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  • Ghost Town
  • Written by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307527943
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Ghost Town

Seven Ghostly Stories

Written by Joan Lowery NixonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Joan Lowery Nixon


List Price: $4.99


On Sale: December 24, 2008
Pages: 160 | ISBN: 978-0-307-52794-3
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Stagecoach robberies. Shoot-outs. Striking it rich. Throughout the Wild West small towns were formed, thriving with men and women from the East and gold from the mines. Notorious outlaws, desperadoes, and gunslingers rustled up trouble in town after town. When the gold disappeared, the outlaws, as well as the local folks, abandoned their towns. Or did they?

There are still sounds, not just the paint peeling from the deserted storefronts, or the tumbleweeds whispering as they somersault down the empty streets. There are voices, whispering stories--are they real or imagined? Stories like the one about the Lost Mine in Maiden, Texas, or the Bad Man from Bodie, California, who's still searching for his lost finger. . . .

From the Hardcover edition.



Hundreds of ghost towns are scattered across our Western states like dried, crumbling leaves after a winter windstorm. Thick adobe walls have weathered thin. Wooden posts and flooring have decayed. And even sturdy stone buildings have given in to the battering elements, their ragged remains marking the places where people once lived and worked.

Only a few of the ghost towns have been saved, their buildings repaired and painted so that visitors can catch a glimpse of Western life in the 1800s.

Most of the towns were established by miners hungry for their share of profits in the newly discovered veins of gold and silver. As time went on, however, some of these towns became hideouts for desperados. And there were a few in which groups of people attempted to establish other profitable industries and failed.

Miners, mountaineers, gunfighters, shady ladies, schoolteachers, preachers and their wives, workers and their families populated the towns. When the gold and silver were gone, the residents abandoned the towns.

Tourists from all over the world are not only curious about the Old West, but also fascinated by the stories behind each ghost town. Whether visitors believe in ghosts or not, once inside a ghost town, eerie feelings often engulf them. Just as sitting around a campfire listening to ghost stories makes you more aware of scary sounds, encountering a ghost in an abandoned town begins to seem quite possible.

Here are seven stories about real ghost towns in the West. Enter each town and walk its lonely streets lined with decaying buildings. See the shadows, and hear the whispers of those who seem unable to let go of their pasts.

These are the ghosts.

the Shoot-out

Chip Doby slumped in the backseat of his family's van. He wanted to be home in Phoenix with his best friends, Carlos and Dan. They'd saved enough from their allowances to spend all Saturday at the arcade. He'd saved, too, but a fat lot of good it had done him.

"Tomorrow we're taking a family trip to the town of Tombstone," Chip's mother had announced at breakfast on Friday. "We think everyone will enjoy a family outing."

"Tomorrow! But that's Saturday!" Chip's cereal spoon had fallen to the table, spattering milk and soggy Krispies across his T-shirt.

His little sisters had giggled.

"Sloppy, sloppy," ten-year-old Abby had chanted, while seven-year-old Emily had made a face.

But Mrs. Doby had said, "You'll love it." She'd beamed with excitement. "It will be great fun to see this historic Western town, and it will be painlessly educational, too. It was named a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior back in the sixties."

Chip had groaned and dropped his forehead to the table, narrowly missing what was left of his cereal. "Tomorrow's Saturday," he'd said. "I'm supposed to hang out with Carlos and Dan."

"This is a marvelous opportunity, Chip," his mother had answered patiently. "You can walk the streets of the town, visit the restored buildings, and see the people in costume. During the day they even have make-believe shoot-outs. It's a wonderful look at the Old West in Arizona. Believe me, you're going to enjoy it."

"Enjoy national historic stuff? Sure."

"Charles, sit up," his father had said in a tone of voice that showed he meant business. As Chip had sat back in his chair, his dad had handed him a clean spoon. "And finish your breakfast. Your mother is right. You're going to enjoy the history of this trip. Tombstone is where the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place, with Wyatt Earp and his brothers and Doc Holliday."

Chip had groaned again. "Dad, I can't go. I promised the guys--"

Mr. Doby had frowned, so Chip had turned quickly to his mother. "Mom, how long is this trip?"

"Only for the weekend," she'd said. "We'll be home Sunday evening."

"Then let me stay here alone," Chip had pleaded. "I'm not a little kid. I'm thirteen. I'm old enough to take care of myself."

"Out of the question," Mr. Doby had said.

Chip hadn't wanted to give up that easily. "Look, every week I mow Mr. Banks's lawn and ours, and last week I helped put a coat of stain on the backyard deck. You told me I did a good job. You said I was responsible. So if you meant what you said, then why can't I be responsible enough to stay by myself?"

"I did mean what I told you," Mr. Doby had answered. "You've proved to be highly responsible in handling the jobs you've taken on, but that has nothing to do with your staying here in the house alone. You're just not old enough, Chip."

Chip had looked at his mother. "Mom--"

"Our decision has been made, and we'll hear no more about it," Mr. Doby had said. "Do you understand?"

"Yeah," Chip had mumbled, but he really hadn't understood. As he sat in the car, riding through southern Arizona, all he thought about was the unfairness of it all.

Off to the west lay brown, scrubby, low mountains and hills--the southern end of the Rocky Mountains that dribbled off like a gigantic brown lizard's tail. Ahead, along Interstate 80, which stead-ily climbed in altitude through the desert landscape, stood a few colorful billboards advertising the route to Tombstone.

As Mrs. Doby began reading aloud from her guidebook about the history of Tombstone, Chip wished he could plug up his ears. Instead he had to hear about some miner from a million years ago who was told that the only thing he'd ever get out of his property was his tombstone. So he jokingly called his mine and his town Tombstone. So what?

All Chip could think about was Dan and Carlos having fun without him at the arcade. They'd be playing Deadly Aliens, and he wouldn't.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Joan Lowery Nixon

About Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon - Ghost Town

Photo © Gittings

“In every story I write I give a great deal of thought to the main character, because the story is his, or hers. The direction of the story is determined by the main character’s ambitions and reactions. The main character is the one to whom the readers will relate.”—Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award and a two-time winner of the California Young Reader Medal.


Whether it’s engrossing historical dramas, chilling mysteries, suspense-filled page-turners, or adventure stories, kids, teachers, and librarians love the books of Joan Lowery Nixon.

Nixon is half Californian, half Texan. She has a degree in journalism and credentials in elementary education. Nixon has written over 130 books for children from preschool age through young adult—including science books, co-authored with her husband, geologist Hershell Nixon. Her books have garnered numerous awards and accolades, including the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile and the Texas Institute of Letters Award. Many of Nixon’s books have won state children’s choice awards. She is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. Nixon has four children and several grandchildren.

Nixon describes the pleasure she gets from writing mystery and suspense: “When I was young I discovered an evening radio program called I Love a Mystery. It was intriguing, suspenseful, and at times absolutely terrifying, and the title was correct. I did love a mystery—on radio, in films, and especially in books. Maybe I’m really a detective at heart because much later in my life, when I began to write books for young people, I discovered writing mysteries was even more fun than reading them.

“A mystery begins to develop in my mind when something sparks an idea and a question grows from it. What would it be like to move into a house in which a murder had taken place? How would I feel if my best friend were arrested for murder on circumstantial evidence? As a question develops into an answer, I give a great deal of thought to my main character. She is the most important part of the story, and I see it take shape through her eyes. Before I write a word of the story I know how I’ll begin it and how I’ll end it, making sure to put in honest clues and distracting red herrings—just to make the mystery all the more fun to solve. I love mysteries, and I want my readers to love them, too.”

In creating the acclaimed Orphan Train Adventures, Nixon explored a time and place in America’s recent past that is not widely covered in history lessons. She explains, “It was a part of history I hadn’t known: that beginning in 1854, over 100,000 homeless children were rescued from the streets of New York City and sent by train to new homes in the West. As I researched early journals, I found many letters—some hopeful, some sad—and reports which told of tears as brothers and sisters were separated or a child was not chosen. I wanted to bring history and fiction together in an exciting, adventurous time and place, to tell the stories of those who could have traveled west on the Orphan Train.”

Many of Nixon’s readers have written to her asking how to get published. Her novel The Making of a Writer, a part memoir, part how-to book, is her answer to them. From her first publication at age 10—a poem titled “Springtime”—to her graduation from Hollywood High during World War II, Nixon shares the incidents from her childhood that helped her to develop as a writer.


“A fast-moving, entertaining mystery with an intelligent and spunky heroine.”—Booklist

“Another solid Nixon mystery without too much violence and lots of suspense.”—Booklist

“Another successful page-turner. . . . Reluctant readers and mystery lovers alike will welcome a trip to this mansion.”—School Library Journal

“Thrilling . . . a riveting tale of suspense set against a background of fascinating historical context brought up to date through e-mail and the Internet.”—School Library Journal

“Enriched with family troubles, guilty secrets, and a whiff of the supernatural, this page-turner will please the legions of Nixon fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Masterfully constructed. . . . Ingeniously plotted, fast-paced and lighthearted, this mystery manages to blend an engrossing double murder brainteaser with the blossoming of a self-conscious teen into a self-assured young woman.”—Publishers Weekly

“Nixon’s reputation as the grande dame of mysteries for young readers remains solidly intact with this thriller . . . a topnotch choice.”—Starred, School Library Journal


“As close to perfect a book. . . . The plot is rational and well-paced; the characters are real and believable; the time setting is important in U.S. history; and the values all that anyone can ask for.”—VOYA

“This exciting and touching novel projects an aura of historical reality.”—School Library Journal


“There is suspense, surprise, and heartfelt emotion, and there is a useful historical note at the end.”—Booklist


"Readers will find themselves itching to add some of these deserted towns to their next vacation trip out West." -- Booklist

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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