August 1863 finds two con artists traveling with their embezzled cash to build their dream ranch in Washington Territory. But some Cheyenne Indians have different plans for those white settlers heading west, plans that cause the story of our con artists to become three stories. Chief of Thieves, the sequel to Kohlhagen’s Where They Bury You, takes the reader into the disasters of early Western ranch life and the births of lawless Wyoming towns; inside Cheyenne villages and tipis, where this hunting civilization of people, called ”the greatest horsemen and cavalry the world ever saw,” lived, raided, and were attacked and massacred as they slept; and into the relentlessly driven lives, internal conflicts, and battles of George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry. The three stories interweave at an ever-quickening pace, from Colorado negotiations to battles in Oregon, Wyoming. Kansas, and what is now Montana, including the massacres at Sand Creek and the Washita River, before culminating on a beautiful June 1876 day on the Little Bighorn River. Custer’s Little Bighorn decisions under fire in real time become understandable on these pages as death comes to historical and fictional characters, con artists, U.S. soldiers, and Cheyenne alike, and the three stories merge climactically on that fateful day in American history. Chief of Thieves is based on the factual story of how Lieutenant Augustyn P. Damours conned the U.S. Army, the Catholic Church, and the New Mexico Territory out of millions of today’s dollars.
“Entertaining and instructive”
Five Star Review on Amazon By C. Kiefer
Steven Kohlhagen’s historical novel „Chief of Thieves“ is the sequel to “Where They Bury You” and deals with the events in the years after the American Civil War ended in the Southwest of the USA. In the Territories of New Mexico and Colorado fighting among the Americans ended in 1863 but the Indian wars continued. Here Steven Kohlhagen brings back history by trying to make the reader understand the decisions of the protagonists. But he also highlights the plight of the Indians, whose land was stolen, who were to be destroyed und who fought back. The last chapter deals with the Battle of the Little Bighorn 1876, which was won by the Indians, but which could not defend their freedom eventually. But Steven Kohlhagen does not only retell the big events of American history. There are the gold diggers, con artists, adventurers, fortune hunters, farmers, who all flock into the former Indian country. By means of their fates the author explains how this former Indian land was turned into modern American states. Moreover, it is not only historical facts that the story focuses on, it is also the land of the Southwest that plays an important role.
On the whole you can read a very entertaining, instructive and intelligently told story.
About the Author
Steve Kohlhagen is a former economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a former Wall Street investment banker, and is on several corporate boards, most recently elected to the board of Freddie Mac. While at Berkeley he authored many economics publications, and he and his wife Gale jointly published the murder mystery Tiger Found in 2008.
Kohlhagen was inspired to write his first novel, Where They Bury You, after reading Hampton Sides’ Blood and Thunder, a non-fiction history of Kit Carson and the West. Sides’ reporting of the factual murder of Marshal Joseph Cummings on August 18, 1863 led Kohlhagen to conduct further research on Carson and Cummings. His discovery of a historical gang of con artists led to the creation of the fictional characters who, along with the surviving historical characters, drive the action in the sequel, Chief of Thieves. In truth, the unfinished journey of the protagonists and the coincidence that involved George Armstrong Custer throughout the story leading up to the climactic Battle of the Little Bighorn inspired the sequel.
Kohlhagen also pulled from his own knowledge of the West, as he divides his time between the New Mexico-Colorado border high in the San Juan Mountains and Charleston, South Carolina.