The steady tick of an aged Regulator wall clock and the squeak of an overhead fan turning slowly are soft but insistent, counting down the night, while the high desert thrums like a half-remembered Victrola song. The sounds are below the consciousness of Winchell Dear, an old-time gambler, a Texas poker player on the southern circuit, as he waits for something . . . something vague that his life of chance tells him is evil and moving his way. He has gassed and oiled the Cadillac and adjusts the pistol in his right boot, then plays one of the six fiddle tunes he knows, thinking back to his good days with Lucinda Miller. Alone, he waits in his remote ranch house, while, just outside, an acquaintance named Luther hunts, unblinking and of nervous temperament and moving through yellow primrose bending in the night wind.
In Diablo Canyon, a distant part of Winchell Dear’s ranch, Peter Long Grass squats by a campfire, contemplating the profile he saw moving along the ridge of Guapa Mountain an hour ago, thinking about the gambler’s housekeeper, Sonia Dominguez, about the small, quiet world he has fashioned far from civilization and what undefined presence might now be threatening it. He gathers his tools and begins to run across the desert floor.
And boring toward all of them is a cream-colored Lincoln Continental with two men aboard. Traveling from Los Angeles on a mission they’ve been given, they are professionals, cool and implacable at the start, but becoming steadily more confused by the strange landscape they are passing through. Forty minutes from their task, they ready themselves, while a kitchen wall clock ticks its way through the long night of Winchell Dear.
The Long Night of Winchell Dear finds master storyteller Robert James Waller at his best as he takes us through the wind and dust of the high desert mountains, into the shadowy world of high-stakes poker fought in the back rooms of Amarillo and Little Rock, and headlong toward the book’s stunning finale of chaotic terror, where an unexpected hero emerges.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of History eBook: The Long Night of Winchell Dear|
|Release Date: 11-14-2006|
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|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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The Long Night of Winchell Dear
So, my nephew, listen to me and know my words: In the high desert, Time is an old, sly rider, a bandit of legend who will steal your days and take your woman and be smiling down at you as He boards the evening train.
And having remembered his uncle's words and having lived with the truth of them all the length of his fifty-one summers, Pablo Espinosa came hard and fast off the ridge of Guapa Mountain in full darkness. Seventy-two miles above the border and slipping on loose stones, clutching the green and swaying branches of pinon pines for balance, he began his descent toward Slater's Draw, where his silhouette would no longer pin him to the sky. Across the dry ground, his brown feet in the rope-and-rubber-tire sandals were taking him north as they had done before, in a relentless shuffle that regarded distance as nothing more than a vocation.
Above the sandals were floppy gray and thorn-ripped trousers, and above the trousers a shirt that might have been citron colored once but was faded now, with "Moorman's Lanes, Presidio, Texas" lettered on the back. Yesterday, a helicopter had spotted Pablo Espinosa as he worked his way around Santa Clara Peak, and afterward came the grinding roar of four-wheel-drive Broncos and radio talk he could hear imperfectly in the canyons below him while la migra, the Border Patrol, cut sign for his track. He'd hidden up through the daylight hours and now was trying to recoup his losses.
In a hurry and having reason to be, rolling a pebble over his tongue to bring up the last bit of moisture in his mouth, Pablo Espinosa was almost at his journey's end. The pack he carried weighed nearly a third as much as his