Kings of Colorado

A Novel

Kings of Colorado

"A heartfelt portrait of young men in a bygone age” (Kirkus Reviews) about troubled boys, wild horses, and the high price of a childhood lost.

Thirteen-year-old William Sheppard stabs his abusive father and is sent to the Swope Ranch Boys Reformatory, setting off a string of events that ultimately leads to a horrifying end in the Colorado mountains. Along the way, he befriends three boys who become his surrogate family. Their work together taming horses brings peace, as the boys struggle to survive a world of hurt and shocking cruelty wherein the only thing they can rely on is each other as the laws of normal society are stripped away.

With a backbone of heart-wrenching suspense, Kings of Colorado is a beautiful portrayal of brotherhood set against the nobility, danger, and wildness of youth and horses. The bonds between man and beast, along with other themes of community, friendship, and atonement are boldly explored on every page. Kings of Colorado illustrates just how easily innocence can be stripped away, robbing us of something most precious: childhood.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439183830 | 
  • January 2012
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Kings of Colorado includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author David E. Hilton. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


To defend his abused mother, thirteen-year-old William Sheppard stabs his drunken father in the ribs. He’s sentenced to two years at the Swope Ranch Boys’ Reformatory in rural Colorado. Despite being located in the beautiful mystique of the Colorado wilderness, William soon realizes how dangerous and brutal the Reformatory is. Each day he must navigate a world packed full of troubled boys and guarded over by wicked and cruel men. The only true outlet the boys are allowed is their relationship with the horses they are charged with “breaking in.” Young Will quickly finds that he must overcome tragedy and death if he is to withstand the ranch, but only at the cost of losing his innocence.


1. Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Do you agree/disagree with that remark? How do you think that relates to the novel?

2. Discuss the role of th see more

About the Author

David E. Hilton
Photo by Patrick Wilson

David E. Hilton

David E. Hilton earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University in 1998. He wrote Kings of Colorado mostly in his apartment’s stairwell just after the birth of his first son. He spends his spare time either writing or training his miniature dachshund to run in the annual Buda Weiner Dog Races. He lives just outside Austin.