The Lost are the Last to Die (A Sonny Burton Novel)

Written by Larry D. Sweazy
Review by G. J. Berger

After another brutal summer in 1934, retired Texas Ranger, Sonny Burton, wants only to fade away. He lost his right arm from a gun wound that turned to gangrene and hasn’t much to live for except the company of a lame dog and sometime visits from his lawman son.

But the Rangers pull him back to life. They need his help to catch Billy Brunson, just escaped from jail with the warden’s pregnant wife as hostage. Sonny and Billy have had run-ins from when Billy was a boy stealing a chicken from the local butcher. After decades of hard surviving on the run, handsome, charming, and clever Billy is without conscience. The local Rangers figure rightly that only Sonny has a chance to outwit Billy before he murders the warden’s wife or collects a ransom and vanishes.

Sweazy knows the terrain, how people lived and talked, what they ate and how they fought in that time and place. He seamlessly weaves the earlier lives of Sonny and outlaw Billy into the present, so we come to know and respect both. They are opposite sides of one coin—keen observers of everything around them and always one step ahead of everyone else. The main storyline is enhanced by a touching and unforced romance, and the interactions between Sonny and his own boy, grown into a family man.

From the opening lines about the dry “Texas Panhandle dirt, hard as stone and thirsty as an injured buzzard” to the final confrontation between Billy and Sonny, this vibrant tale will engage any reader of Westerns.