What reviewers say about Borger: Last Dance at Sundown

This isn’t a thriller or mystery, but it delivers the same kind of emotional punch that edgy, traumatic fiction can elicit.

Out on a wild and lonely patch of prairie land in the Texas Panhandle, amidst the coyotes, whirling dervishes, horned toads, and rattlesnakes, a single wooden oil derrick birthed the boomtown of Borger.

Asa Borger was a visionary.

Or maybe he was just a gambling man.

But he could see the distant parade of civilization marching toward an oilfield, and surely when they came, the wildcatters, roughnecks, and roustabouts would need to place to hold their homes and take their money.

They needed a town.

Asa Borger built them one.

The town, his namesake, was as tough, as harsh, as wild as the Godforsaken land around it, a den of corruption and iniquity, fueled in 1926 by the largest oil strike in Texas, a land known for its big oil and big rich.

The unpaved streets of Borger were lined with dance halls and gambling parlors and brothels. Bootleggers made more money than oilmen.

Want a girl for the night?

Want a man killed?

It cost about the same.

Borger was known as the “Sodom of the Plains,” the “Wickedest Town in Texas.”

It took the Texas Rangers to tame it and Martial Law with the Texas National Guard to bring some measure of law and order to its wayward and nefarious ways.

It’s finally time to tell the true story of historical Borger as seen through the eyes of early day newspapermen who wrote about a strange array of eccentric and often villainous characters walking the streets of a boomtown.

Early days of Borger, a West Texas boomtown. Photo: Hutchinson County Historical Museum

 

Review by Jana:

Having lived in Borger, Texas, as a child, this story brought back from memory the sights and smells that are unique to the town.

It’s been fascinating to read this historical account in novel format, and I love the perspective of a small town newspaper man documenting the life and times of a bygone era.

If you’re an avid novel reader and love history, this will be one you’ll enjoy!

Review by Sandy Signing In:

The story of Borger Texas in the 1920s was recorded in numerous newspaper accounts. Those historical chronicles were researched and salvaged in the fifties by J Ron Hardin. They might never have come to light except for Caleb Pirtle. He gathered up the historical accounts that Hardin saved, and he breathed life into them. He did it in such a way that you can practically feel yourself choking on the polluted, oil-filled air of Borger.

We’ve all seen lots of movies about the Wild West, but none of them can portray the shocking truth like the story Caleb Pirtle delivers. The wicked, often scary history of a boom town that spouted up after the discovery of oil, is brilliantly brought to life by Pirtle’s masterful story telling.

This isn’t a thriller or mystery, but it delivers the same kind of emotional punch that edgy, traumatic fiction can elicit.

Let me fill you in on some of what I learned while reading this book about Borger. According to an eyewitness, “The dirt street was pocked with muddy chug holes. Slot machines lined the sidewalks. There were thousands of tents and unpainted wooden shacks that had been quickly put together. Metal shacks and anything that was easy to haul in had become a dwelling of some kind. I heard it reported that there were thirty-thousand people on Borger’s three-mile-long street.”

Add bootleg liquor, gambling dens, dance halls with painted women, and an unsavory element of lawbreakers who had no respect for life, and you have the making of a wickedness that Borger exemplified.

As for law and order, the lawmen were often as crooked as the lawbreakers. Can you imagine being a preacher and having to hold seven funerals in a day? The idea of people being shot dead, buried and forgotten was just par for the course in Borger.

If Borger’s criminals didn’t kill you, you had lots of other factors to keep you wondering if you’d survive long enough to see another sunrise.

Here’s another quote from the book that helps to bring home that point. “SOME BELIEVE BORGER is hell on earth. At least the fires are as hot, and the town lives in constant fear that a blaze will break out, always without warning, and consume them with a raging inferno”

With this extraordinary story, Pirtle takes the hard, cold facts of Borger’s history and weaves them into a gripping, true-to-life drama. The past becomes an “in your face” experience.

I didn’t even know that Borger existed before I picked up this book. Now Caleb Pirtle’s searing yet precise and exciting descriptive tale has made it a place I can’t forget. That’s the genius of Caleb Pirtle.

This is definitely a book you’ll want to read!

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