It has been a sad fact--but surely not an unusual one for a writer--that over the years since I began my scribbling career I've actually composed more works than I've been able to publish. The actual count has been eight unpublished to six published. Of the books fast asleep in my hard drive or on disk, several are what must be called Westerns, a term I hesitate to use because it inevitably conjures up the image of genre writers like Louis L'Armour. I tried to make literature of the Western, and have written here in the past of my love for the classic Western novelists of old (and new, for some few do remain who stubbornly insist that a Western need not be a simplistic morality play).
Ruth and I have just finished e-publishing one of my Westerns--my favorite, I think. It's called Vengeance on the Sweetgrass and is based on a true event in the history of the Wyoming cattle wars.
In the late 1880's a group of free-range cattle barons lynched, allegedly for rustling but actually for exercising their legal right to homestead on public land, a woman named Ella Watson and her lover James Averill. In reality the lynchers were never prosecuted; in my novel justice, too long deferred, is done.
I hope some of you will be interested in this example of what I am presuming to call a "literary" Western, a term which is my device for separating it from the standard L'Armour-type horse opera. It is now available on amazon.com at the Kindle Store and Ruth, who knows how to do these things, will soon have it up on Barnes and Noble as well for those who prefer their Nooks. It features a beautifully designed cover by my friend and cherished surrogate daughter Britt Kaufmann, whom I mentioned in my last posting as the playwright and poet to whom I could not manage intelligebly to speak in the pit of my depression.
There are other Westerns to come--Above the Caprock, about a guilt-ridden former army scout whose wife and stepdaughter have been massacred by hostile Cheyennes and a winsome motherless boy brought up by prostitutes in a Texas brothel, who together search for ways to heal their broken lives;
Four Sixes to Beat: John Wesley Hardin in El Paso, about the final days of the West's most lethal gunman, released from a long prison term, trying without success to redeem himself by writing his autobiography while being drawn inexorably into a fatal confrontation; Blood Offerings, a fictional treatment of the Espinosa serial murderers whose true story is told in my forthcoming nonfiction account, Season of Terror; Riding the Hearse, about the Earp-Clanton-McLaury feud in 1880's Tombstone, Arizona; The Last Sundown, a play about the last days of Wyatt Earp; Call Down Heaven's Fire, the story of a 12th-century knight who helped murder Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, and his search for redemption while torn between carnal and spiritual loves as embodied in two different women; and Autumn Yellow, Blood Red, a detective novel set in Southern Appalachia.
One by one we hope to make e-books of these. It is, in a way, a lowering of my sights to give in to the now fashionable trend of e-publishing, for I've long loved the book as a physical artifact with a texture, a smell and a separate and palpable identifty. But, as I've said in these last few postings, I'm now obsessed with the passing of time and the probable deterioration of what talent I may have, and e-publishing is a way to set free my imprisoned stories, so they may reach whomever they may and leave whatever impact they might.
I want to thank those of you who have endured this doleful series of essays; if I've brought down your mood, I hope you can take some relief from the knowledge that while I may have depressed you, I feel a hell of a lot better. I don't mean to joke. I mean to say in all seriousness that yes, confession has been good for my soul but that many of you have also taken the time and trouble to write to empower me to soldier on. You have cared, in a world where people seem to care less for one another day after day. Bless you one and all. Where would any writer be without his or her readers? For we are all linked, or maybe forged is a better word, by the unique and mysterious bond of imagination.