Book 23 is “Mormon Valley” by H. Bedford-Jones.
It was originally printed in People’s Favorite Magazine (25 August 1918) as “What Happened in Mormon Valley.”
Despite the cover art (by Charles Durant) this is NOT a Western.
John Marsh is given the task, with partner Abe Levy, a French-Jew, to depart New York City and travel far west, and oversee the engineering construction of a great and wonderful dam that will transform the desert landscape into a multi-million dollar project.
The pair arrive and immediately set to work while facing down bullies among the workforce. All is going well until Marsh’s boss (and daughter, Elsa) arrive, to inspect the progress. At this point, it is learned that the storekeeper, name of Dundas, knows the girl from back East. Marsh is unhappy upon this discovery, as it is clear that Dundas is in love with Elsa.
After the boss departs, he leaves his daughter (and a girl-friend of hers) behind, to remain at the camp for fresh air, etc., while he goes off to inspect another construction site far away.
Maintaining a clean, and liquor-free camp, Marsh is met by an older Georgia-man that wishes to sell liquor to the men. Marsh turns down the offer and bribe money, and the man (Newgate) opens up a town of ill-repute across the state-line, full of saloons, liquor, gambling, dance-hall girls, etc.
Marsh informs his crew any that come back drunk or trying to slip in with concealed liquor shall be immediately fired. This is enforced and many are fired. Much to his chagrin, his men continue to go across and spend their wages.
Desiring some form of truce, Marsh goes to the town and meets with Newgate to negotiate an understanding. He asks only of Newgate to restrict the amount of liquor sold daily to his men, and Newgate, remarkably, readily agrees. In turn, Newgate wishes Marsh to join him in a drink, but Marsh declines. He doesn’t drink. Ever. So, Newgate offers ginger ale instead and they drink to that….
The day and night wanes and Abe is worried sick about the missing Marsh, when, suddenly, Marsh appears stumbling (to all appearances: drunk) past the lady’s cabin, whom take in his appearance immediately, too. He is bolstered up on either side by Newgate and a slutty dance-hall girl.
Abe rushes out there and demands the meaning of Marsh’s situation and Newgate informs that he is drunk, but Abe knows Marsh intimately as a dead-sober man and calls Newgate out as a damn liar and goes to throttle him. Newgate draws a hideaway and shoots to kill. Abe drops. Newgate flees the scene.
Marsh awakens next day to the doctor tending him. The whole camp has already heard a variety of the details. Marsh insists he drank only ginger ale, and after that, remembers nothing. His drink was doped and his clothing soaked in booze so that he would reek of drink. The doctor is unsure of his allegiances in the matter, but concurs that the clothes were indeed soaked.
Marsh is informed that Abe was fatally shot and is being tended by the women, and that Newgate is on the run. Abe’s in good care, especially as it seems that Elsa’s friend is in love with him! Tarnished of good name and reputation, neither girl wants Marsh’s company.
Angry, Marsh sets out to camp, and tells his men the truth and any that don’t believe can go to hell. He focuses all his energies into the construction of the dam and when Abe becomes well again, the pair set off to the nearest railway station. Marsh sends Abe to the capital to have certain forms filed, etc.
While in the rail-stations postal office, he runs across Newgate, operating under an alias. Beating him up and having him placed under arrest for attempted murder (of Abe), he discovers the man has been receiving mail for quite a while. One letter is from Dundas, and clearly marks Dundas as the brains and money backing Newgate’s town!
With this letter and Newgate cuffed, he returns to the camp for a final showdown with Dundas, but Newgate offers fresh trickery when he moves the car’s clutch. Unfamiliar with circumstances, Marsh attempts to switch gears, blows the engine and is hurled through the window and over the hood. Newgate drops Marsh with a blow to the skull and getting the car active again, takes off, leaving Marsh to die in the desert.
Marsh awakens to find himself battered and bloody, and, the camp’s safe beside him, empty. Bewildered, he is further nonplussed to see a car coming his way, led by Dundas, the doctor, and others. Dundas delivers a fine speech, ultimately implicating that Marsh and others came at night, broke into the camp store, murdered the storekeeper (that had replaced Dundas), and made off with the safe and contents. Then, Marsh’s partners had walloped Marsh on the noggin’ and left him behind while they went on to escape. The thread is loose but all buy into the theory.
Marsh realizes that he needs that letter from Dundas to Newgate to prove his innocence. Remarkably, while under arrest at camp, some of his men approach (mind you, Abe is still away at the capital all this time) and insist they believe him innocent, and concoct a way for him to escape. He finally agrees to escape, but, only for two weeks. If he can’t locate the evidence in that time, he surrenders to the sheriff.
With the aid of an old desert rat named Piute Joe (seems there is a Piute something-or-other in many of these westerns, eh?) they track across a vast desert to track down the missing automobile. Locating it, they come across a burned and mangled Newgate. The vehicle is crashed, demolished, and worse yet, the letter that had been secreted in the glove box, along with the rest of the car, is a smoky ruin. Marsh’s hopes and dreams are dashed….
Days pass, and the camp learns that the sheriff is bringing Marsh in, after surrendering from heat stroke and dehydration.
Dundas meanwhile has brought Elsa an Arabian horse, and they ride below the dam. Abe watches in misery, them and overseeing the construction, while Dundas again proclaims his love for Elsa, and asks for her to marry him. She declines, and infuriates Dundas, whom brags that if she marries him, he can set Marsh free. She flips the table on him, stating the only reason she rode with him was to get such out of him, and now she realizes firmly that Marsh was an innocent man.
Coincidentally, higher up, a truck slips down a grade and falls down toward them. Elsa is thrown from her horse and in a mark of heroism, Dundas leaps from his and hurls Elsa to safety while being smashed up by the rolling truck.
Dundas is hauled up and the doctor says there is nothing to save the wreck of a man. Abe is distraught, and, in a final moment of evil, Dundas tells Abe that he refuses to confess to the sins and that Marsh can go to the same hell that Dundas is already going to….
Well, Dundas loses that one. Sheriff arrives with Marsh, but, he’s not under arrest! Turns out Marsh was dragged into town by Piute Joe, along with the body of Newgate, whom, shockingly, was not dead. Just mostly dead. Administered back to life in town, Newgate confesses to the whole scheme.
Story ends with Marsh and Elsa proclaiming love for each other and Abe joyously running into the arms of the other girl….