Fred Dickey's Island of Human Drama

         A novelist who believes every life is an adventure.

Days of Hope, Miles of Misery  
Love and Loss on the Oregon Trail

Released, Oct. 31, 2020

In paperback, hardcover, and e-book

Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, Better World Books, Abe Books, Book Depository, Alibris, Ingram, and other retailers

Publisher: Lost River Books

UPDATE 6/10/21: Fred Dickey has won FIRST PLACE in the LARAMIE AWARDS for Western Historical Fiction!

UPDATE: 6/11/21:  This book is now available as an audiobook on Amazon, Audible and iTunes!


"As their wagon train leaves Missouri for California in the spring of 1845, pioneers have to survive terror, weather, and terrain; diseases they don’t understand, and dangers they do.

Hannah Blanc is a heart-sick physician beset by tribulations: the suicide of a beloved husband, unfair denial of her career, and a nightmarish new marriage of necessity to a vile man.

The guide, Nimrod Lee, is her on-again, off-again lover. He is an enigmatic mountain man who knows the trail, but is also looking for a daughter he lost, and a man he needs to kill.

Though they are lovers, Hannah and Nimrod each have enough baggage to fill one of the wagons. They are electrons and protons: they both attract and repel.

Indians can be friendly or dangerous, sometimes both in the same afternoon. Killer outlaws hover. But the gravest threat comes from the emigrants themselves adrift from their previous lives. Both bad and good manifest among them, but in the wilderness, bad can be deadly.

AN EXCERPT: The pioneers are caught in brutal cold high in the mountains.

…The pioneers hugged each other for warmth. They shivered in ragged, smelly clothes, and endured the wind as it moaned through fir branches and gave teeth to the cold. Hannah hoped that when dawn came, and it was time to rise, every one of them would.

For those companions, it was a night of misery of a terrible kind. There was no defense and no escape. Stupor was their refuge. The mountains’ intent was to break their spirits so they would quit the survival struggle and slide into death. Faint above the wind, sobs, moans, and prayers pleaded for deliverance. But nothing profane. Even the irreverent wouldn’t chance that. Eternity was too close.

They blamed themselves for joining a caravan that brought them to this place where death awaited. All the people back home who had urged them on did not realize what they were urging. The pioneers had learned an adventurer’s grim truth: It is better to die back home in one’s own bed, and among one’s own people, than to die where only crows and coyotes are interested."

Professional Reviews:


1) Five Stars - a review from Praries Book Review, Nov. 2020:

A meticulously researched and effortlessly crafted tale that transports the reader to another world from history…

Filled with the struggles and hazards of traveling the rugged, hostile Oregon Trail, Dickey’s epic story of limitless hopes, searing losses, and courageous pioneers features a love story between an unlikely pair of protagonists as they try to navigate a hostile terrain while struggling with their inner demons. When Nimrod Lee, a mountain man, is hired as the guide for a wagon converge in Missouri and meet Hannah Blanc, a doctor and mother of two, he has no idea his life was going to change forever. As the convoy begins its five months long journey of two thousand miles, staying alive becomes a priority. Dickey knows his history. His meticulous research and his understanding of the contradictory impulses of human nature not only enables him to envision the era with detailed precision but also bring his various interesting characters to life. He draws them with precision, revealing their deep emotional scars and personal trauma. Fierce, dedicated and complex, a man with many problems, Nimrod remains an intriguing hero, whose sense of rough justice and affinity for violence makes him a worthy hero. Hannah impresses as the remarkable doctor, a willful and resourceful woman way ahead of her time. The secondary characters are equally unexpected, and are rooted in reality and perception. Fluidly written, expertly researched, and brilliantly conceived, this inspiring tale of love, determination, and the pioneer spirit makes for a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.

2.) Five stars from noted novelist K.C. Finn, for Readers’ Favorite

In Days of Hope, Miles of Misery, Fred Dickey has crafted a really interesting novel with plenty of historical flavor and detail. It is set during the pioneering time of the mid-nineteenth century when brave folk set out to create destinies on the harrowing Oregon Trail.

Fred Dickey has crafted a really interesting novel with historical flavor and heavy research. The characters, dialogue and atmosphere are authentic and accessible. Struggling physician Hannah Blanc is ahead of her time and makes an excellent central focal point. I highly recommend this book as an accomplished work of historical fiction.

3.) Review by William E. Hill, historian and author, and founder of the Oregon-California Trails Assn.:

If ’n you’re hanker in’ for a historical novel that is full of adventure and that takes a hard look at the “elephant,” ie., the dangers and hazards, that so tried the emigrants going west, look no further, it is Fred Dickey’s Days of Hope, Miles of Misery. The story is set in the mid-1840s at the end of the fur trade and the beginning of Manifest Destiny on the then developing Oregon-California trail. It combines adventure and romance, personal conflict and hardships, celebrations and sorrows as a wagon train travels and encounters various dangerous situations on its almost 2,000 mile journey west to California.

Nimrod Lee was a grieving and former mountain man turned guide, and Hannah Blanc, a rebel for her time, and a recently remarried widower and mother, whom many modern women can identify with, are the featured characters.

The characters’ dialogue is realistic. An emigrant from the 1840-60s would feel at home in this novel. I would recommend this “good read” to my friends, - and you, are now one of them.

4) Feb. 3, 2021, A review by Donovan's Literary Services, published in Midwest Book Review:

Days of Hope, Miles of Misery
Fred Dickey
Lost River Books
$15.95 Paper; $22.95 Hardcover; $7.95 Kindle  

Readers of Western historical fiction well know that many novels have already been written about events surrounding the Oregon Trail. However, Days of Hope, Miles of Misery - Love and Loss on the Oregon Trail take a different approach than most, depicting the strife caused by a disparate band of wagon train travelers who face life-threatening adversity with different approaches to living, loving, and problem-solving. 

Many wagon train accounts focus on a single family facing pioneer challenges. This story follows the group as a whole, from Hannah Blanc, a physician mourning the loss of her husband by suicide and a terrible new marriage to a cruel man; group leader Nimrod Lee, who harbors a secret mission beyond guiding the wagon trains through the wilderness; and others who face disease, dissent, Indians, and physical and mental challenges to survival. 

Fred Dickey uses descriptive language that captures the experience of being a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, not only presenting the physical challenges, but the shared trials of the wagon train group: "The other pioneers hugged each other for warmth. They shiv­ered in ragged, smelly clothes, and endured the wind as it moaned through fir branches and gave teeth to the cold. Hannah hoped that when dawn came, and it was time to rise, every one of them would. For those companions, it was a night of misery of a terrible kind. There was no defense and no escape. Stupor was their refuge. The mountains’ intent was to break their spirits so they would quit the survival struggle and slide into death." 

He also excels in the dialogues and interactions he creates between all involved in the Oregon Trail experience [This about Nimrod letting a snake live.]: “Indians say you rile up a bad spirit if you kill just to be killing. It stayed coiled because that’s how they protect theyselves. If it stretches out to crawl, it’s got no defense. When he crawled away, he was leaving peaceful. Anyway, Captain, you got to respect a rattlesnake’s honesty. He is who he is, and he don’t lie about it. He don’t want trouble, but if called on, he’s sure to give it. If you make him nervous, he’ll make you sorry.” A man asked, “Surely you don’t believe that bad spirit business?” Nimrod tipped his head in thought. “Until I see it proved wrong, I’m going to walk soft around it.” 

From children who must learn the difference between mercy and cruelty to how the trappings of civilization and civilized behavior standards are negated in the frontier experience, Days of Hope, Miles of Misery is a compelling story that is especially strong in probing how one woman reassesses abuse, tenderness, and weakness in her life and choices. 

More than another Oregon Trail history, Days of Hope, Miles of Misery is an outstanding survey of the pioneer spirit and what it takes to survive and make a new life replete with new values, discoveries, and dreams. 

Set against the backdrop of a life-threatening journey, it's a powerful saga that takes the wagon train trek and closely examines what it means to be a survivor. 

Fans of Western fiction looking for superior stories will relish the spirit, descriptions, and experiences in Days of Hope, Miles of Misery, which is more than a cut above other Oregon Trail stories. 

Days of Hope, Miles of Misery

Reader Reviews on Amazon:

Nov. 2020 - Verified Kindle Customer rated it 5 stars.

"Epic journeys feed the imagination. Every generation is captivated by the call of far reaching adventure and perhaps more so, an escape from the predictable.

A very real and uniquely American journey was set upon by hundreds of thousands of hopefuls in the mid-1800’s, indeed, to this day there are wagon wheel ruts visible along parts of the Oregon Trail. These travelers were not hardened soldiers or skilled mountaineers trekking to the Pacific Ocean; some were hopeful entrepreneurs, others were village outcasts or miscreants on the lam, but mostly they were families; husbands dreaming of opportunities for more, and their wives holding children in their arms and trepidation in their bellies. This author, Fred Dickey, has captured their courage and their vulnerabilities, their acts of selflessness and their errors…errors that were never without ripples of consequence.

The disparate, mostly ragtag occupants of twenty-eight covered wagons converge in Missouri and begin learning to work with one another as they collect, store, and plan strategically for the five months to come. Shadrach Penney, though a natural leader, knows they need an expertise he and the other men of the governing committee just don’t have. Nimrod Lee, honed from years of living in the wilderness has the knowledge they will need to survive. Hiring Nimrod as their guide is the first critical decision the committee makes. Recognizing the medical competence and grit of Hannah Spencer is the second. Prejudices serve no one in this raw setting; roles meld and boundaries blur as men and women shed their social status and rise to the demands they cannot circumvent with condescension or posturing. This chance community soon hitches up their oxen and catapults into a rolling, roiling microcosm of humanity. We are swept up with them, navigating a five month, two thousand mile walk by man and beast that tests every emotion and scrapes each character down to the proverbial bone. Egos clash, fear cripples, and Mother Nature strikes without compassion. Survival may be the goal that keeps them on their feet but each man, woman and child that sees the promised land as they crest the last hill will be shouldering scant remaining belongings and carrying more than a few ghosts that will accompany them into their future. As readers, we must reluctantly bid farewell to them but their energy and some of their ghosts remain with us and we find ourselves desiring a sequel to unfold.. "

Reader Reviews on Goodreads:

Dec. 2020:
  Robert Wilson rated it 5 Stars; it was amazing.
"Outstanding book. Could not put it down."

Nov. 2020
Rebecca said. 4 Stars.
"I cannot thank the author enough for writing this book. I have already suggested it to some of my friends."

Dec. 2020. 
Darren said:
"I recommend this work of historical fiction that presents the many dangers of nature and of man that befell the early pioneers in seeking to take on the unforgiving wilderness in hopes of a better life at trek’s end."

Link to the book on Amazon: Amazon

**On March 5, 2021, there were 32 FIVE STAR REVIEWS on!

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