Mercury House

Night Ride with Dahlia

Philip Daughtry

fiction / History / western
$15, 304 pages
ISBN 978-1562791377
ebook (tba)

In 1916 literate cowboy Devon Young reflects on his life's journey. Saved from death by a shamanic intervention, he embarks on a quest to rescue his love, Dahlia de Belardes, from banishment in California.

Out to hunt buffalo for their wagon train, Devon’s father fails to return, requiring Devon and his mother to survive a hard winter of 1861 in a hastily-built sodbuster cabin on the North American plains. Devon’s mother becomes a teacher to Navajo survivors of “the long walk”—one of many historic brutal forced marches toward captivity. With sympathies attached to the Navajo people, Devon is exiled from Fort Sumner’s army community and painted as a renegade son “gone Indian”. After his mother dies of fever, Devon’s entry into Navajo culture is furthered by the tribal elder’s offer of shelter in recognition of his mother’s past kindness.

A hunting expedition with his Navajo friends results in a nasty encounter with a group of Apache interrupted during a medicine ceremony. Devon’s life is saved by a crow’s intervention, a shamanic rescue that profoundly imprints his psyche, exiles him from the Navajo tribe, and lends mythic shape to his western adventure.

In Taos, New Mexico, Devon falls in love with Dahlia de Belardes, the virtually captive daughter of a prominent and traditional Spanish father. The eventual discovery of their relationship results in Dahlia's banishment to Mission Santa Ynez in California, and to Devon's journey to find her. On his quest, Devon joins up with a trail outfit, befriends Socorro, a Californio, survives run-ins with rampaging Commanche, a crooked faro dealer, a vengeful posse, and other encounters with frontier mortality.

Sagas predictably provide both their heros and anti-heros a true home, whether into a sunset, an embrace, a grave, a rocking chair, or the epiphany that they somehow missed the train. Devon’s completion requires cleansing of the Apache's shamanic imprint, and extraction of Dahlia from her exile, and their arrival in Laguna Canyon, California, within earshot of Pacific surf, where they ride the last wild horses and learn how each moon shapes tides that call fishermen toward the sea.

Born in Derwentwater, England in 1942, Philip James Daughtry is a descendant of American outlaws Frank and Jesse James. Daughtry entered the United States when he was thirteen. After dropping out of the University of Denver, he worked on wheat and cattle ranches in the Horse Heaven Hills of Eastern Washington and in Colorado, Nevada and Belize, and lived on a mudflat ferry steamer in Sausalito before hitching to Laguna Beach where he served a three year apprenticeship in the local painters union while completing undergraduate and graduate work at UC Irvine. He was involved in the “baby beat generation” during the 1970s San Francisco Renaissance. His work is widely anthologized, and will be included in the upcoming anthology A Living Legacy (New Native Press, 2014). His publications include The Stray Moon, Kid Nigredo, Magic Harness, Celtic Blood, and The Centaur's Son. Night Ride with Dahlia is his first novel. He lives in Topanga, California, with his wife, artist Rita George.

Cover illustration (horses) by Rachel Burgess.

Thanks to Sean Oge for use of his words:

I've learned the art of alchemy
by nature I've been told
the moon turns earth to silver
the sun turns earth to gold