Thank You, Reviewers!

Booklist; October 15, 2012

Wild Horse Annie: Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustang

“Mustangs, the wild horses of the American west, are as much a part of the romance of the Wild West as the cowboys and Indians who rode them. The fact that mustangs still roam the public lands of the western states is entirely due to the efforts of one slim, small woman. Velma Johnston was born to a Nevada ranching family early in the twentieth century. Stricken with polio at age five and left disfigured, she still rode her father’s gentled mustangs and later married another rancher. Her life as a secretary and ranching housewife changed one fateful day when she pulled up behind a horse trailer that was leaking blood. Following the trailer, she learned the cruel fate of the mustangs within, one of which had been trampled to death by the others, as the rig turned into a slaughterhouse. The story of how Velma, snidely dubbed “Wild Horse Annie” by a government official, gathered supporters for the wild horses and got laws passed to provide for their humane treatment and protection, makes inspiring reading.” — Nancy Bent; Booklist, October 15, 2012


Library Journal Reviews

“Wild Horse Annie’s story is a biography laced with political maneuvers. Annie, whose real name was Velma Johnston, was a rural Nevada secretary and housewife with an ordinary life until one morning, when she followed a horse trailer that appeared to be leaking blood. When she learned where the trailer was headed and the fate of the horses aboard the trailer, she began a crusade that would last for 27 years. Journalist Kania (John Otto: Trials and Trails) worked with Johnston for seven years as she campaigned for fair treatment of the wild horses that roamed public lands in the Nevada countryside. Much of the information in the book is drawn from correspondence written by Johnston. As an activist, Johnston was able to look beyond the immediate crisis, sometimes agreeing to compromises on smaller issues that led to a solution to broader problems.

Verdict: The book is well written and will be a fascinating read for those whose lives are affected by wild horses and burros. Unfortunately, this audience is somewhat limited, so libraries should purchase where interest warrants. — Deborah Emerson, Central New York Library Resources Council, Syracuse, New York.


Midwest Book Review, September 2012

Cheapness should not allow cruelty. Wild Horse Annie: Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustang tells the story of Velma Johnston, a ranch wife who rescued three badly injured wild horses from a horse trailer, and took the wanton absue of the creatures to the United States Congress to gain them federal lands protection from the people who would capture and mistreat them. Wild Horse Annie is a strongly recommended pick for collections focusing on American conservation history, not to be overlooked.

Tattered Cover Bookstore Signing, Denver

Alan Kania at the Tattered Cover, September 2012

The Tattered Cover Bookstore in the historic Lower Downtown portion of Denver has been one of my favorite bookstores. As an independent bookstore with a reputation for free speech, intelligent social discourse, and downright comfort, it’s like curling up in an old overstuffed easy chair with a good book.

I was pleased to be included in the store’s current series of books about the land with a respected spot on stage to do readings from “Wild Horse Annie: Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustang.”

I was even more pleased to see the Tattered Cover has added my two Arcadia books (“Colorado National Monument” and “Grand Junction”) and my Xlibris title “John Otto: Trials and Trails” (formerly published by the University Press of Colorado).


Book signings!

“Wild Horse Annie: Velma Johnston and her Fight to Save the Mustang” is now published and will officially launch 28 September 2013.  But some of you in the Denver area will have a chance to get your hands on a copy earlier than that.   My book signing appearances are starting to book-up and I’m so grateful with the early attention the book is gathering.

4-7 October 2012
Western History Association
Denver, Colorado

15 December 2012     2-4 p.m.
Regional Authors Meet and Greet Open House
Mesa County Public Library
Grand Junction, Colorado
Lincoln Park Barn (the library is being renovated)

Pre-order “Wild Horse Annie: Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustang”

For an author, it’s always exciting to see the preliminary marketing that announces the release of a new book, even if the actual book doesn’t come out until the end of September.

You can pre-order the book from as a hardcover book. E-book versions will be announced later. Or you can contact the publisher, the University of Nevada Press, and beat the rush. (
The book is sensibly priced at $26.95 for the hardcover edition and will be released September 28, 2012.

Pre-order from

Wild Horse Annie – the biography

I’m pleased to share with you the news that my biography of my friend, Mrs. Velma B. “Wild Horse Annie” Johnston, will be published this fall by the University of Nevada Press.

Wild Horse Annie:
Velma Johnston and Her Fight to Save the Mustangs
by Alan J. Kania

In 1950, Velma Johnston, a shy Nevada ranch wife, came upon a horse trailer leaking blood. When she discovered the destination of the trailer and its occupants\–a trio of terrified and badly injured wild horses\–she launched a crusade that eventually reached the halls of Congress and changed the way westerners regard and treat the bands of wild mustangs and burros that roam their region.

Wild horses have been a subject of bitter controversy in the West for decades. To some, they are symbols of the West’s wild, free heritage. To others, they are rapacious grazers that destroy habitat and compete with domestic livestock and indigenous wildlife for scanty food and water. For years, free-ranging horses and burros were rounded up and shipped to slaughter houses to be killed and turned into pet food. This practice provided an income for the “mustangers” who trapped and sold them, but it also involved horrendous cruelty and abuse of the animals.

Velma Johnston, who became known as “Wild Horse Annie,” undertook to stop the removal of wild horses and burros from US public lands and protect them from the worst aspects of mustanging. Her campaign attracted nationwide attention, as it led her from her rural Nevada County to state offices and finally to Washington, DC. Author Alan J. Kania worked closely with Johnston for seven years, and his biography provides unique insight into Wild Horse Annie’s life and her efforts to save the West’s wild horse herds.

Alan J. Kania is a journalist who has worked in nonprofit administration and as an adjunct professor of journalism in Denver.

Praise for Wild Horse Annie

“As one of the few insiders from Velma Johnston’s campaign to save America’s mustangs, Alan J. Kania presents a thorough, deeply researched, and carefully crafted portrait of the woman without whom we would have no wild horses today. He also recounts the details of that hard-fought battle, making Wild Horse Annie an invaluable record of one of the great environmental wars of the twentieth century.”
–Deanne Stillman, author of Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West

“Here is the real deal–a tale accurately and lovingly told by Alan Kania, who as a young man worked for Annie. Alan mirrored Annie’s passion to save the American mustang. Together they created a path to protecting these iconic symbols of American freedom.”
–Ginger Kathrens, founder and director of the Cloud Foundation and creator of the popular Cloud, the Wild Stallion programs for PBS’s Nature series

“The story of Wild Horse Annie, well conveyed by Alan J. Kania, is an important one given her cause and the issues and challenges she faced.”
–Mark Harvey, author of Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act.

University of Nevada Press
Barcode ISBN 978-0-87417-873-9, $26.95