Fergal has had a rough time recently. For a while I had been writing a new Fergal novel every couple of years. They were published by Thomas Bouregy as Avalon Westerns and as their small hardbacks were an excellent product, I was suitably proud of them. The series reached book 6 in 2011 and at the time I was eager to continue writing more books, but then Amazon bought out the publisher and that sent Fergal into limbo.
The end result was that Amazon weren’t interested in publishing new Fergal novels (or anybody else’s for that matter), but they held on to the rights to books 2-6, while I retained the rights to the first book. I published that first book last year and so now the Fergal series is in the slightly messy position of book 1 being available as a self-published title, and the next five books being available as Amazon Encore publications.
Anyway, I’m now delighted to finally move forward with the publication of book 7, which in the tradition of the first 6 picks up pretty much where the last book left off. The thing I always do with the Fergal books is to leave something dangling on the final pages that drops a hint as to where the next story could go. At the time I have no idea what the actual story will be, but when I start writing about Fergal again I always start with that dangling thread and see where it leads. So, for example, book 2 ended with Fergal giving up on travelling, so book 3 relates what he does when he can no longer run away from his problems.
With that in mind, book 6 ended with the first setback for Fergal’s growing empire. In book 1 he was just a snake-oil seller with a bottle of tonic and a reluctant sidekick Randolph. In book three he acquired Kent Sullivan’s collection of authentic historical memorabilia, and since then he and Randolph have been making more authentic relics, even if they always get the details wrong. In book 4 he acquired Saint Woody’s treasure, and in book 5 he was joined by Saint Woody himself. Then in book 6 Fergal parted company with Woody and his treasure. So I reckoned book 7 had to further threaten Fergal’s assets, to the extent of him being in danger of losing everything just so he can work out what really matters to him.
I enjoyed writing this one as I’ve always done with the Fergal O’Brien series. I managed to include Twitchell Swift, the most ineffective lawman in the West, and the women of the Rivertown Decency League, who were both in Book 6 but got edited out due to size constraints. But as it turned out the first draft was a rambling series of weird plot developments and unresolved problems largely because I didn’t have a working title.
All the previous books started with a title. Usually it was a daft one such as Miss Dempsey’s School for Gunslingers or The Flying Wagon, where I just had to write the story to find out what happens. That didn’t happen with this story and so the first draft mixed up traditional western elements such as zombies, minstrels and synchronised swimming so that with a chapter to go I was wondering what the heck I’d just written. The story was in essence the Poseidon Adventure meets Night of the Living Dead, with singing, and even given that Fergal has had some strange adventures, this one might have jumped the shark. But then, suddenly, with time running out before Fergal had to find a way to resolve all this nonsense, the story delivered the title to me, and I realized what the plot was actually all about.
The best bit about this is that I’ve wanted to write a story called Clementine for a while. That could be down to the film My Darling Clementine, or then again it might because I like the line ‘Clementine, I sure do love that name, ma’am.’ in the sitcom Cybill. But whenever I tried to write a story with that title, I got nowhere because I had no idea who Clementine was or what her story was. Then along comes this story with all the answers about Clementine already written. And all I had to do to make the story work was edit out the zombies and the synchronised swimming, although I kept the singing in.
Anyhow, Clementine is now available from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk.and all good amazon stores. It has all the usual Fergal O’Brien ingredients including western adventure on the high seas, bad jokes, cunning plans, and an all singing, all banjo-playing showdown at the end.
When snake-oil seller Fergal O’Brien sold a bottle of his universal remedy to cure all ills to the dying Leland Crawford, he wasn’t confident his tonic would work, but to his surprise Leland made a miraculous recovery, for several minutes. Then he dropped dead.
In the few minutes before he died, Leland bequeathed to Fergal everything he owned. Unfortunately, before Fergal could celebrate his good fortune he discovered that Leland owed money to everyone in Rivertown and now those people expected Fergal to settle his debts.
Leland’s only asset was his beloved Clementine, a 250-foot sidewheeler that once ruled the Big Muddy, until it sank. Facing massive debts and with his steamboat lying on the river bottom, Fergal will need all his legendary deviousness to restore his fortunes.