Monday, 18 April 2016

Devine's Mission now available on Kindle

Devine's Mission is now available on Kindle.

After 2012 's Devine I knew that I would one day write about US Marshal Jake T. Devine again, although it took me a few years before I decided to let him ride again.

Once I'd decided to start writing I had the usual problem that I have with Devine of creating a worthwhile adversary. Marshal Devine is a brutal, no-nonsense lawman who doesn't sit around waiting for the end of the story so that he can shoot the bad guys. He just kicks down the door, abuses everyone in the room, and then blasts the bad guy between the eyes. If he's in a good mood he might vary the routine by spitting on the dead man's face and whistling, but otherwise it's hard to avoid him just wiping out everyone long before the plot can unfold.

So this time I outlined a plot with plenty of twists involving stolen gold and the fiendish plans of master bad guy Scorpio Blake. Then I started writing. Three pages into the story Devine decided he'd had enough of idle chatter and killed Scorpio, which slightly destroyed my outlined plot. So, I just carried on writing and decided to see where Devine would take things. As it turned out, I was surprised by the solution to the central mystery of what had happened to the stolen gold, even though the clues had been there from the moment I wrote the title on a blank page...

Anyhow, the book is now available from amazon.

When Lachlan McKinley raided Fairmount Town’s bank, the four-thousand dollar bounty that was posted on his head attracted plenty of manhunters, but everyone that went after him ended up dead.
Bounty hunter Jonathon Lynch reckoned he could do better. Lachlan was Jonathon’s step-brother and his mission was personal, but when he joined the hunt he soon discovered that all was not as it seemed and Lachlan may, in fact, be innocent. Worse, U.S. Marshal Jake Devine was also after Lachlan.
Devine is more likely to destroy the peace than to keep it, and so can Jonathon bring the guilty to justice before Devine does his worst?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

I'm dreadful sorry, Clementine

After a bit of soul-searching I've decided to change the title of my Kindle book Clementine to The Ballad of Dayton Hyde.

Since publication Clementine has taken a serene, almost zen like approach to sales and so I've now decided it needs to buck up its ideas and raise its head above the water. Perhaps the title Clementine didn't evoke the feeling of a western as much as I thought it would. Perhaps it conjures up images of fruit that goes mouldy before you can get it back from the supermarket. Or then again perhaps the world just wasn't ready for a musical version of Raise the Titanic.

Whatever the reason I decided that changing the cover, title and blurb might help, or to be more precise it was unlikely to do much harm to a book that was drifting along like tumbleweed in a dusty ghost town.

The all-old book with its all-new title is now available from all good amazon stores.

When snake-oil seller Fergal O’Brien sells a bottle of his universal remedy to the dying Leland Crawford, Leland makes a miraculous recovery, for several minutes. Then he drops dead.
In the few minutes before he dies, Leland bequeaths to Fergal everything he owns. Unfortunately, Leland’s only asset is his beloved Clementine, a 250-foot sidewheeler that once ruled the Big Muddy, until it sank.
Worse, Leland is heavily in debt and now the creditors expect Fergal to pay up. With Fergal having no money, minstrel Dayton Hyde offers him a way out, but only if he kills Rivertown’s popular lawman Marshal Swift.
To avoid carrying out Dayton’s unwelcome task, Fergal will need to use all his legendary cunning or like as not in this wet weather, he’ll share the fate of Clementine.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Large Print version of The Devil's Marshal

The Devil's Marshal has now been published as a large print paperback. It's my 23rd Linford Western.

I must admit when I opened up the parcel and saw this book I thought the publisher had made a mistake as I didn't recognize the story described in the blurb at all. I guess I can be excused as I wrote it about four years ago, but I still found myself scratching my head until I worked out what had happened.

Linford Westerns had rewritten the blurb, which I'm not sure they've ever done before. Usually they just delete a few words to fit it on the page, but this time it's all new with little reference to the original Black Horse one. I reckon that's a good move as they seem to be putting a lot of care into their books as of late, with lively title fonts, covers that often match the story and so forth. Anyhow, here's the all new blurb:

When Lucinda Latimer is accused of murdering Archibald Harper, her bounty hunter brother Brodie is convinced of her innocence. Vowing to find the culprit, he turns up a witness in the form of drunken varmint Wilfred Clay - who, minutes after admitting to seeing the real killer, is shot to death on his own front porch. All the clues point to the murderer being Derrick Shelby - the man known as 'the devil's marshal'. The only trouble is, Derrick died a year ago ...

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

McBain Box Set now available on Kindle

I've bundled up three of my e-books: Death or Bounty, The Ten Per Cent Gang, and Wanted: McBain as a box set.

Up until now Wanted McBain has been available on Kindle as Cassidy Yates, Book 4, but I had a change of mind and decided to rebrand it as Book 3 of the McBain series. I think this was the right thing to do as McBain and Yates are joint main characters, but on balance McBain drives the plot more than Yates does. In addition Wanted: McBain directly follows the events in Death or Bounty and The Ten Per Cent Gang, but less so the events in the earlier Cassidy Yates books.
The three-book set is now available from all good amazon stores.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Incident at Pegasus Heights now available on Kindle

Incident at Pegasus Heights is now available for download on Kindle.

This book features the return of Jim Dragon, who was a character in my 2011 Nathaniel McBain novel The Secret of Devil's Canyon. Jim was involved only in a secondary sub-plot, but I enjoyed writing about his battles with his rival in the fossil-hunting business, Pierre Dulaine. So I resolved at the time that Jim would return in his own adventure very soon, except I then promptly forgot about him.
So five years passed before I again turned my thoughts to Jim and I found that he was again searching for bones and then trying to hide them from Pierre, but this time he got involved in an even stranger search for the bones of a winged horse.
Clearly he couldn't find Pegasus and when the plot takes an unexpected twist and he starts looking for a live flying horse, it's even clearer that he can't succeed. So I enjoyed writing this one because I had no idea how it'd all turn out and how exactly a wagon came to be abandoned, on the top of a large rock, in the middle of a lake... 

The book is now available from all good amazon stores.

When fossil-hunter Jim Dragon is on his way to Bear Creek to sell his latest discovery, he goes to the aid of a woman in distress, Elmina Fay. Unfortunately, Pierre Dulaine takes advantage of the situation and steals his fossils.
Jim vows to reclaim his property and Elmina offers to help him, but only if he’ll do something for her. She has heard a tale about the bones of a winged horse being found nearby and she wants Jim to find Pegasus for her.
At first, Jim is skeptical about embarking on such a mission, but before long he discovers that the truth behind the tale is even stranger than he could ever have imagined.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Mystery of Silver Falls

The Mystery of Silver Falls in now available. It is my 32nd Black Horse Western.

This book continues my attempt to rectify a glaring omission in westerns, namely that too few are set underwater. I've never been sure why I like having my heroes fall into rivers or go diving into lakes, but I think I might have got it out of my system with this one that features a hero who solves his problems by going all Captain Nemo . . .

The whole town turns out to watch the first train journey when the bridge at Silver Falls is completed. The atmosphere is joyous, but the day turns sour when Kane Cresswell and his bandit gang arrive. They raid the train and, in the ensuing chaos, fifty thousand dollars fall into the river, seemingly lost forever.

Wyndham Shelford cannot get this image out of his head and is determined to find the missing money. Soon bodies start washing up in the river, and the unconventional lawman US Marshal Lloyd Drake arrives. The Marshal believes that the train raid wasn't everything it seemed, but his reckless search for the truth is endangering the lives of everyone in town. Can Wyndham find the money and put a stop to this path of violence before it's too late?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Oh, Sherlock, where did it all go wrong?

I’ve finally got round to watching the New Year ‘special’ Sherlock episode and even with my expectations set low it somehow failed to deliver. All shows have ups and downs, but this show is becoming quite fascinating in its ability to somehow be worse every time it returns. The pilot was a joyous romp and I’ve seen it numerous times and still enjoy it, but since then it’s been downhill.

When it was first announced that they were doing a Victorian episode, my immediate thought was that it would just be an excuse to bring back Moriarty from the dead. My second thought was that I hope it’s not more of that memory palace nonsense. Sadly, it was both of them. I find it amazing that a tv company would actually commission a story with the ‘it was only a dream’ twist. There are one-celled amoeba living on distant planets that have only just mastered the ability to move that know this twist is a bad idea, and yet there it was being presented as a valid way to tell a story.

Of course, having stories that aren’t real isn’t a problem. For instance, there’s that Star Trek Sherlock Holmes episode that was written for the sole purpose of bringing back Moriarty from the dead. That has the ‘it’s not real’ twist and the story is a lot of fun. The reason it works is that the twist is the answer to the problem of how can Moriarty walk off the holodeck and exist in the real world? The solution is that he didn’t and the real world isn’t real either. This is all very convoluted, but it’s never confusing because the scriptwriters worked hard to make things clear.

There’s a certain smug arrogance about Sherlock these days that means the scriptwriters for the special weren’t prepared to put in the effort to make the twist work. I’m not a fan of sticking rigidly to rules in writing, but as Kurt Vonnegut is just about my favourite author, I’ve always liked his rules. The eighth one is worth mentioning here:

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

I’ve amended that rule for my own writing to one in which I always try to be fair to the reader. If there’s a twist in the plot, I try not to create it by deliberately concealing something. I’ll happily conceal plenty from the characters, but I never conceal anything from the reader that the characters know and as such I hope that nobody ever feels cheated when the characters discover something major.

That just wasn’t the case in Sherlock where the story was structured to deliberately conceal relevant facts from the viewer for as long as possible, although these were facts that Sherlock Holmes knew and there was no good reason to conceal them other than to create a twist. This, of course, violates Vonnegut’s eighth rule and it just goes to prove it’s not a wise rule to ignore.

I just hate it when detective shows reveal a huge fact in the last few minutes that changes everything and means there was no way you could follow the clues for yourself and solve the murder. Last week Endeavour in its first new episode did this when after trundling along for the first 85 minutes with a languid and relatively straightforward tale of murder and posh folk, it suddenly revealed in the last few minutes, and all without so much as a hint that this is what was going on, that the killer was really an evil twin who had concealed his existence for twenty years as part of a magic act, left the magic act, fallen in love with the good twin's girl, but when the girl married a rich man the good twin decided to win her back by taking on a new identity as a flamboyant gambler, building up a fortune, buying a stately home and then humiliating her husband at poker, but his plan failed when the evil twin killed him and took on his secret identity and then tried to woo the girl himself, but his cunning plan was undermined because the good twin had fallen in with an evil slot-machine salesman who was smuggling drugs in teddy bears at the local fair that just happened to include the magic act where he once performed illusions with the good twin and when a clippy got hold of the wrong teddy bear she was killed and that led to the magician killing him in retaliation.

I thought at the time that this data dump of new information at the end was just about as bad as it can get, but somehow Sherlock was worse. I reckon that's because following Vonnegut's rule and revealing everything immediately and not playing tricks on the viewer wouldn't have changed the Endeavour episode as Morse didn't know these facts either. But in Sherlock it would have led to a much better story as ‘it’s only a dream’ is then the basis of the story and not a twist. Sherlock could have got on the plane, taken drugs, and then passed out and woke up in Victorian times. Then the viewer would know from the start that the situation isn’t real and can enjoy working out why he’s having this particular dream.

This is what Life on Mars did. That ran for sixteen episodes, but it would never have worked without the opening ten minutes setting up the situation of Sam Tyler falling into a coma and waking up in the past. If it’d have started in the past and then revealed in the last episode that it was all a dream, the show would now be famed for having the worst ever ending in tv history rather than the best.

I'll stop moaning now. Roll on series 4 with better stories and less Moriarty, I hope. I mean, it can’t get any worse, can it? Can it?