William M. "Bill" Tilghman had one of the most illustrious careers of any Old West lawman, serving as sheriff, town marshal, and deputy United States marshal in some of the toughest places west of the Mississippi. But he faced perhaps his greatest and most dangerous challenge when he rode alone into the wild Oklahoma Territory settlement of Burnt Creek on the trail of a gang of rustlers and outlaws with some unexpected allies . . .
THE LAWMAN, by New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner, is the first novel in a new series from the Western Fictioneers, West of the Big River. These are brand-new, original short novels inspired by real-life characters and actual events from the exciting, colorful history of the American frontier, written by today's leading Western authors including Robert J. Randisi, Michael Newton, Jackson Lowry, Frank Roderus, Bill Crider, Matthew P. Mayo, James J. Griffin, and many others. Don't miss any of these action-packed short novels that showcase the best of the American West!
The fourth Wolf Creek novel is now available. For those of you not familiar with the series, the Wolf Creek books are collaborative novels produced by various members of Western Fictioneers and published under the house name Ford Fargo. This time around, contributing authors are Douglas Hirt, Clay More, Matthew Pizzolato, James Reasoner, Troy D. Smith, and Chuck Tyrell. You can read more about it here.
Despite my love for the genre, Livia and I haven't made many forays into sword and sorcery. This short story is one of them, and I think it's a pretty good one. We wrote it a while back for an anthology called NEW AMAZONS, which was edited by Margaret Weis. "Look You on Beauty and Death" has got swordplay, an evil wizard, a little humor, and a few plot twists. We've gone through it, revising it and expanding it some from its original version. I hope those of you who like heroic fantasy will check it out. It's only 99 cents for 7,000 words of action.
I have an unpublished fantasy novel sitting in my files, but it's going to take a considerable amount of work before it's ready to see the light of day. I expect to have it available as an e-book, too, sooner or later.
My newest Western novel will be out soon. THE LAWMAN is the first book in the West of the Big River series, published by Western Fictioneers. This is going to be a fine series of new short novels based on historical figures and incidents from the Old West, with a great line-up of contributing authors including Robert J. Randisi, Michael Newton, Jackson Lowry, Frank Roderus, Bill Crider, Matthew P. Mayo, James J. Griffin, and many others. You can read about this and all the other Western Fictioneers publishing projects on the WF blog.
Got the news this morning that my second Redemption, Kansas novel HUNTERS was a finalist for the Western Writers of America Spur Award in the Best Mass Market Paperback category. It didn't win -- THE COYOTE TRACKER by my fellow Western Fictioneer Larry Sweazy did; congrats, Larry -- but as they say, it's a real honor just to be nominated. This is the third time one of my books has been a finalist for a Spur Award, the other two being COSSACK THREE PONIES and UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS, both of which are currently available as e-books (he said with a mercenary cackle). Also, another of the Western Fictioneers, Matthew P. Mayo, won a Spur for his novel TUCKER'S RECKONING. Congratulations to Matt as well. You can find the list of all this year's Spur winners and finalists here.
Marshal Bill Harvey puts his life at risk every day to protect the people of Redemption, Kansas. But there’s only one resident whose well-being comes before all else, and if you touch her, you’re as good as dead in his books...
Bill thought he had his hands full with the hotheaded Jesse Overstreet, a Texan like himself, who’d stumbled into town. But Overstreet is the least of his problems when Caleb Tatum and his gang sweep through town, cleaning folks out of every last penny. As a bonus, they make off with a beautiful hostage, Eden Harvey, Bill’s wife...
While Bill and his posse ride hard through Kansas to save Eden and the old buzzard Mordecai Flint is left alone to police the town, a broken marriage turns violent and a suspicious gypsy spooks the townspeople. Mordecai desperately needs Bill to return. And he might just get his wish when the posse finds unexpected help from that fiery Texan, Overstreet. Bill will surely get back his beloved, at any cost...
The third Redemption, Kansas novel is now available in both print and e-book editions from all the usual outlets. I really like the cover on this one, and it actually illustrates a scene from the book, which isn't always the case. I think it's a pretty entertaining yarn, so check it out!
RIVERS OF GOLD: A NOVEL OF THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH is now available as an e-book for both the Kindle and the Nook. This is a book that Livia and I wrote a number of years ago, and it's the sort of big, sprawling, historical epic nobody writes much anymore. And if I do say so myself, I think it's the sort of book that we do really well and it's one of my favorites among our historical novels. Lots of action and romance, colorful settings and characters, some historical background, a little humor, and a final scene that I really, really like. Check it out!
"Deadlock", a 7000-word short story featuring Judge Earl Stark, is now available as an e-book on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble at the low price of 99 cents. I wrote this story several years ago for the anthology GUNS OF THE WEST, but I figure there are readers out there who never saw it there. It's a pretty good yarn about Stark presiding over a murder trial where the jury is, shall we say, less than cooperative. Check it out!
I'm probably fudging a little by writing about a book I had a hand in, but the Cody's Law series is long out of print and probably won't ever be reprinted, so it's pretty much forgotten. Besides, Bill mentioned this book recently on an email group we both belong to, and I thought some of you might be interested in it. Warning: this post is as much memoir as it is about the book and has some behind-the-scenes stuff in it, so if that doesn't appeal to you, feel free to move on. My feelings won't be hurt, I promise.
The Cody's Law series came about because the Western editor at Bantam at the time had worked at Leisure earlier in his career and edited a series of Westerns by Roe Richmond about a Texas Ranger named Lashtrow. Some of you have probably read some of those books. Richmond must have been a believer in the freelancer's adage, "Never throw anything away." Because those Lashtrow novels were actually rewrites and expansions of novels that Richmond wrote for the pulp magazine TEXAS RANGERS during the Fifties, featuring Ranger Jim Hatfield. For the paperback version, Hatfield became "Lash" Lashtrow, but the supporting characters all remained the same.
The Bantam editor approached an editor at Book Creations Inc., the book packaging company I was doing a lot of work for at the time, and asked BCI to come up with a Texas Ranger series similar to the Lashtrow books. The editor at BCI was also an author and planned to write the first book in the series, and he asked me if I would continue it from there. I agreed, of course, since back then I never turned down work (I still don't turn it down very often, and only when I just don't have time to do anything else). As it turned out, the editor at BCI was too busy to write the book, so after doing an outline and a couple of chapters he gave it to me and told me to use whatever I wanted out of it. By this time he had mentioned the Roe Richmond/Lashtrow connection to me and asked me if I was familiar with those books. I just said that I was and didn't mention that I was very familiar with the original versions, having read dozens of issues of TEXAS RANGERS including some of Richmond's Jim Hatfield novels. I think I was the only one in this particular loop aware of the true origin of the Lashtrow books.
So I kept the outline, rewrote the first couple of chapters the editor had done, renamed the hero Sam Cody (I don't recall what his name was in the first draft), and finished the book, going one step further back than the Lashtrow books and basing my version very much on the Jim Hatfield character from TEXAS RANGERS, while still trying to make him a distinctive character in his own right, of course. Sam Cody was never a Jim Hatfield clone . . . but I tried to get that same sort of Western pulp hero spirit into the books.
So time went by and I wrote the first six books in the series, all published under the pseudonym Matthew S. Hart. I was doing a lot of other work for BCI, and the editor got worried that the workload might be too much for me. He wanted to bring in another author to write a couple of the books. I wasn't real crazy about this idea. I felt like I could do it all (a feeling that still gets me in trouble from time to time). But since BCI owned the series I couldn't really object.
The editor also wanted me to team up with yet another author on the other books, with me providing outlines and the other author doing first drafts, which I would then edit and polish. The person he had in mind was Bill Crider, who had written a couple of books for BCI.
Now, as it happens, Bill is my oldest friend in the writing business and a fine author, so I was pretty pleased with this arrangement. The first book we did together was #8 in the series, EAGLE PASS.
Which brings us to THE PRISONERS.
I've mentioned many times how Livia helps me with the plots on some of my books. She wrote a half-page outline for the book that became THE PRISONERS, which I developed into a much more detailed outline (the editors at BCI loved detailed outlines). The plot involves Sam Cody having to fetch in a prisoner from an isolated mansion on the West Texas plains during a freak blizzard and ice storm. The family that lives in the mansion is . . . unusual, to say the least, and gives Cody a lot of trouble as he tries to complete his assignment, which is also complicated by the captured outlaw. So after a while I started telling people that THE PRISONERS was the world's only vampire/lesbian/cannibal/incest Western. Which as far as I know it is. I believe that description is a little exaggerated, though, since I don't remember them being vampires. But I suppose they could have been.
What's odd is that despite all those bizarre elements, I think THE PRISONERS turned out to be a decent traditional Western with a stalwart hero, a villainous outlaw, and plenty of ridin' and shootin'. I'm not sure how we pulled all that together, but I believe we did.
On a related note, some years ago I was at a convention where Elmer Kelton was the Guest of Honor, and I wound up with the job of doing the GOH interview with him. During the interview I pointed out the rather strange juxtaposition of having the man widely regarded as the world's greatest living Western writer (and maybe the greatest Western writer of all time) sharing the podium with the co-author of the world's only vampire/lesbian/cannibal/incest Western. But hey, that's the writing business for you, isn't it? You never know who you're going to wind up sitting next to.
Copies of THE PRISONERS, and all the other Cody's Law books, can be found pretty cheaply on the Internet. I wrote #1 – 6, and Bill and I collaborated on #8, 9, 11, and 12. I think they're all solid, entertaining Westerns.
One more side note: the contract was supposed to run through #14, but after #12 had been turned in, Bantam told BCI they were cancelling the series. In fact, they not only cancelled Cody's Law in mid-contract, they cancelled the other three series I was working on for BCI at the same time, effectively putting me out of work, a condition that didn't last long, thank goodness. But for years after that whenever Livia and I got bad news, we would groan and say, "Oh, no! We've been Bantamed!"
If you got a Nook for Christmas yesterday, THE SILVER ALIBI, my new Judge Earl Stark yarn, is now available for the Nook. You can find it here. And of course if you're a brand-new Kindle owner that version is available, too, along with the large print trade paperback.