Saturday, March 27, 2021

High Crimes and High Adventure

 Next month my newest novel comes out. Or more specifically, one that I co-wrote. My day job is as a ghost writer. Most of my projects are memoirs or business-type books. Occasionally I get hired to flesh out a novel and I've done about ten. They're all work-for-hire projects and the client gets the copyright and whatever profits they can manage from publication. Sometimes a client is so pleased by my work that I get asked to share author credit on the cover. 

Luther, Wyoming took a long, long time in getting published. The client, Tomas Alamilla, a Mexican restauranteur, brought a rough manuscript that he wanted me to polish into a Western novel. The genre demands high adventure, high stakes, and high crimes and Alamilla's concept included all these. A key plot twist was one of my favorite literary devices, a well-timed double-cross. As the writing progressed, I changed some of his other ideas like move the setting from Montana to Wyoming, flip the lead characters--Adam Sanchez became the protagonist and Sheriff Nelson Cook the secondary--and introduce a romantic angle to give the story more texture. I gave Sanchez backstory as a Comanchero, who are typecast in Westerns as impoverished and sadistic villains. I liked the story so much that I asked Alamilla when I completed the contract, that I'd like to work with him to get the story published, a hard nut to crack as Westerns are a very narrow niche. I solicited a couple of Western presses, including one in the UK (go figure) and got rejected by both. Along the way, I met Tiffany Schofield from Five Star Press and kept her in mind as I continued to work on the manuscript. For many novelists, a challenge is paring down the narrative. For me, it was beefing up the word count to meet Five Star's requirement, which added a lot more depth to the characters and replaced exposition with active scenes. One topic that I discuss with my clients is that of publication. Getting picked up by any press is a labor of love and an ordeal of frustration. The process can take years. Consequently, most go with self-publication or pursue an in with a small press. I started working on Luther, Wyoming, in 2012 and here we are, finally, nine years later. Covid pushed the original pub date back from last October.

One of my guiding precepts was to write a Western that hit all the tropes--shootouts, chases on horseback, bad hombres, saloons--while steering clear of the cliches. I studied Daniel Woodrell's Woe To Live On to get the period language right. I included details we seldom see in traditional Westerns like Indian scouts, Buffalo soldiers, Chinese help, cavalry wearing Prussian-style helmets, and a trip to San Francisco's Barbary Coast. 

Here are a couple of blurbs that my fellow mystery writers were kind enough to provide:

"Luther, Wyoming is a like a crack Louis L'Amour western infused with Quentin Tarantino steroids. You're in for a ride with Adam Sanchez, man of the law -- and other priorities as needed."

- Mark Steven, author of the Alison Coil Mystery Series, including The Melancholy Howl

"The frontier town of Luther, Wyoming, is a hardscrabble dot on the prairie map where the bad guys are clearly and always bad, and the good guys are sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Tomas Alamilla and Mario Acevedo have created realistic characters for an action-packed story filled with tense gunfights, barroom brawls, explosive jail breaks, and deadly ambushes. Adam Sanchez is the lone stranger who rides into town with a broken hear from a love destroyed by bigotry. He teams up with an old friend, Sheriff Cook who served with Sanchez in the War Between the States. Together the men take on a gang of outlaws terrorizing the town. Sanchez risks his life for his friend and his love, and he must test not only his sharpshooting skills but also his courage.

Before the final bullet has been fired, Sanchez struggles with the meaning of friendship and loyalty, the temptation of honest men and their guilt for succumbing to that temptation and the uneasy balance between justice and vengeance."

- Manuel Ramos is the award-winning author of the Luis Montez and Gus Corral crime fiction.

1 comment:

Douglas Skelton said...

Sounds fabulous. Naturally, being a Scot from Glasgow, I love me a western!