(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Awarded the Christy Award in 2002, The Long Trail Home is the third book in the Fortunes of the Black Hills series, which includes Beneath a Dakota Cross (1999), Shadow of Legends (2000), Friends and Enemies (2002), Last of the Texas Camp (2002), and The Next Roundup (2003). The book tells the story of Sam Fortune, a legendary outlaw just released from prison near Dry Fork, in Indian Territory, on June 17, 1885. When Sam tries to pick up where he left off, he discovers that he no longer has much in the way of family or friends. Sam has had little to do with his family since his mother died in Coreyell County, Texas, thirteen years earlier, and his father and siblings moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Sam’s sidekick, Kiowa Fox, points out that aside from some former girlfriends, all Sam’s old companions are either dead or in prison. This observation serves as an awakening for Sam, who longs to change directions. Despite a reputation as a gunslinger that accompanies him into every small town and saloon he enters, Sam manages to make choices that effect a transformation in his life.

The first opportunity presents itself when Sam connects with an old girlfriend, Ladosa McKay, in a dirty, dreary saloon near Dry Fork. When he knew her in more pleasant and profitable times, she was a popular hostess, but she is now stuck in this godforsaken place. She has suffered much abuse in her line of work, but she welcomes Sam because they once cared for each other. She provides Sam and Kiowa with the means to get out of town in exchange for their escorting her to Dodge City. With her mules and wagon, they have the means to head away from trouble and grief.

On the way to Dodge City, the travelers swing by Antelope Flats to get supplies and to pick up a mysterious package from another old girlfriend, Piney Burleson. When Sam finds Piney, he sees that she also has been injured by abusive men. Piney has been kicked in the head by two scoundrels, McDermitt and Burns, and she often wanders the streets, lost and confused. Her condition provokes Sam to pray for her, something he has not done in...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Bly, Stephen A. Help! My Adult Child Won’t Leave Home. Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2006. Nonfiction work by this prolific author examines the relationship between parents and adult children. Provides insights into his fiction.

Bly, Stephen A. Quality Living in a Complicated Age. San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life, 1984. This nonfiction work describes Bly’s views on how to live a Christian life and sheds light on the philosophy evident in his many works of fiction.

Bly, Stephen A. The Surprising Side of Grace: Appreciating God’s Loving Anger. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Discovery House, 1994. This nonfiction work by this prolific author describes the author’s view of grace, which is evident in The Long Trail Home.

“Bly Books.” Stephen A. Bly’s official Web site describes his life, his current work, and his collaboration with his wife; site offers e-mail connection with the author.

“Stephen A(rthur) Bly.” Contemporary Authors Online. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 2007. This overview of Bly’s life and extensive writing includes a list of books he has published alone and with his wife, Janet Bly.