In the late summer of 1998, I flew for the first time to the American West. I went there in search of dinosaurs. Back in London, my wife was pregnant with – as it would turn out – our first daughter. Conscious that my opportunities for travel were about to narrow severely, I wanted, while I still could, to see the fossil beds and natural history museums that lie in the shadow of the Rockies. Nowhere in the annals of palaeontology had produced more iconic dinosaurs: stegosaurus, triceratops, tyrannosaurus rex. These were creatures that had been haunting my imaginings since early childhood. It was fitting, then, that my companion on the trip was my oldest friend, Matt, whom I had known since I was four. Landing at Denver airport, we took possession of what seemed to us a positively sauropod-sized recreational vehicle (‘Welcome to the RV community!’ the instruction video boomed at us cheerily). A quick visit to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, then we were off. Ahead lay the open road. The badlands of Colorado and Utah, Wyoming and Montana awaited.
Naturally, I had brought large quantities of books on dinosaurs. I had also brought a range of Wild West classics, both fiction and nonfiction: The Virginian, True Grit, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Among them was a novel that I had long been saving up for the road trip: