Award-winning journalist and investigative reporter Rone Tempest presents the gripping true crime story of a Puerto Rico-born undercover officer gunned down by a white Wyoming lawman in 1978 — and the notorious frontier trial that followed.
Of all the possible explanations for why lawman Ed Cantrell shot and killed his deputy Michael Rosa in the parking lot of the Silver Dollar saloon, the least likely was the one that prevailed at trial—that a deranged Rosa went for his gun and Cantrell outdrew him in self-defense. In his powerful and compelling reconstruction of the infamous 1978 killing in boomtown Rock Springs, Wyoming, award-winning journalist Rone Tempest tracks the parallel lives of Ed Cantrell, an Indiana schoolboy who fashioned himself into a 19th-century Western gunfighter on the right side of the law, and Michael Rosa, a Puerto Rico-born and West Harlem-raised decorated U.S. Marine who worked under Cantrell as an undercover narc. For a time, Tempest writes, the two were an efficient team: Cantrell, the steely-eyed Wild West throwback and Rosa, the street-savvy New Yorker with an impressive flair. It was as though Wyatt Earp and Shaft had teamed up to fight crime in the Mountain West. But then came a falling-out. Rosa was subpoenaed to testify before a state grand jury in Cheyenne on the matter of corruption in Rock Springs, including within its own police department. Tensions and paranoia built to a breaking point at a midnight meeting in a saloon parking lot where Cantrell, with two other cops beside him, drew his Model 10 .357 and shot Rosa between the eyes, killing him instantly as he sat in the backseat of an unmarked police car. Unearthing previously unseen investigators' notes, military records, personnel files, census records, college transcripts and even airplane manifests, Tempest skillfully demonstrates the true aim and cost of the raucous murder trial that followed the killing.
"A grave miscarriage of justice," said former Wyoming U.S. Attorney Christopher "Kip" Crofts.
THE LAST WESTERN is quick moving, deeply sourced, and a page-turning snapshot of an event that rocked the state and still lingers - for better or worse.
Wyoming was riveted by word that an undercover drug agent was shot by his boss in a police car just as he was preparing to testify before a grand jury investigating corruption. I remember covering that electrifying story as a young reporter, and Rone Tempest has brought to light extensive new details about the characters involved in one of the American West’s strangest dramas.
Hugely entertaining.... Think: High Noon meets Training Day in Deadwood.
Rone Tempest’s spellbinding latest work won’t be the last western, but it will stand as one of the very best.
Reading Tempest is like taking a masterclass in writing and reporting—and a seriously good time.
Tempest gives his readers a gripping, well-told tale, introducing us to a colourful cast of characters inhabiting the volatile, often violent world of a twentieth-century Western boomtown. … Tempest provides a meticulously researched account of the ways in which the unlikely partnership between Cantrell and Rosa evolved… A fascinating and highly enjoyable true crime story.