Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Legend, a collaborative novel—and a bit of BSP

BSP? Blatant self-promotion.

Over a long ride as a western writer (that’s so bad it’s almost a pun so I’ll stick with it) I’ve ridden with some notable authors. The late Elmer Kelton will forever be my hero, the epitome of what a western writer can and should be. His titles, awards and honors are too numerous to mention, but if you’re not familiar with his novels, start with The Good Old Boys (a made-for-TV movie directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones). As well as a revered author and staple at TCU Press, Elmer and his wife, Ann, were good friends.

During the’90s, I was invited to participate in several anthologies and collaborative novels (several authors unite to tell one story). Not once, but twice Elmer wrote the first chapter of a novel, and I followed with the second chapter. You don’t know intimidation unless you lived in my skin during the writing of those chapters. Elmer himself was the gentlest of critics, masking his rare criticism in irony; I was much harsher a self-critic.

The second novel, Noah’s Ride, was about an escaping slave during the Civil War. Ye gods! Not only did I have to follow Elmer, but I had to write from a masculine point of view, a masculine African-American slave. Nothing could be farther from my experience and knowledge. But I muddled through.

But in the first of those two novels, I gave in to my hesitation to write masculine point of view and wrote the only chapter in the book told from a woman’s point of view. Legend recounts the life of Lyle Sparks from hardscrabble boyhood in Texas to later years as an aging cattle rancher n Montana, years in which his colorful past may come back to haunt him. From one end of the West to the other, Lyle Sparks, bounty hunter, was feared and respected. Now he wants to set the record straight.

Chapter Two tells of the episode of Melanie Beaufort early in his life. Melanie is a proper young southern lady from Jackson, Mississippi, visiting her sister, who is enceinte, and her pretentious brother-in-law, a banker in the raw frontier town of Fort Worth. You can see this coming—Sparks and Melanie fall madly in love, and she is determined to take him home to meet her parents. He reluctantly agrees. But Melanie’s sister lies to her about her mother’s health, and the girl loses her nerve and returns alone to Mississippi. Now disillusioned about love (and having lost his entire family to an Indian raid), Sparks rides on alone.

Yes, it’s riddled with clichés, but there’s some fine writing in this novel from great names of the western – Loren Estleman, James Reasoner, Jane Candia Coleman, Ed Gorman, and Robert J. Randisi. (The Amazon blurb says “legendary” authors but modesty forbids….)

Until January 31, Legend is available as a Kindle e-book from Amazon for one dollar. western fans will find themes and authors they cherish; newcomers can explore the western genre and read new authors. Who knows? We may get a whole new generation of western fans. Find Legend on sale at https://www.amazon.com/b?node=14435394011.

No comments: