Doug Ryan, discouraged with the city and a failed romance, takes a teaching job in the small railroad town of Monarch, Oklahoma. It is here in this sleepy town that a tale of intrigue, romance and murder begins.
Doug quickly finds himself drawn into the lives of those around him, the powerful, the beautiful, the eccentric, all victims in their own way of the railroad's demise and the vacuum left by that demise. The Lynches and the Silvermans fill that vacuum, alike only in their greed, their thirst for power, their craving for vengeance. Like run-away steam engines they speed towards each other, crushing any who dare get in their way.
Doug Ryan finds himself caught between these powerful and dangerous families, snared in emotions too strong to break, infatuated by the love of Dana, the young Indian girl in his class, tempted by the unbridled and raw passion of Vicki Silverman, awed by the ambition and intelligence of Royce Silverman, the boy genius. Even the insidious madness of his old friend, Cal Lundy, becomes a trap from which he cannot escape. But most of all, his own weaknesses and needs blind him to the truth and set him on a most dangerous course.
But the past knows more than any man and from it comes J. C., the Silverman Ranch Foreman, his intelligence that of wisdom, his strength that of courage, his secret the most powerful of all.
This is a story of Oklahoma, of its people, of the generations who came after the Run, of those who invested their lives in the thousand small towns that cropped up at the track's edge. This is a story of their courage, their hopes, and ultimately of their loss.