James Bayless may be the fastest man in Barry County—maybe even the West. But racing wasn’t making him rich, and he needed to get rich…

Money was scarce in post-Civil War Missouri. So she would never know poverty, his girlfriend’s father has promised to wed his only daughter, Maggie, to the man who could buy her a certain showcase farm in Cassville. So, Bayless and his best friend Lem strike out for the gold fields of Colorado. Disaster reigns when a rattlesnake bites Lem a mile out from the small town of Aria, in the Colorado foothills. Bayless shoots the head off the snake, but the gunshot spooks the horses. James must race by foot to the nearest town for a doctor.

Lem could not be saved, but two old men who watched Bayless run into town behind his horse, make the grieving man an unusual offer. Weeks earlier, the town was swindled by a traveling show. They duped the townsfolk into wagering on footraces, and then entered a “ringer” into the competitions. The town’s runners never had a chance. Now the traveling troupe was repeating their con on the neighboring town of Harmony—and Bayless could be a ringer of their own.

James Bayless is about to learn the only thing harder than winning his race, will be getting home to Missouri with the prize money, alive.

*Based on the true-life adventures of James Bayless.

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