Monday, 4 August 2014

Clementine now available on Kindle

The seventh Fergal O’Brien novel Clementine is now available on Kindle.



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.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Death or Bounty now available on Kindle

I’ve now published my third Black Horse Western Death or Bounty on Kindle.



I wrote this one over 12 years ago and like many of my earlier books I couldn’t remember much about it. I know I’d set out to write a very traditional story. My previous book The Last Rider from Hell had a complex explanation of why everyone did what they did and so I decided to rein in the twists and write something more straightforward. So this one has a linear plot in which some good guys go off in search of a bad guy and action and adventure ensues.

The main thing I remembered about the story was the way that plans can often go awry. When I’d set off writing westerns I’d thought my main hero would be Cassidy Yates and he would have a sidekick Nathaniel McBain. But after two tales featuring Cassidy, Nathaniel had done very little and so I had no idea what was making him tick. The answer was to take him away from Cassidy for a story to see how he reacted. The plan was that I’d learn what Nathaniel was all about and so the next time I wrote a Cassidy novel his sidekick could play a bigger part. It didn’t work out that way.

The moment I started writing, Nathaniel decided he didn’t want to be a lawman and he chose his own path. I guess that’s what I wanted him to do, but it’s annoying when characters won’t behave and decide their future for themselves, and it did send my subsequent books in a new direction.

The thing I hadn’t recalled about this one was just how twisted the morality was. Everyone on the side of outlawing and chaos double-crosses each other and everyone on the side of law and justice is corrupt. Everyone else just wants to make money. I think this might be a recurring theme of mine.

One last thing that amused me was the blurb. Following on from The Last Rider from Hell where the blurb doesn’t even mention Cassidy Yates, who is the main character, I see I did it again with this one. The blurb only mentions Nathaniel in passing and it suggests Spenser O’Connor is the hero, even though he’s about fifth in the list of important characters. I have no idea why I did that!

Anyhow, Death or Bounty is now available for download from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and all good amazon sites.


Spenser O’Connor’s luck has finally run out. After years of riding with Kirk Morton’s outlaw gang, he’s been caught and slammed in Beaver Ridge jail. The noose beckons. Then two bounty hunters, Nat McBain and Clifford Trantor, offer him a choice – die at dawn or help them track down Kirk Morton.

Not surprisingly, Spenser chooses to help them.


But this unlikely team soon discovers that Kirk is an ornery and ruthless quarry. Worse, they’re not the only ones after him and other bounty hunters will stop at nothing to capture Kirk.


When the bullets start flying from all directions, it isn’t long before Spenser wonders if the noose might have been the better choice.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Night of the Gunslinger goes to Large Print

I received the welcome news that last year's novel Night of the Gunslinger will be published as a large print paperback. It'll be my 22nd Linford Western and it should appear early on in 2015.

With the town marshal laid up with a broken leg, Deputy Rick Cody must stand alone to protect New Town during a night of mayhem. At sunup Edison Dent will stand trial for Ogden Reed's murder and although Rick suspects that Edison is innocent, he also reckons his own sister knows more than she's prepared to reveal. 
With Rick having only one night to uncover the truth, his task is made harder when the outlaw Hedley Beecher plots to free the prisoner while Ogden's brother Logan vows to kill Edison and anyone who stands in his way. Within an hour of sundown four men are dead. And so begins the longest and bloodiest night of Rick's life...

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Legend of the Dead Men's Gold

My 29th Black Horse Western is published today and is now available from all good libraries.




I had a lot of fun writing this one. I had always intended to write a sequel to Calloway’s Crossing, which was published in 2006. I’d enjoyed writing Trip Kincaid’s slightly outlandish adventure and I thought the character had more mileage in him, but I couldn’t come up with any ideas about what he might do next.

Eventually, as an absolute last resort, the thought came that if I had no idea what Trip did after Calloway’s Crossing, perhaps a quest to find out what Trip did next could be the plot for another Trip adventure. So I turned to Oliver Kincaid, Trip’s brother, and set him the task of finding out what happened to Trip, and in the end he got an answer.

I really like it when I start off with absolutely no idea what I’m going to write, and yet a story develops during the writing process. The title came early on, the actual legend followed shortly afterwards, and the rest of the novel progressed as an attempt to find out the truth behind the legend. I had no idea what that truth was, and so the only way to find out was to keep writing and trust that by the final chapter an answer would come. Pleasingly, as it turned out, the characters worked it out at the same time as I did by following the clues that were in the story, even though I hadn’t realized they were clues when I wrote them.

The other thing I liked about writing this story was the character of Oliver Kincaid. I like my main characters to be closer to ordinary rather than natural heroes, and Oliver is one of my least heroic heroes. He’s a short, fat, balding bartender, who has never picked up a gun in his life and is scared of his own shadow. Having such a character come up against deadly gunslingers in his quest for the truth made the story an interesting challenge.

Anyhow, the book is now out there.

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?

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.