I continue to work on The Vampire of Rome, but this week, progress has been a bit slow. Lots of things are occupying my writing time, and that just will not do. Like spice, the stories must flow. I shall endeavor to make up on lost ground this weekend. A small snippet to whet your appetite while we wait for October to arrive.
He opened it to reveal an old cramped 1920 style elevator complete with a scissors folding screen door to keep the occupants from falling out. That was also shoved aside and we entered.
Father Antonio moved over to a bronze handle that had an arrow head tip. The plate where it was pointing said “Caleus,” moving the handle up and the arrow head down lead to the second position “Inferus.” Roughly translated; Heaven and Hell.
This week I have gone a bit further afield in introducing you to authors. I will readily admit I have read and enjoyed many books by Louis L'amour and what could be better than a Western? How about a noir-Western that's not all cowboys and Indians? This week I give you Quinn Kayser-Cochran, and his upcoming book WIDOWMAKER.
Tagline: When the frontier closed, the West got wilder.
Logline: When his longtime employer turns on him, a troubled company detective switches sides in a 1907 conflict tearing apart the isolated mining camp of Delamar, Nevada.
WIDOWMAKER is the first book in a semi-noir series following Shepherd Sunday, a war-scarred veteran of the Boxer Rebellion and Philippine War, and former chief of security for the Eastern Nevada Mine Owners’ Association.
It is 1907—an era of Ragtime saloons and isolated mining camps, horse-drawn wagons and swift new motorcars, overnight millionaires and unemployed hordes. In the scramble for Nevada’s incredible mineral wealth, mine owners and unions are locked in a death-struggle. In this war, no one is neutral, but the orders detective Shepard Sunday follows put him at odds with his long-dormant conscience. When his boss decides he wants Sunday’s girlfriend for his own, Sunday realizes there’s a price on his head and that the only people he can turn to are his former enemies in the miners’ union. Evidence of a monstrous fraud may be what Sunday needs to bring down his boss’s corrupt empire, but only if he can survive long enough to take it public. Fraught with class, social, and race issues that echo across the decades, WIDOWMAKER is a white-knuckled tour of one of America’s forgotten battlefields.
“Huge gold strikes this past decade have pulled Nevada out of its depression, but they’ve also set a certain breed of men over the rest of us. Men who worship money and power. Remorseless men determined to crush anyone standing in their way. Men like my boss, Jack Lipford. Coming home after the war, there was a ready market for men with my skills, and I’ll admit I sold myself cheaply. For the past two years, I did whatever he asked. Anything to bring the miners’ unions to heel: arson, theft, and—however sorry I am to say so—murder. Anything Lipford wanted and all I have to show for it is scars and a guilty conscience. Man’s never satisfied, though, and when he went for my girl, I couldn’t take it anymore. Should’ve seen it coming. Now my closest friends are dead and my former deputies are trying to run me down. Give me enough time, though, and I can handle them. Handle them all or go down fighting. Lipford, too—hell, I know his weaknesses better than anyone. As it is, I’m running so hard now I can barely catch my breath. No breath, no water, and no rest. Lord, just give me a little more time and I will set things right again.”
Excerpt from WIDOWMAKER:
Funny thing about these desert snowstorms: rarely does anything accumulate. On the highest peaks, sure, but down in the basins or on west-facing slopes like the one Delamar occupies, often nothing stays. It can storm for hours on end but the stuff just blows away. I don’t know where it all goes.
No one’s out now and the streets are empty. Big Curt has chains on the tires so other than some slipping and sliding, our drive up to the Black Cat is uneventful. We talk shop. Nothing friendly and nothing important, and since neither of us can keep the windscreen clear, before long he has to lean outside just to see the road. This pretty well kills the conversation. Almost as bad, the fast-falling snow throws back so much glare from the Pierce-Arrow’s headlamps that he simply shuts them off and runs dark. Curt is nothing if not confident, though, and we continue at a pace that seems excessive in view of conditions. Road uphill is narrow but not especially steep, and good thing, too, given that it turns back on itself five or six times before we reach the narrow summit of Chokecherry Ridge. Down the ridge’s back, though, Christ, the road’s a rocky mess and it’s a wonder my teeth aren’t chipped. Curt has to throttle back until we are barely crawling between the whitened cedars.
Typical for this corner of the district, the Black Cat Mine is a shirttail outfit. Its dumps are small. Full-time crew of six, around four-hundred feet of drifts, and three buildings clustered near the main incline’s mouth. A concrete magazine for storing explosives hunkers in the woods a hundred yards to the south. I know this because I have one of the keys to it. To date, I don’t think the property has produced more than a few carloads of shipping ore. Could be that the Association keeps it going so that those of us in security have someplace we can put in scutwork without attracting attention. Or maybe it’s a blue-sky concern, operating just so our boss’s agents can curb stock in San Francisco and New York. Again, I don’t know.
Curt says something, but it sounds like he has a frog in his throat. “You hear about the Gold Cord’s run-up?”
Wasn’t paying attention so I ask him to repeat himself.
“The Gold Cord, bub; upper Helene Wash. Cobb Farlane’s outfit.”
“Haven’t followed the markets in a while.”
“Your loss.” Curt clears his throat, spits out the window, and wipes his mouth with his sleeve. “One of the shift bosses told me something was doing—that they’d struck a rich, new ledge but weren’t gonna announce it for a few days—so last week I bought a thousand shares at twenty-five cents. Closed this afternoon at four and three-quarters. Sold it all, too—how do you like that?”
“It’s something, alright. Congratulations.” Who knows if he’s telling the truth or just trying to get a rise out of me?
“Minus commissions, that forty-one hundred, eighty dollars.”
“I can do the math, Curt.”
The car’s rear wheels spin and spit rocks as we climb a rough stretch. I grab a strut to keep from bouncing out the door and a shotgun in the black seat clatters to the floor.
Soon as the car reaches firmer ground, Curt coughs and spits out the window. “Thought you played the markets, no?”
Not since last March, anyway. Goddamn system’s rigged as far as I’m concerned. Back in February I was a rich man, too—on paper, anyway. Lasted about two weeks and then the floor collapsed. I’ll bet thousands of people all around this state could tell you how they’ve been butchered in similar fashion. Nevada has more former millionaires than New York and Boston have real ones. Me, I’d been reading about all the bigwigs making a killing—Charles Schwab, Bernard Baruch, and George Wingfield—and caught Greenwater fever at the eleventh hour. Sucker. Bought $5,000 worth of shares on margin. Watched these soar to $95,327.15, and ended up with a trunkful of paper worth about forty-five cents—all in the span of thirteen days. Worked off-book to pay down most of what I owed the broker, collecting debts and such, but still I’m short about a thousand dollars so I’ve been living like a bum ever since.
And despite this smashup—hell, because of it—I can’t help keeping my eyes peeled for the next big play. Just how it is out here. Everyone’s afflicted, everyone’s looking to get rich overnight. Something new ever comes along, mark my words, this time I’ll get out faster than I got in. I just need another break.
“Too bad for you,” Curt says before turning again and spitting out the window.
Glancing sideways, even as he’s straining to see through the swirling darkness, I can see Big Curt grinning in that ugly way he has.
Author: Quinn Kayser-Cochran
What is your main character’s motivation?
Initially, Sunday is obsessed with revenge against a former associate, someone who betrayed him twice—once during the Philippine War and again after they’d returned to Nevada. Later, Sunday finds himself at odds with his former boss, Jack Lipford, and his thirst for revenge becomes a burning desire to see Lipford brought low and his empire destroyed.
What is his secret strength/weakness?
Sunday’s greatest strength is his adaptability, whether assuming a false identity to escape a hostile situation or improvising during his escape from the isolated mining camp of Delamar. His greatest weakness is arrogance—a stubborn insistence on believing what he wants in spite of evidence to the contrary. This leads him to underestimate potentially lethal adversaries and to trust others who are anything but allies.
Any philosophical issues in this story?
I tend to root for underdogs. For people who make amends after doing wrong. Both of these outlooks figure into WIDOWMAKER. I also detest the abuse of power. I cheer when abusers—whether individuals, corporations, or governments—get their comeuppance.
In the course of my research, I found interesting parallels between events at the turns of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. First is a concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals. In both eras, these wealthy few subsequently used their money to try to bend the entire Republic to their benefit. Both eras also saw widespread public opposition to these plutocrats, there were controversial foreign wars, and racial animosities affected nearly every region of the country. Lastly, both eras witnessed rapid and disruptive technological changes.
I started writing WIDOWMAKER about three and a half years ago. I love studying the history of mining and the settlement of the interior West, but I’m not aware of much fiction addressing these subjects from angles that interest me. Ninety percent of the time when I tell someone I’m writing Western fiction, they ask if it’s about cowboys and Indians, and I am just not a cowboys-and-Indians guy. Frontiersmen, romance, or ranching, either. Mines and miners are what I like. I’m writing what I want to read.
WIDOWMAKER is currently with an editor; I hope to have all my re-writes completed by May of this year. Then my agent gets to do his magic. Early 2017, maybe?
I imagine Shepherd Sunday still has at least a half-dozen stories left in him, spanning the remainder of Nevada’s boom years (1900-1915), across World War I, and on into the Great Depression. He may wander into an adjacent state or two, but generally I see him as a creature of the West and living out his life there. I’m done researching and plotting books two and three, so I have a good idea what I’ll be working on for the next several years.
Reading and travel. Reading for ideas about people, places, and events. Travel for the sensations unique to a particular place: it's weather, sounds, and smells. Far easier to write about a place having stirred its dust.
I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I think writing is a natural extension of that. I wrote for creative publications in high school and college. Had a few freelance articles published as an adult, but didn’t feel the urge to write books until I was in my 30s. Perhaps I heard some biological clock ticking. I’ve always held jobs where I’ve written a great deal, though typically it’s very dry, technical stuff. Creative writing is an antidote to all that repetition and conformity.
Before my kids were born, I had a small art career going and that was my creative outlet. By some quirk in my DNA, though, I find it intensely frustrating to sit down at the easel for anything less than four uninterrupted hours. Now that I have kids, that just never happens. With writing, I find I can easily pick up where I left off and ten minutes of writing is as satisfying as ten hours.
I self-published a Civil War novel in 2012 (http://www.amazon.com/Glorieta-Quinn-Kayser-Cochran/dp/0615669905 with more information at http://quinnkaysercochran.com/).
I don’t promote it much, though, because truth be told, I’d love to reel it back in for repairs. Let me spin a cautionary tale for independents working on their first book: more than a marketing plan, more than an online platform, even more than an agent, what you want is a good editor. Many independent authors could substantially improve their work by finding someone (freelance editor, wise mentor, etc.) who will call them on their BS and cull all the weak sub-plots, gaps in logic, and flabby prose everyone puts into their first several drafts. Not supportive friends or family who will overlook or minimize problems to spare your feelings. Writing is re-writing and finding someone to coach you through that process is essential. What you want is a cold-eyed realist who will drag you away from your own worst instincts. That said, finding the right freelance editor is hard. For one, the good ones are expensive but you will unquestionably get what you pay for. Someday maybe I’ll revisit GLORIETA. Then again, maybe I won’t. There are other stories that need to be written.
Every good book I’ve ever read. For nonfiction, I appreciate J. Anthony Lukas, John Krakauer, Walter Karp, and academics such as Sally Zanjani and Brian Linn. For fiction, I enjoy reading Hilary Mantel, Joseph Conrad, Henry Miller, Donna Tartt, and Russell Banks.
As a reader, I skew 3/1 in favor of nonfiction, so I suppose my interest in fiction is my way of putting flesh on the bones of history. That, and I love every minute I get to spend in front of a keyboard.
Consistent production. Distractions are everywhere. And I write slowly. I wish I was monumentally productive, but I am not. Not at all. That’s the reason I rarely blog: it takes everything I have to produce one manuscript every four to five years.
I'm pretty sure I'll be pre-ordering a copy of WIDOWMAKER as soon as it is available. If the thought of a noir-detective Western appeals then you should follow Quinn, encourage him to write faster, and get ready to enjoy Nevada in the age of ragtime bands. And while we wait perhaps you'd like to check out my dark urban fiction/horror novels -
Junior Inquisitor Book One
Amazon - http://goo.gl/D6KrbX
Inquisitor Series - http://goo.gl/mJtTf8
Soulless Monk Book Two
Smashwords - https://goo.gl/NXw3Gr
Amazon - http://goo.gl/p9fBn0
Inquisitor Series - http://goo.gl/5lCyaX
The Witch’s Lair Book Three
Amazon - http://goo.gl/ZRO6Jw
Smashwords - https://goo.gl/MokJnC
Inquisitor Series - http://goo.gl/mJtTf8