Chief of Thieves

August 1863 finds two con artists traveling with their embezzled cash to build their dream ranch in Washington Territory. But some Cheyenne Indians have different plans for those white settlers heading west, plans that cause the story of our con artists to become three stories.

Chief of Thieves takes the reader into the disasters of early Western ranch life and the births of lawless Wyoming towns; inside Cheyenne villages and tipis, where this hunting civilization of people, called “the greatest horsemen and cavalry the world ever saw,” lived, raided, and were attacked and massacred as they slept; and into the relentlessly driven lives, internal conflicts, and the battles of George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry.

The three stories continuously interweave at an ever-quickening pace, from Colorado negotiations to battles in Oregon, Wyoming. Kansas, and what is now Montana, including the massacres at Sand Creek and the Washita River, before culminating on a beautiful June 1876 day on the Little Bighorn River. Custer’s Little Bighorn decisions under fire in real time become understandable on these pages as death comes to historical and fictional characters, con artists, U.S soldiers, and Cheyenne alike, and the three stories merge climactically on that fateful day in American history.

Chief of Thieves is the sequel to Where They Bury You. The latter is a murder mystery that tells the factual story of how Lieutenant Augustyn P. Damours conned the U.S. Army, the Catholic Church, and the New Mexico Territory out of millions of today’s dollars.

It’s also a love story in which Damours meets his match in the form of Lily Smoot, former “working girl”—extremely good at the only real job available to young women in the mid-19th Century American West—turned con artist. Lily finds herself in the center of a triangle interwoven with the romance between the two of them and the reemergence of her “father figure” from her Santa Fe days.

Check out the excerpt here.

What reviewers are saying about Chief of Thieves:


“An exciting, well-written saga of the Plains Indians War with fictional and non-fictional characters blended together. There is enough drama and action to compel readers to turn the pages. I highly recommend this sequel, which can be read as a stand-alone, and look forward to reading future books by this author.”

Historical Novels Review


“Kohlhagen uses (his) research to blend historical and fictional characters…and the author shows great familiarity with the West, its settlers, and Native Americans. All in all, historical fiction fans will want to add this novel of the American West to their libraries.”

Foreword Clarion Reviews


“Much like Where They Bury YouChief of Thieves is a fun read that will keep you entertained.  He tells a fast paced story and develops life like characters that you will want to see succeed.”

–The Jolly Historian

“I’ve been looking forward to Steve Kohlhagen’s next book and am not disappointed!”

–Bernard Cornwell





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