THE RED BARON OF ARIZONA by Clarence Budington Kelland

The amazing true story of the most astonishing crime in American history: how a streetcar conductor from St. Louis devised a fraud that frightened millions, duped the smartest lawyers and—until the bubble burst—maintained him and his “baroness” in truly royal luxury and pomp while laying claim to nearly four and a half million acres of southwestern U.S. land.

Beginning in 1881 and continuing for fifteen years, a man named James Reavis menaced the prosperity of a vast region of the U.S. commencing at a point in New Mexico and extending westward 225 miles, and seventy-five miles from north to south—a tract approximately half the size of the state of Indiana. It included the Arizona counties of Maricopa, Pinal, Graham, Gila and Apache, and embraced the whole of the city of Phoenix and the towns of Florence, Tempe, Globe, Silver King, Pinal and Casa Grande. It included the right of way of the Southern Pacific Railway. It asserted ownership of the fabulous Silver King mine. It included millions of dollars’ worth of unmined ores—copper, gold and silver.

It was all claimed boldly by Reavis, asserting he owned it as a Barony on a land grant from the King of Spain. He contended that the King had given the land to the Peralta family, supposedly the ancestors of his wife—a grant which even the U.S. government admitted it had to recognize. Furthermore, Reavis said, additional proof of the legitimacy of his claim could be found in the most ancient archives and monasteries of Spain, if anyone cared to look. They did—and he was right, the documents were there.

How James Reavis obtained millions of dollars in cash, goods and ores from the frightened businesses and citizens of Arizona, how he pulled off his swindle, and how it all unraveled, are told in this jaw-dropping account which first appeared in the pages of the legendary Saturday Evening Post magazine. It is lavishly illustrated, with reproductions of the original documents, personalities, and locations featured in this enthralling story.

As a bonus for the ebook edition, the publisher includes a rare 1951 comic book adaptation of the story of James Reavis; and a filmography of the 1949 movie The Baron of Arizona, starring Vincent Price as James Reavis—plus a gallery of posters and stills from the film.

Buy Now!


Click to purchase this book from:


About the Author

Clarence Budington Kelland was author of nearly 100 novels of mystery and romantic suspense, had enough careers for several men: attorney, reporter, manufacturer of clothespins, director of a major newspaper group, and more. Kelland became best known as a fiction writer, penning some 100 novels, and selling them as serials to the biggest and highest paying magazines of the time—like The Saturday Evening Post, The American Magazine, Colliers, and Cosmopolitan. Many were immortalized on film, of which the romantic suspense comedy and Oscar-winner, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, is undoubtedly the most famous. Kelland appeared alongside Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner in the same magazines, but was the most popular of the four. The New York Times described Kelland’s novels as “lively stories, designed to prick the jaded palate, that keep readers pleasantly entertained” and noted that “Kelland demonstrates the emotions of his lovers with a psychological penetration.” Kirkus Reviews called his novels “Bright and breezy, with plus appeal for murder-mystery addicts.” His magazine publishers kept besieging him for more novels because every time they serialized one of them (typically in 6-8 installments), circulation shot upward. Kelland obliged, and produced far more each year than his publisher (Harper and Row) could keep up with, leaving more than three dozen unpublished in book form when he died. His inimitable characters, trademark dialogue and deftly plotted stories, according to Harper, “made him an American tradition and won him more loyal, devoted readers than almost any other living author.” Kelland, as ever self-depreciating, simply described himself as “the best second-rate writer in the world.” His legions of fans, old and new, would likely disagree. There was nothing second-rate about his work.