George Earle returns from college to his Oklahoma birthplace and finds it drastically altered. The Dust Bowl and the Depression have transformed the bucolic farmtown into a desolate wasteland where few are healthy, happy, or employed. A chance encounter with Pretty Boy Floyd lands him in jail with a melancholy pulp-literary agent named Hart. They’re given one chance to avoid execution by accepting an unlikely task: find local powerbroker Doc Bennett’s wayward daughter. They head east meeting migrants, vagabonds, rail-riders, rainmakers, a few destined to become famous, a few too dangerous to live, and the most ghoulish acts of a starved population, while attempting to fulfill their impossible mission.
Praise for Challengers of the Dust:
“Wow! That was all I could say when I finished devouring William Bernhardt’s Challengers of the Dust. Readers beware, hold on tight for this roller-coaster ride that starts and ends in Oklahoma’s No Man’s Land of the Dust Bowl 1930s. Along the way you will meet con artists, maniacs, daredevils, cannibals, and an array of so many famous and infamous personalities that Forrest Gump’s celebrity encounters pale in comparison. Mr. Bernhardt, you have done it again. Don’t quit now. More please.”
—Michael Wallis, Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd