Blue Springs is a contemporary western mystery novel with Wilf Kasmire as the protagonist. It was published by Fire Star Press, an imprint of Prairie Rose Publications, in November of 2017. As with other works, this one evolved in a roundabout way.
I first conceived of a story line about a young man who works at a dude ranch in 2011, when I was in the early stages of working with an agent. I had written one contemporary western mystery, Poacher’s Moon, and I wanted to try again at getting into the mystery genre. As expressed in my commentary on Poacher’s Moon, I felt that I had written a good novel, but I had a hard time seeing it get anywhere, partly because it was not a straight mystery. Now that I had an agent, I felt I might have a better chance.
According to the instructions I was given, I began by brainstorming a three-book series. I named the series after the Blue Springs guest ranch. In this first story, the main character would try to solve the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend who comes back to town and asks to stay for a little while. The protagonist goes to work at the guest ranch where the woman was working for a while, and he continues to work there in subsequent story lines. That was the plan.
The other part of the plan was to try to write something that was in tone with the perceived trend in the mystery market, which I was told was light and fluffy and in first person. I tried to take this to heart, for when I wrote Poacher’s Moon, I was told by an agent-like person at the time that it did not appeal to a mystery editor because it did not have the tone that people were looking for in mysteries. So I wrote the requisite first three chapters and submitted the partial manuscript and the synopses of the three stories.
Things mucked around for a while, and the plan did not go anywhere. So I proposed writing the novel the way I wanted, as a Wilf Kasmire story, a little more serious, and in third person. The agent said okay, as she had a place in mind that might like something of that nature.
In order for Wilf to go looking for an ex-girlfriend, I had to set this story before Poacher’s Moon, as he has a stable relationship with his girlfriend, Adrienne, in that novel. So even though I do not like the term “prequel,” I did not have a hard time writing a story that would be described by that term. I rewrote the first three chapters and followed through to the end of the story. I wrote from my sense of realism, not only on the basis of the western outdoor life I know but on the basis of plausible human motivation and behavior. We also had a place to send the work, so I felt good about the whole prospect.
Now time dragged on for a while longer, until the publisher let us know that it was not pursuing material of this nature any more. The manuscript went out to a couple of other places, but nothing happened. By now I had a pretty clear idea that Blue Springs was in the same boat as Poacher’s Moon had been, in that it was not a straight genre mystery. So after some hemming and hawing, I took it back and submitted it on my own.
I am happy to say that I found a publisher for the novel and that it received a couple of nice reviews. Here is an excerpt from one:
John Nesbitt has taken Wilf Kasmire, a modern-day Wyoming cowboy (cowboy part-time and seasonal jack of all trades) and put him into an unexpected mystery. I enjoyed Blue Springs, an adventure that reads like a country western song. Old pick-up trucks, small town bars, cold beer, trail horses, hard sweaty physical labor, campfire songs, memories of old girlfriends and hopes for new are all part of this cowboy’s search for Dawn, a missing ex-girlfriend.
It is nice to be appreciated for what one attempts. Part of my satisfaction with this novel comes from having written it the way I wanted. I could not take the vision of realism I had for the world of my story and alter it for the sake of expressed preferences in the marketplace. I have had success writing mystery stories when they cross over with westerns or with retro/noir settings or with contemporary settings, but I don’t know if I have what it takes to write a straight mystery that conforms to what I am told are editorial preferences or to what I recognize as improbable, unrealistic events. Still, that won’t keep me from writing another story about the world I know.
Blue Springs is available at Amazon.