Patrick Dearen

Books by Patrick Dearen

Author Patrick Dearen wears two hats. As a historian and folklorist, he digs deeply into the lore and legend of the West and produces books that appeal to both scholars and general readers. As a novelist, he draws on this reservoir of knowledge and crafts stories of people interacting with a harsh and yet beautiful land.

The End of Nowhere (cover)

New! The End of Nowhere

It's 1917, and the Mexican Revolution has the Big Bend of Texas aflame. But the firestorm is no greater than the one inside newspaper reporter Jack Landon. Disillusioned, he flees down the road to nowhere and finds himself in Esperanza. Populated by people of Mexican heritage, the small village on the Texas bank of the Rio Grande is a target of Texas Rangers Company B, which unjustly considers it a bandit den. Jack befriends a teenaged boy and his adult sister, Mary, who teaches in the Esperanza school. As Jack assimilates to life in Esperanza, the threat of Rangers looms large. Eventually a day of reckoning descends, and it envelops Jack and Mary and the entire village. This novel is based on what actually happened at Porvenir, Texas, on January 28, 1918—the darkest moment in Texas Rangers history.



When Cowboyhs Die (cover)

First print edition in 25 years! When Cowboys Die
1995 Spur Award Finalist

This revised novel tells the story of a 19th century cowboy trapped in a 20th century world. Pushed and prodded by a society that has no place for him, Charlie Lyles steals a horse and saddle and rides into rugged canyon land in search of the lost Old West. His action sparks a manhunt that pits the wits of an old-time cowboy against the technology of the modern world. This is a story about dreams that should never die. The book includes the author’s new preface and a 13,000-word afterword, “Requiem for a Cowboy,” which documents the astounding 1976 West Texas manhunt that inspired the novel. “An instant classic that deserves a place on anyone’s list of Best Western Novels.”—Roundup Magazine of Western Writers of America.



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The Illegal Man (cover)

Revised! First print edition in 25 years! The Illegal Man

A story that could have come out of today’s headlines, this revised edition of the acclaimed novel explores a Mexican national’s desperate attempt to provide for his family. Ricardo has known only poverty in Mexico, but he dreams of a better life in the United States. He enlists a “coyote” to smuggle him across the Rio Grande, a river that separates one world from another. The Illegal Man is also the story of Ann Rawlings, a recent widow struggling to preserve her West Texas ranch. There is a troubled Border Patrolman and her bigoted foreman, who considers Mexican ranch hands to be little more than animals. For Ricardo, it’s a world in which he will suffer hardship and indignity, but one he will gladly endure to support his family. "A vivid description of what a common man goes through seeking work in a different country than his own. It is a powerful story, filled with adventure, sadness, persecution, and loneliness."—San Angelo (Texas) Standard-Times.

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Haunted Border (cover)

Haunted Border
2022 Elmer Kelton Award
Will Rogers Silver Medallion

In 1870, Jake Graves faced a choice: let Comanches carry off his sister, or shoot her. Unwilling to fire, he has been tortured for decades by the brutal end that he could have spared her. The incident bred in him a hatred for Indians that persists to this day in 1917 on an isolated ranch on the Texas-Mexico border. Now Jake learns that his daughter Dru wants to marry Apache foreman Nub DeJarnett. Even before Jake can process the news, Mexican bandits kidnap Dru and her cousin Ruthie. The bandit leader may be a tlehuelpuchi, a shape-shifting agent of evil who needs the women’s blood to survive. Through a mysterious desert, Jake and Nub must give chase in this novel based on actual events.

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Apache Lament (cover)

Apache Lament
Will Rogers Gold Medallion

Eight months have passed since Sam DeJarnett lost his wife and unborn child to Mescalero Apaches, and now he is one of ten Texas Rangers pursuing those very hostiles in 1881. He lives only for vengeance, and the fresh Mescalero trail in the snow is leading straight into the bitterly cold Sierra Diablo of Texas. In the Mescalero band is Nejeunee, a twenty-year-old woman with a baby. She has lost her husband to the Indaa, or white men, and she lives every moment in hatred. High in the Diablo snows, Sam the Apache hater and Nejeunee the Indaa hater are fated to meet, and what follows will test everything each of them has believed about the other’s race.



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Dead Man's Boot (cover)

Dead Man's Boot
Elmer Kelton Award
Peacemaker Award finalist
Will Rogers Bronze Medallion

Clay Andrews is like a dead man, adrift in an uncaring dark. But he’s also searching, and in 1869 he has ridden to the Pecos River to find answers. Back in Central Texas, Clay’s sister has died, and only on this river might he learn why. The person perhaps responsible may have fled here, but no one enters this no-man’s land except at his own peril. Comanches are on the prowl, and across the Pecos, Mescalero Apaches range all the way to the mysterious Guadalupe Mountains. Twenty-year-old Lil Casner is searching the Pecos as well—for escape from an abusive marriage. What ensues for each are Comanche attacks, a kidnapping, and a chase through Apache country to Skeleton Cave and on to the Guadalupes. For Clay and Lil, the answers will never come unless they ride into a mountain range where Indian spirits may guard a golden hoard.

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Saddling Up Anyway Cover

New Edition! Saddling Up Anyway: The Dangerous Lives of Old-Time Cowboys

Every time a cowhand dug his boot into the stirrup, he knew that this ride could carry him to trail’s end. In real stories told by genuine cowboys, this book captures the everyday perils of the working cowhand. Drawn from the author’s interviews with 76 men who cowboyed in the West before 1932, as well from 150 archival interviews with 19th century cowhands, this book will enthrall as well as inform.

Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier Cover

Updated Edition! Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, Revisited

Patrick Dearen spent years studying the legends and mysteries of the harshly beautiful Pecos River country of Texas. This book could be considered a definitive study of six topics – Castle Gap, a landmark on the Goodnight-Loving, Butterfield, and Comanche War trails; Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos, the most infamous ford of the Old West; Juan Cordona Lake, a source of salt for millennia; a ghost that is said to wander the Fort Stockton night; the Lost Wagon Train, a 40-wagon caravan buried in the West Texas sands; and the Lost Sublett Mine, said to contain a fortune in gold.

A Cowboy of the Pecos New Edition Cover

A Cowboy of the Pecos

“A wonderful book to read if you want to learn about the life of a cowboy.” — Robert Duvall.

An 1886 newspaper referred to the Pecos River of Texas and southern New Mexico as “the cowboy’s paradise.” One cowhand even reckoned that “the Pecos boys were the most expert cowboys in the world.” On the Pecos they had to be, for in frontier times it was a river so treacherous that it was known as the “graveyard of the cowman’s hopes.” This book tells the full story of the Pecos cowboy from the days of the Goodnight-Loving Trail to the 1920s.


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Bitter Waters (cover)

Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River
New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for nature/environment

The first environmental history of the Pecos, Bitter Waters tells the story of man's progressive impact on this iconic river that flows 926 miles from northern New Mexico to the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border.

Spanning 430 years of history, Bitter Waters also examines the stream's current issues, including low flow, salinity, saltcedar, golden algae, endangered species, and water conflicts between Texas and New Mexico. For each of these, Bitter Waters offers potential solutions that might save the river for future generations. "A thought-provoking study. To all who realize that water will be more precious than gold, this is a must-read." Ray Willis, Pecos River Commission. Available in print and ebook..



The Big Drift, Cover

The Big Drift
2015 Spur Award for Best Western Traditional Novel
2015 Peacemaker Award of Western Fictioneers
2014 Elmer Kelton Fiction Book of the Year,
         Academy of Western Artists
2014 Elmer Kelton Award, West Texas Historical Association
Finalist, 2015 Will Rogers Medallion Award

For two men, the great cattle drift and roundup of 1884-1885 will be a search for redemption. Trapped under his horse in a blizzard, Texas cowhand Will Brite finds an unwelcome savior as former slave Zeke Boles emerges from the blinding snow and a bloody past. This fugitive stirs haunting memories, but little does Will know that their lives will be inexorably linked throughout the most brutal roundup of the nineteenth century.

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Starflight to Eternity, Book 2

Starflight to Eternity

In this sequel to Starflight to Destiny, a wizened old man has returned from deep space, bearing a strange tale of the planet Faroul. This legendary world is said to be a place where time began and ends, and where a man may gain the power to create. But Faroul is much more, for it holds the fate of the cosmos. It's up to a starship deserter and a prostitute with a mysterious past to embark on a quest to find Faroul and unravel its mysteries. Ebook.


New edition coming


Starflight to Destiny, Book 1

New Edition! Starflight to Destiny

Hidden in the reaches of the galaxy, a great power holds the fate of the cosmos. A man and a woman each learn half the clues to its secrets, and together they defy a totalitarian government and embark on an interstellar quest with pirates to find it and save creation.


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To Hell or the Pecos, a novel

To Hell or the Pecos, a novel

Three men haunted by the past . . . A girl haunted by the present . . . And all four on a collision course for Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos, a Texas river synonymous with hell. This chase novel, set in 1886 along the driest stretch of any trail in the West, takes the reader deep inside troubled characters whose fates await on the Pecos.

Devils River Cover

Devils River: Treacherous Twin to the Pecos, 1535-1900
Richardson Award of West Texas Historical Association
San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award

Patrick Dearen traces the 400-year history of this notorious Texas river from the time of the first Spanish explorers to the coming of the railroad and dawn of the 20th century. Meticulously documented for historians, it is also colorfully written for those with little or no background in early western history.

Perseverance, a novel

Perseverance, a novel

It’s 1932, the depths of the Great Depression, and thousands of desperate people ride the rails in search of jobs, homes, and hope. For some, the track is a road to nowhere, a dead end in a boxcar or under the wheels or in a sea of emptiness. Their fate seems certain until Ish Watson grabs the rungs of a passing freight train bound for a dying relative on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Lone Star Lost Cover

Lone Star Lost: Buried Treasures in Texas (Texas Small Books)

Lost gold . . . buried treasure . . . jack-loads of silver . . . The stories quicken the pulse of any reader. In this brief book, Patrick Dearen explores the facts and folklore behind ten legendary Texas treasures. You may not have heard of these bonanzas, but you’re unlikely to forget them after reading Lone Star Lost.

The Last of the Old-Time Cowboys Cover

The Last of the Old-Time Cowboys

Working cowboys live on as genuine legends who rode through a golden moment in American history. In the 1980s historian and author Patrick Dearen went looking for the last of these fading icons and found 76 men “who would do to ride the river with.” Their stories of weather folklore, humor, and stampedes bear the unmistakable brand of an Old West that is now but a dusty grave on a long-lost trail.

When the Sky Rained Dust Cover

When the Sky Rained Dust, a novel

2006 R.C. Crane Award for Fiction
presented by West Texas Historical Association

Fourteen-year-old Josh and his friend Shan are facing hard times on their families’ farms in Central Texas in 1934. It’s the days of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, and rain is as scarce as money. With the long dry spell have come wild animals with flashing teeth and deadly rabies. Dust storms known as black blizzards are raging, threatening lives and destroying crop land. From rabid animal attacks to a deadly flood to a barreling freight train, Josh is in for an adventure he will never forget.

Comanche Peace Pipe Cover

Comanche Peace Pipe (Lone Star Heroes, book 1)

It’s 1867, and 11-year-old Fish Rawlings and his cousin are headed across Texas on a wagon train. But the trail is full of danger. A Comanche war party is on the prowl, looking for horses and scalps. Among the Indians is 11-year-old Hunting Bear, who is riding his first war trail. He has been taught to hate white men, while Fish has been taught to hate Comanches. But all of that changes when the boys become friends and must find a way to prevent their peoples from fighting.

On the Pecos Trail Cover

On the Pecos Trail (Lone Star Heroes, book 2)

Eleven-year-old Fish Rawlings has always wanted to be a cowboy. Now, in the spring of 1868, he has his chance. His uncle is driving a cattle herd across Texas, and Fish is going with him as far as Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River. Little does Fish know that he is saddling up for the wildest ride of his life. It’s the roughest stretch of trail in Texas, and it will either make a cowhand out of a boy or break him.

The Hidden Treasure of the Chisos Cover

The Hidden Treasure of the Chisos (Lone Star Heroes, book 3)

The Big Bend of Texas is a mysterious place in 1869. Legend has it that there’s a lost gold mine in the Chisos Mountains. But when 12-year-old Fish Rawlings and his cousin Gid discover a dying Indian in the desert, they have reason to believe it’s more than legend. Suddenly the boys find themselves with a great secret. No one else knows the way to the lost Chisos mine, but the journey won’t be easy, even with the help of an Apache boy. And what will they do if they succeed?

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Halff of Texas: Merchant Rancher of the Old West Cover

Halff of Texas: Merchant Rancher of the Old West

Cowman Mayer Halff rode a long, busy trail that few men could have followed. It carried him from 1850s France to Texas and across 1,500 miles of wild western country waiting to be tamed. Throughout, he was at ease whether dining with a U.S. president at a plush metropolitan banquet or squatting across a campfire from a dirt-streaked cowboy in a forsaken cow camp. Patrick Dearen carefully weaves Halff’s story against the backdrop of the Texas cattle industry. The droughts, the drives, the drifts, the die-ups – they bolt through these pages like stampeding cattle.

Crossing Rio Pecos Cover

Crossing Rio Pecos

In frontier times, the Pecos River of Texas was more moat than river, a deadly barrier of quicksand, treacherous currents, and impossibly steep banks. Only at its crossings could travelers hope to gain passage. Even if the Pecos proved obliging, Indian raiders and outlaws often did not. Patrick Dearen draws upon years of research and relates the history and folklore of all of the river’s Texas crossings: Horsehead, Pontoon, Pope’s, Emigrant, Salt, Spanish Dam, Adobe, S, and Lancaster.

Portraits of the Pecos Frontier Cover

Portraits of the Pecos Frontier (revised edition)

Rich in history and folklore, the Pecos River country of West Texas has shaped the lives of those who live there. Patrick Dearen spent years tracking down its stories and then painting word portraits of some of its intriguing individuals, forgotten sites, and legends. “Using the drama and color of a gifted storyteller – like a contemporary J. Frank Dobie – Patrick Dearen in these pages lets us sample the many flavors of his Pecos frontier.” – Elmer Kelton in the foreword.

Graveyard of the West DVD Cover

Graveyard of the West: The Pecos River of Texas

Scripted by Patrick Dearen, this one-hour DVD is a history of the Pecos River of Texas. Dearen and co-host Mike Cox, under the direction of filmmaker Glen Sample Ely, take viewers to many of the river’s historic sites. “A splendid introduction to a vital part of the Western Texas heritage.” – Elmer Kelton, seven-time Spur Award winner.

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