“It is 1879—four years after a great fire ravages Independence, Iowa—when a well-dressed creamery businessman shows up in the small town, looking for a horse to buy. When Charles W. Williams meets young orphaned horse groom, Gilbert Fenny, the two find a kinship in their mutual love for horses without any idea that together, they will soon transform horse racing history. A few years later when Mr. Williams returns to Independence to raise trotting horses, he purchases several animals that include a lame mare he intends to breed. After he offers Gilbert a job caring for his horses and a warm bed to sleep in, the horse groomer’s life suddenly changes for the better. As Gilbert grows older and Mr. Williams continues to nurture his long-held dream, the two eventually raise a pair of horses, Allerton and Axtell, to become world champion stallions. But what no one knows is that they are not done yet, as plans to build the fastest race track in the world begin to develop. Gilbert and Clara find each other after several years of separation to pursue their love, despite her father forbidding it.”

from Allerton and Axtell: The Rush by Gary Lee Martinson

In Allerton and Axtell: The Rush, La Porte City author Gary Lee Martinson blends historical facts from his hometown of Independence, Iowa with must-read, page turning fiction to transport the reader back in time to learn the story of Charles W. Williams and how he turned the world of harness (trotting) racing upside down in the late 1800s. This unique mixing of fact and fiction stays true to the contributions Williams made to the community of Independence, including the stunning development of Allerton and Axtell, a pair of horses who, much to the dismay of the blue-blood establishment of trotting horses, came from virtually nowhere to become world-champion stallions. Williams also went on to build a premiere racing venue in Independence, a kite-shaped track that was considerably faster than the traditional oval-shaped tracks of the late 1800s.

The fiction Martinson uses to retell the facts comes primarily in the form of young Gilbert, a character who shares a love of horses with Williams. What begins as a modest arrangement between the two soon immerses the reader into the pre-1900 world of Equestrian.

Hawkins Memorial Library will welcome Gary Martinson for a book-signing event on October 25 at 6:30 PM. Following a brief book talk, Martinson will autograph copies of his latest book, which can be purchased for $25 (hardcover) and $20 (softcover). Allerton and Axtell is his second book, which features a cover designed by his daughter. Martinson’s first book, Ball of String, was published in 2013.