When John Goodnight was a boy he watched in the weeds as his entire family was killed in a ruthless outlaw attack. Now as a circuit judge of the western territories Goodnight travels the west protecting the innocent from injustice.
It's the late nineteenth century US. When he was a boy in the Wyoming Territory, John William Goodnight was on a covered wagon that passed as the local stagecoach in the area with his farmer parents and Judge Aldous Shaw and his wife Rebecca Shaw, who the Goodnights had only just met before the start of their travels from what was then a town called Dry Gulch, which has now been renamed Crooked Stick. Targeting Judge Shaw who had just convicted their partner, bandits attacked the wagon, killing all on board except John and Mrs. Shaw, who ended up raising John as her own. A Chicago lawyer who believes in the law but not in lawyers, John, who lives hard and according to Rebecca should long ago have been dead because of it, has just been appointed by the Governor of Illinois as a circuit court judge for the Wyoming Territory, known as the most lawless region on the continent. Rebecca is the one who arranged this appointment, as she feels that John's recklessness is due to still being that tortured little boy who saw his parents killed, and that his restlessness will never cease without that one living bandit who killed his parents facing justice. Living by Rebecca's code, John strives for justice and not revenge though the law. In-between trying the cases brought before him in Wyoming, John tries to discover the happenings of that bandit that killed his parents and Rebecca's husband, he who was masked during the attack but who walks with a limp. When John reaches Crooked Stick on his travels, he finds that the town is run by a man named Dan Reed, who is able to do so because of his wealth. Dan operates by his own rules, which is all for himself, and damned anyone who is against him, including the law. Dan is not averse to murder to get what he wants. John is fairly certain that Dan is the bandit that he is looking for. He may be able to prove it with the help of a widowed local named Dr. Kate Ramsey, a woman who he is falling for, but proof may be a moot point if Dan and his men kill him and Kate first. John, however, may find that all is not as it first appears on the surface.
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