Western Adventure: DEAD MAN'S BOOT by Patrick Dearen
"Another outstanding work by Mr. Dearen. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. I've become a fan of his work and look forward to more." —Reviewer
Do you love traditional westerns? We're pleased to welcome to Books & Benches, Patrick Dearen, multi-award winning author of more than twenty books.
A Guest Post by Patrick Dearen
I’ve always been fascinated by treasure legends of the Southwest. They speak to every pioneer’s longing to escape the toil and drudgery of everyday survival on the frontier.
In my new novel DEAD MAN'S BOOT (my first since winning the 2015 Spur Award), I consider the power that a potential bonanza can hold over someone. In contrast, I also present the notion that life’s real treasure rests not in gold or silver, but in relationships.
Thirty-two years ago, I began researching the Lost Sublett Mine of Texas. In the early 1880s, William C. Sublett found gold west of the Pecos River in an area where gold shouldn’t exist. In the succeeding years, he periodically traipsed west from his Odessa, Texas homestead and returned with nuggets. All attempts to follow Sublett or to wrest the mine’s location from him failed, and he took the secret with him to his grave in 1892.
I included my study of the Lost Sublett Mine in Castle Gap and the Pecos Frontier, published by TCU Press in 1988. Twenty-five years later as I considered ideas for the novel that would become Dead Man’s Boot, Sublett and his lost diggings reached across the centuries and grabbed me by the collar. But inspiration came from other sources as well.
As I searched the holdings of the N.S. Haley Memorial Library and History Center in Midland, Texas, I came across an 1870s account of a man who found a boot sticking out of the ground along the lonely Pecos River. Curious, he pulled it up, only to find an intact foot inside. As a novelist, I played the “what if” game: What if the boot had also contained a map to rumored gold in the Guadalupe Mountains, the site most identified with the Lost Sublett Mine?
A successful novel, however, requires more than a premise and plot. It must also have characters who can engage a reader. My protagonist Clay Andrews, searching for answers in the death of his sister in Central Texas, has ridden to the Pecos in 1869. The person responsible may have fled here, but no one enters this no-man’s land except at his own peril. Comanches are on the prowl, and across the Pecos, Mescalero Apaches range all the way to the mysterious Guadalupe Mountains.
Twenty-year-old Lil Casner is searching the Pecos as well—for escape from an abusive marriage. What ensues for each are Comanche attacks, a kidnapping, and a chase through Apache country to Skeleton Cave and on to the Guadalupes. For Clay and Lil, the answers will never come unless they ride into a mountain range where Indian spirits may guard a golden hoard.
My hope is that readers will enjoy the journey as much as I did in writing it.
From Spur Award Winner, Patrick Dearen
Clay Andrews is like a dead man, adrift in an uncaring dark. But he's also searching, and in 1869 he has ridden to the Pecos River to find answers. Back in Central Texas, Clay's sister has died, and only on this river might he learn why. The person perhaps responsible may have fled here, but no one enters this no-man's-land except at his own peril. Comanches are on the prowl, and across the Pecos, Mescalero Apaches range all the way to the mysterious Guadalupe Mountains. In a dead man's boot, Clay finds a map to rumored gold in the Guadalupes. When Comanches approach, he flees upriver and finds Lil Casner at a lone schooner. Long abused in an arranged marriage, she must fend for herself while her obsessed husband combs the Pecos for the very map Clay has discovered. Upstream at the Bar W Ranch, two other haunted figures await. One is an experienced cowboy who has come to the Pecos for reasons that strangely parallel Clay's. The other is a shiftless cowhand in whose mind lurks something evil and deadly. Comanche attacks . . . a kidnapping . . . a chase through Apache country to Skeleton Cave and on to the Guadalupes. For Clay, the answers will never come unless he rides into a mountain range where Indian spirits may guard a golden hoard.
265 pages | Five Star Publishing | November 16, 2016
The author of twenty-three books, Patrick Dearen is a former award-winning reporter for two West Texas newspapers. Dearen has produced nonfiction books such as A Cowboy of the Pecos and Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River. His research has led to thirteen novels, including The Big Drift, winner of the Spur Award of Western Writers of America, the Peacemaker Award of Western Fictioneers, the Fiction Book of the Year Award from Academy of Western Artists, and the Elmer Kelton Award from West Texas Historical Association. His other novels include When Cowboys Die, The Illegal Man, Perseverance, and To Hell or the Pecos. Dearen lives in Midland, Texas, and has backpacked the Guadalupe Mountains extensively.