Friday, December 27, 2013
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Monday, January 2, 2012
DAMNATION ROAD for mature readers, ages 14 and up.
This is the third book in the award winning "Jacob Gamble" trilogy (Spur Awards). Yes, westerns also have series novels. The first two novels being Hellfire Canyon and Canyon Diablo. Whereas in Hellfire the reader met Jacob at thirteen-years-old, now it is 1898 and the main character is nearing fifty. The wild west is disappearing. As with many westerners, Jacob is on the wrong side of the law, sometimes on the fence, and sometimes his heart coerces him to do what's right. The reader is always hoping he will finally redeem himself and eventually go straight.
Since the author grew up in Kansas and teaches at Emporia, Kansas, it's no surprise the setting of his novels are Missouri, Kansas cowtowns, and Oklahoma Territory. Will his life end like the real Oklahoma outlaw, Bill Doolin? While in the Guthrie jail, his defense lawyer ends up being the historical and colorful character,Temple Houston--son of the legendary father Sam and the model for Ferber's Cimarron (1929)main character, Yancy Cravat. Not trusting the legal system, Jacob escapes and flees to Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. Might the Colonel give him a pardon?
On the other hand, there's this temptation of a big haul from a train robbery--no such luck. And there's a corrupt Pinkerton dogging his trail but also a "too good to be true" tale of a lost, Confederate treasure from the lips of a mysteries and seductive woman he can't resist. Could this be his last chance? Isn't that what the West was, a place for second chances or where one could erase the past and begin anew?
This is no candy coated cowboy story. Representative of the real West, there is some profanity and soiled doves do populate the novel although readers are assumed worldly enough so practicing details of their profession are unnecessary. The author's literary strengths are fascinating, rounded characters, convincing dialog, real gun play, and yes, humor. As a cat lover, I appreciated this exchange: ' "I'm a Pinkerton operative"..."Shush," the old man said, "You'll wake Killer." But the cat seemed far from disturbed. "What did the subject buy?"..."Don't recall." Don't you keep a record of sales or--" "Now why the hell would I do that?"..."How do you know if you've made a profit?" "If there's money left over at the end of the month to buy coffee and beans, I've made a profit....You chew or smoke?" "I avoid tobacco,...It's a filthy habit"..."Killer don't think so." "What Killer may or may not think is immaterial...Describe his [Jacob's] companions." "...a wicked hellcat of a girl...She was trouble, wasn't she, Killer?" The old man scratched the cat beneath the chin and the cat roused briefly and shook his head annoyed. "Sorry, Princess Killer. I'll let you sleep." "What kind of a name is that for a common cat?" Jaeger asked. "It doesn't even make sense." "My damned cat," the old man said. "I can name it what I damned well please." '
For those interested in the novel's setting, historical personalities, and books the author probably utilized, pick up Paul I. Wellman's A Dynasty Of Western Outlaws (1961), Draw: The Greatest Gunfights Of The American West (2003),Bill Doolin, Outlaw O.T (1980) by Hanes, and any Glenn Shirley books such asTemple Houston: Lawyer With a Gun (1980) & West Of Hell's Fringe(1978). I might also suggest you play the 1973 Eagles Desperado album while reading such literature:
Go down, Bill Doolin, dont' you wonder why
Sooner or later we all have to die?
Sooner or later, that's a stone--cold fact,
Four men ride out and only three ride back.
2011 winner of the Spur Award for best original paperback novel. 280 pages.
Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, high school librarian
Do check out the rest of his rather lengthy review... he excerpts one of my favorite scenes, featuring a cat named Killer (those who know me will immediately recognize the feline), makes some shrewd guesses about my nonfiction source material (Paul I. Wellman and Glenn Shirley), and even suggests playing the Eagles' 1973 album Desperado while reading. Right on all counts, Mr. Hicks. I'd love to visit your school library someday and do a workshop for your students.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
In Japanese, the survivors are called hibakusha -- literally, "those who received the bomb." Featured is the story of Yoshito Matsushige, the newspaper photographer who shot the only images of Hiroshima the day the bomb fell. A special section includes some of those historic photos, as well as black-and-white portraits of the survivors made by McCoy in 1986.
In a new introduction, the author recalls the effect of that trip on his own life, and in the afterword--written in the wake of Japan's March 2011 earthquake and nuclear meltdown--he reminds us that apocalypse is always only a minute away. "Zero Minutes to Midnight" is long enough to present a compelling and historic portrait of the hibakusha, but short enough to read in a single sitting.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
We ate lunch at Cooper's Barbecue in Llano -- and it was the very best barbecue I've ever had, and just as good as I remember it when W.C. and Fred Bean took me there some 15 years ago.
I'll be returning to central Texas on Sept. 24 and 25, 2011, to sign books at the Llano River Outdoor Expo. There will be a gold panning and metal detecting competitions and much more. And if you're interested in more about gold prospecting, geology, the history of the Llano area in general, and the local gold prospecting club, check out llanogold.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
This year’s awards were announced Monday by the Western Writers of America. Other winners include True Grit, a film by Joel and Ethan Coen, for best drama, and The Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers, for best historical nonfiction. The awards will be presented at WWA’s annual convention June 21-25 at Bismarck, N.D.
The Spur Awards, given annually for distinguished writing about the American West, are among the oldest and most prestigious in American literature. In 1953, when the awards were established by WWA, western fiction was a staple of American publishing. At the time awards were given to the best western novel, best historical novel, best juvenile, and best short story. Since then the awards have been broadened to include other types of writing about the West. Today, Spurs are offered for the best western novel (short novel), best novel of the west (long novel), best original paperback novel, best short story, best short nonfiction. Also, best contemporary nonfiction, best biography, best history, best juvenile fiction and nonfiction, best TV or motion picture drama, best TV or motion picture documentary, and best first novel (called The Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award). Winners of the Spur Awards in previous years include Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves, Glendon Swarthout for The Shootist, and Tony Hillerman for Skinwalker.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
In her ruling, Sumi said that Wisconsin residents own their government.
"That’s our right. And a violation of that right is tantamount to a violation of what is already provided in the Constitution, open doors, open access, and that nothing in this government happens in secret."
Sumi went on to quote the late William A. Bablitch, a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice: "An open meetings law is not necessary to ensure openness in easy andnoncontroversial matters where no one really cares whether the meeting is open or not. Like the First Amendment, which exists to protect unfavored speech, the Open Meetings Law exists to ensure open government in controversial matters. The Open Meetings Law functions to ensure that these difficult matters are decided without bias or regard for issues such as race, gender, or economic status, and with highest regard for the interests of the community. This requires, with very few exceptions, that governmental meetings be held in full view of the community.”
A district attorney had brought the Open Meetings complaint, alleging that Republicans did not observe the 24-hour public notice requirement before convening a conference committee. Democratic legislators had fled the state in an attempt to halt passage of the bill. Sumi ruled that the public did not have ample time to attend the meeting.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Walter Zacharius, founder and former CEO of Kensington Books, passed away this morning at the age of 89.
Kensington was founded in 1974 by Mr. Zacharius, who previously had been one of the founders of Lancer Books. Walter started Kensington with a little capital and a big dream. In the 36 years that followed—a little fish in a big pond (and one filled with sharks)--Walter defied all the odds and built Kensington into a major publisher with a number of current and past NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors, among them Fern Michaels, Lisa Jackson, William W. Johnstone, and many others. He also discovered a good number of authors who would go on to have careers at many of the major publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster and Random House. Kensington currently has close to 100 full time employees and publishes and distributes more than 400 titles a year in mass market, trade paperback, and hardcover.
But it was the western that was, and continues to be, a big part of Kensington’s success. From Zane Grey to Ernest Haycox to Johnny D. Boggs and Max McCoy, Kensington did ‘em all. And when conventional wisdom said that the western was all but dead as a category, Walter reacted as he always did—he charged head-first into the category and filled the void left by the other publishers. With great success. Till the end, Walter was a huge supporter of the western and of the WWA. When Richard Wheeler won the Spur Award for Vengeance Valley in 2005—Kensington’s first such honor in more than three decades of publishing Walter was so proud that he displayed the publisher’s plaque on his office wall right next to a picture of his grandchildren.
The plaque is still there.
Walter Zacharius was the last of a breed—a maverick independent in an industry now run by corporate wonks.