Hardback published - Aug 2001: 978-0709069553
Large Print published - Mar 2003: 978-0708994382
Through narrowed eyes, Cassidy stared at the three playing cards clutched in his right hand. He held an ace and two jacks, and with two aces on the table, he knew that his poker hand was strong. After playing for two hours, he could read the worried expressions of his three opponents, and knew that from the final deal, they didn't have anything to beat his hand. With everything being equal, he should risk betting whatever it took to win the pot.
Unfortunately, Cassidy knew everything wasn't equal….
So began my first published novel. I look back on those opening lines with a mixture of joy that something I created actually got published and horror that something I created actually got published.
The Outlawed Deputy was my second attempt to write a western. The first one started life as an sf / horror novel set on an airless asteroid where a mutant cyborg holes up in an abandoned space station and fights off a gang of crazed, zombie aliens. About half way through writing this masterpiece it dawned on me that the story might not be the classic I'd hoped it would be and, in one of those blinding flashes of logic that occasionally hit me, I worked out why. I was trying to write a version of the film Aliens, except I was sure I'd once read that when James Cameron made that movie he claimed he had tried to make Assault on Precinct 13 in space. And John Carpenter, when he made Precinct 13, said he was trying to make Night of the Living Dead in a police station. And George Romero had said that when he made Living Dead he was trying to make Rio Bravo with zombies.
This meant that the problem with my story was that I was trying to write a western in space and so if I got rid of the space bits, I'd have a better story. It turned out that I was half right. I changed my mutant cyborg to a marshal, changed the space station to a ghost town, and changed the zombie aliens into an outlaw gang. The story then made more sense, although sadly it was still a terrible one. I decided I needed to read more westerns.
I hadn't read a western since the early eighties when they'd disappeared from bookshelves in the UK, but I found to my delight that the library was full of Black Horse Westerns. I picked some at random, loved them, and then, fuelled on with enthusiasm, I tried again to make my mutant cyborg turned U.S. marshal tale work. I then hit another problem that was bigger than the fact the story was rubbish; it was already 50,000 words long and I'd only just started writing the middle bit. As this was already longer than a western's length, I decided to try the second, more sensible option.
I put that story aside and started again with something that got to its point slightly quicker. I instantly had a vision of a lawman who had been locked in his own jail cell. I didn't know who he was and why he was there, but I decided to start writing and answer those questions. Two seconds after starting writing he got the name Cassidy Yates, as I was watching Deep Space 9 at the time and I liked the name of the character Kasidy Yates. Shortly after starting writing he got a sidekick Nat McBain, named after a character who got shot up in Once Upon a Time in the West, although I later found out I'd remembered that wrong and the character didn't get named.
The story that developed involved a lawman getting wrongly accused of a crime and then going on to clear his name. It was an uninspired story and, looking back, I find it irritating that I wrote something that was so linear with few plot twists. I also tried to copy the style of several western authors rather than write with my own, albeit basic, style. But on the plus side it got published and the image on the cover happened to be quite close to how I'd envisaged Cassidy to look. Either way, I remember the novel as being messy and long-winded, but I like to think I learnt a lot from the process and the next one was a bit better.
Next month: The Last Rider from Hell.