by Kellerman, he creates an army of renegade natives and Comancheros to overrun the fort.With the help of some pistoleros from Texas, Kellerman and his men go to war.

The book does a great job covering its large cast of characters. While Kellerman is dominant, we get to know Olinger and Hall as well as Cranston, a second lieutenant who reports for duty. We get a sense of the lower ranks through a collection of the enlisted men, shown with shades of humanity under their antisocial demeanor, particularly as they face the violent odds. The Lone Star gunman, prove to be as colorful as you'd expect us Texans to be. We also get a look at the other side, but have no doubt who to root for.

Fort Misery turns out to be a tough and gritty calvary yarn. Its a story with dust, heat, sweat, and violence with a collection of flawed men taken by their attributes, discovering valor when push comes to shove. Honor is a fragile commodity on this post, making it bright and human when it shows,


bottom of page