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Summary

Summary

In the wake of Sheriff Stanford Ross's death, former deputy Chris Cherry ' now Sheriff Cherry ' is the new 'law' in Big Bend County, yet still struggling to escape the long, dark shadow of that infamous lawman. As Chris tries to remake and modernise his corrupt department, bringing in new deputies like young America Reynosa and Ben Harper, Chris finds himself constantly staring down a town unwilling to change, friends and enemies unable to let go of the past, and the harsh limits of his badge.


Author Notes

J. Todd Scott has been a federal agent with the DEA for more than twenty years, working cases investigating international maritime smuggling and domestic meth labs, and led a multiagency strike force dedicated to attacking Mexican cartel smuggling routes-an effort profiled by Colonel Oliver North on War Stories- On the Border for Fox News. Scott was also featured on National Geographic's series Drugs Inc. During his rotation in the DEA's office in Washington, D.C., he consulted with filmmakers on DEA-related stories and movies, and, encouraged by this exposure to working writers, renewed his lifelong passion for creative writing. He has a law degree from George Mason University and is a father of three. A Kentucky native, he now resides in Texas, which provided the backdrop for The Far Empty , his debut novel.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Chris Cherry, a mere 26, is the new sheriff of Big Bend County in West Texas, following the death of Stanford Ross as corrupt a good old boy as ever was. Not a lot of jockeying for Ross' job, what with Big Bend sitting at the intersection of the drug cartels and the Aryan Brotherhood. Chris attempts to escape the bent legacy of his predecessor by hiring untainted America Reynosa, a novice with smarts, guts, and a temper, along with Ben Harper, a seasoned officer with a growing drinking problem. Things get nasty after a Rio Grande guide is murdered, and the investigation is stalled by a sketchy federal agent. Meanwhile, John Wesley Earl, of the Aryan Brotherhood, intends to plant roots in Big Bend. Throw in the omnipresent drug cartels and a man seeking to avenge the death of his Texas Ranger father, and you have a white-hot cauldron ready to boil over. Scott, a 20-year veteran with the DEA, knows the milieu well, and he follows the first Big Bend novel, The Far Empty (2016), with an equally strong successor. Get this series on your radar now.--Lukowsky, Wes Copyright 2018 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Scott's superb sequel to 2016's The Far Empty combines multifaceted characters with edge-of-the-seat suspense. The savage bludgeoning of river guide Billy Bravo, which obliterated part of his face, leads Texas sheriff Chris Cherry's deputies-veteran Ben Harper and rookie Amé Reynosa-to confront John Wesley Earl, a leader of a vicious prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Their efforts to find proof linking the ABT to the murder are derailed by a surprising revelation from an FBI agent, making Chris's pursuit of justice even harder. The reverberations of the brutal 1999 murder of Texas Ranger Bob Ford also affect the homicide investigation. Scott excels at presenting the juxtaposition of the horrific and the mundane ("Her daddy had died on a stretch of dirty concrete ten steps from her window, and afterward cops came and got the body and took some pictures and tossed their cigarette butts on the place where he'd drawn his last breath, leaving behind only a yellow chalk outline"). Ace Atkins fans will relish this gritty crime novel. Author tour. Agent: Carlie Webber, CK Webber Associates. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Shortly after the death of corrupt Sheriff Stanford Ross, his successor, Chris Cherry, cannot escape Ross's shadow. He struggles to get his department on board with the changes he made by recruiting new deputies such as America Reynosa, a Latina, and veteran lawman Ben Harper, who struggles with the limitations of the law. As Cherry begins to build camaraderie among his staff, a river guide is murdered. At the same time, John Wesley Earl and Thurman Flowers seek to form a chapter of the Aryan White Brotherhood in Big Bend County--Cherry's jurisdiction. Before Cherry, Ben, and America realize it, they are drawn into a vendetta that began with a murder of a Texas Ranger 20 years earlier and now can only be settled on the streets of Murfee, TX. VERDICT Scott (Far Empty) delivers an impressive noir thriller in his sophomore outing. Fans of Craig Johnson will enjoy the tight-knit plot, while admirers of David Joy's Southern country noir will appreciate the strong and vivid description of West Texas. [See Prepub Alert, 9/25/17.]-Russell Michalak, Goldey-Beacom Coll. Lib., Wilmington, DE © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 It was damn hard to follow a blood trail at eighty miles per hour. Not that Sheriff Chris Cherry needed to see actual blood; he knew it was there all the same. Thick drops of it all down U.S. 90, bleeding off the rear fender of the Nissan Maxima that was trying hard to disappear in his windshield and throwing up dust as it swerved across lanes and the shoulder. All that blood from one of his deputies, Tommy Milford. Chris still didn't know whether he was alive or dead. Another of his deputies, Dale Holt, was ten miles back with him. He'd been riding shotgun with Tommy when it all happened, and although he was barely one year older than the injured boy, when Chris had left them both behind, Dale had been holding Tommy's hand like a father might a son, telling him over and over again to hang in there, brother, hang in there while they waited for the ambulance, because no one had been sure if it was a good idea to move Tommy or not. Honestly, it hadn't looked good either way. But Dale, even before calling it in-even before kneeling down next to his damaged friend and grabbing his shaking hand and shielding his body with his own-had gotten off a handful of rounds at the fleeing Nissan, and after this was all done they'd be out here looking for them in the desert, shining bright among the ocotillo and the cat's-claw and the creosote; prying them out of the car's metal body. At least one had definitely punched through the rear windshield, spiderwebbing the safety glass and X'ing the spot where a passenger's head might be. Chris tried hard to focus on that, rather than his deputy's blood drying on the asphalt. He prayed that Tommy was hanging on to Dale's hand right now, squeezing back just as hard with each heartbeat, letting Dale and everyone else know he was still alive. Hanging on tight. Please don't die. God, not today. Not today. Not Tommy's first damn day on the job. Deputy AmZ Reynosa blasted past Chris, shooting up the shoulder, close enough they almost traded paint. HeÕd already barked at her once on the radio to stay behind him but she wasnÕt listening and clearly wasnÕt going to. He caught up to her and pushed ahead. They were both pushing ninety now, heading toward a hundred, chewing up the distance on the Maxima, whose back end suddenly fishtailed, brake lights flickering on and off. The driver must have seen the red and blue strobes on Chief Deputy Ben HarperÕs truck up ahead, bright and clear and ominous even in broad daylight, leaving him surprised and really scared and unsure of what to do; maybe even bleeding out, if DaleÕs bullet had bent the curve and clipped the driver while passing through the carÕs interior. Harp had been out at Artesia most of the day but had been rolling back to Murfee when Dale fired his first shot, which put him right in the path of the fleeing car, so Chris had radioed for him to lay up at mile marker 67 and toss out the spike strip. Chris glanced over at the small green signs blurring past his window. Marker 65 The strips were an expensive Stinger Spike System. He'd been reluctant to buy them at first, reading that some officers and deputies had been killed trying to deploy the damn things-struck by the very cars they were trying to stop-and Harp hadn't helped the cause by admitting that the Dallas PD had recently banned them. But out here there was so much empty space, so much straight-line nothing, that you could chase someone all the way to El Paso or right down to fucking Mexico if you didn't have a way to slow them down. So Harp had pushed and pushed for them, and in the end, Chris had agreed. Caved. That had become the defining nature of their relationship. In fact, Chris had ordered two sets for each patrol truck, enough to cross both lanes. They'd proved easy enough to set up when his deputies had practiced it out in the department parking lot, but so far they'd never been used-not in real life, not like this. Marker 66 Almost there. Chris backed off the gas and hoped those damn spikes worked . . . and hoped to hell that Harp was out of the way. The NissanÕs tires grabbed the pavement hard-spitting rocks and boiling smoke-as the driver locked them up, with both car and driver holding on for life as the Nissan started to slide sideways. It tipped ever so slightly up, catching air as the whole car shuddered, looking for one horrible second like it might roll and tumble down Highway 90 in a mess of buckled metal and broken glass, before straightening out and hitting the strips square at sixty miles an hour. The hollow spike tips punctured all four radials clean, and Chris swore he saw a dance of bright sparks beneath the Nissan-a July Fourth light show-as it plowed over the strips and kept going even as its tires died beneath it. Chris drove off the shoulder into the scrub, giving the strips a wide berth and catching air himself, as Harp's truck roared to life and paralleled him from where it had been parked on the opposite shoulder. Harp had gotten clear from the truck, never even bothering to use it for cover in case the Nissan's driver lost complete control and plowed into it. Instead, he'd been crouched low with his Colt AR-15 aimed straight and steady into the other car's oncoming windshield. As it slid past, he'd calmly stood up and tracked it with his sights, before running back to his own truck. Now, he and Chris were slow-rolling up to the Nissan, which had finally come to rest in the middle of the road, nose canted at an angle, the driver's door visible to both of them but still closed. The car sat wreathed in smoke, all of its tinted windows dirty. The car itself looked exhausted, worn out; sporting an ugly metallic scar down the left flank-another one of Dale's bullets. And Tommy's blood, which had been so bright and visible to Chris only moments before, was now lost to the dust. Chris got out with his Browning A5 and positioned himself behind his engine block, while Harp opposite of him did the same. AmZ rolled to a hard stop behind them both, and with his attention full on the Nissan, Chris felt rather than saw her join him at his shoulder. She was breathing hard, her Colt 1911 resting over the hood. "Son of a bitch," she said. "Pendejo." "Exactly," Chris agreed. He stole one glance at her; hair in her eyes and those dark eyes narrowed and angry, trying hard to see beyond the Nissan's windows. And for the first time since he'd made her a Big Bend County deputy, he was regretting it. Not that she wasn't capable-she'd more than proven her worth and was tougher than he ever could have imagined-but because of moments like this one, right now. He didn't want to send her in harm's way and he knew that was exactly what he was going to have to do. In two years as sheriff, none of his deputies had gotten hurt on his watch. It was like a run of cool, calm weather, or a desert rain. It couldn't last forever and maybe it wasn't supposed to. But he was going to make damn sure it wasn't two in one day. ÒSheriff, time is wasting.Ó HarpÕs voice carried over the road. His chief deputy was pushing, his idea of subtle. Harp always complained that Chris was too slow, too measured; too goddamn deliberate . . . just like their long debate over ordering the Stinger system. Even though he won more than he lost, the older man still liked to needle Chris: It's all about action versus reaction, Sheriff . . . you can't finish what you don't start. These were Harp's idea of lessons, freely and frequently given, and AmZ Reynosa had already taken way too many of them to heart. It didn't take much for Chris to imagine what his two deputies would think about his first impulse here and now: to keep them all safe behind their trucks and just wait the fucking guy in the Nissan out. All afternoon if they had to; hoping against hope that he got tired and gave up. Now that was goddamn deliberate. But there was another of Harp's sharp lessons: Chris, hope is not a strategy . . . Sheriff, time is wasting. Fuck me. Chris took a long breath, turning to AmZ. ÒOkay, IÕm going to call him out. If weÕre lucky, thereÕs only the one and maybe heÕs already hurt. IÕm going to walk him backward between us and when I stop him and tell him to get on his knees, youÕre going to go up, put him facedown, and cuff him. IÕll stay covered on the car in case someone else is in there. IÕve got the best angle on it, so Harp is going to stay covered on you. If our bad guy so much as flinches, reaches for anything, even breathes too hard, Harp will take the shot. Got that?Ó AmZ nodded, already grabbing for cuffs and making ready to move down to the rear of the truck, near to where she'd have to expose herself. It wouldn't be much and it wouldn't be long, but it would be enough. Chris put a hand on her shoulder. "You're angry, we all are. It's not personal. Just do it by the numbers. Wait till he's on his knees." Chris let her go. "You good?" he asked. She smiled, grim. "Bueno." Chris waved toward Harp to get his attention, raising his voice. "I'll call the guy back. AmZ is contact, you're cover." Harp never took his eyes off the Nissan, didn't respond, but hitched up a thumb . . . okay. In a perfect world, Chris would've put hands on the guy himself, but he didn't have faith in his bad knee. It had never fully recovered after he'd reinjured it at the Far Six. You've never fully recovered. He pushed that cold thought away. But fortunately Harp had spent almost three decades on the Midland PD, many of those years as part of their SWAT team. Even though he and AmZ had spent a lot of free hours together at the makeshift range near Chapel Mesa, and Harp claimed she'd developed a hell of a shooter's eye, Chris still felt comfortable with Harp taking a tight shot more than anyone, far more than even himself. The chief deputy was the only person who had killed more men than Chris. That left AmZ as the best choice, the only choice, to approach the driver if he ever showed himself. Chris took another deep breath, steadied himself. He squinted past the shortened barrel of his A5 to the Nissan. Still there, still waiting. Waiting for him to do something. Just like his two deputies. "Driver, roll down the windows and throw out the keys. Then extend your left hand through the window and open the door." His voice surprised him, too loud. Nothing happened and the Nissan kept idling. "Driver, roll down the windows and throw out the keys." Or what, exactly? Chris didn't want to send Harp and AmZ up to the car to forcibly pull the driver out, there was too much open ground to cover and it was too naked, too exposed. And they sure weren't going to start pumping lead into it from here. Even if he made that threat, would the driver believe it? Could he even make it sound believable? Maybe he'd get his wish after all and they'd just sit here the rest of the day like Old West gunfighters in a duel, forever trapped at high noon; neither of them ever drawing. Fuck me. Sweat collected in his eyes. None of his options were good, all of them just different kinds of bad. His shirt stuck to him like a second skin; that high white sun hammering hard. It had been infernal hot for days, with no end in sight. The scrub all around them was burned brown, skeletal; brittle and quick to turn to dust. Except for the yucca standing tall and crowned with its ivory flowers and marching into the distance toward the mountains, the rest of the world out here looked and felt lifeless. Like a hot breath would be all it'd take to set it aflame. The air above the car rolled back and forth in waves, reflecting the engine heat back skyward, where it got lost. Impatient, AmZ started inching forward, moving beyond the safety of his truck's tailgate; too far away from him to pull her back. Just like he feared, she'd been listening to Harp too damn much. "Driver . . ." He started again, angrier, but before he could call out anything else, the driver's-side window slid down. Chris braced, found a point in the darkened interior and kept his A5 on it, realizing the engine had also stopped. The car was now silent, still. Long moments passed, everyone holding their breath. Then keys tumbled out of the open window, jingling loudly, and landed on the asphalt. Followed finally by a slim arm, grabbing the door handle as he'd instructed and opening the door. A man got out. No, that wasn't quite right; he was younger than that, early twenties, maybe, a Hispanic male in black jeans and a white T-shirt. His hair was slicked back and he still had sunglasses on-metallic, small frame, designer. There was no sign of blood. Chris put the A5 on him. "Driver, turn around once, and then lock your hands together behind your head and walk backwards . . . slow . . . until I order you to stop." The kid-and that's how Chris saw him, even though Chris wasn't a whole lot older than him-did as he was told. The watch on his wrist was big and looked expensive. It caught all of that impossible, fiery sunlight, and winked it back at Chris and his deputies as he put his hands behind his head. They might have been shaking, too, just a slight tremble matching the kid's heartbeat. He started walking backward, trying to catch a glance over his shoulder. "Look straight ahead and keep walking. Slow." Now that the door was open Chris could see all the way through the cabin. There was no one else in the front passenger seat, but that didn't mean there wasn't someone curled up in the back. He still needed to clear the car while Harp and AmZ dealt with the kid. Excerpted from High White Sun by J. Todd Scott All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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