Sunday, 24 July 2016

Book review: The Gunsmoke Serenade by Thomas McNulty

While passing through Cherrywood Crossing, US Marshal Maxfield Knight is confronted by a gang of hired guns who tell him to ride the other way, or be shot down. With no choice but to ride into the high country, Knight soon learns he is being hunted by a man named Silas Manchester, but why, he has no idea. Determined to survive this dangerous game that he's been forced to play, Knight is destined to become the hunter rather than the hunted. Aided by a mountain man named Lacroix, Knight decides to bring the fight to Manchester and get answers. Meanwhile, Knight's partner, Deputy US Marshal Cole Tibbs, sets out looking for his missing friend. Tibbs will discover that he, like his friend, has also become part of a dangerous game that turns into a serenade of violence.

This is my first taste of this author's work and I liked it from the cast to the pacing to the writing style.

The characters are very self-sufficient, no-nonsense and believable. I felt like I was there because the scenery was so precisely described without bogging down the story. In fact, the landscape is a major player. I was particularly impressed with the way the various foes were despatched, without preamble or unnecessary playacting, although the final showdown was over a bit quickly for me.

This is a book that made me look at my own writing and think that I could definitely learn a thing or two. I'm happy to have discovered this author and am looking forward to reading everything that he has written.

You can find an interview with Thomas McNulty on my blog here.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Author interview:Thomas McNulty

Thomas McNulty is a name I recognise but, until I became acquainted with him on Facebook, I hadn't had the pleasure of reading any of his books. That's now being remedied and I will be posting a review soon. However, until then, let me introduce you to the man himself.


Please tell us a little about yourself.

My first book was a biography about Errol Flynn. I worked as a freelance writer for about ten years on what I call “The Hollywood Beat” where I interviewed actors and directors.  It was fun, and I made a lot of friends, but that was enough. I avoid most anything related to Hollywood these days except going to see an occasional film. I run a blog – Dispatches from the Last Outlaw – where I post about books. I am an avid book collector. For anyone interested, I recommend the essay on my blog which can be found on the “About this Blog” tag. That essay is called “The Art of Reading.”

How many books have you written?

I have written five Black Horse Westerns, the Flynn biography, a rather minor essay turned book about werewolves in mythology and literature, and four self-published books, so I’m up to eleven. I just finished another one this month.

Do you write under any other names?

I have published magazine articles under the name Jack Ripcord, which is also the title of a self-published book I released a few years ago. Jack is my alter ego. I am Jack Ripcord.

What is your latest release called, what’s it about and what inspired it?

“The Gunsmoke Serenade” was released by Crowood and this is the third story I’ve written featuring US Marshal Maxfield Knight. I have his entire life plotted. I know exactly what happens to him when he’s an old man. Each story I write about him is an installment in the horse opera of his life. “The Gunsmoke Serenade” puts him through his paces, but he’s going to need to harden himself because I know what’s coming his way.

Who is the publisher and where can we buy it?

“The Gunsmoke Serenade” is available from Crowood in hardback and for Kindle via Amazon.

What’s your latest writing project?

I just finished a sea story set in the Tropics in 1936. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written, or at least I hope it is. I love tales of the sea. I have no idea what I’ll do with this book, but I had to write it. I am also finishing another Western and I have to decide if I’m going to self-publish it or dole it out. I do enjoy the control I get with self-publishing.

Do you have any unusual writing rituals?

When I write Westerns I keep a Colt Single Action Army revolver next to me on the computer hutch. I love the feel of a gun in my hand. My wife and I are enthusiastic competition shooters and participate in a sport called Cowboy Action Shooting. I own over thirty guns. I shoot regularly. I have three Winchester rifles, the ’73, the ’92, and the model 94. My favorite rifle is the modern Henry “Big Boy” in .357 magnum caliber, which can be used in competition. That’s a handgun caliber, but effective in modern cowboy shooting matches. It does have a tubular feed rather than the side loading port, which is cumbersome, but the damn thing is beautiful. And if I’m writing something other than a Western I always have some type of gun at hand, either my father’s Colt .45 automatic or maybe the Walther PPK, made famous by Ian Fleming. I have my eye on the Kimber 9 mm. I don’t really need it, but I want it. So keeping guns around when I write is certainly motivational. The posters above my hutch also inspire me. One is a poster from “Tombstone” that Val Kilmer signed for me, another is a poster from “They Died with their Boots On” starring Errol Flynn, and a poster of David Carradine that he signed for me when I interviewed him. I’m a Black Belt, so there’s plenty of fisticuffs in my adventure stories, and I love the martial arts.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns?

The best advice I have ever heard about writing came from Joe R. Lansdale when I asked him that same question. He said put your ass in the chair and write every day.  I would add read everything you can get your hands on every day, and comprehend what you read. You don’t have to like it or dislike it, but understand it. This goes back to that essay I mentioned titled “The Art of Reading.”

What advice would you give to a would-be western writer?

Read, travel, comprehend, and put your ass in a chair and write every day.

How many books do you generally read in a month and what are you reading now?

I have read at least one book a week since 1969 or 1970. I am a book collector. Sometimes I can read two books in a week, but one for sure, so that’s a minimum of 52 books a year, usually more. I’m a speed reader and I have been tested so I have a high comprehension level and retention level. People that speed read and don’t retain what they’ve read have missed the point. I’m currently reading “Traitor’s Blade” by Sebastian de Castell and its fantastic!

Is there a book you’ve read that you wish you’d written and, if so, why?

Well, as for Westerns, I’m a Zane Grey fan. I collect Zane Grey editions, especially the Walter Black editions. He wrote a book called the “The Lone Star Ranger” in 1915 but the unexpurgated version was published by Leisure in 2008 as “Last of the Duanes.” That’s an unacknowledged classic. But seriously, I admire so many great books, it’s impossible to pick just one.

Which of your books would you recommend to a first time reader? Why have you chosen it?

I think from a technical standpoint, my best book is “Wind Rider.” It’s my favorite of my own books. I think I told a good story, and I think I told it as well as anyone could. Anyway, that’s what I hope. I am preparing to release six books for Kindle, including “Wind Rider.”

If you were stranded on a desert island, which book, song and film would you like to have with you?

Naturally the book will be one of my favorites, “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson, the song will be “Dead Man’s Chest” the sea shanty from the book and put to good use in the Disney film version starring Robert Newton, and which is the film I’d choose. And just before the cannibals row over in their bark canoes, I’ll pick up my guitar and begin hollering:

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest-
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil be done with the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Thank you for your extremely interesting answers.

Thank you for having me on your blog!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Book review: The Drygulch Trail by Ned Oaks

When Will Curtis rides into Junction City on a cold, rainy night, all he wants is a shot of whiskey and a place to dry off. Instead, he finds himself dragged into a feud between a land-hungry banker and the tough homesteaders who are desperate to keep their ranches. But when rich bully Clem Dawson brings in hired guns to force the ranchers off their land, Curtis decides there is only one thing a decent man could do under the circumstances - and that is to fight. He must keep his wits about him and his pistol handy as he rides The Drygulch Trail.

This is the first book I've read by Ned Oaks and I have to say I'm now a fan. I very much enjoyed the writing style and am happy to report that I noticed no typos whatsoever, which seems to be a rarity these days.

The story starts off quickly and then never lets up. The action is realistic and although it is often drawn out to give maximum impact, I never found myself getting bogged down. The pacing was very good. Also, the characters were well balanced and expertly drawn, even the female character whose part wasn't the main focus but was memorable. I found the hero Will Curtis to be believable and likeable, someone I'd like to read about again.

This has now moved to the top of my favourite books read pile. I'm definitely looking forward to getting my hands on another Black Horse Western by Ned Oaks.

If you'd like to know more about this author and his writing, you can read an interview here.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Author interview: Derek Rutherford

I'm very happy to have persuaded long standing Black Horse Western author Derek Rutherford to answer a few questions. Not only is Derek a very good storyteller, a quick search of the web also reveals that he is a talented singer/songwriter/musician. Suffice to say, I'm a fan of his books and it's therefore with great pleasure that I hand my blog over to him for a very interesting Q&A.


Tell us who you are.

Hi, I’m Derek Rutherford. An author, musician, and photographer from Gloucester, UK. Actually, I lie. I’m Derek Rutherford who wishes I could be an author, musician, and photographer from Gloucester, UK. Even after all these years I still have to go to work rather than make a living from those aforementioned passions. Maybe one day…

How many books have you written?

I’ve lost count of how many I’ve written. I’ve had four – maybe five (see below) – published. But there are many that haven’t been published. A couple of dozen short stories are out there too.

Do you write under any other names?

Nope. Anything I’ve written that I’ve felt is good enough to submit is good enough to go out there under my real name.

What is your latest release called, what’s it about and what inspired it?

Dead Man’s Eyes. I think it’s now been published, although I haven’t actually seen a copy yet.

It was inspired by a non-fiction book I was reading about the convict leasing system in Texas back in the 1880s – and how brutal that system was. I knew right away that here was a background that I simply had to include in a novel.

The way I write, I usually need a couple of ideas, or themes, which come together and the story will arise from the way those themes overlap. A second idea in Dead Man’s Eyes was to explore how a protection racket might be run in an old western town.

To those two ideas I added a simple MacGuffin which was to give my hero - who has emerged from the aforementioned convict leasing system a broken man - a fortune from his previous life as a train robber. A fortune that other people are determined to get their hands on.

All of these things – and much more – come together and Dead Man’s Eyes is the result.

Who is the publisher and where and when can we buy it?

Crowood Press – although they’re still using the Hale name and the Black Horse Western imprint, I believe.

The best bet is to borrow it from a library rather than buy it. I think I get a penny or something if you borrow it!

What’s your latest writing project?

I’m currently working on the follow-up to Dead Man’s Eyes, provisionally entitled Dead Man’s Walk. I’ve never re-used any of my characters before but during the course of writing Dead Man’s Eyes I realized there was an underlying story that was too big to address in that novel alone, so I’m envisaging a trilogy.

Do you have any unusual writing rituals?

No rituals, just lots of bad habits like logging onto You Tube and watching videos instead of writing…

Another bad habit is not planning my stories. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me. Once I’ve planned out a story in detail and I know how it finishes I generally have no interest in writing it. Alas, this lack of planning does result in a lot of unfinished stories which either don’t go anywhere, or go into corners that I can’t write myself out of. But then, those hundreds of thousands of abandoned words must surely be good practice…

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard about writing westerns? What advice would you give to a would-be western writer?

To be honest, I can’t think of anything specific to westerns. I guess the key thing is to read as much non-fiction as you can about the period – and then ignore it in favour of good drama! I half jest… It’s important to get the facts right and to have a feeling for what real-life was like in the west, and those facts and feelings can add a lot of realism to your tales. But never forget that in writing fiction the story is king. We’re here to entertain. That’s one reason why I love writing westerns – it’s easy to set-up great situations that mightn’t occur in any other place and time and that are full of drama.

Other advice would be to read as much fiction as you can, too. Not just westerns, but everything. Read to be entertained, but also read to learn – how does an author do this, describe that, make you feel this way or that way, build in suspense, fore-shadow, create memorable characters, etc?

Regarding the actual writing I have two pieces of advice that I ought to follow more myself. Number one is don’t wait to be inspired before writing. Instead sit down and start writing, and you’ll find that within fifteen or twenty minutes the inspiration will follow. It always works that way round, not the other. If you wait for inspiration you might write just one book in your lifetime.

Number two is to allow yourself to write badly. By this I mean don’t get hung up on every sentence, every paragraph, and every page. Get the words down. Push through to the end and then come back and revise and polish. What you’ll find is that the days when you thought the words were a struggle and the days when they seemed to flow aren’t that different at the rewrite stage.

How many books do you generally read in a month and what are you reading now?

I average about two books a month, which is pretty poor really. But time is tight (what happened to all those leisure hours we were promised about thirty years ago, when computers were going to do all the work?). But those two books can vary from short 1960’s thrillers that only take a day or two to read to thick non-fiction books with a thousand pages and no dialogue…

I have a bad habit of having multiple books on the go at any one time. My current stack includes a book on photography lighting, a memoir about touring the world on a motorcycle, two books about writing (of course), a psychology text, and a non-fiction classic called Thy Neighbour’s Wife by Gay Talese. Fictionwise I’m reading King Soloman’s Mines and The Bottoms, by Joe Lansdale – an awesome story-teller.

Is there a book you’ve read that you wish you’d written and, if so, why?

I’d have happily written any best-seller just so I’d now have the money to be able to write full time!

But no, there isn’t really. There are so many books that have moved me (and that’s always what I’m shooting for in my books, to move the reader) but I don’t wish I’d written them. I hope one day to write the book that when I look back makes that wish comes true.

Which of your books would you recommend to a first time reader? Why have you chosen it?

The latest one – Dead Man’s Eyes. For the simple reason I’m getting better with every word I write (or at least I hope I am) so the latest one is probably (hopefully!) the best.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which book, song and film would you like to have with you?

I’d take War and Peace. I’ve started it but it’s so daunting… The only time I’m ever likely to have time to get all the way through is if I was stranded on a desert island. Song… something by the Beatles. Lord knows which song. Film, would have to be Jaws. My favourite film. Just perfect story-telling even if the kids today laugh at the special effects.

Thank you for answering my questions in such lovely detail. All the best with your current and future books.