Tag Archives: Western

Rogue Returns

Rogue Pardew rode his horse along the main street.  Nothing much had changed during the twenty years of his absence.  Old Jem’s Mercantile stood where it did, with tin baths and buckets displayed on the porch, shovels standing in a pail like flat-headed flowers in a vase.  Brindley’s Funeral Parlour looked as grim as ever – if things were truly the same in Coyote Creek, old man Brindley was most likely the richest galoot in town.  Undertakers never went short of business; it was the same all over, Pardew had found during his decades of exile.

But now I’m back right enough, he set his square jaw, to right a wrong that ought to never have been done in the first place.

But first, a drink.  What the preacher man would call a libation suckled straight from the devil’s teat.

Whisky.

He hitched the horse to the post outside the Scarlet Woman and pulled his hat down over his brow.

Twenty years is a long time, he reflected.  Folk come and go.  Some of them most likely gave old man Brindley some business and were pushing up the daisies on Tombstone Hill.

Even so, Pardew didn’t want to take chances on being recognised, least ways not afore he’d done what he’d come back to do.

He pushed the saloon doors inwards and stepped over the threshold.  Jake was on the piano, tinkling away just like the old days.  Card-players were grouped around tables, intent on their hands.

And there behind the bar, Frankie was polishing a glass with his apron.  The barkeep’s hair was still slick with a centre parting, Pardew observed, but there were streaks of white at Frankie’s temples, the only concession to the passage of time.

Frankie raised a luxuriant eyebrow as Pardew approached.

“Whisky,” Pardew kept his voice to a soft growl and the brim of his hat shadowing his eyes.  He slapped a five-dollar bill on the counter.  If Frankie recognised him, he gave no sign; he just poured the drink and asked no questions.  Professional discretion, Pardew reckoned.  Even so, he didn’t want to risk being spotted.  He tossed back the whisky shot, feeling it burn the back of his throat and the subsequent kick to his belly.  He turned to go but found himself face-to-face with a fella in a red shirt.  The fella had a beard now but Pardew recognised the close-set eyes at once as those belonging to his old acquaintance, Wyatt Bell.

Bell was jawing tobacco.  He looked Pardew up and down and, with a contemptuous sneer, spat on his boots.

“Well, look what the cat drug in.”

Pardew tipped his hat.  “I don’t want no trouble, Wyatt.  I ain’t here for that.  I ain’t here for you.”

“Plenty folk round these parts got scores to settle with you, you lowdown rotten snake.”

“I don’t want no trouble neither,” the barman interposed, patting the trusty rifle he kept within reach.

“Tombstone Hill, afore sundown,” Bell spat again.  “I got me a bullet with your name on it.”

“Well, well, well, if it ain’t Rogue Pardew,” said a hoarse but decidedly female voice at Pardew’s shoulder.  “I knew you couldn’t keep away from my womanly charms indefinitely.”

Pardew barely glanced at the buxom showgirl, but it was enough to show him Miss Liza had gained quite a bit of weight and quite a lot of tattoos since he’d been gone.

Pardew didn’t respond other than to tip his hat – Miss Liza was still a lady, after all.

“I knew you’d come crawling back, Mister!” the ageing showgirl called after him, her crumpled feathers bristling.  “Show your face in here again and you just might find yourself gelded.”

Pardew pushed his way out of the saloon, aware that every eye in the place was upon him.  Word would get round like wildfire.  Guess who’s back in town, folk would nudge each other.  I figure I might not live long enough to make that appointment with Wyatt after all.

He strode along Main Street, ignoring the faces at the windows he passed and the folks who pulled their children indoors when they saw him approach.  I ain’t here for that, I ain’t here for you, he wanted to tell them, but he had no time to shoot the breeze and put folk in the picture.

At the end of the street, surrounded by a neat little yard and a prim picket fence, stood Coyote Creek’s schoolhouse, red and proud with white around the door and windows.  It was just as he recalled it all those years ago and it made him feel like a child again.

Quit that, he scolded himself.  You’re a man now and you must do what’s got to be done.

Steeling himself, he went inside.

And there she was, behind her desk, the schoolmarm, Miss Clementine, not looking a day older.

“School’s out,” she said without looking up.  The cocking of his pistol got her attention right enough.

“My, my!” she rose from her chair.  “Ethan Pardew as I live and breathe.”

“Don’t you say a word!” Pardew kept the gun trained on the teacher and hoped she couldn’t see how his hand was shaking.

“Finally come to turn in your homework assignment!” Miss Clementine laughed and it was all Ethan ‘Rogue’ Pardew could do not to piss his pants.

“Somebody should have done this years back,” he stammered.  “Maybe then the kids of this town would have stood some kind of a chance.  Maybe I would have stood a chance and wouldn’t have turned out so bad, like I did.”

Miss Clementine arched an eyebrow as though waiting for a child’s tantrum to blow itself out.

“Dear, dear, still making up your stories, I see.  Still letting that imagination of yours run wild.”

A shot rang out and Miss Clementine spoke no more.  Her eyes rolled up trying to see the hole that had appeared in her forehead and then she crumpled over her desk.

Rogue Pardew blew on his gun barrel before he re-holstered the weapon.

He walked slowly back to the saloon, feeling lighter as though a great weight had been lifted.  Maybe I’ll get myself shot or lynched or tarred and feathered – Perdew was beyond caring.  Or maybe folk’ll give me a second chance; hell, it was worth the asking.

One thing he was sure of, as sure as eggs, that Clementine witch would be putting her hands on no more little boys from now on.

Rogue P

 

 

 

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Back in the Saddle

Last year when I wrote VULTURES’ MOON, I didn’t anticipate it turning into a series. (But then, I said that about what turned out to be the first Brough and Miller investigation, BLOOD & BREAKFAST – and I’m currently writing the sixth one of them).

I’d wanted to write a Western and, having done my research on the ‘rules’ of the genre, I began. However, my imagination had other ideas. As soon as I wrote the first line, I knew this was going to be something different. I went with it, and my sci-fi western was born. Now, returning to the setting twelve months later, I found it easier to write – the world had already been created; it was just a matter (‘just’!!) of coming up with a new adventure for my main characters Jed and his marvellous Horse.

The new storyline allowed me to reinforce what I’d established in the first book and to introduce new ideas and new characters, but I was determined to keep it very much the same flavour as the first. And so, Jed is present in every scene. There is no bad language. No one has sex – Westerns are very moralistic. But there are also science fiction and fantasy elements blended in.

I decided that both books should end with the same words – much like Christopher Reeve always used to sign off his Superman films by orbiting the Earth and grinning at the camera, my heroes fly away “like a shooting star”.

As far as titles go, it amused me to follow the original Planet of the Apes series of films. And so, in homage to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the new book is called Under the Vultures’ Moon. If there is a third – and there most probably will be – it will be Escape from Vultures’ Moon… After that, well, we’ll see.

UNDER THE VULTURES’ MOON is available now!

under the v m

VULTURES’ MOON is  also available

 

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Saddle up for Adventure!

My latest book VULTURES’ MOON is now available.

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Life is tough on the frontier world of Vultures’ Moon. Gunslinger Jed and his trusty Horse do what they can to keep the peace but when an old enemy sets a plan in motion that threatens to destroy everything, Jed has to go to extremes to protect the settlers. From the writer of Octavius Mint & The Indigo Dragon, this action-packed space western puts a new spin on traditional characters and situations.

This one was a bit more of an experiment than usual, transplanting the tropes of the traditional Western to another world, and I am very pleased with the way it turned out – so much so that I am considering the viability of a sequel…

Buy the book!

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Current work-in-progress

I wanted to write a Western, an old-fashioned cowboy story so I did some research.  I watched a load of old movies (they’re always on telly) and I borrowed some novels from the library to help with the vernacular.  In particular, I enjoyed Bradford Scott’s Haunted Valley and I found this website extremely useful.

I learned a few things along the way:

The story should start with action.  You just jump right in.  You’ll see from the extract below that I do just that.

– There should be no hint of sex.  Obviously, characters breed but strictly speaking, a Western doesn’t mention the act.  There is also no bad language, apart from things like ‘dad-blasted’ and ‘cotton-pickin’ and other such phrases.

– The protagonist is a strong, silent type, skilled with guns and horses, and knowledgable about all sorts of things but especially the ways of the world. He will prefer his solitary existence to romantic involvement.  He is a crusader for justice and master of his emotions.  He will stand up against evil and is revered wherever he goes. He is intelligent and has the highest personal integrity. He must appear in every chapter. The trouble solved, he will ride off into the sunset at the end. (My protagonist, Jed, is very much in the mould – think Lucky Luke played by Clint Eastwood!)

– Life is tough, a constant battle for survival.

– People are poorly educated and this is reflected in the dialogue.

– There is one main plot and few subplots – if any!

This checklist guided me through the first draft but it became clear right from the outset, my story was not going to be a typical Western.  Right from the off, as soon as I typed the first sentence, I knew it was going to be different.  You will see from the extract how elements of science fiction creep in.  These become more prevalent as the plot develops and yet I believe I’ve managed to keep to the formula.  And so, I’ve failed but also succeeded. I’m very pleased with the way the book has turned out.

The second draft is out with readers at the moment.  I’m eagerly awaiting their responses.

Meanwhile, here’s the opening of my sci-fi Western, VULTURES’ MOON.

Jed patted his Horse’s neck.  They hovered over the canyon at the bottom of which a battle was raging.  Closer inspection revealed it was more of an ambush than a fair fight.  Jed clicked his tongue.  Horse brought him down to land, crooking its legs so Jed could dismount.  In a fluid movement, Jed dropped to the dirt, rolled over and rose up onto one knee, firing off rounds in steady blasts as he did.   The bad guys fell, great holes yawning in their heads and chests and bellies.  The stench of sizzling flesh filled the air.  At the centre of the carnage, the victims cowered in shock.  Jed stood up and walked towards them with his hands spread wide.  The spurs on his boot heels whirred and clinked with every step- they were decorative only; Jed had other methods of directing his Horse.

            The victims were two females and an elderly gent, who was bent double with age.  The ladies, the geezer’s granddaughters maybe, moved in front of the old man protectively.

            “Is anyone hurt, ladies?”  Jed glanced at the wreckage of their cart.  The wheels were smashed and their horse – one of the original kind – was dead.  Clearly, these folks were in need of an alternative mode of transport.

            “We’re fine,” said one of them – the blonde one.  She looked Jed up and down, her expression unreadable.

            “But thanks,” added the other one, shorter and redheaded.  She too gave Jed the onceover and apparently was pleased with what she saw.

            “You folks took a risk being out here,” Jed kicked at a dead man’s boot.  Yup; definitely dead.

            “We – we had no choice!” the redhead blurted.

            “Quiet, Lilimae!” the blonde jumped in.  She turned to Jed.  “Like my sister says, thanks, Mister, for your timely assistance.  These, ah, gentlemen, looked likely to be the ruination of us.”

            “Where you folks headed?”  Jed rubbed his chin.  Need a shave, he reckoned.  Perhaps a trip into town was warranted.

            “Oh, we -” Lilimae was silenced by a swipe from her sister’s hand.

            “That’s none of your concern,” the blonde said coldly.  “And I’ll thank you to leave us to fadge for ourselves.”

            Fadge? Jed’s eyebrows flew up.  He tried to place the word.  Which sector were these folks from?

            “Here.”  The old coot was shuffling forwards.  He held out a bar of platinum.  It flashed as it caught the sun.

            “That’s not necessary, sir.”  Jed tipped his hat.  “If you folks are sure?”

            The three exchanged glances.

            “We are,” said the blonde girl.  The others nodded.

            Jed went back to his Horse.

            “Something not right…” he muttered as he got back in the saddle.

            “My thoughts exactly,” said his Horse.

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