I describe Poacher’s Moon as a contemporary western novel with a strong element of mystery. It takes place in present-day Wyoming, and it deals with environmental ethics at the same time that it traces the mystery of a missing person.
Wilf Kasmire, the main character of Poacher’s Moon, is an outdoorsman who at the opening of the novel would like to try to make his living at being a guide and outfitter. That means taking out other hunters, then seeing them and helping them kill big-game animals. While some guides see it as a business proposition, with a resource and a consumer, Wilf comes to question the extent to which he wants to help others take advantage of natural resources and especially animals. Like many characters in fiction, Wilf is testing his own values and finding his place in the world. He wants to decide for himself what it is all worth.
As he goes about his work of taking out hunters, he is troubled by the disappearance of Heather Lea, a woman he used to spend time with. Most recently, Heather has been a truck-stop waitress, and her disappearance has not sparked very much public interest in finding her. In deciding how far to go in pursuing the ethical irregularities of some of his clients, Wilf also finds himself pursuing the question of what happened to Heather Lea.
Poacher’s Moon has been a major work for me to write, and in it I believe I blend my various strengths as a fiction writer. For as long as I have been writing fiction and getting it published, which has been about thirty years, I have written both contemporary and traditional (old West) stories and novels. Although I have gotten the most exposure with the traditional works and have therefore produced more in that line, I feel that I can draw on a greater range of material and therefore write with greater freedom in contemporary fiction.
This is my third contemporary novel, and in it, as in many of my contemporary short stories, I explore human character in the context of landscape and nature. One area in which I have quite a bit of experience and, I think, a few original ideas is hunting. Although some readers and some publishers stay away from this topic, I think it is productive for fiction because it is a complex activity and brings out human character in unpredictable ways. Having hunted with quite a few other people (including several women hunters) and having taken out quite a few people under my auspices, I have had the opportunity to have a multitude of experiences good and bad as well as to form many insights on my own. Therefore, when I set out to write about a character who hunts or who takes out other hunters, I have a wealth of material from which to draw.
At the same time that I have drawn from a rich fund of contemporary material, I have benefitted from having written more than fifteen traditional westerns. For one thing, traditional westerns have to meet more concrete expectations than a free-form contemporary novel. On the other hand, a mystery has to meet even narrower demands, so if I wanted to write a mystery (or a work that is a novel first and a mystery second), I could benefit from what I learned about plotting westerns. Moreover, several of my westerns have been crossover western mysteries, so it is as if I had been (as subconsciously as Wilf searching for Heather) preparing myself to write this novel.I hope Poacher’s Moon succeeds as a breakthrough or new plateau in my writing career. Although I realize that not everybody is going to like everything, I do have hopes that this novel will be appreciated as something by a guy who knew a little bit about what he was doing.
Poacher’s Moon is available at Amazon.