My Review of the Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles by Ronald E. Yates
April 15, 2021
Billy Battles finds himself caught in a twisted web of confusion, chaos, and war, and as usual, a beautiful woman is in the middle of it.
Billy Battles is definitely not in Kansas anymore.
As Book two of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy opens, Billy is far from his Kansas roots and his improbable journeys are just starting.
The year is 1894 and Billy is aboard the S S China sailing to the inscrutable Far East. Trouble is not far behind. He has met a mysterious and possibly dangerous German Baroness. He has locked horns with malevolent agents of the German government and battled ferocious Chinese and Malay pirates in the South China Sea.
Later, he is embroiled in the bloody anti-French insurgency in Indochina–which quite possibly makes him the first American combatant in a country that eventually will become Vietnam. Then, in the Philippines, he is thrust into the Spanish-American War and the brutal anti-American insurgency that follows. But Billy’s troubles are only beginning.
As the 19th century ends and the 20th century begins, he finds himself entangled with political opportunists, spies, revolutionaries, and an assortment of vindictive and dubious characters of both sexes. How will Billy handle those people and the challenges they present? The answers are just ahead.
Review by Caleb Pirtle III:
I have always believed that the greatest asset a writer can have is imagination. It takes a strong imagination to conjure up a story that readers remember a long time.
And the writer must be able to capture the imagination of his readers and draw them into the conflict as well. They are no longer merely watching a story happen. They are thrown into the middle of a story that is happening around them.
In The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles, author Ronald E. Yates shows off the depth and enormity of his imaginative talent. The story is written like a novel. But it doesn’t read like a novel. It is as if an old man is sitting across the table, sipping from a tall glass of single malt whiskey, and telling you about his life.
And what a life it was?
Yates admits that the story is partly truth and partly fiction. But where does one end and the other begin? Billy Battles lives through the tales concocted from the journals and hand-scribbled notes he left behind for his grandson.
Billy has been a cowboy, a wanderer, a lawman, and a journalist by the time the story begins. He lives with the guilt of killing a woman even though she was the leader of a band of cutthroats. He didn’t mean to take her life. She simply stepped into the middle of a gunfight.
Billy’s wife has died, and he leaves his young daughter, his mother, and everyone he loves behind as he sails on the SS China for manila and the Mysterious East. He’s running away from himself, trying to escape his guilt. Tragedy and misfortune seem to follow wherever he goes. Billy Battles ultimately finds himself caught in a twisted web of confusion, chaos, and war, and as usual, a beautiful woman is in the middle of it.
He is forced to deal with a man stalking her aboard the U.S. China. She is a lonely widow. She needs someone to protect her. Billy volunteers to help.. But it’s not that simple. She killed her husband. That’s what the stalker says. “I killed him,” she confides to Billy. “But I didn’t murder him.”
Is the stalker a Pinkerton Agent, as he says he is, a gun for hire, someone out for revenge, or, perhaps, a secret agent for the German government? After all, the beautiful lady is carrying top-secret German documents about Germany’s top-secret plans to run the Spanish out of the Philippines and colonize the country itself.
The Germans want to control the Philippines. So do the Americans. Billy Battles has already gone up against the Spanish, fought pirates in the South China Sea, escaped hired guns from Germany, and suddenly he’s commissioned as a captain for the American Army to fight an honorable war that he believes should not be fought. An honorable war, he knows, is as much an oxymoron as a peaceful conquest or a humane slaughter. As he says, “When foxes pick the jury, the chicken’s always guilty.”
Billy Battles fights his way from one sordid dilemma to another, and wherever he goes, the so-called Pinkerton Agent, the German spy, is only one step behind. Ron Yates does a wonderful job of describing his villain. He writes, in the voice of Billy Battles, “I didn’t like this man. There was a deadness in his eyes. The occasion reminded me of something my mother said about an avaricious, narcissistic banker she knew: ‘He is a man who warms his hands over the smoldering ashes of other people’s lives.’”
The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles is a love story. It is an adventure story. It is the story of a man at war with his own conscience. It is, if nothing else, a series of unfortunate events.
Ron Yates has placed actual, historical incidents within his own brilliant thread of fiction that is too improbable to be true, which means the story is embedded with more truth than we will ever know. Only Billy Battles knows for sure. I have believed everything he told me.
Please click HERE to find The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles on Amazon.