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Conspiracy

The Trial of Oliver Lee and James Gililland
A Novel based on a true story

It is May 1899. Quentin Peach, a young reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, is sent to the "Trial of the Century" at the little mining village of Hillsboro, NM. The trial is for the murder of an eight-year old boy, Henry Fountain and his famous father, Albert Fountain, attorney, frontiersman, leading Republican, and father of twelve. Oliver Lee and James Gililland, ranchers, former U.S. Deputy Marshals and Deputy Sheriffs, and Democrats stand accused of the crime. All evidence is circumstantial. The territory claims Lee and his friends conspired to murder Albert Fountain. The defendants claim the territory is conspiring to hang Lee and Gililland regardless of their guilt. Small ranchers and cattle barons, Texas Democrats and Yankee Republicans are on the edge of open warfare at a trial that has become a political war. If the trial is not resolved peacefully, New Mexico statehood will be set back fifty years. Quentin's assignment is to gather background stories on the trial, try to find out what happened to the bodies, and determine if Lee and Gililland are in fact guilty as charged.

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In Hillsboro Sadie Orchard, "former" madam, hotel and restaurant owner, stage line owner and driver, convinces Quent that a third conspiracy was behind the murder of the Fountains and responsible for framing Lee and his friends.

It is Pat Garrett's last big case. Pat Garrett, killer of Billy the Kid, hired by the territorial Governor to arrest and convict Lee and his friends, anxious to collect $20,000 in reward money, does not pursue evidence for the third conspiracy. He takes two years to present evidence to a grand jury that refuses to indict Lee and his friends. Garrett obtains a bench warrant to arrest them anyway. He loses a dawn firefight with Lee and Gililland at Wildy Well Ranch in July of 1898. Lee and Gililland turn themselves in to Judge Franklin Parker in the winter of 1899. Pat Garrett's key witness, Jack Maxwell, agreeing to testify for $2,000 of the reward money, disappears the day before the trial begins.

Convinced Sadie Orchard is on the right track, Quent pursues information on the Fountain murderers. Someone wants him out of Hillsboro. He's beaten and pursued by killers who warn him to stay away from the estranged niece of one of the ringleaders in the Fountain murder conspiracy.

The trial begins 26 May 1899 and lasts for eighteen days. Over seventy witnesses are sworn. Jack Maxwell is found and testifies. Near midnight, the case goes to the jury 12 June 1899. In less than 8 minutes, the jury declares - Not Guilty.

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Reviews

" I truly enjoyed reading your version [Conspiracy: The Trial of Oliver Lee and James Gililland] of the times. The more I read, the more I enjoyed being drawing into the story with all the characters and their stories which gives rise to their versions. The different personalities and elements involved shares with the reader why there could be many different ideas floating around about what went on with [the] Albert & Henry disappearance. It isn't narrow thinking at all and your report helps to lead other people to look at the other versions."
~ Linda Lee, Great Great Granddaughter of Oliver Lee


" Conspiracy crackles with tension and intrigue as the Old West comes to life. You can smell the leather and hear the gunshots in the air as you read. It's a truly fun historical work. "
~ By Christine Barber, Author of The Replacement Child Winner

" Also, being from the Fountain family, I was raised in an atmosphere to believe that Oliver Lee did indeed have a lot to do with the murder.  However, I like to think I'm open minded and your story of his roll being inadvertently "drawn" into the fight opened my eyes and I thought "what if it really was like that, or at least similar to it?"....that is ....being approached by the shooter (Red Tally) and asking for a reward for a deed that Lee didn't really authorize.  Interesting facet to think about! "
~ Thomas Vietch, Great Great Grandson of Albert Fountain

"Conspiracy offers a dramatic, realistic take on a chapter of American western history that is often neglected; and with the presence of Pat Garrett, slayer of Billy the Kid, that seems impossible. W Michael Farmer's recreation of the tense and tragic events surrounding the ultimate betrayal of the frontier ideal reads like the great novel it is. With all the tantalizing detail of thoroughly researched history."
~ Loren D. Estleman, author of The Branch and the Scaffold


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