Double Deceit is a novella of 21,000 words that was published in November 2020 by Five Star Publishing. I wrote this story in the late fall of 2019, and it appeared in a quartet of frontier crime novellas entitled Perilous Frontier.
I have written a few other works in the novella range. As I mention in other commentaries on my work, I enjoy working in different lengths. Some people consider the typical length for a commercial story to be about 5000 words, while many literary magazines have limits such as 1500, 2500, 3500, and so on. Over the years, I have written stories of just about every length from 1000 to 28,000 words. In this past year alone, I have written stories at 1000, 5000, 8000, 10,000, and 20,000 words, plus a novel at 70,000. So when the opportunity came up to write a work in the 20,000 range, I was happy to give it a try.
Silver Grass is my thirtieth western/frontier novel, my eleventh novel with Five Star, and my third young adult novel. I wrote this work in the summer of 2019, and it was published by Five Star Publishing in October 2021. Its release was delayed for about six months because of the pandemic, but when it came out, it received normal distribution and reviews.
Great Lonesome is my twenty-ninth western/frontier novel and my tenth book with Five Star. I wrote it in 2018, and it came out in November of 2020, delayed by a few months as many books were during the pandemic.
Prior to writing this novel, I gathered notes over a period of a few years. I wanted to write a story about a person who rejected materialistic and conformist values, and I thought it would be a good story if this person met another person with similar interests. And so I came up with my protagonist, Reese Hartley, and my unconventional heroine, Muriel Dulse. Both characters have come west in order to have their own land and to forge a new life. Hartley also wants to get away from systems and machines, which become sort of a correlative for a way of life in which people pursue wealth and material possessions and oblige others to cooperate with them.
A Good Man to Have in Camp was published by Endeavor Books of Casper, Wyoming, in May 1999. It was the second of two contemporary western novels of mine that Endeavor Books published, and I was glad to see it make its modest way into the world.
Keep the Wind in Your Face was published by Endeavor Books of Casper, Wyoming, in October 1998. Although it was the first complete novel I wrote, it was not the first to appear in print. Not only did it take me a long time to assail and finish a full-length manuscript, but I also struggled finding a publisher for it.
Like last year but quite different, this year has been a good year for me with awards. My short story “Return to Laurel” was a finalist for the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Western Short Fiction Story and was also a finalist for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best Short Fiction. My novella “Leaving the Lariat Trail” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Short Fiction. Any one of these distinctions would give me an occasion to be thankful, and so I am appreciative three times over.
Dangerous Trails, published by Prairie Rose Publications in June 2020, is a collection of twelve western short stories that (with one small exception) I wrote since my last collection (Blue Horse Mesa) came out in 2013. This is my third collection of western short stories and my eleventh collection of short fiction. It includes “Return to Laurel,” which was a Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist and a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award finalist, both in 2020.
and again I remember an innocent moment, over thirty years ago, when I was
sitting in the college cafeteria at lunchtime. As was the custom at the time at
our small college, the instructors sat with classified staff and students, all
of us like a family. On this day, one of the students came out of the kitchen,
stopped, and dropped his tray of food. Utensils crashed, glass broke, food
scattered, and people laughed.
Sometimes I recall
an incident in which my father and another man were talking about a fifth
wheel. This was many years ago, when I was in my late teens and when fifth
wheels were not common features of recreational vehicles. They were used almost
exclusively with large equipment such as trucks and farm tractors. I asked what
a fifth wheel was, and instead of just explaining, my father took the occasion
to criticize me for not knowing. “It’s a fifth wheel. That’s what it is. Don’t you know what a
fifth wheel is?”
During the summer between my fifth- and sixth-grade years, I had to go to the hospital to have my appendix taken out. While I was there, I read my first traditional western. I was ten going on eleven, and as I recall, the pediatric ward was full, so I was put in another ward to share a room with an old man (old to me, probably no older than I am now) who had stomach ulcers. Not having much in common with my roommate, and being a proficient reader, I turned my attention to the reading fare on hand. It was a novel called West of Abilene. For years after that, I had lingering memories of a few of its salient features.