Mean Pete--Head Honcho of Mean Pete Publishing

Monday, January 19, 2015


Purchase at AMAZON
Purchase at BARNES & NOBLE

Or, The Bounty Poachers

Lock and load with bounty hunters Lou Prophet and the Vengeance Queen, Louisa Bonnaventure, as they ride the hardest, bloodiest trails on the western frontier, on their relentless quest to bring the baddest of the western badmen...and sometimes justice.

This time out, Prophet and his comely partner and sometime-lover are on the trail of the notorious rapist and killer, Chaz Savidge. Running Savidge to ground is one thing. Holding onto the slippery killer is another thing altogether.

A knew kind of bounty hunter is infesting the west. Bounty hunters who steal the quarry of other hunters. Bounty poachers is what Lou Prophet calls them, and it’s men of this seedy, back-shooting variety who shadow Prophet and Louisa as they try to get Chaz Savidge from Dakota Territory to Denver, where they intend to turn their prisoner into the Chief U.S. Marshal and collect the bounty on his head.

Several of these men, including a ruthless Englishman and former buffalo hunter named “Squire” Chivington, who packs a Big Fifty Sporting Rifle, are out for easy meal tickets in the form of Chaz Savidge’s already-captured head.

But maybe Prophet’s and Louisa’s most formidable foe isn’t among the countless men hunting them, after all. Maybe their most dangerous enemy is a young, grief-stricken pioneer widow whose husband and lover lie dead on her cabin floor...

“Wake up, there,” Prophet said, louder, and opened the man’s blankets.
A red-haired man, Burrow, lay staring up at him. His mouth was twisted in horror. A long, wide gash shown across his throat. The man’s chest was covered with a thick blood pudding.
“Holy Christ,” Prophet raked out, stepping over the dead man to the other man on the other side of the fire.
That man lay on his side. Prophet kicked him over, and he lay staring up at Prophet with much the same expression as Burrow. His throat, too, had been cut from ear to ear and he was still trying to scream a scream that, even when new, likely hadn’t made it past his vocal chords.
Cold sweat bathed Prophet as he stared down in wonder.
Then the word snapped like a small-caliber pistol in his brain:
Before he even realized what he was doing, he was launching himself off the heels of his boots and into the darkness beyond the fire. At the same time, he heard a low screech, like the beginning of a scream issued by a very old woman.
The screech grew until it merged with the thumping roar of a high-powered rifle, and slammed loudly into a tree inches from where Prophet had been standing, spraying bark and large wood chunks in all directions.
Prophet hit the ground and rolled, wincing as the sawed-off shotgun dug into his back and then hammered the back of his head as he rolled farther away from the firelight. As he rolled, he realized with a sickening feeling that he’d lost his rifle...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Coming Next Week!

SAVIDGE KEPT HIS EYES on Louisa, who stopped beside Prophet. She was thumbing fresh cartridges through her Winchester’s loading gate. She didn’t say anything as she regarded the killer coldly.
“Why, that’s nothin’ but a girl who...came in there...done all that....”
Savidge was deeply confounded.
“Nothin’ but a girl,” Prophet said.
“Nothin’ but,” Louisa said, pumping a round into her Winchester’s breech and taking one step toward Savidge.
“Louisa, take it easy,” Prophet said.
“I’m gonna kill him,” Louisa said coolly, staring at Savidge.
“Hey, now, wait a minute!” Savidge said, backing away, holding his hands up higher. “I done tossed my guns down. That was the deal!”
“What about the folks in the barn?” Louisa asked him.
Savidge stared at her, his little, too-close-together eyes darting around in their sockets like frightened mice scurrying around in a hole.
“Louisa, settle down,” Prophet said. “We’re taking him in alive.”
“Why should he get to live?” Louisa said. “The folks in the barn didn’t get to live.”
“There’s a two thousand dollar bounty on his head,” Prophet told her. “Seems Uncle Sam wants this bastard alive so they can play cat’s cradle with his head their ownselves. Don’t know why Sam should get all the fun, but that’s the way it is. They won’t pay if he’s dead. I’ve dealt with Sam before.”
Louisa just stared solemnly up at Chaz Savidge. Her blond hair blew around her shoulders in the wind. She had her Winchester aimed at Savidge from her right hip. “I don’t care about the money.”
“Maybe you don’t, but I do. I for one have about three dollars and some jingle in my pockets, and my stomach’s been growlin’ for nigh on three weeks. Stand down, Louisa!”
“I’ll buy you a meal in the next town, Lou,” Louisa said in her dull, even voice that she kept so low that Prophet could just barely hear her above the breeze scratching around in the barren branches behind him. “I’ll buy you some whiskey and even a whore. I know that’s all you’re worried about. Whiskey and whores and having enough money to gamble away. So I’ll even slip you a few extra dollars to buy into a stud game. How would that be?”
Her voice was fairly dripping with sarcasm.
Rage was beginning to boil inside of Prophet. “Louisa, you got little more jingle than I do. We do this for a living, not the religion of it. Now, stand down, partner!”
“I do it for the religion of it, Lou.”
Prophet stomped up beside her. “Stand down!”
Chaz Savidge was flushed and flustered. He kept his hands up even with his head, palms out. He was breathing hard.
“What is she—loco? She can’t just out an’ out kill me. It ain’t right. Especially a girl doin’ it. That ain’t right!
“What’s not right is you killing innocent folks. Raping innocent girls.”
“I had nothin’ to do with that! That was the others.”
Louisa smiled grimly.
“It’s true. I had none of that. That...that’s just not how I am. I don’t operate that way.”
“Oh, I think you do.”
Prophet reached over and jerked the rifle out of Louisa’s hands. Inadvertently, she tripped the trigger. The bullet sailed off behind Savidge but not before drawing a red line across the outlaw’s bulging left temple.
“Hey!” the outlaw screamed, brushing his hand across his forehead and looking at the blood on his fingers. “She’s goddamn crazy!”
Prophet tossed her rifle away.
Louisa glared up at him for a full thirty seconds. Her jaws were so hard they made her cheeks dimple. “I got two more,” she said, lifting the bottom of her poncho above the pearl handles of her pretty matched Colts.
Prophet leveled his Winchester at her belly. “If you use ‘em on him, I’ll shoot you.”
She stared up at him, her right eyelid dropping slightly down over that eye. “You wouldn’t. What’s more, you couldn’t.”
“On principal,” Prophet said, “I would. And I could. I don’t do that. I don’t kill in cold blood. And I’m not gonna let you do it, either.”
“Mighty high principal for a man who has so few.”
“I got that one.”
“What about whiskey and whores?”
“Those I don’t got.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014


“High-Octane Western Action!”—Amazon Reviews


The Revenger, Mike Sartain, is back with a vengeance in...


Heading south to beat the northern snows, the Revenger, Mike Sartain, enjoys a couple of blissful nights under the camp covers with a pretty girl named Mercy.

When Mercy’s father is murdered by the fifty-strong Ramon Lazaro Bunch, who also burns her ranch, Mercy is out for revenge, which just happens to be right up Sartain’s alley.

As the Revenger and Mercy team up against impossibly long odds, they run into someone else who was badly wronged by the same gang.

Young Deputy Sheriff Abner Summerfield is grieving the rape and murder of the girl he was going to marry in the once quiet western Nebraska town of Shallow Ford. Traveling with festering bullet wounds and one bullet still lodged in his belly, the tough, determined, and possibly dying young deputy throws in with Sartain and Mercy on a trail on which they intend to show no mercy whatsoever.

Even if it kills them.

Purchase at AMAZON

Purchase at BARNES & NOBLE

Friday, November 28, 2014



“High-Octane Western Action!”—Amazon Reviews


The Revenger, Mike Sartain, is back with a vengeance in...


Sartain is summoned to Silver City, New Mexico. It seems the owner of a stage line, Brian Mangham, needs a man to kill his business rival, Lucius Creed. Sartain turns Mangham down. He doesn’t mix in business.

He deals in personal problems only.

But when Mangham’s daughter is savagely gang raped and Mangham himself is beaten nearly to death...and it turns out the man is poorer than dirt because of Lucius Creed’s draconian business practices...Sartain has a change of heart.

He goes after Creed. Which isn’t easy. Two packs of wolves descend on the Revenger—both the human kind and the real, snarling, furry kind, their hackles raised.

Then there’s the evil Town Marshal of Silver City, “Dangerous” Dan Tucker. He’s one of the most savage wolves of all...and he’s got a target drawn on Mike Sartain.

When their stagecoach is attacked and the other passengers killed, the Revenger finds himself and a wild, sexy girl from the Piños Altos Mountains on the run for their lives!

“Mike Sartain is probably the most diverse of [Leslie’s] characters. He cares nothing for the law. His only concern is justice. That and getting his ashes hauled, which is one of those common traits. One I tend to share. Like I said, I found this book very entertaining. Isn't that why we read westerns?”—Amazon Reviews

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Nowhere Dog



Peter Brandvold

He came out of nowhere and we probably loved him more than we would have loved our firstborn if we’d had children, which we didn’t. That was just as well. There was little room in our lives for kids. Only dogs.
He came out of nowhere in northern Montana—a beautiful black and white border collie who could have leaped off the screen of some bucolic Scottish film set in the Hebrides. He came out of nowhere to nowhere, because we were living in the middle of nowhere at the time—my new young wife Gena and I. Recently married and simply, completely, and unguardedly in love—the way you can love only once—we wanted simple lives close to nature.
So we took jobs teaching on a remote Indian reservation in northern Montana, thirty-five miles south of Havre, in the Bear Paw Mountains. We lived in a hired hand’s shack on a small working ranch run by an accommodating but taciturn Montanan who ran scrub cattle, worked for Burlington Northern, danced Friday nights at the VFW, and puttered around the range on his ATV. His wife sold Mary Kay.
We dubbed the dog Old Shep because he looked so much like a typical “Old Shep” that we couldn’t resist. We didn’t think he’d stay, anyway. Surely the beautiful creature we first saw lapping water from the rusty hydrant in our front yard when we were painting, trying to make the mice-infested shack livable, belonged somewhere. When I’d lured him close with some buttered bread, which he ate hungrily albeit apprehensively, and we’d become friendly, we dutifully loaded him into my truck and made the rounds of all the farms and ranches in the area.
Nobody knew him. Nobody knew of any rancher missing a dog, “But you might try Curtis Farley two miles south on Beaver Creek Road. His bitch might’ve had another litter last spring....”
Nope. Improbably, miraculously, this beautiful creature we’d saddled with a clichéd name was ours. Old Shep he was. Old Shep he’d stay, though when he first came he was maybe two years old, if that.
Like we newlyweds at the time, Old Shep was full of clean-burning energy and bursting with adventure. His happiness at having found a home shone in his sparkling eyes and in that big, pink tongue drooping sloppily over his blissfully smiling jaws so full of perfect, bone-white teeth. His silky coat quickly gained a similar shine from all the home-cooked chicken we fed him, and I think that crooked white stripe down his nose fairly glowed.
Our lives became his very quickly—his, ours—but there was always an untethered, independent quality about Shep. He didn’t want to come into the house at first but he rarely left our unfenced patch of yard except at night, which was when he scrounged the countryside for fobs and trinkets.
Shep was a packer, a hoarder. Mornings I’d go outside to start the truck for our twenty-mile trek to work and find another cow bone in the yard. Or a sun-bleached horse skull with dried hide still capping the ears. Tree branches, fence posts—some well over six feet long! Deer antlers or the jaw of some long-dead coyote. The wing of a coyote-killed hawk, maybe a rabbit’s leg. A dead snake or a pancake-flat porcupine obviously killed on the road.
Bones, bones, and more bones. Every bone a cow, horse, or deer ever had on his person ended up in our yard.
In the spring during calving, I’d wander outside yawning, a steaming mug of coffee in hand, and be met with the foulest of odors only to find that our beloved Shep, our sainted firstborn, had bestowed upon us a long, bloody wreath of rotting afterbirth.
Though Shep was young, he was half-wild when we first met him. He must have been living on his own since well before he was full-grown. He had the ways of the country down pat. Gena and I, from Georgia and North Dakota, respectively, joked that we couldn’t have had a better guide to rugged Montana living than our wily “old” border collie, and that was sometimes literally true.
When we returned home from work on the reservation each afternoon, Shep was invariably waiting for us on the shack’s front step, facing our direction and thumping his white-tipped black tail in delighted anticipation of our arrival and of our nightly stroll to Beaver Creek.
Rattlesnakes slithered in a low area along that route to the creek, near a slough sheathed in tall grass. We learned quickly that to avoid the serpents we needed only to follow Shep. He seemed to know where each diamondback lay hidden in the grass, soaking up the day’s last rays. We’d follow his serpentine path around them, occasionally hearing them rattle ominously only a dozen or so feet away, raising the hair on the backs of our necks.
Sometimes Shep would dance amongst them craftily, defiantly avoiding them, so that we laughingly called him our own private Baryshnikov, after the Russian ballet dancer.
He had a lot of the ham in him, Old Shep.
The photo that accompanies this essay was taken at the grave of another, previous Old Shep of legend in Montana. This Old Shep lived in Fort Benton and was memorialized and honored by the locals for visiting the train every day after his railroader master died. This loyal Old Shep was apparently hoping to be reunited with his beloved pard when the next locomotive pulled up to the depot’s rough wooden platform.
He visited the next train, and, alas, the next...year after year for many years until that sad Old Shep’s ticket was finally punched.
Of course, when we heard the story, as everyone does eventually in that neck of the Montana buttes, Gena and I had to take our own Old Shep on a pilgrimage to Fort Benton. The photo was not posed. The three of us were merely strolling casually around that previous Old Shep’s lone grave on a bald, windy, yucca-tufted bluff overlooking the Missouri River, when I happened to turn around, camera in hand, and there he was, our own Old Shep posing handsomely before “his” name.
I doubt that any Barrymore was every more ready for his closeup.
Shep was a bit of a gymnast, too.
I’m not sure when or how we ever started doing this, but often when I was sitting on the floor at night, reading, watching television, or grading papers, he’d swagger up to me with his head down. He resembled a drunk looking for a corner to pass out in. I’d cradle his head in my crotch, wrap my arms under his belly, and fall backwards so that he’d turn a forward somersault and end up stretched out on his back over my chest and stomach, his tail in my mouth.
From wild old salt of the high and rocky to the most trusting, loving, and playful dog I’ve ever known...
He loved the winter, Old Shep did. Just as I did but as Gena, a Southerner by birth and most of her life till she met me, did not. So it was just Shep and me many a winter weekend afternoon, heading into the snowy Bear Paws in my pickup, Shep barking gleefully in the capped box and leaping from side to side to bark at open range cattle and deer and sundry unseen enticements so that the truck would be rocking on its springs like a shallow boat in raucous waters.
We’d pull off somewhere—Miner’s Gulch was my favorite trail with the trail to Mount Otis coming in a close second—and I’d strap on my cross-country skis. Off we’d go through that wonderfully vast, remote, and quiet country. Shep, of course, would take the lead, tail arched and waving, his ears raised as far as he could get them, sniffing and snorting through naked chokecherry bramble, leaping on mice he heard scratching beneath the snow, and occasionally lunging off to chase a rabbit.
Those were some of the happiest times of my life—hiking in the cold, snowy mountains with Old Shep. He was a great companion because he didn’t talk or require anything of me except my peripheral presence, so I could daydream and think about future writing projects, which was always my habit and still is.
He’d leave my side for long stretches, but I never worried about him out there. To me, he seemed as much a product of that rugged country as any of the old mountain men, though there were times, however, when he made the foolish mistake of trying to stick his snout up some porcupine’s ass.
I learned to carry pliers in my pocket or behind my belt...
I can still see the downy flakes falling on those gray afternoons amidst the lodgepole pines. I can hear the almost inaudible ticking of the falling snow, the snicks of my skis, my own labored breaths as I climbed a ridge, the chickadees peeping in the branches around me, the gurgling of a half-frozen creek.
Suddenly Old Shep would come galloping up behind me like a runaway horse—I can hear the thump-butta-thumps of his paws in the snow. I’d turn and see him grinning (don’t tell me dogs don’t grin, because Old Shep grinned!) as he came leaping up to my side in greeting and then pressed against my leg to be patted, as though we’d been apart for days or weeks instead of only fifteen or twenty minutes.
Once, Shep stood on the beach of the Pacific Ocean, tail half-raised in awe and staring off as though to see that vast water’s other shore. He was sneaked into more hotels before the advent of security cameras than most doctors’ breeded setters. Like some trendy starlet’s furry love-muffin, he was leash-walked around China town in San Francisco, and he spent a week in a posh condo in Santa Fe. He accompanied Gena and me on a trip through California wine country and had his picture taken at the grave of Jack London.
He was smart in so many ways, but he could be a genuine fool at times, as he was when he jumped out of the back of my truck to get at some cattle grazing along the road. He broke his back leg in two places and for six weeks had to hobble around on a steel rod. He also liked to show his domination over other dogs—dogs twice as big as he—and thus ended up on his back more times than Kim Kardashian.
He could be a gentleman around the ladies, though, and on cold winter nights often gave up his bed on our porch to a chubby female Aussie roaming from a neighboring ranch.
We found Old Shep a permanent mate after we moved to a small farm in western Minnesota. She was a funny-looking border collie/golden retriever cross, the last of a litter, and, after drinking a few beers in the country bar in which we saw her advertised, Gena and I traveled many miles through rough country to get her. Maybe it was the beer sloshing around in us, but we fell instantly in love with the spirited puppy we soon dubbed Miss Stella.
Stella and Old Shep hit it off very well—too well, in fact, because one morning while I was writing and should have been keeping the two separated, because Miss Stella was in season and Shep was mewling and panting like a lovelorn schoolboy, they somehow ended up outside together. Realizing, I tossed my laptop aside and ran out of the house and into the yard...too late.
Stella was only about ten months old, and we felt a bit trashy, but she was with puppies, all right.
The litter came in the spring—six squirming little rat-like pups I helped deliver out on the porch while Stella kept Shep away with fleeting, feral glances and brief shows of her teeth. Shep got the message. He’d done his part. He swaggered sheepishly off to sack out beneath my truck.
We kept two of the pups—Buck and Thor. Buck looked so much like Shep we often called him Junior. While he tried like hell to win his father’s favor—squirming and whining in the old man’s presence, licking his lips—it wasn’t to be. Shep was a wonderful dog in many ways, but in no way had he been cutout to be a father. He had little time for his offspring, so it was up to Miss Stella and us to do the raising.
The following years were wonderfully full of dogs, but of course we had our ups and downs. There were more broken bones and sundry other complaints including a rattlesnake bite. Thor lost a back leg to a hunter’s snare.
We had all four for a time but then our beloved Old Shep was stricken with a tumor in his jaw. We had it surgically removed but it grew back, so we knew it was cancer. The old boy didn’t have much time. I still feel wretched when I remember the vet handing his blanket-wrapped body to me after we’d had him “put down,” as they say in the hinterland. And then my laying our prized dog from nowhere gently in the grave I dug for him in our Minnesota yard before shoveling dirt on him.
I will remember on my own deathbed the horrifyingly dead weight of that beloved dog in my arms, his head and legs sagging with a lack of life that seemed impossible for a body that had for so long been fairly bursting with it.
Years have passed. I now live alone in Colorado, for not unlike the life of a good dog, or much of anything else, some marriages run their course. Buck died several years ago from the same cancer that took Shep. Thor lived sixteen years and died a mere two weeks after his mother. I had both put quietly to sleep in my house here in the mountains. I still have their ashes, which I foolishly cling to though I know they are only ashes and in no way contain so much as a spark of that fire which once made Gena and me so happy.
I shouldn’t say I live alone. Last Thanksgiving I rescued a beautiful, old, brown-and-white Australian shepherd named Sydney. I never thought I could ever love another dog as much as I loved Old Shep, Miss Stella, Buck, and Thor. But I was wrong. Thank God this old, jaded heart is large enough for at least one more dog from nowhere.
Still, though, I often wake in the bowels of the night, trembling, having dreamt that we’d left a living Shep back in Minnesota and that he was, after all these years, waiting for us on the front step. For hours afterwards, that nightmare lingers, and I can hear my own nightmare voice screaming his name.