I continue to post commentaries I have written about my own work, with the assumption that anyone who ends up here is interested in knowing about things I have written. For additional images, book descriptions, and review excerpts, one may go to the “Books” tab above and browse there.
Herein I introduce a bit of commentary I wrote in 2009 about Coyote Trail, which is available on Amazon.
Coyote Trail is my fifth traditional western novel. It was published in January 2000 by Leisure Books (Dorchester Publishing). As with other traditional westerns I wrote at this stage in my career, this novel attempted to work outside the typical patterns of the paperback western. In writing it, I placed a strong emphasis on character and idea as well as on landscape, rather than focus on a hero who would defeat his enemies and cause good to triumph over evil.
With this work, I began with an idea and a couple of characters to go with it. I wanted to write a story about a problem in friendship when one person does not level with the other. For my story I started with a character who was willing to extend his friendship to a stranger and who was willing to stick his neck out to help his friend. In contrast, the friend is not only ungrateful but, as it turns out, self-serving and dishonest. But, as the protagonist learns, that’s all right too, because it helps a person appreciate the friends he does have.
Travis Quinn, the main character of Coyote Trail, strikes up a friendship with a fellow named Miles Newman when the two of them end up working on the same ranch. In order to make this situation real, I found it useful to go on a field trip to the area where this ranch would be. I went to a place called Lost Springs, which is in the plains country west of Lusk, Wyoming, and east of the Laramie Range. At the time of the story, the place was called Lost Spring, so that is what I call it in the narration. I took a memorable drive through the area, which is rolling grassland with the unexpected variation that a person finds when he or she looks at the country up close. This turned out to be a good thing to do, as the landscape serves as a presence in the story, a sense of constancy that Quinn has but some of the other characters don’t.
From this grass country, Quinn ends up going to a couple of other places, which I also have found interesting in my travels. He goes on an errand south through Hartville (always a pleasure to go through) and on over to Chugwater (a place name always dear to our hearts), then gets caught in a snowstorm. He goes on a trip to the Laramie Range, also good landscape, and after that he follows the North Platte river bottoms from Orin Junction up past Douglas and back. All this time, he is living in the landscape while others are traveling over it, taking what they can and not worrying about what they leave behind.
Not all of the other characters are inconsiderate, however. A couple of Quinn’s fellow cowhands bring out the better side of the contrast, as does Quinn’s boss, though in a more restrained away. Also, Quinn meets a woman who, though also cautious, has qualities that the novel holds up for approval. In the final words of the story, Quinn looks forward to spending future time with “a woman who believed in trust and who would have some ideas on how to take the bitter with the sweet.”
As I wrote this novel, I felt that I was dealing with lifelike characters, real-life problems, and bittersweet solutions. When I finished writing it, I felt about the novel as I would feel about others as I progressed in my career. I thought it was the most original and best executed of my westerns up to that point. That does not mean that it is perfect or even that I think it is; it just means that it has been a milestone work for me, and as with all my westerns, I am proud to have written it.
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