Western writers spur finalist! now in paperback!

A non-fiction ride through America's storied past

On the eve of the Civil War, three businessmen set out to revolutionize communications in America - and build a multi-million-dollar empire in the process.

Myth-busting facts

Was the Pony Express done in by the telegraph? The railroad? Or the Civil War? Was it doomed, or planned as a short-lived venture from the start?

A Who's Who of Western heroes

From Buffalo Bill Cody to the White Indian, pretty much everyone who was anyone in the West had some connection to 'the Pony' - or at least pretended they did. Their stories, tall and otherwise, are told in all their rip-roaring glory.

Based on solid research

And told with grace and whimsy, West Like Lightning is a book for any interested in the West, history in general, or just wants to have a little fun. 

Frequently Asked questions

When did the Pony Express start?

The first riders left April 3, 1860

When did the Pony Express end?


The last ride was in October 1861. By then, the original owners were bankrupt.

Why did the Pony Express end?

Basically, the parent company couldn’t pay its bills. The service itself never made money.

What was the Pony Express Route?

Riders went west from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, and vice versa. Mail also went between San Francisco and Sacrament, though usually by a steamer. There were also side routes that technically were not part of the service. 

Why did the Pony Express start in St. Joseph's?

Just like modern sports stadium deals, the city gave the company owners huge incentives to locate there. There was also a railroad connecting it to the East.

How fast was the Pony Express?

Very fast, considering the time and place. 

It took about ten days for a letter to go from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento. That’s about 190 miles a day, for an average speed of nearly eight miles an hour – a very good pace, even for a fresh horse.

How often did Pony Express riders change horses?

Roughly every ten miles. Usually a rider made four or five of these exchanges before turning the mail over to another rider.

How far was the Pony Express route?


About 1,900 miles, give or take a tumbleweed or two.


How many Pony Express riders died while on the route?

Possibly one, though the details are hazy and may not be correct. Other Pony Express riders and company employees may have died during the Pyramid Lake Indian War, but that is in even greater doubt.

Did Buffalo Bill Cody ride for the Pony Express?

Almost certainly not, but he did more than anyone else to keep its legend alive by including it in his Wild West shows. He may have been an employee of the company as a teenager.

Was Wild Bill Hickok a Pony Express rider?

No. But he did work for the company when he killed his first man.  

Who is Jim DeFelice and why did he write this book?

Jim is a best-selling author of fiction and non-fiction. You may know him from American Sniper, or Dreamland, or any of the other fifty or so books he's written. He's always been fascinated by history, innovation, the Old West, and speed, and the Pony has all of these things.

You can read more about him at his website:


West Like Lightning

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