As I mentioned in my previous post, Sundown Press, operated by Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn Reasoner, has brought out my first three novels as reprints in e-book and print format. Twin Rivers is now available at Amazon. I am grateful to Cheryl and Livia for their kind and considerate treatment as they have brought out these works.
Here is a reproduction of my blog entry on Twin Rivers, as I wrote it in my earlier blog in 2009:
Twin Rivers, my second traditional western, was published in December 1995 by Walker and Company, the hardcover publisher in New York that produced my first novel, One-Eyed Cowboy Wild. In this novel, as in my previous one, I tried to write something serious and not typical of the genre western.
In the main story line of this work, a cowboy named Clay Westbrook gains the disfavor of local ranchers and land-grabbers when he sticks up for a Mexican friend of his who pastures sheep on public range. Clay develops a love interest in Lupita, the niece of his friend, and he gets to know the Hispanic community that others are prejudiced against.
My interest in this subject comes from my own family background as well as from my personal and professional interests. My stepmother is from Chihuahua, and from her marriage to my father came my two sisters Carmen and Irene, to whom I dedicated this book. I have lived around Mexican people all my life, and I have studied Spanish most of that time. In 1988, I updated my command of Spanish in order to teach the subject at the community college level. In 1994, I undertook a sabbatical project to study Spanish in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico.
My stay in Saltillo ran from May to September, so the school year had barely gotten under way when I was done with my sabbatical work and ready to take the equivalent of my summer vacation. That gave me time to spend long hours at reading and research for a novel. My first novel had come out in March and was already out of print, and my editor was wondering if I had anything else. I sent her Keep the Wind in Your Face, a contemporary novel that I had in manuscript. She found the story interesting but not something she could convert into her western line, so she sent it back. Then we began to communicate about the novel I had in mind, Twin Rivers. She appreciated the bi-cultural subject matter, and she saw how I could shape a western that would go well with her line.
Prior to writing the first draft, I read several works on Wyoming and western history, mostly autobiographies of ranchers and ranch hands, to steep myself in the practices and customs of the cattle country. Having come back from my immersion study in Saltillo, I was steeped in that subject matter as well. I read through September and October, and when hunting season was over, I launched into the manuscript.
The writing itself was an intense undertaking. I was living by myself, on leave from my job, so I had nothing to keep me from writing all day, every day. I started in the morning and wrote until ten or eleven at night. I wrote a couple of subsequent novels that way also, getting hooked in deep, until I learned to pace myself. But for this novel, I had not learned moderation. I wrote the manuscript straight through, in longhand (as I have written all of my fiction), and then got some help typing it up.
I think my editor was displeased that I wrote it so quickly, but she would have had plenty of suggestions anyway. She told me where she thought the story needed more or needed less, and I followed her recommendations and came up with a second draft. She was pleased with how well it came out, and from then on she was very enthusiastic about it. Shortly before the book came out, she wrote me that it was “a lovely, gentle drama, told with style and good grace.” She also praised it for not having “any gunplay or gore,” elements that a reviewer had criticized in a western of hers by another author.
These were kind words of praise, and they help point out what I was trying to do with the western novel at this point. I wanted to write a story that did not depend on violence for its central conflict or for its resolution. Only one person dies in this story, and he comes to grief by drowning when he does not listen to advice on how to cross the river. There are a couple of fistfights, but they are anti-climactic, a feature that one literary reviewer cited as thought-provoking. The same reviewer wrote that “Clay Westbrook is very much a hero for our time” and that the story “offers its quiet rewards.”
I felt that I succeeded in writing the kind of novel I wanted to write, and I appreciated the support of Jackie Johnson, my wonderful editor. This book went on to receive favorable reviews, to go into large print and paperback reprint, and to get me listed in places such as Contemporary Authors. It has also made more money than any other book of mine to date. Money is not a big factor in my measure of success, but because westerns are commercial products as well as works of art, it is nice to succeed in that scale of value as well.