Writing is often like the proverbial bus. You wait hours for one then two come along at once. Yesterday I received complimentary copies of my latest Sheriff Cassidy Yates story Railroad to Redemption and then today I received the Large Print version of my previous Yates yarn Riders of the Barren Plains. The latter was a pleasant surprise as I wasn't sure when it'd get published, so in response to this welcome double here's a brief summary of the story so far.
Cassidy was my first western hero. I wanted him to be clean-cut, brave, resilient... essentially everything a white hat wearing good guy should be. Nearly all of my other western heroes are deeply flawed so the idea was that I could use him for tales that didn't need any moral ambiguity. He would face problems, but he would always do the right thing. He was named after Kasidy Yates, Sisko's girlfriend in Star Trek: Deep Space 9, purely because I liked the sound of that name.
His first adventure was in The Outlawed Deputy in which he finds himself as a good man on the wrong side of the law and he makes friends with the man I hoped would become his sidekick Nathaniel McBain. Nathaniel provided the ambiguity in that he was a young outlaw who could go bad but who chose to join Cassidy on the right side of the law.
I was happy that the first novel was published, but I was less happy that the story was a traditional one and that I used a verbose writing style I thought would get published rather than my usual tighter style.
Cassidy returned in The Last Rider from Hell, a tale that I was much happier with in which Cassidy tries to solve the mystery of a missing wagon train along with the identity of a mystery man with no name.
For my third western I gave Cassidy a rest and wrote a tale purely about Nathaniel and to my surprise Nathaniel became bored with working for Cassidy and turned to the dark side. This ruined my plans for the two to become a crime-fighting duo and so I left Cassidy alone for a while.
He returned in Yates's Dilemma with a tale of an old 'Wild Bunch' type gang getting back together for one last hurrah. This was a fairly routine action tale constructed around a mystery of whether or not the mysterious Wendell Moon is a good guy or a bad guy. It got one of my most action-packed covers.
Cassidy's fourth adventure was Wanted: McBain, the inevitable one I knew I had to write in which Cassidy sets off to find Nathaniel and bring him to justice. Since then the two men haven’t met up again, but Nathaniel faced up to his own demons in The Gallows Gang and will return again next year in The Secret of Devil's Canyon.
With Cassidy's major personal crisis resolved I struggled to think of what I could do with him next. So it was several years before he returned in Bad Moon over Devil's Ridge in which he again faces a personal crisis in the form of the activities of his wayward brother. Riders of the Barren Plains saw him pursuing a good man gone bad and this month Railroad to Redemption sees him pursuing a, well, good man gone bad with extra added nuns. I guess there might be a theme there somewhere with my Yates tales! But that's fair enough.
Yates provides assurance in difficult times that he's a man who will always make the right choices while the antagonists he faces are ordinary men who make the wrong choices. Cassidy forces them to face up to their failings, leaving them as better men than when the story started, which I find more interesting than the lawman leaving behind lots of dead bad guys.
As I enjoy the themes in my Yates tales I hope he'll ride some more. The current tale I'm writing is provisionally entitled Sheriff without a Star in which, for once, Cassidy doesn't get it right. I hope the variation will give him an interesting challenge.