One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was trying to find a home for my first novel came from an agent. She suggested that I not be afraid to try writing a genre western. As I had been writing short stories, articles, reviews, and poems for several years and was taking a big step toward book-length fiction, I was hesitant to try a second novel if my first one wasn’t going anywhere. But with her encouragement, I went to work on an idea for a traditional western. It took me a couple of years, in and around the shorter things I was writing, in addition to my full-time teaching position, but I ended up with a western novel.
“Return to Laurel” is a somewhat long short story that appears in the anthology Hobnail and Other Frontier Stories, released by Five Star Publishing in December 2019. In this story, a private investigator named Henry Tresh agrees to look for an older couple’s son who disappeared some twenty years earlier. The parents insist that their son, Arthur, fell under the bad influence or a girl named Bella. They also tell the investigator that they did not know until very recently that the son was last known to be in the town of Laurel, Wyoming.
Justice at Redwillow is my
twenty-third western/frontier novel and my fourth with Five Star in its
hardcover frontier line. It was published in August of 2015.
I began working on ideas for this
story line in 2011, but I struggled quite a bit with some of the elements. I
think some of my uncertainties may have come from my status, as this was the
period between the time when Dorchester ended its western line and the time
when Five Star began its frontier line. As mentioned in other commentaries, I
had begun working with an agent, but the various commercial publishing
companies were wary of taking on new writers, and some of them had a rather
narrow idea of what kinds of stories they wanted. I came to appreciate
Dorchester, who, in spite of wanting things to be recognizable traditional
westerns, was willing to accept stories that were a bit atypical and varied.
Don’t Be a Stranger
is my twenty-second western/frontier novel, published by Five Star Publishing
in February of 2015. It was published before Justice at Redwillow, although I wrote them in the opposite order.
I wrote them both while things were getting under way with Five Star and its
frontier line. During that time, Dark
Prairie was going through the acceptance, editing, and production process,
and Across the Cheyenne River was
making its way onto the list.
Across the Cheyenne River
was my second novel with Five Star Publishing and my twenty-first traditional
western. Although that sequence may sound routine, this novel did not make its
way into the world without obstacles.