With Red Wind Crossing I began what has been a mini-series about Jimmy Clevis, a cowboy detective or amateur sleuth. For my commentary here, I have decided to post a commentary that I wrote for the Leisure Books (Dorchester Publishing) website when the book came out in November 2003. Here it is:
Red Wind Crossing is my tenth western novel, and it has been a very enjoyable book for me to work on. I try to do something original with each thing I write, and I feel that I managed to do so with this book. Up until now, I have not written any sequels or series, so I have always started with a new set of characters each time. That may change, as I conceived of Jimmy Clevis, the main character of Red Wind Crossing, as a character that I might like to write more than one story about. That in itself makes this novel different, as it introduces a character that we might see more of as time goes by.
Jimmy Clevis is a cheerful young fellow who is fond of the pleasures of life. When he runs through them, he thinks of food, drink, and girls. However, like the main characters in all of my stories, he is imperfect. (I write about everyday fellows, not bigger-than-life heroes.) One of Jimmy’s problems is that earlier in life, he fell in with some bad company and strayed from the straight and narrow. At the point that our story opens, he is thinking about how he would like to get away from the bunch he has fallen in with, but he’s not sure how to go about it. Things get complicated when he meets a girl who seems trapped in her own set of circumstances. He wants to help her get out of what seems like a kind of imprisonment, but as time goes on, the crooks he is hanging out with start to turn on him. So trying to be free has its dangers.
In addition to being good-natured and somewhat hedonistic, Jimmy is comfortable among Mexican people. He speaks their language, knows their customs, and gets invited into their homes. Among his friends in this community is Magdalena, a girl that just about any fellow would like to meet. She becomes Jimmy’s ally in the course of the story, and she might become more, except that for the time being at least, Jimmy is hung up on the idea of trying to rescue the girl he meets in town.
So this is where my story came from, as my stories so often do—from a sense of my main character and of the kinds of problems he would find himself in. In Jimmy Clevis’s case, I also had the feeling that he should tell his own story. This was a new technique for me to carry out in novel length. I had written quite a few short stories in the first person, but nothing this long, and I knew I would have the challenge of trying to keep the voice consistent all the way through. I felt pretty good about the way the story came out, as I felt that it was Jimmy’s voice that was telling the story. His voice seemed real to me, and I hope it seems that way to readers.
It is hard for me to rank my own works, but I do know which ones are the most enjoyable to work on. One of the reasons that Red Wind Crossing was fun to write was that it had some good bounce to it without losing its underlying serious value. I have written a couple of other westerns that have similar bounce—Black Diamond Rendezvous and Man from Wolf River—so I was able to feel my way through this one as well. A difference between this book and those earlier ones, of course, lay in my decision to let the main character tell his own story, and that, in turn, contributed to some of the fun. I think that everything I write is serious in one way or another, but some works are more playful than others. Some of my westerns (and other works) are somber and even grim, and I expect to write others that are that way as well. Red Wind Crossing, then, does not constitute a permanent change in direction for me; rather, it is done in a fun style that I hope to return to from time to time. I hope the world likes Jimmy Clevis, and if things work out all right, I hope to have another story about him in the future.
Red Wind Crossing is available at Amazon.