Trouble at the Redstone is my sixteenth traditional western novel. It was published in October 2008 by Leisure Books (Dorchester Publishing). After having written a couple of pensive, atypical westerns with Death at Dark Water and Lonesome Range, interspersed with the crossover western-mysteries featuring Jimmy Clevis, I thought it would be a good idea to try my hand again with a more traditional fast-action western. The result was Trouble at the Redstone.
Although this novel has some similarities with a couple of the Jimmy Clevis stories in that the protagonist goes off in search of a missing person, I made some conscious changes in the main character and therefore in the tone of the work. For one thing, I decided I wanted to work with a character who was more hard-wired for direct action than Jimmy Clevis or the more contemplative protagonists of Death at Dark Water and Lonesome Range. Will Dryden, the main character of Trouble at the Redstone, is well equipped with the ability to fight with his fists and with his six-guns. Like other traditional western heroes, he also gets thumped once in a while and has a knack for getting gonad-driven bad guys to want to kill him. Somewhere in there, he also shows that he is hard-wired for direct action with a woman.
When Will Dryden goes to work at the Redstone Ranch, however, he does not rely only on his fists, his guns, or other physical equipment. He has to try to figure out connections between the missing man he is looking for, a young cowhand who has recently been killed, a couple of more men who turn up dead along the way, and a stealthy land-grabbing plan on the part of the owner of the Redstone. Naturally, Will Dryden has to figure out what is going on beneath the surface.
I chose to set this story in the desert plains area of south-central Wyoming, where the harsh, arid landscape would support the rugged tone of the novel. I also chose to incorporate a little bit of historical background material on the early days of oil development in Wyoming, which I thought might correlate in an interesting way with what goes on beneath the surface in the story.
Of at least equal importance, to me at least, was the development of a cast of diverse characters. I must admit I had a bit of fun with Blanche, the cook at the Redstone, and with Aden, the hothead with little-man syndrome. I also enjoyed working with more sympathetic characters such as Pearl, the kitchen girl, and Jim Calvert, the level-headed old cowboy who showed up ten years earlier (and younger) in Wild Rose of Ruby Canyon and who, in the last words of the novel, suggests that he might show up again some time.
Addendum: Here is a note I made in June 2009 after Trouble at the Redstone won the Spur Award.
WWA 2009—Winning the Spur
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the annual Western Writers of America convention in Oklahoma City. The high point for me was receiving the Spur award for Best Mass Market Paperback Original for my 2008 novel Trouble at the Redstone. Earlier in the year, I was very excited to learn of my winning the award, but the emotional value really increased when I went to the convention. Not only did I receive congratulations and expressions of good will from many friends and fellow writers, but I also had the great pleasure of meeting Leah Hultenschmidt, an editor from Dorchester Publishing / Leisure Books, the company that has published my westerns for several years. After stammering out a few words of acknowledgment as I accepted the award, I stepped aside and heard Leah’s eloquent words of praise and appreciation. It was an unforgettable moment, certainly one of the high points in my life and in my career as a writer, ranking right up there with finishing my doctoral dissertation and seeing the first printed copy of my first book.
To recapitulate my acceptance remarks, I express my thanks to Don D’Auria, my editor at Leisure Books, who has always offered me encouragement and support and who has believed in me as a writer. I also thank his excellent colleague Leah Hultenschmidt, who was very generous with her time, as she listened to and responded to my thousand questions about my various writing endeavors, and who put in a stellar appearance at the convention in various sessions and meetings. I express my appreciation to Max McCoy and Andrew Fenady, finalists in this year’s competition, two very fine writers whose company it was an honor to be in. I thank my wife, Rocio, and my son, Dimitri, for their unfailing support in all that I do and for their sharing this great moment with me. I thank the members of Western Writers of America, with gratitude in knowing that this honor comes from all of them. And as an added note I thank my horse Blackie, who threw me off a couple of times and sent me to the hospital on the second occasion; although he did not intend to, he taught me that even when a fellow thinks he’s got a good hold and thinks he might make a good ride, there’s a lesson in humility waiting to happen.
Trouble at the Redstone is available at Amazon.