Monday, April 9, 2012

Down the Road

Sometimes a book comes along that you can't help but recognize as an author's third novel. Such is the case with my latest, which is scheduled to be released this summer. Here's a little preview:

Red Lands Outlaw
The Ballad of Henry Starr
This story diverges somewhat in genre for me, because it's a Western, a historical Western. Set in the turn of the 20th Century American land known as the Indian Territory, and young state of Oklahoma, it weaves a tale about a character named Henry Starr, an actual son of those places and times. He was a Cherokee, a cowboy, a fugitive, a lover, a husband, a father, a convict, a movie star, a thief, and a notorious outlaw.

Most events in this novel actually happened on a macro level–the armed robberies, the wanderings, the prison stays, the movie-making, some of the relationships. All the details in between, and many of the characters–or, at least, their conversations–I made up. For example, I don't know if Henry ever met and dined with the renowned Comanche leader Quanah Parker, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities. They were contemporaries in the same land, and it suited my theme to have them encounter one another and interact. And respected non-fiction writing historians corroborate that the famous lawman Bill Tilghman had dealings with our hero. Like Starr, Tilghman also made a silent movie about some of his connections with bad guys in the wild and woolly country called Indian Territory and Oklahoma. So there you go.

When I first read about Henry Starr, I felt he was kind of a poetic figure, a tragi-comedic man, stranded between two worlds and left there as an anachronism. It appealed to me as a tale I wanted to tell.

Here's a short excerpt. It's the beginning of the book, the first 350 words:

Late Winter 1915
Northeastern Oklahoma

As usual, Henry didn't have a clue; only a bold idea.
"Now…why you wanting to do this, Henry?" Lige Higgins asked him.

"Because it ain't never been done, Lige."

"Way I hear it, it has," Bud Maxfield said. He paused to lean leftward and spit out a stream of tobacco juice in the general direction of a spittoon nestled in the saloon floor sawdust. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand, then passed that residue onto the right leg of his jeans before he continued. "Old Bob Dalton and his boys tried it up in Coffeyville back in '92, only it didn't work out so well for them."

"How's that?" Lige asked. He looked anxiously to Bud, then Henry. Twenty-year-old Lige's birth had come three years past 1892.

"Him and two of his brothers and a couple others got shot through the head," Bud said. "Town knew what they was gonna do, and ambushed 'em before they could get out." He leaned left and punctuated the end of his story with another brown spit.

"Like I say," Henry said. He paused to reach forward scooping in the two cards he had asked the dealer to send his way. He held a pair of eights with the ace of spades kicker, and when he inserted the drawn cards into the middle of the others splayed in his hand, he saw he had gotten the ace of clubs and the jack of hearts. That gave him two pair, aces and eights, all black…dead man's hand. Henry raised his right eyebrow slightly, and then finished his sentence to Lige Higgins and the rest of the group gathered around the table. "It ain't been done," he said.

"Still, it don't make no sense to me." Higgins persisted, "Why you want to rob two banks at the same time?"

Henry sighed, and grabbed a blue chip from his stash. "Because that's where they keep the money, Lige," he told him.

Henry tossed the chip onto the pot. "Bet a dollar," he said.

Red Lands Outlaw will be available in print and the usual e-book formats by early summer. In the meantime, please check out my other two novels:
Legends of Tsalagee


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Phil:

I'm always interested in finding another Oklahoma mystery author. I just downloaded LEGENDS OF TSALAGEE. I found it on Amazon's free Kindle list and it sounds like a book I will love.

Best of luck to you,

Pat Browning
ABSINTHE OF MALICE (Krill Press 2008)