I must admit, despite being an "Easterner," I started watching western TV shows and movies as a child. I read the entire Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder several times, and Willa Cather's O Pioneers. I walked to the local theater in 1969 by myself to see True Grit with John Wayne. The panoramic scenery mesmerized me, the authentic dialogue floored me, the gritty determined heroine Mattie Ross gripped me in a fresh way. And when I read Charles Portis' novel years later in college, I understood the heart of the American west. Courage and integrity, loyalty and yes, grit, formed our thoroughly unique western culture.
I wanted to showcase the many aspects of that culture after several years researching the history of the transcontinental railroad, which always fascinated me. I read another wonderful book, originally published in 1870, Westward by Rail, by the Englishman William Fraser Rae, depicting his trip from New York City to Sacramento, and that also helped water the seeds planted long ago. I created a heroine different from Mattie Ross--but similar, in a way. Lily Granville is a sheltered young woman, but just as stubborn and determined to track her father's killer. I enjoyed writing and revising my manuscript, taking care to add as much western flavor and excitement as possible.
When Astraea Press offered me a contract for Double Crossing in April of 2011, I was thrilled. Last year opened my eyes to how tough the publishing business really is. I had to work even harder than before to get my book noticed. And I'm working on a sequel, Double or Nothing. If my work has landed among the great books from the likes of Larry McMurtry, Tony Hillerman, Loren Estleman, Stephen Harrigan and Johnny Boggs, I want to make certain this win isn't just "greenhorn luck!"
Here's some information about DOUBLE CROSSING. Enjoy the ride, and keep a spur handy!
DOUBLE CROSSING Book Blurb:
A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.
August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.
As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?
I clamped a handkerchief over my mouth but Omaha’s black dirt still choked me. My hard sneeze left a ringing in my ears. There had to be a general store somewhere with needles and thread. Stray sparks from the Chicago and Western’s smokestack had burned tiny holes in my split skirt and jacket, and I was desperate to repair them both.
At last I found a shop. A bell jangled above my head when I entered. The bulky proprietor laughed and joked with several customers while he filled orders at the polished walnut counter. I meandered down each crowded aisle. Scents of dill, chives and cinnamon tickled my nose. Potatoes with earthy skins and papery onions filled open barrels. Small jars of pickled beets and corn relish, tins of fruit and baked beans lined the shelves. Huge burlap sacks of flour, sugar, salt, coffee and beans lay near the door, and wheels of cheese had been stacked above crates of smoked fish and salt pork.
Seeing the flatirons, hoes, plows and other tools all around brought a sense of normalcy back to my life. I realized I’d been wandering in a haze since Father’s funeral.
I soon found the rack of notions. “Closing in half an hour, miss,” Mr. Porter said with a friendly smile. “Like to see my bolts of silk? I got pattern paper too.”
“I need a travel sewing kit, if you have one.”
Armed with a clever box crammed with thread, needles and a tiny pair of silver folding scissors, I wandered the back aisles. A leather money belt caught my eye, with firm stitching and eight compartments. Dodging a row of sturdy butter churns and stacked washboards, I placed the belt on the counter along with an oilcloth cape and several green apples.
“Two dozen peppermints also, please.”
Once I paid the bill, I scurried to a quiet corner away from the few remaining shoppers. Shiny snaps on the wide belt secured each compartment. I adjusted it around my waist and tugged my suit jacket to hide its bulk. Perfect!
I glanced around for a mirror and then froze, staring at my feet and then behind me. My pocketbook was nowhere in sight. I thought I’d wedged the leather two-handled bag between the crates of saltines at my elbow. Frantic, I searched the entire corner and each aisle of the shop in vain. Fear gripped me in a stranglehold. My expensive Pullman ticket, stolen! My hands shook and I had trouble thinking straight for a full minute.
I raced back to the counter. I waited until Mr. Porter finished a customer’s transaction. “Sir, did I leave my pocketbook here? I paid my bill not five minutes ago. The money belt, sewing kit, peppermints—”
“Sure I remember, miss.” Mr. Porter reached beneath the polished wood and planted my bag on top. “A gent brought this to me. Said he found it on a barrel.”
I stared at him. “What did he look like?”
The storekeeper shrugged. “Wore a suit and derby hat, like every other man passing through town.”
I opened the pocketbook’s clasp and glanced inside. Everything was intact, even my precious Pullman ticket and all my money. I murmured a prayer of thanks until realizing that my sketchbook was wedged upside down, on the wrong side. My black-edged handkerchiefs were crumpled on the bottom as well. Someone had searched the contents.
Someone who followed me from the hotel. Some stranger from the train, or Emil Todaro himself? A shiver raced up my spine. It couldn’t be possible. Or could it? Had I underestimated him again? Instead of being the hunter, was I now the prey?
That thought infuriated me.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~