The Survival of Margaret Thomas

1870s – Missouri:

Margaret “Peggy” Thomas and her husband, James, lead a simple and peaceful life; she tends to the farm while he works as sheriff in the nearby town of Bleak Knob. Their evenings are spent doing the thing they love most—being together.

One afternoon, after picking up fabric at the general store, Margaret watches helplessly as James is gunned down on the sidewalk in front of her. Days of mourning turn into weeks and then years, filled with little more than grief and alcohol.

A telegram, announcing the upcoming trial in Arizona of one of the men responsible for James’ death, rouses the widow from her misery. Neither inexperience nor the prospect of a long and difficult journey will stop Margaret from facing her husband’s killer. Along the way, Margaret unexpectedly gains some new companions as she is joined by a free-spirited gypsy woman and a diminutive moonshiner.

Together they will face the danger and violence of the Old West, but only Margaret will be able to answer the question that’s plagued her from the beginning: Is she seeking justice or revenge?

Told from Margaret’s dark point-of-view and in the epic tradition of True Grit comes The Survival of Margaret Thomas.


“THE SURVIVAL OF MARGARET THOMAS is proof that there are still compelling Western stories to be told.”

The Los Angeles Public Library

“The story of how she accomplishes the journey will be enjoyable for those who have a strong stomach for the gory parts.”

Historical Novel Society

“[T]his leads to a brutal journey, rife with violence. The book not so much a western as a horror novel in a western setting, is filled with plenty of graphic violence.”

Western Writers Roundup

"Fantastic. Absolutely vicious by the end. I loved it."

Neil Marshall, director of "The Descent," "Dog Soldiers," and "Game of Thrones"

“A truly remarkable novel. While set in the 19th century West, it is far greater than a ‘western’; it is an American novel–brutal, violent, gripping, evocative, and redemptive. The heroine is a beautifully realized, complex character, and her first-person telling of the story echoes with the rhythms and elocution of 19th century American speech. This is one hell of a ride.”

Douglass Preston, New York Times bestselling author of COLD VENGEANCE and THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE

“The stunning Western debut of an accomplished, veteran writer. With the authority of Loren D. Estleman and the heart of Larry McMurtry, Howison breathes new life into a beloved genre. I was in the right place at the right time when given the chance to read THE SURVIVAL OF MARGARET THOMAS ahead of publication. Saddle up again, Del Howison. I will ride anywhere with you.

Nancy Holder, multiple award-winner and author of the New York Times bestselling series the Wicked Saga

“Del Howison knows his westerns. Smart and swift, this is no cheap powder burner, but is instead a mesmerizing novel of the West. Strong characters, beautiful storytelling narrative, and enough heart for the entire wild west. You need this."

Joe R. Landsale, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of THE BOTTOMS and JACKRABBIT SMILE

“An old west road trip that becomes a runaway steam train, THE SURVIVAL OF MARGARET THOMAS is simply fantastic. Part western epic, part epic drama, it is a powerhouse of emotion set against the backdrop of frontier America. THE SURVIVAL OF MARGARET THOMAS got its teeth in my boots and never let go.”

Peter Clines, bestselling author of PARADOX BOUND and DEAD MOON

“I’ll put this in terms that western movie fans will understand: Del Howison’s novel is Westward the Women meets China 9, Liberty 37 meets Bone Tomahawk – elevated by the author’s dry wit, attention to historical detail and colloquialisms, and matter-of-fact approach to human savagery.”

Joseph Maddrey, author and screenwriter of "Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film"

“Memories are what we take with us, and what we leave behind. As Americans, we all carry, like memories we can’t shake off, rich veins of the frontier myths that gave birth to our literature. Del Howison mines these wonderfully.”

James Sallis, author of Drive

“Absolutely amazing page turner.”

John Debney, Oscar-nominated composer for The Passion of the Christ

“This delivers on the promise of the title — this gritty novel is about a woman surviving, getting past a defining tragedy, and forming a new life, all in the shadow of a quest for justice.”

Derek McCaw, author of I Was Flesh Gordon

“I love this beautiful and empowering story. A fabulous read from start to finish.”

Amanda Wyss, Actress Silverado & Badland