Book Review: No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy

no-escape-coverWhen Susan Cameron arrives in Sweetwater Valley, Wyoming, she is full of hope for her new life. At last, she will answer to no one but herself–she is free to pursue her dream of owning her own land and making her own choices. She gets off to a rocky start, but undaunted, doggedly follows her plan to file for her own section of land. Along the way, she meets Michael O’Brien who shows a romantic interest in her. Susan, however, meets Michael’s every effort with frosty response. This is her time to prove herself and nothing, no one, will deter her.

Early on, Susan has the good fortune to meet her generous and helpful neighboring homesteaders, Ella and her husband Jim. Susan soon learns that cattlemen are actively making life miserable for homesteaders. The free grazing land cattlemen have used for years is being “ruined” by homesteaders’ houses, fences and crops, tying up precious water resources. The lawlessness and tragedy that follow is a bleak part of western history.

This excellent historical novel, No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy, by Jean Henry Mead, is based on an actual 1889 Wyoming incident involving the vigilante hangings of Ellen “Ella” Watson-Averell and her husband, James. The homesteaders were falsely accused of running a “brawdy” house” in exchange for rustled cattle. To carry the story, the author has drawn a fictitious character, a composite of thousands of single women who attempted to prove up on homesteads, some successfully, some not.

Versatile author Jean Henry Mead’s impeccable research is evident in this gripping fast-paced tale.

No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy by Jean Henry Mead is available in e-book and print formats.

16 thoughts on “Book Review: No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy

  1. The tragedy of Cattle Kate is skillfully blended with a story centering around a fictional character who has a dream of homesteading. I learned a lot about Wyoming history from this book.

  2. I’ve always thought this a good subject for a book, but “thoughts” is all I ever had and probably now all I ever will have. Too many “thoughts” and too few years. But I’m now anxious to read Jean Henry Mead’s book.

    • Thanks, Carol. It’s a story I came across more than 20 years ago while researching a centennial history book. I was so distrubed by the newspaper articles of the late 1880s that I researched the story on and off for years while writing other books, determined to clear Ellen’s and James Averell’s names. When a nonfiction book about the hangings was published several years ago, written by George Hufsmith, who had been commissioned to write an opera about the Averells, I was finally able to fill in the missisng puzzle pieces. I dedicated my book to him because he spent more time than I had researching the murders.

  3. Thank you, Mary, for featuring my latest release, No Escape, the Sweetwater Tragedy, the true story of Ellen “Cattle Kate” Watson-Averell. I hope it will help to dispel the rumors that have been circulating for more than a century about her character and that of her husband James.

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