Of course I knew the basic drift of the novel, but I'd been away from it for so long, done so much since, that much of it seemed new to me - It's an unusual western, I think in that the main character is probably the antitheses of the standard western hero. There's a lot of action and, I'm pleased, a great deal of suspense. There's also some character comedy that I'm especially proud of.
I'm excited by this one and even the cover image matches the story perfectly If fact it directly represents a scene from the book - something not often achieved given the use of stock images
The book's gone back to the publishers now, with a couple of minor edits highlighted. The next step is the printers and then in October it will hit the shelves.
The book's already available for pre-order on Amazon and pre-ordering is a good option since no money is taken from bank accounts until the book is ready to ship. It also works out that you usually get your book a week or so before official publication.
For now, though I leave you with the first chapter:
There was nary a frown when Wild Bill Williams was in town. He had a way about his manner that enabled most folks to forget all their troubles and become positively festive. It was said that Bill could start off a dance at a funeral and carve a grin out of the most granite of faces.
He had been born a Welshman; in a village called Gilfach Goch, a name that was unpronounceable to all but himself. But as a young man of fifteen summers, with no compulsion to go and work in the coalmines, those same mines that had aged his father beyond his years, he had had set out in search of adventure and found himself stowed away on a ship making the Atlantic crossing to the United States. He’d landed in New York and after a few aimless years had started out West in search of the future he had in mind for himself.
“Go West, Young Man, and grow up with the country”, The New York Tribune had advised in striking headlines that had filled men such as Bill Williams with optimism for a future on the rugged frontier. It had seemed Bill’s destiny to follow the westward trail. What that destiny was no one, Bill included, knew.
Indeed if Bill had ever known what he had intended to do with his life then he’d long forgotten. And these days he just walked through life happy-go-lucky and faced whatever fate threw at him.
Fate sure did like to interfere with Wild Bill Williams.
Take today for instance; one moment Bill was enjoying a poker game after drifting into the town of Stanton, and the next he was in the jailhouse nursing a split head.
It had happened thus:
Bill, face totally expressionless, peered over his cards at the men seated around the table. He was holding, “Aces Up”, a strong enough hand but he would have preferred better. There were three men, four counting himself, at the game and Bill looked at each of them in turn. Dutch Carter had a sweat on, Sam Jessup looked to be almost asleep and Cleveland Ohio, lovely name that, sat trying to suck life into a massive cigar.
‘You know,’ Bill said, about to make his move when the batwings suddenly swung open and a young man of maybe seventeen summers stood in the doorway, his face furious, his hands hanging, gunfighter style, at his side. Whatever Bill had intended to say then was lost, even to himself as the actions of the armed man had stolen Bill’s train of thought.
‘Caleb Stanton,’ the young man said. ‘I’ve come to kill you.’
The saloon fell silent and at the far end of the counter, a big man of about thirty, Caleb Stanton, Bill guessed, stepped forward. The big man was dressed completely in black - black pants, black shirt, black boots, with a black Stetson sat upon his head. He even wore a matching gun-belt and save for the glow of the Schofield pistol, the only colour about the man was his thick red hair, which was a trait of the Stanton clan.
‘Come back when you grow up,’ the man spoke directly to the kid. He seemed completely at ease but Bill noticed the way the man held his body, coiled, ready to act at any moment.
‘I’m plenty growed up,’ the young man said and pulled a Colt. He pointed it directly at the man named Stanton. ‘Make a fight then,’ he prompted.
‘I’m not going to draw on you,’ Stanton said, calmly.
‘Then I’ll shoot you down like the dog you are,’ the young man snarled. ‘Now defend yourself.’
‘In front of all these people, I don’t think so,’ Stanton said and Bill had to admire his coolness. ‘For the last time, boy. I’m not going to fight you.’
‘You’ve got no guts less it’s for disrespecting women?’ the young man sneered.
That seemed to hit Stanton and did provoke a flash of anger in his eyes, but it was momentary, and immediately replaced by a smile.
‘Someone been telling tales?’ Stanton said.
‘Fight you coward,’ the young man insisted and fired his gun, sending a bullet into the floor. ‘The next one gets you.’
Suddenly the kid was pushed forward as another man came through the batwings. The newcomer, a short squat man immediately charged the young man, bringing an elbow into the small of the kid’s back and sending him sprawling. The kid lost his grip on the Colt and it clattered to the floor. Stanton immediately came across and kicked the gun away from its owner.
‘Get up,’ Stanton said.
Winded, the kid was unable to oblige, but it was no matter because the squat newcomer lifted him to his feet and Stanton drove a punishing fist into the kid’s stomach. The kid’s legs buckled and if the man hadn’t been supporting him he would have fallen back to the floor. Stanton immediately followed up with a left hook to the kid’s face, smashing his lip and sending a spray of blood onto the saloon counter. The kid’s eyes rolled back in his head as unconsciousness overtook him.
‘Ain’t finished with you yet,’ Stanton said and slapped the kid open handed across the cheek, reviving him.
The squat man, holding the kid, laughed.
Stanton hit the kid again and again.
Bill looked around him and frowned. The saloon was filled with folk, but no one stepped forward to help the young man, they all just stood there silently watching the kid take a beating. The kid may have started the fight but this was brutal.
‘You gentleman will have to excuse me,’ Bill said as the man called Stanton delivered another brutal punch to the young man’s face, which was beginning to resemble raw meat. The Welshman stood up and sent his chair flying backwards, whilst immediately turning on his feet and pulling his own Colt. He stood there; legs bent at the knees, hand held rock steady with the gun pointing at the man called Stanton.
‘Sit down, stranger,’ Stanton warned.
‘I don’t think I will,’ Bill said. ‘And if you strike that kid once more I’ll bloody well shoot you.’
Everyone in the saloon seemed to take a sudden breath.
‘You new in town?’ Stanton asked.
‘I am indeed,’ Bill answered, smiling jovially. If not for the gun in his hand he could have been greeting the other man at a social function.
‘Meaning you don’t know how much trouble you’ve brought on yourself.’
‘That’s always the way with me,’ Bill said. ‘My tad was the same and no doubt his before him, trafferth wherever we go. If there’s one thing a Williams seems to court, trafferth is it.’
There were several muffled laughs around the room, not to mention the odd sigh of astonishment but Stanton stood still, regarding the Welshman in stunned silence.
‘Do you want to die?’ Stanton asked, presently.
‘Die, me?’ for a moment Bill seemed to be considering the question but then he smiled. ‘I don’t think I’m quite ready to die yet. There’s still so many drinks I have not drunk and pleasant thoughts I have not thunk. The world is a wondrous place, full of possibilities so no, I do not wish to die.’
‘You’re loco, mister,’ Stanton sneered.
‘That’s as maybe,’ Bill said and then his voice took on a harder edge. ‘Now let the kid go. Lower him down gently. I’m sure you gentlemen don’t want to hurt him.’
Stanton nodded to the squat man and he gently lowered the kid down to the floor.
‘Good boys, you are,’ Bill said. ‘Now step back from him. Go on, a bit further.’
Bill moved cautiously forward putting himself between the two men and the kid.
‘Now toss your guns over, very slowly,’ he ordered. ‘I’m likely to get jittery and blast one of you.’
‘Mister you really do not want to be doing this,’ Stanton said.
‘Now there you go again,’ Bill said, aware of the young man holding onto one of his legs and trying to use it to pull himself to his feet. ‘Guns. I shall not ask again.’
Stanton lifted his Schofield by thumb and index finger and tossed it towards Bill.
‘Now you, Shorty,’ Bill said and grinned at the squat man.
The squat man shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t carry a gun and had never needed any weapons other than his fists. He lifted his shirt to show he was unharmed.
‘You don’t carry a gun?’ Bill asked, knowing such a thing was a rarity this far west.
‘These are the only weapons I need,’ the squat man held up his hands and made two powerful looking fists.
‘Okey-dokey,’ Bill said and without taking his gun off the two men he bent and picked up Stanton’s gun. He slid it into his own waistband and then helped the stunned young man to his feet.
‘What’s your name?’ Bill asked and allowed the young man to lean against him in order to stay upright.’
‘Henry,’ the young man managed, speaking through blood soaked and swollen lips. ‘I’m Henry.’
‘Well Henry,’ Bill said. ‘Do you think you can back out of here with me?’
‘It’s a whole heap of trouble coming your way,’ Stanton said but the Welshman ignored him.
‘Yeah,’ the kid said and regarded Bill through the tiny slits in the middle of his bruised eyelids.
‘Then come on, boyo,’ Bill said and, keeping the gun trained on both men, he backed away, moving for the batwings.Bill would have reached them too, had fate not decreed otherwise. But at the very last moment, Sheriff Tray Clemens came through the batwings, and in one fluid and well-practiced movement, brought the hard butt of a Peacemaker down on the Welshman’s skull. And for a moment Bill Williams had been back home in Wales, sitting upon a hilltop, his beloved Blodwen within his arms, but then there was just nothingness.