Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Good, the Bad, the Hugly

One reader of Red Lands Outlaw, The Ballad of Henry Starr commented, “I couldn't decide if Starr was a good man with a bad heart or a bad man with a good heart.” My response would be, um…yes.

Well, my hope is you, too, will embrace the quandary and the story. The novel was released August 1st, and is available for the Kindle, Nook, etc., and in trade paperback.

Here's an excerpt:

Spring 1893
Indian Territory

Henry didn’t quite know what to make of the boy. He stood there in the street strapped with six-shooters, his brown leather hat thrown back onto his shoulder blades, held there by its drawstring around his neck. He wore a faded blue cotton shirt and well-worn jeans tucked into plain cowhide boots, but he didn’t appear to be a farm or cow hand. His stance, the tight leather gloves he wore, and his surly attitude made him look like a range tough, a gunslinger wanabe. Henry himself was only nineteen, but he judged this youth to be no more than about fourteen or fifteen. He had a boy’s face, pocked with pimples, and no whiskers. He was a white kid, and a fair-haired one at that. The late afternoon sun almost gleamed off his thin blond hair, and he stared back at Henry with a look of insolence.

The boy had called out to Henry as he and Frank started up the wooden steps leading to the general store. “Henry Starr?” he’d yelled from twenty feet away. That annoyed Henry because he and Frank were going to rob the store they were about to enter, and it drew attention to him. The name Henry Starr had gained some notoriety in that part of the country, especially amongst the mercantile, as several of them had recently been robbed by him and his partner Frank.

Henry stood with one foot on the top step looking back at the youth. On the one hand he was pleased that the kid knew who he was; on the other, calling out his name on the town street of Inola at that particular moment was downright inconvenient and annoying. From the looks of it, the boy appeared to be calling him out for a gunfight, but Henry couldn’t be sure. He turned on the steps and walked back the twenty feet between him and the adolescent. Henry didn’t know if the kid would draw on him or not, but his irritation prevented him from calculating the risk.

When he stood two feet from the boy, he looked him in the eye and asked him, “How’d you know my name?”

Although three inches shorter than Henry, the lad didn’t appear intimidated.

“Didn’t really,” the youngster said with a smirk. “I’uz looking for a Indin about your description, and when I saw you making for that store, I thought I’d ask. A Indin named Henry Starr is said to be fond of robbing general stores in these parts.”

Henry placed his right hand on the butt of his holstered pistol. His partner, standing to one side of the boy, did the same. “You after the reward money, son. Is that it?”

“Aw, hell no,” said the boy, still smirking. “Can’t make no money on rewards. I want to join up with you.”

Henry relaxed his hold on his pistol grip. “You picked a heluva time to come job hunting. What makes you think I’m hiring?”

The lad shrugged, then spit to the side. He looked coolly over at Frank. “Sooner or later you’re going to need more help. Figured you could use someone good with a gun.”

Henry looked at Frank and they both laughed. The boy lost his smirk and got steely-eyed. “How old are you, son?” Henry asked.

“Don’t see that it matters,” he said. He looked back and forth from Henry to Frank. His expression had quickly become cold; his eyes danced with fury. “You want to try me?”

Henry looked at the ground and let out another small laugh. He leaned in closer to the boy and spoke to him in a lower voice. “Look, kid, we ain’t looking for a fight. We got a job to do right now. It’s kind of a small job, but it’s only because we need to outfit ourselves for something bigger. 

“Tell you what, you want to join us on this job, I’ll give you a try. If I like what I see we’ll consider letting you join up with us.”

The boy nodded.

“What’s your name?” Henry asked him.


“That your first name or your last?”

“Last,” the boy said. “First name’s John. Most folks just call me Wilson.”

Henry leaned in closer to the boy, and spoke in an amicable tone. “Now, c’mon, tell me how old you are.” 

“Eighteen,” the boy said.

Henry knew it was a lie. He smiled and nodded back. “Well, I already know enough Johns. Think I’ll call you, Kid...Kid Wilson. That okay with you?”

A small smile cracked the boy’s stony glare and he returned a slight nod.

“Awright, then,” Henry turned to his partner Frank, then looked up at the door of the mercantile. “Let’s do this.”

Just before he grabbed the knob of the store’s door to enter, it swung opened to the inside and a heavy-set woman came out. Henry stepped back and to the side, grabbing the rim of his hat in a tipping gesture to the woman. She nodded and smiled, moving on across the wooden sidewalk and down the steps. Watching the woman cross the street, Henry turned back to the boy behind him. “One other thing, Kid. Don’t shoot nobody,” he said.

Follow these links  to check out Red Lands Outlaw and my other novels:
Red Lands Outlaw
Legends of Tsalagee


John Biggs said...

Excellent! I've picked up a taste for Western fiction just when there's not much of it being published. It's good to know there are still a few cowboy-writers out there.

Phil Truman said...

Thanks, John, I, too, have come into the Western genre lately, both as a reader and writer. It has a relatively small, but loyal, following; however, seems to be making a comeback.