I like reading about places I’ve visited. I’ve been to the railroad depot in Waynoka, had a nice lunch at the Mexican restaurant (the Harvey House no longer exists) but hospitality is still prevalent in Waynoka. Historically Waynoka is very interesting. Home to Okahoma’s largest rail yard, Santa Fe’s Railway Ice Company, the Transcontinental Air Transport, and branch camp for Camp Alva Prisoner of War facility. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, “ Clothed in surplus military fatigues conspicuously stenciled with “PW,” German soldiers picked row crops and cotton, harvested wheat and broom corn, manned the Santa Fe Railroad’s ice plant at Waynoka, cut underbrush and timber in the basin of Lake Texoma, served as hospital orderlies, and worked on ranches.” The rail yard and the POW’s are the basis for Russell’s engaging mystery, The Yard Dog. (link to James A. Moore review)
Spark Dugan, living on the outskirts of town, on the outskirts of life, a little slow but well meaning ends his life under a reefer train. Reefer trains haul perishable products; fruits and vegetables, stopping for ice at the Waynoka yards.
Everyone is ready to dismiss his death as a little too much drink, except the Yard Dog, Hook Runyon. So we have our detective, well he is law enforcement, well sorta. He’s hired to keep out bums, rail jumpers and pick pockets. But instead he feels everyone is turning a blind eye to what has been happening at the Waynoka railyard and how some people want to keep the POWs from answering his questions about Dugan’s death. Why does everyone seem to have something to hide?
Then of course there is the arrival of Dr. Reina Kaplan, suddening in charge of re-educating the “Nazi” prisoners at Camp Alva pending America’s winning the war. She’s been banquished to Oklahoma as surely as Hook has been banquished to the rail yards. But Hook is a surprising character. Honest, feisty, self deprecating but a survivor, fond of a little too much moonshine from his friend and confidant, Runt. He is determined to solve the mystery of Spark’s murder.
The plot twists and turns, we look at obsession and greed. Why one man’s desire for possessions proves his salvation and the same desire leads to another man’s destruction. I like the characters, the setting, the plot and obviously two thumbs up for this mystery.
There are a few historical anachronisms that even a history dolt like myself can identify. It takes a little away from the story and I’m surprised they exist with such a strong showing by Russell. But don’t hesitate to give this book a read, I loved it, passing it along to colleagues, it’s an Oklahoma author and story you won’t want to miss.