The Lost Years of Billy Battles by Ronald E. Yates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As Europe plunges toward war, German agents manipulate competing political factions in Mexico to draw Washington’s attention to its southern border. Kansas sand cutter, William Fitzroy Raglan Battles, who spent the first half century of his life fighting outlaws in the American west, rebels in the Philippines and in Vietnam, settled into a life of peace and harmony in Chicago with his second wife, Katharina. However, in Billy Battles’ life, adversity always arises. A phone call from his old friend and commanding officer, General Funston, lured him and Katharina to Veracruz on a mission to mingle with the German community in the hope of gaining intelligence regarding Germany’s meddling. The pair, being both German speakers, soon had knowledge of the Kaiser’s plan to arm the Mexican rebels in the north under Carranza, Villa, Zapata, and Obregón. They also unwittingly thwarted the delivery of a submarine load of gold and silver bars.
Villa’s incursions into the United States drew Billy back to the border, and he even joined Pershing’s expedition into Mexico in search of the rebel general. In the meantime, war erupted in Europe, and the neutral U.S. was unable to return the interdicted gold and silver to its rightful owner. General Funston entrusted Billy with the task of stashing it in a secret bunker on a nascent military base in New Mexico. Only Funston and Billy had a key.
Billy’s gallivanting around Mexico did not sit well with Katharina. To placate her, the pair made some trips around the country, since Europe was off limits. They renewed acquaintances with the likes of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. Remember that I said adversity always arises? On a short idyll to Michigan, Billy’s lifelong nemesis, the notorious Bledsoe clan, made a play for vengeance that had a life-shattering impact on Billy. His retaliation forced him to flee to Southeast Asia once again where he spent many years putting his life back together.
Ron Yates did me the great honor of allowing me to do a pre-release read of this final chapter in the incredible life of Billy Battles. Mr. Yates does extensive research, has a keen grasp of history, and is a world-class storyteller. He is also a professor of Kansas-speak. The colloquialisms and Kansas jargon Ron Yates puts into the mouths of his characters will amaze and delight. The Lost Years is a stand-alone book. There is plenty of backstory to keep the first-time reader current on how we got to where we are; however, I would urge readers approaching this book to go back and buy volumes one and two as well. This trilogy is a long strange trip, and you don’t want to miss any of it.