Tuesday, March 27, 2012

.45 Caliber Cross Fire Excerpt

This one should be available now in most stores, including Barnes and Noble, and next week from Amazon.

In the latest Cuno Massey yarn, Cuno and Deputy U.S. Marshal Spurr Morgan team up with a beautiful Yaqui princess--beautiful an' mean an' nasty, that is!--chasing gunrunners, who sacked a U.S. Army fort, deep in Mexico.  They end up fighting not only the gunrunners but also the Federales the gunrunners are running the guns to, and who've piss-burned the Yaqui good by trying to tunnel through the Indians' sacred mountain so they can lay railroad tracks to a gold mine.

Watch for the start of Spurr's own series, THE LAST LAWMAN, coming in October...

Here's a short excerpt from .45-CALIBER CROSS FIRE:                                   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Stillman Soon From Mean Pete Press!

The presses are running over-time in the dingy offices here at Mean Pete Press!

This is the second book in the Ben Stillman series, originally published in 2000.  I just finished this cover last night, using another great Old West painting by Frederic Remington, and should have the book formatted and ready to go by the end of the week.

There are around ten books in the Stillman series, all out of traditional print, and I'd like to have them all up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble by the end of the summer...Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.  I've been having fun with this new project, after having been given a primer or two on it by Livia Reasoner, who also designed the previous two covers.  It helps that the books are selling very well for both Kindle and Nook.  I'm selling them cheap, mostly for the thrill of seeing old Ben out there again, running bad men--and a few bad women--to ground.  The extra beer money ain't bad, neither.

Mean Pete might even get some perfume for his four-legged girl friend, Miss Stella.  Lord knows she could use it!


Mean Pete His Own Nasty, Smelly Self

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ernie Pyle--Great American Writer

I've probably read this newpaper article by the great WWII war reporter, Ernie Pyle, a thousand times.  It captures everything I look for in good reading, and it's what I try to put into my own writing--a conversational voice, cinematic clarity, and a call to the human heart.

Everything Pyle wrote is good, but this represents him at his best.

After I first read this may years ago, I went back and read everything he wrote, and I'm reprinting it here today because I was reminded of ole Ernie when I saw that the movie based on his greatest book, THE STORY OF G.I. JOE, was on TCM.  Excellent movie, too.  In it, he's played by Burgess Meredith, who really does look like him.

Ernie Pyle, a shy farm boy from Indiana, is probably best remembered as a war reporter, but he was a great travel writer, too--traveling around the American West in his pickup camper for months, even years at a time.  Sometimes with his wife, Jerry, who suffered from manic-depression.  But whenever I think of or read Ernie, I just think of one of the greatest writers of any brand this country has ever produced.

He died way to early, the victim of a sniper's bullet, during one of the last battles in the South Pacific.

Like I said, here he is at his best:

The Death of Captain Waskow
by Ernie Pyle

AT THE FRONT LINES IN ITALY, January 10, 1944 - In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.

Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.

"After my own father, he came next," a sergeant told me.

"He always looked after us," a soldier said. "He’d go to bat for us every time."

"I’ve never knowed him to do anything unfair," another one said.

I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.

Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed onto the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden pack-saddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking out awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.

The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.

The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road.

I don’t know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don’t ask silly questions.
We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay on the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.

Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead man lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.

Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. "This one is Captain Waskow," one of them said quietly.

Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don’t cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.

The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow’s body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.

One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, "God damn it." That’s all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, "God damn it to hell anyway." He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.

Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain’s face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: "I’m sorry, old man."

Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said:

"I sure am sorry, sir."

Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.

And finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.
After that the rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the five dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ben Stillman Rides Again!

I wrote this book nearly fifteen years ago.  I can't believe I just wrote that.

Fifteen freakin' years ago.

The "old" lawman in it is 43--which was old in the 1870's, when the book is set--and I remember when writing it, when I was 33, that 43 seemed old even to me but I was feeling it slipping up on me fast so I could imagine how it would be.  Even for a lawman back in the 1870's.

Now I'm six years older than the old lawdog the book features, Ben Stillman, and it really did slip up on me fast, as it slipped up on Ben.  At least, unlike Ben, I was not shot in the back by accident by a drunk whore and was forced to retire my badge.  But then I'm also not married to a ravishing French beauty like the one Ben Stillman is, too, the old dawg.

At least, I haven't been shot by a drunk whore yet.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?

Anyway, I finally got this sucker back in print, and it's on sale for 2.99 at Amazon and should be on the cyber racks at B&N soon, too, though they seem to be dragging their feet on it.  I had to scan and reformat an old, beat-up copy of the book that I had to buy on-line because after scouring my bear den I discovered that I had no copies left anywhere.  I'd saved it to a floppy disk--remember those?--that has long since disappeared and wouldn't do me any good, anyway, because I don't have a computer that could read it.

While doing all that, and rereading the book, I kept thinking, damn, I wonder if my current books are as good as this one is.  I worked really hard on ONCE A MARSHAL.  I was obsessed.  I couldn't let it go, wrote a lot of it during my "office hours" at Stone Child College on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in Montana.  (I'd often lock the door--hee-hee.)  It was frustrating, of course, because it was my first novel and while I'd taken creative writing classes, I realized that the only way to really learn how to write was to write and read and write and read some more and beat your brains out till you're sure it works.

I'd be hard-pressed to define "works."  You just know.

I did a lot of howling while writing this one.  My wife, Gena, edited it, and she really made me toe the line, because she knew what good writing was and she didn't give me a break on it though I remember several times nearing Jack Nicholson moments when I wanted to reach for an axe.

But I got her done without the cops visiting the house even once, and I was and am damn proud of it.  I knew what kind of a western I wanted to write, after growing up reading Louis L'Amour and Max Brand and Frank Gruber and watching GUNSMOKE and LANCER and HIGH CHAPARRAL and all those great Sergio Leoni and Sergio Corbucci movies as well as the hilarious Trinity movies with Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer.  And I have to mention the great RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, as well.  (That last scene still leaves me mewling...)

That great cover above was made by my good friend and writer, Livia Reasoner.  The pic below is the Berkley cover, which I also like a lot and can remember all the slow months I had it hanging on the fridge during the long, excruciating wait for the book to come out.

Anyway, throw my dogs a bone, will ya?


Apache Pete His Own Nasty Se'f