Wednesday, 16 April 2014

All Must Die

I’m pleased to report that I’ve received a contract for my latest Black Horse Western, entitled All Must Die.

This one is a Cassidy Yates tale. One of the side-effects of publishing my early books on Kindle was noticing that I hadn’t written about Cassidy since 2011’s Sheriff Without a Star, so I thought it was about time I found out what he’s been up to.

This was one of those stories where the title came first and in this case the working title was All Men Must Die. I had the novel finished and ready to go off to the publisher when an advert caught my eye in the corner of a webpage advertising Game of Thrones with the catchy slogan of 'All Men Must Die'. I groaned and changed the title, although perhaps in retrospect I shouldn’t have done, as I’d guess George RR Martin got that phrase from the same source I did, namely Hamlet and the phrase ‘All that lives must die’.

I’ve slipped Shakespeare into a western before, but that was in The Miracle of Santa Maria where Thaddeus T. Thackenbacker the Third, the West’s greatest living thespian, performed his cowboy version of Romeo and Juliet. I enjoyed myself writing stuff like ‘Romeo, Romeo, where in tarnation art thou?’ but I thought it was about time I made amends for that and Hamlet does have a lot of quotable lines. So I started with the intention of rewriting Hamlet as a western.

Thankfully common sense prevailed and I gave up on this self-indulgent idea very quickly, but even so I still felt an urge to get the ‘what a piece of work is man’ speech into the story. Although admittedly that probably has more to do with the fact it was used in the final scene of Lindsay Anderson’s Britannia Hospital rather than for any love of the Bard.

Anyhow, All Must Die will be my 31st BHW and it should appear around Spring 2015.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Left or Right

I’ve been scratching my head recently over a rather bizarre error I keep making when writing and I thought I’d ramble on about it. The error goes like this: although I don’t go in for excessive descriptions of the scenery, I do like to keep track of where objects and people are when my characters move around. I don’t draw maps or layouts of the scene, but the places exist in my mind and as I often re-use locations, I have a clear image of them.

Hence, at least on first draft, I’ll report that my hero leaves the law office and turns left to go to the saloon. He goes in and the bar is on the right. When he leans on the bar a truculent fellow standing to his left will pick an argument with him and so the hero swings round and thumps him with his right fist. The fellow has an accomplice who will come at him from the hero’s left hand side forcing him to slap his face with the back of his left hand. Then he’ll down his drink, step over the groaning bodies, and leave the saloon whereupon he’ll turn left to go to the bank.

All this exists clearly in my mind because the saloon is to the left of the law office and the bar is on the right hand side of the saloon. And when I picture the bar room brawl I can see where these guys are and so I can report on how the hero deals with them.

The scene will then go through several redrafts until I’ve got it into a state I like, and then I’ll move on to the proofreading stage of trying to make sure all the words say what I thought they said. It’s then that I hit a problem.

Although I know the saloon is to the left of the law office, it’ll suddenly occur to me that it’s actually on the right. Worse, the bar in the saloon is not on the right, it’s on the left hand side of the saloon. And when I envisaged that bad guy standing to the left of the hero, I was actually envisaging him being to the right. And so it goes on. That heap of boulders that was to the left of the entrance to the canyon where everyone holes up is really to the right, and the creek that’s to the right is really to the left.

The first dozen or so times I spotted myself making this error I just shrugged. Then I made a special effort to avoid doing it, but I still kept making the same error. I wondered if it was just one of those ‘I’m getting old and so I can’t remember why I went into the kitchen’ type of issues, or that maybe it was a left brain, right brain thing. Anyhow, the conclusion I’ve reached is this is an issue of me not quite doing what I think I’m doing when I’m writing.

My aim is to see the world through the viewpoint character’s eyes and report on what he sees and hears and smells, except maybe I’m not doing that. What I’m actually doing is seeing events unfold through the eyes of an omnipresent narrator who is standing back from the scene, so even when I’m looking through a character’s eyes, it’s like I’m looking in a mirror. So to me the saloon is to the left of the law office, but to the viewpoint character it’s to the right, and so on.

I’m not sure whether this theory will help me resolve the problem, but to be on the safe side I don’t reckon I’ll ever risk writing a story where the hero is called Lefty!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Last Rider from Hell now available on Kindle

My latest Kindle title is now available. This book was my second Black Horse Western and like many of my early books I was nervous about reading it again. In this case the reason was that it’s done rather well for me through the UK’s public lending right. Even taking into account that’s it’s been around for longer than most, it’s been borrowed over 14,000 times from UK libraries, which makes it comfortably my most popular book. Even last year, over ten years after publication, it was borrowed over 500 times, although that probably has more to do with libraries being cash-strapped than from any merit in the book.



I’ve often pondered why this one has done better than others and the only conclusion I can come to is that it has a good title. The covers on both the hardback and large print are nothing special and the blurb is awful. One of the things I struggled with when I first started getting stuff published was writing a hundred words that made the plot sound exciting, and in this case I wonder what I was thinking of at the time. The story hinted at in the blurb is a distortion of what actually happens and worse, it’s a Cassidy Yates story and the blurb takes the unusual approach of not even mentioning that he’s in it!

I agonized over whether to write a new blurb, but I decided if I started doing that I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to rewrite all the others. Anyhow, as for the story, I enjoyed it for the most part. There were a few clunky bits where everyone stands around explaining the plot to each other. Then again it’s a story where everything is not as it seems so it was hard to avoid periodic recaps of everyone’s best guess as to what the hell is going on.

The thing I liked the best was that this was the first time I bookended a story and after doing that I realized that was one of things I like stories to do. I always struggle more with the last page than I do with the first page because when I get to the end of a story, I always wonder if I’ve done enough. The bad guy is full of holes, the sidekick has been freed from the railroad track, the horse has been kissed and the gal is ready to be ridden off into the sunset. But I always keep writing in the hope I’ll stumble across a good line or a profound insight into the human condition. Of course I never manage that, and so in desperation I usually take another look at the opening chapter. If I find something in the opening pages that feels as if it ought to be referred to in the final pages, then I feel content that I’ve found an appropriate note on which to end the story. Although admittedly I’ve never bookended a story to quite the extent I did with this one.

Anyhow, The Last Rider from Hell is available from all good amazon stores right now, such as amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

Staked out under the baking heat of the desert sun by Frank Chapel’s riders from hell is no way for any man to die. Only someone as resilient as Matt Travis had the courage to endure the heat and the vultures and survive. When finally he manages to escape a gruesome death only one thing is on his mind – revenge.

But his memory has been blasted to oblivion and he is even unsure of his own name. All he knows is that everyone wants him dead!

Justice must be done and Matt will be judge, jury and hangman. First, though, he must face up to the truth of his past and, that accomplished, lead begins to fly.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review of Six-shooter Tales




I was pleased to come across this review of my recent short story collection Six-Shooter Tales at Bright Dreamers Book Reviews

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Beyond Redemption - Large Print paperback


The Linford Western version of my 2012 title Beyond Redemption is now available from all good libraries. I’m delighted with this paperback as it’s not only my 20th Linford Western, it has a well-considered cover, too.



As I’ve reported here before, a few years back Linford appeared to alter their policy on covers. They used to provide generic western pictures that would only ever be relevant to the story by accident, but recently they’ve tried to match story and cover with more care and I’ve benefited with some nicely appropriate covers. This one is undoubtedly the best of the lot and I’m thankful to whoever was responsible, as that bloke in the bottom left hand corner just has to be Elmer Drake!



As a child, Jeff Dale witnesses the terrible aftermath of an atrocity: Elmer Drake has killed three members of a family, but the daughter, Cynthia, is missing. Jeff vows that he'll find her, no matter how long it takes. Years later, after finding a clue about Cynthia's fate, Jeff follows the trail to the frontier town of Redemption. Here stalks a man who carries a gun in one hand and a cross in the other. A man called Elmer Drake...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Outlawed Deputy now available on Kindle

My latest Kindle title is now available. As it turns out December’s offering Calhoun’s Bounty has been selling well. I had the great joy of seeing it become a bestseller for several hours in France, that joy not being diminished by the fact it had sold only one copy. Whoever you are, Merci beaucoup, I really enjoyed that moment! I guess if anyone ever asks me how much a bestselling author can earn I can provide the answer of 22p.

Anyhow this month’s offering is my first Black Horse Western The Outlawed Deputy. I was more nervous about reading this one again than the previous titles I’ve published simply because I was worried it might not be very good.

It was my first book to get accepted for publication and its storyline was about as uncomplicated as anything I’ve written. A bad guy does something bad and the good guy sorts him out is pretty much the plot, but that didn’t come over as badly as I’d thought. The thing that still irritated me is the hero. I’d remembered him as being a bit wet in this one, and he still is, which is annoying because Cassidy Yates is my longest running recurring character.

At the time I didn’t want Cassidy to start off as a strong lawman. I wanted him to make mistakes and learn lessons as he went along. In theory this was fine even in a shoot-‘em-up western, but in retrospect the valuable lesson he learns is everything would have been sorted out a lot faster if he’d just shot the bad guy instead of fannying around.

Anyhow the book is now available at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk




Cassidy Yates was appointed deputy sheriff of Redemption City but such was his knack of attracting trouble that barely twenty-four hours after his appointment he had been slapped in jail! And if that wasn’t bad enough, Brett McBain’s outlaw gang rode into town to bust Nathaniel McBain from jail. Sheriff Wishbone is killed and the townsfolk think Cassidy responsible.

Now, having been imprisoned for the murder of his own sheriff, Cassidy must prove his innocence and the only way to do this is to infiltrate Brett’s gang. He must convince Brett he’s an outlaw, and persuade everybody else that he really is an honest lawman.

Could he pull off his enormous bluff or would he join Sheriff Wishbone on Boot Hill?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Cover for Legend of the Dead Men's Gold

I've just received the proofs for my next Black Horse Western along with the cover. I really like this picture. It depicts an armed man with a hat leaving a saloon, and there are several scenes in the book where an armed man with a hat leaves a saloon. Best of all the light creates a nice gold glow that is just dangling there creating a suitably legendary feeling.



Anyhow, the book will be available from all good libraries in April.

Trip Kincaid had always been fascinated by the legend of the dead men’s gold: it was said that the last member of the Helliton gang had cursed the stash, claiming that if he couldn’t have it, nobody would. So, with the gold still unclaimed, and the bones of a hundred men scattered around it, Trip Kincaid’s disappearance is cause for alarm.

His brother, Oliver, is desperate to find him and it seems the box canyon, where the Helliton gang once holed up, is the best place to start looking. But Oliver must enter the devilish outlaw stronghold and uncover for himself the truth behind the legend. Will he succeed or die in the process?