10 Nov

Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer

cryfather-by-benjamin-whitmerIf you live long enough, you have the opportunity to reflect on your choices. If you are fortunate these choices are made deliberately, by conscious will, or not so by the shear movement of life — the propulsion of events that are beyond your control.

Patterson Wells is a man defined by a single event of which he had no choice — the death of his young son, Justin. Unable to cope, though he tries through a journal he keeps with touching, heartfelt letters to his son, he propels himself through the life with risk and recklessness.

Patterson works a dangerous job in disaster recovery, clearing away debris from fires, floods, tornadoes and all forms of natural disaster, and working along side men just as reckless and dangerous as the work he consumes. Long days, sleepless nights, allows Patterson to push away the pain, and what pain remains he dulls with booze, drugs, and the occasional bar fight.

While Cry Father primarily focuses on Patterson, Wells is not the only broken soul fighting against past sins and regrets. Through Patterson we meet Henry, a former rodeo rider in his twilight, and Henry’s son Junior, who runs drugs to Colorado for the Cartel and hates his father. Then there is Patterson’s ex-wife, Laney, who still love him and wants him to face Justin’s death, to mourn with her and live life again. Unwittingly, her well meaning attempts to help Patterson let go only pushes him away and into the company of Junior.

From the first chapter, Benjamin Whitmer establishes a teetering balance of violence and humanity that sets the mood and expectation for the rest of the novel. Cry Father, like Whitmer’s freshman novel Pike, is a brutal examination of man’s capability for self-destruction swaddled in the hope of redemption. Do men like Patterson Wells ever find hope? Do they deserve it?

This story of fathers — of choices, and of mistakes — connects deeply with me as a father and as a son. I’d like to believe there is hope for making up for past mistakes, but the reality is sometimes there isn’t ever time enough. We just move forward until we no longer do.

While I shamble into my future, I hope it is filled with more Benjamin Whitmer.

03 Oct

Publishing the Western

TBA-Fall2014-Front-Cover GOTB-medium

Some of my first experiences reading Western fiction come from the words of Louis L’Amour by way of Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott in the TV adaptation The Sacketts, taken from the books The Daybreakers and Sackett. I’ve always felt that Selleck and Elliott were the quintessential modern day cowboy actors. They’ve done a lot of other work, but they seem to settle into the saddle effortlessly. Much like Clint Eastwood who preceded them.

sackettsThe Sacketts wasn’t the first adaptation I had seen, it was just the first I realized was tied to a specific author. And for my 10-12 year old self, the stories of L’Amour were just the right length for me to read. Later I would find Portis’ classic True Grit and McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and others. Books made larger than life on the big screen, but so more imbued with story in the novels.

If not for the movies, I may have never found the books, but the books nonetheless became a part of my reading tapestry. So this lead to a lifelong notion that the Western was cool, that everyone got it. But if you weigh the shelves of any bookstore against mainstream fiction and Western, it’s been dwindling. You look at non-traditional publishing in open markets like Amazon Kindle, you can find what seems like a robust marketplace (until you realize a good deal of those releases are really “Historic” Romance).

So why publish Western fiction? It’s simple. Not just because I love the genre, but because it harkens to a simpler time. A time before technology took root and the hero had to live by his wit and his steel.

It’s why I created The Big Adios a little over 18 months ago. I believed in the stories and that there needed to be a place for them to be told. And with the admirable help of Ryan Sayles, Aldo Calcagno, and Chris Leek, The Big Adios shuffled through it’s first 12 months as a weekly online fiction zine before closing to prepare for its transformation into a quarterly Western digest to be produced for print and digital.

The Big Adios Western Digest debuted the 22nd for the Kindle and this week in print. Featuring stories by David James Keating, Tom Pitts, Jim Wilsky and many others. It was co-edited by former TBA editors Ryan Sayle and Chris Leek, the latter who I believe is one of the premier contemporary Western writers.

darkcornersmagiss1So much so, this week I published Chris’s novella GOSPEL OF THE BULLET, a heart wrenching post Civil War tale of a fallen preacher and a lost girl brought together out of loyalty and revenge. This novella is part of the One Eye Press Singles series, and the story is tied to a short that appears in The Big Adios Western Digest (Winter 2014) edition, as well as a story in the current debut issue of Dark Corners Magazine.

With sales and luck, hopefully GOSPEL will end up as part of a Series instead of a Singles. It’s a great story with a batch of good blurbs.

“Chris Leek’s GOSPEL OF THE BULLET is as tough-minded a Western tale as you’re likely to run across. Dark, violent, yet heartbreakingly poignant, this story of the tragic legacy of war, as well as the unlikely friendship between a gunslinging preacher and an orphaned teenage girl with a troubled past and an uncertain future, will stick with the reader for a long time.”
— James Reasoner, author of Dancing with Dead Men and Last Chance Canyon

“Chris Leek’s GOSPEL OF THE BULLET IS a wonderfully satisfying Western novel. Mesmerizes… First-rate.”
— Edward A Grainger, author of Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles

“GOSPEL OF THE BULLET hooks you from the first volley of rifle fire to its last beautiful irony. Chris Leek’s novella reminds you of the acid-stained Westerns of the 70’s, by way of Charles Portis.”
— Gareth Spark, author of Half Past Nothing

“Chris Leek’s GOSPEL OF THE BULLET is a tight, gritty tale about redemption, blood, and friendship between the friendless. Gospel is another winner from One Eye Press, who have had nothing but winners to date.”
— Craig McNeely, editor of Dark Corners Magazine

I’ve got another Western in the queue for 2015 from a talented young writer who takes the reader and a pair reluctant bounty hunters on tale riddled with bullets and humor. It all depends on the success of these Western projects now. If you are a fan of the Western as much as I am, I encourage you to pick up The Big Adios Western Digest (Fall 2014) and GOSPEL OF THE BULLET by Chris Leek today.

I love the Western. I hope you do too.

01 May

The one where I get to sign a contract

beattoapulphardboiledA few months ago, I suppose I could look back and tell you the exact date, but really that’s just an exercise in exactness and I’m anything but organized or precise, I received one of the most flattering emails that a writer could receive, and remember, while I’ve written on an off for 20 odd years, I have yet to put myself out there in a way that markets me as a writer, except for the years of 2010-2011 (really 12 months). During that loose year I wrote several short stories, even got invited to participate in a few anthologies. It really should have been the rejuvenation of my languishing career as a writer. Then life got in the way, and distractions happened (some good distractions), and my writing has been limited. Stagnant and uninspired. Then I got an email.

An independent producer/filmographer of short films contacted me, and over the last couple years he’s held on to this virtual rumpled copy of Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, that in my mind I imaging tucked into his back pocket, dogeared and well read. He was reaching out because he liked the story “The Janitor” that appeared in that collection, which had lead him back to this vary website where he had read more of my stories.

First, I can’t say how gratifying that someone could or would put such weight on a story I wrote 4 years ago that they would reach out. It’s flattering, uplifting, and inspiring. I should write more, and I am working hard to do just that. So for that I am thankful. The ember was almost out, but now there’s a flame again. Thank you.

He was reaching out in a professional capacity. He wanted to adapt “The Janitor” and another story that had only been published on my website. Imagine the grin on my face.

We discussed his process, his previous movies, even the possibility of me assisting with writing the scripts. I really liked his direction for “The Janitor” which has a more action oriented end, something that was already one of the potential directions I had contemplated during the initial writings. So the prospect of seeing the story of crime scene cleaner Mike Banks in search of his missing employee Conny Parker became so much more tantalizing,  inspiring. I may even get to writing the novel that the story was a character exercise pretext.

There are no guarantees and don’t expect me to be able to buy a round of drinks next time we meet, but I wanted to share because the license agreement contracts for the two stories arrived today at my office and I’m about throw down my John Hancock with that big grin. With luck, I’ll be able keep you supporting friends apprised of production status and possibly one day add my name to Internet Movie Database.