Category Archives: Historical Fiction

An Interview on The Captive Boy

By Julia Robb

Friends, I want to welcome author friend, Julia Robb. Her newest release is, The Captive Boy which is the topic of this interview. I hope that after hearing what she has to say you consider purchasing this compelling read.

 

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Cover art – The Captive BoyJulia spent 20 years as an award winning journalist before becoming a novelist. Since July 2012 she has published four 5-Star rated books on Amazon.com all set in West Texas. This interview covers The Captive Boy, her newest book, released on December 17th. The print version will be published next week.

Question: Julia, I’ve enjoyed reading your three previous western novels but found The Captive Boy exceptional. Why did you write this story?

First, I wanted to show readers that America’s frontier army was heroic, our troops served their country with courage and honor and did their best in a hard time and a hard place. They were tough. We have reason to be proud of them. I wish more Americans knew that.

Also, I wanted to write a story showing readers what happened to white captive kids. After they were recovered, they were emotionally unstable people who couldn’t maintain jobs or relationships. They didn’t feel at home in the white culture, the free-wheeling Indian culture was gone (living on the reservation was not like living with a nomadic tribe). Those kids were sad and never again found a real home. I was, and am, sad for them.

 

Question: Tell my readers about your protagonist, Mac McKenna. I think he’s a compelling character and a respected leader by those who served under him. Is he based on a historic character?

 

Yes, Mac is based on Col. (later General) Ranald Mackenzie. Mackenzie was a hero, and he is my hero. He got the job done. He never gave up. He beat the Comanches. He didn’t want to kill, but he did his duty. I also see him as having been a lonely, isolated man who wanted to love and be loved but he never got the chance. I gave Mac many of these traits, including, kind of, Mackenzie’s fate. But Mac’s fate is a metaphor for what happened to Mackenzie.

 

I felt Mac on a deeper level than my other protagonists. He was inside me. I love him, which is natural, I guess, as I am the only person in the world who thoroughly understands him.

 

Also, I want to add, I have some of Mackenzie’s letters, written while he was commander at Fort Sill (the army fort and the Comanche and Kiowa reservation), and those letters prove Mackenzie was a humane and wise administrator. So, naturally I can tell you my Mac was both humane and wise, both as administrator and soldier.

 

Question: Tell us about the title character, August Shiltz. I suspect his definition of captive would be quite different from Mac’s definition.

 

Yes, August didn’t see himself as a captive until he was retaken by Mac’s troops. He was brainwashed. After all, his Indian parents were the only ones he could remember. It’s like being dropped on Mars and adopted by the natives. The trauma destroys previous memories.

 

I checked with a psychologist to find out what this kind of trauma would do to people, and then I used what the psychologist said. They have Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

 

But August did understand after…oops, almost had to add a spoiler alert.

 

Question: Julia, you used a writing style that made the events leap off the page for me. Your scenes were like reading from a current news story; like an anthology or journal. Would you care to comment on this choice, maybe set the reader’s expectation?

 

I just came to it by happenchance, by fooling around. In some ways, writing a novel is like growing a garden; you water the plants, you weed, you introduce new plants. One thing leads to another. Then before you know it, it’s harvest time.

 

Question: The Captive Boy must have taken an enormous amount of research. Would you like to give us some background on that process? It seems to have been based in large measure on historical events.

 

I read everything I could find about Mackenzie and his troops, about the Red River War, about the frontier cavalry, about the country and its terrain, about Comanches, about white captives, and I’d been doing this for years before I started formal research. I had compiled a 100-page research book before writing one word.

 

Almost everything in the novel, as regarding events, really happened. I changed some things for novelistic purposes, but not much.

 

Do you remember the scene where the Comanches attacked soldiers in the night and the horses panicked and went so wild they pulled the stakes (holding them) from the ground? The stakes then went flying through the air. That made those stakes lethal weapons. That really happened.

 

Of course, the scenes between characters only happened in my head. Except for the scene with Gen. Sherman, when Mac and Sherman found out the Comanches had destroyed a teamster train and killed most of the teamsters.

 

Question: We’ve touched on your main characters. Do you have anything to share about the supporting cast of characters?

 

I loved all of them so much, and I miss them. I loved Eliza who told her friend Jane about everything she saw and heard in Col. McKenna’s quarters, I loved Asha, August’ eventual wife and Asha’s relationship with Mac. I loved it that Mac loved August and he also desired his wife (that’s quite a three-cornered dilemma, isn’t it)?

I loved Sgt. Major Pruitt, who told tall stories and loved baseball and loved his baseball team, I loved Sam Brennan, Mac’s adjutant, who was a brilliant anthropologist and naturalist, actually a kind of Leonardo De Vinci.

 

Sam was based on a real soldier, John Bourke, author of “On the Border With Crook,” the all-time best frontier memoir.

 

Question: What would you like to share about the time and place; the landscape where The Captive Boy took place?

 

Tough country. The Southern Great Plains are not flat but rolling and covered with thorny plants so sharp they can cut your arteries open. Very little good water. The canyon country (as you know Richard) drops from level ground. First, you’re riding on level land and then the bottom just drops 1,000 feet.

Climbing from the base of the Cap Rock toward the rim. Photo by Julia Robb

Men went blind from riding in the sun day after day, and died of heat stroke, and dysentery (from drinking contaminated water), and snakebite, and, of course, war wounds.

 

The Comanche often used barbed arrows (which were nearly two feet long) and you couldn’t just pull them out. They had to be cut out. Not good. Wounded men often died from infection, and even lockjaw.

 

Question: This book is somewhat different from your western novels. Would you like to comment on its genre?

 

It’s an historical novel. Historical novels are supposed to educate readers on the time and place, and why things were as they were. I hope I’ve done that.

 

Question: Do you have any additional comments you would like to share, Julia?

Yes, you’re a good guy Richard. Thanks for the interview.

 

 

Thank you again, Julia! I appreciate your answers, your efforts to lift up the heroic soldiers, to humanize the Comanche and your dedication to presenting realistic events through fiction. I have found that it’s often easier to present truth through fiction as opposed to biased and alleged fact.

Click here for the Amazon.com link to: The Captive Boy

For my review of The Captive Boy, click here.

For a list of Julia  Robb’s biography, other books and purchase links, click here

Short Bio of Julia Robb

I’ma former journalist and editor-I spent 20 years in the newspaper business-51pfsindzal-_uy200_

and I’m now a free-lance writer/editor in Marshall,
Texas. For fun, I drive across Texas, to the deserted corners, the wide spaces, heading west past Waco, watching the mesas fl
oat in the distance.

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Filed under Comanche, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Texas

Review of Behold the Dawn, by K.M. Weiland

Compelling and riveting historical fiction

Get ready for a novel by KM Weiland that will grab you and hold on until you turn the last of its captivating pages.

Behold the Dawn, by K.M. Weiland

Behold the Dawn opens in the year 1192 when Crusaders under King Richard I battled Saladin’s Muslim forces in the Holy Land in an attempt to recapture Jerusalem. At the same time, Marcus Annan engaged in deadly mock battle as a Tourneyer. Annan, “…fought today for the same reason he always fought: it was the only thing his life had left him fit for.” Under threat of excommunication, tourney participants such as Annan continued to ply their trade.

Excerpt from the tourney

The setting sun, burning gold through the dust of the field, glinted against the iron tip of a war hammer. Annan’s blood pumped heat into his muscles. The rules of this tourney banned the war hammer from competition; its lethal heft would crush armor and shatter flesh and bone alike. His fist tightened on his sword hilt, the leather finger of his gauntlet creaking against the steel of the crossguard. Marcus Annan wasted no mercy on duplicitous knaves.

After a day of dealing death, he’s troubled by the sight of a faceless monk, a face hidden within the shadow of a cowl. By the time the spark of recognition brought flashes of hidden memories from 16 years past, the monk disappeared. Annan collected his spoils and ransom from battle while a chain of unfolding events propelled him from Bari, Italy to the fields of battle in the Holy Land.

Annan and his sidekick Peregrine Marek, a Scottish lad indentured to his service, would face deadly challenges from former comrades at arms in addition to threats from avowed enemies. A onetime believer in Christianity, Annan now felt his soul beyond hope; a conscience seared from a life running away from a nightmare called St. Dunstan. Gethin the monk, also known as the Baptist, raged against the Church, the Pope, the Holy War and especially against Roderic the Bishop. These words resurrected memories of the tragic day as he had tried to forget all those years.

During an encounter with Roderic and men at arms allied with him, Annan agrees to kill a former colleague by the name of Matthias, but refuses to kill William, Earl of Keaton his former mentor, his wife Lady Mairead, and the Baptist. By doing so, events are set in motion that take Annan and Marek to the Holy Land.

Not long after landing on the beaches of Acre, Annan and Marek found themselves in the heat of battle, tasting victory as Crusader catapults breached the walls of Acre. Just when the battle appeared to be won, Saladin’s cavalry breached the flanks of Christian fighters. Annan took an arrow from a Saracen volley as it passed through his mail shirt. A Moslem blade disemboweled Annan’s mount. Annan fell, the world around him faded. When Annan woke, he found himself in a prison camp in the care of Knights Hospitalers and in the presence of Lady Mairead the Countess of Keaton, wife of William of Keaton. Annan is one of 2,500 prisoners. Eventually, Annan gained an audience with William after making a plea to Mairead. During that meeting, a dying William made a daunting request, a request to escort Mairead from the Holy Land to a convent in Orleans, France.

Annan accepts the request that will lead to a series of attacks on Annan and Mairead. The story progresses through a series of narrow escapes. Enemies abound. Friends die. Mystery compels constant diligence. Mairead, a deeply religious Christian, prays for Annan, not for his life only but that he accept God’s redemption. While doing so, barriers she had placed between them, fade. Her persistence causes him to question his lack of faith. Maybe there is hope after all.

KM Weiland thoroughly researched the period then used her amazing gift of expression and talents of turning the right phrase and delivering memorable quotes. Readers become part of the field of battle, experience thrilling suspense, and visualize colorful tapestries as she paints poetic word pictures of earth, sky and sea.

Excerpt, lyrical text

This was the fortress city of Jaffa, its repaired walls dark against the sunset red of the sea, pinpricks of early firelight just beginning to show through the window slits in the wall.

I’ve read and enjoyed other novels and short stories by KM Weiland and have a new favorite in Behold the Dawn.

In addition to writing wonderful fiction, Ms. Weiland has written back to back, award winning books on the writing craft, Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel.  Refer to her author biography for a complete listing of her work.

K.M. Weiland Biography

K.M. Weiland Author, mentor and blogger

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as the western A Man Called Outlaw, the medieval epic Behold the Dawn, and the portal fantasy Dreamlander. When she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors on her award-winning blog http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com. She makes her home in western Nebraska. Find out more about her fiction at http://www.kmweiland.com.

Why I write:
Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

Writing routine:
I set aside two hours, five days a week, to write, usually between four and six p.m. I’m a firm believer in Peter de Vries claim: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” I spend the first half hour scribbling ideas in a writing journal, reviewing character sketches and research notes, reading an article on the craft, and proofreading what I wrote the day before. Then I pick a soundtrack, say a prayer for guidance, and dive in.

Process:
It takes years sometimes for my ideas to find their way onto the page. After the first kernel of inspiration takes root, I play with it and play with it, discovering characters and scenes and plot twists. Finally, when I think it’s ready, I dig out a notebook and start sketching ideas and outlines. Depending on the subject matter, I spend a few months researching, then take a deep breath and pray that all the work will pay off in a way that will glorify God.

Inspiration:
Most of my story ideas begin with a character and a place. An outlaw in the Wyoming Territory. A mercenary knight in the Crusades. A vigilante plantation owner in Kenya. A female spy in the Napoleonic Wars. A barnstormer in early 20th-century Kansas. After that, who knows? Inspiration is a gift from God: bits and pieces, tiny ideas that bloom into unexpected treasures.

Advice:
Writing is both a gift and an art. As a gift, it must be approached with humility: the writer is only the vessel through which inspiration flows. As an art, it must be approached with passion and discipline: a gift that’s never developed wasn’t worth the giving.

Websitehttp://www.kmweiland.com/

Writing advice: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/

Amazon.com Author Page: Link

Smashwords: Link

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Filed under Book Review, Historical Fiction, Writing

Book Review — Del Norte by Julia Rob

review by Rich Weatherly

A gritty story about life on the southern plains in 1870 San Angela

Del Norte book cover

Del Norte may be Julia Robb’s best book yet! Del Norte, a saloon near San Angela, Texas and Fort Concho. The people living there in 1870 have a legacy of hard times and difficult circumstances. This story draws upon a cast of characters from diverse backgrounds. Remote outposts like San Angela make earning a living easier than crowded places farther north and east. Magdalena Chapas and partner Thomas Lamb run the Del Norte Saloon. Ray Cortez is Magdalena’s ex-husband. It wasn’t her doing. As it turns out Ray is a womanizer, and this is just one of his many character flaws. Magdalena cares for her disabled son, Benni. She looks to Dr. Wade Pitney for help in making Benni’s arm functional. Thomas wants to marry Magdelana.

Thomas and Wade had both arrived from a Union prisoner of war camp back east. Thomas became the camp adjutant after taking a bullet in his thigh. Wade was a Confederate doctor charged with stealing food from the prisoners. He denied the charge saying his brother was dying from consumption.

Captain Thomas Lamb described camp conditions. “During fights, he saw artillery behead soldiers, he saw men die holding their intestines in their bodies with their hands, saw them die with dysentery, spilling their evil-smelling waste at army hospitals, or in their own tents, or on the ground under cold skies. Nothing ever shocked him compared to Elmira”

Sing Kum arrived in San Francisco after being sold by her father. A girl’s life was cheap in Canton. Lan, a former Chinese pirate rescued Sing when she was deathly ill in the back of a box car. She grew to love Lan but did not know of his dark past. Lan is ambitious. He’s determined to become a big shot. To him, Sing is just a woman.

Julia Robb brings in other characters, warts and all, to create a compelling story. Her characters are complex; some likeable, other’s seemingly have little redeeming social value. This frontier town populated by a diverse array of personal backgrounds makes conditions ripe for conflict. Racism and bigotry brings dark consequences. Nothing is sugar coated. Expect a well written, gritty portrayal of life on the frontier that moves toward a shocking climax.

Try Del Norte. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot about life on the southern plains in 1870.

Amazon Purchase link: Del Norte

Author’s Bio

Julia Robb- Author

I’m a former journalist and editor-I spent 20 years in the newspaper business-and I’m now a free-lance writer/editor in Marshall, Texas. For fun, I drive across Texas, to the deserted corners, the wide spaces, heading west past Waco, watching the mesas float in the distance.
I began writing “Scalp Mountain” in 2009, when I saw images in my mind; a man kicking his horse into a gallop, racing away from a crime, two men fighting in a Texas valley, a woman hugging an Indian baby, refusing to let him go.
Buddies in the Saddle said about “Scalp Mountain,” “This is a fine novel. If you drew a line between “Lonesome Dove” and “All the Pretty Horses,” you would find “Scalp Mountain” somewhere along the way…..there were times when this one had me and refused to let go. For anyone who likes their westerns well grounded in history, this is one you don’t want to miss.”
I published “Saint of the Burning Heart” in February, 2013.
Saint is about a half-Hispanic child who is left homeless and alone in small-town Texas. A powerful rancher, Frank Kendall, and his family, adopt Nicki and give her a life of comfort and position.
But family intimacy leads to a obsessive, violent love affair between Nicki and Frank. Nicki is forced to leave town and when she returns finds the town at war with itself, with Anglos pitted against Hispanics. And two of the people she loves best are struggling against each other. Frank leads the Anglos and Nicki’s best friend, David Rodriguez, leads the Hispanics.
I published Del Norte this month, in December, 2013.
Del Norte is a novella about San Angela, Texas, which is a rough place in 1870, and Magdalena Chapas knows all about it; from the men who shoot holes in each other while drinking in her saloon, the Del Norte, to the man who loved her, married her and left her without a word.
Now Ray Cortez is back, and Magdalena doesn’t know what her ex-husband wants.
Does it have anything to do with the gravestone she leaned on the Del Norte’s back wall?
The stone says, “Americo Chapas, 1823-1868, Asesinado, Dios Lo Vengara, Murdered, God Will Avenge Him.”
Sing Kum knows about men.
She was freezing to death in a boxcar when Lan found her and nursed her back to health.
But Lan has a past and ambitions Sing only discovers when it’s too late. She already loves him.
Dr. Wade Pickney knows what men can do because the Yankees locked him up in a POW camp during the war and almost starved him to death.
Then they accused him of the unspeakable.
Thomas knows what men can do because he was adjutant at the camp which imprisoned Wade.
Thomas, Magdalena’s partner at the Del Norte, also knows Ray Cortez is going to be the death of somebody if he, Thomas, doesn’t stop him.
Thomas tells Magdalena that Ray was not a good man but she can safely trust him, she can love him.
“Shut up,” Magdalena says, fending off the drunks, slipping the cards from the faro box, raking in the money, and waiting for her world to explode around her.

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Filed under Book Review, Historical Fiction, Western

Book Review— Fancy by David N. Walker

A Review by Rich Weatherly

A well crafted Civil War era YA novella

Fancy, a Novella by David N. Walker

Fancy places the fourteen year old Fancy Greene on her family farm near Florence, Alabama. This resourceful, smart young lady works the farm and cares for her younger sister, Danni. To make matters worse, not long after the story begins, she is notified that her dad has been killed in battle at Manassas Junction. None the less, Fancy determines to finish planting for the crop that should provide for their needs.

Her life becomes complicated by a lecherous preacher who will stop at noting to make Fancy his wife. When he is rebuffed by Fancy, the preacher turns to a neighboring property owner who wants the Greene property for himself. The two conspire to take the Greene property. The preacher tells the neighbor he can create a false deed, sign the document as a witness and get the deed certified by the local judge.

Fancy isn’t the push-over the preacher hopes for and no one counted on Fancy finding a friend of her dads who seeks justice on Fancy’s behalf.

I found Fancy to be an endearing, well crafted story that has much in common with classic literature. I highly recommend it and I’m eager to read the complete series. I’ve become a fan of David N. Walker.

To purchase Fancy on Kindle, click here

For the Fancy Paperback, click here

About the Author

Author David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot, a would-be Nashville star, and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers’ groups. Two of his books, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats. Fancy: The Search is the second novella in the Fancy series.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Historical Fiction, Publishing

Interview – Julia Robb, Author of Scalp Mountain

Hi Julia,

Welcome to My Place. I’m eager to hear what you have to say about your writing in general and about your novel, Scalp Mountain.

Would you like to share a synopsis of your novel?

It’s 1876 and Colum McNeal’s immigrant Irish father has sent gunmen to kill him. Colum finds a refuge in a hidden Texas valley and begins ranching, but struggles to stay there: José Ortero, a Jacarilla Apache, seeks revenge for the son Colum unwittingly killed.

At the same time, an old acquaintance, Mason Lohman, obsessively stalks Colum through the border country. Colum has inspired the unthinkable in Lohman. In a time and place where a man’s sexuality must stand unchallenged, Colum has ignited Lohman’s desire.

Other characters include Texas Ranger William Henry, who takes Colum’s part against his father while wrestling with his own demons. Comanches murdered Henry’s family and Henry regrets the revenge he took; and Clementine Weaver, who defies frontier prejudice by adopting an Indian baby. Clementine must also choose between Colum and her husband.

One thing I noticed about Scalp Mountain was the depth of your character development.  Tell us how you chose your main character and describe how you like to present your characters to the readers.

My novels all start the same way; I see images in my mind, but I don’t understand them. I saw Colum standing on a hill in the Davis Mountains, in Texas. When I asked myself what this man was doing, the answers came. Writers see characters through the prism of their own personalities. If my characters have depth, it’s because I want to understand them and I want readers to understand them. Nobody is simple. Personally, I want to understand everybody and spend large amounts of time trying to figure out other people and worrying about them (I know, it’s useless to worry).

When we writers (including you, dear Richard) write books, we are just reproducing our brains. Therefore, readers aren’t really reading printed words on a page, they’re reading other personalities. That’s one of the reasons reading is so thrilling and why it’s so important for writers to accurately reproduce their “voice.”

What is it that best represents your protagonist’s life? (Highlight the characteristics that illustrate your protagonist’s strengths.)

Colum’s mother was murdered and his father rejected him. That kind of trauma usually twists people; it creates drives and motives they don’t necessarily understand. Humans must attempt full consciousness to understand themselves (I know, that’s a tall order). Luckily for Colum, when events unfold, he’s willing to face his actions and try to redeem himself. You can attribute that to inner strength, but I think God is willing to give us grace to deal with life, if we’re willing to accept it.

Scalp Mountain is clearly historical fiction. While this is true, I found much in common with literary fiction. What do you think makes your novel stand out from other historical fiction?

I don’t know, I don’t even know if it does stand out. I just wrote the story in my mind and heart, and wrote my style, whatever that is. I’ve studied literary technique, but that technique is mandatory for all writers, not just historical novelists, or literary novelists.

How does your main character’s profession draw him into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)

It doesn’t. The events in the book all stem from character. Character is destiny. Colum’s father is a vengeful man. Rather than fight it out, Colum runs from his own guilt, motives and feelings. Lohman can’t handle his unrequited desire for Colum and tries to eliminate the problem the only way he knows how; killing him.

Have you considered working on a sequel?

No sequels. I’m working on another historical novel now and that has my attention. Besides, Scalp Mountain doesn’t lend itself to sequels. It’s pretty intense and I could never reproduce the same kind of tension in a sequel.

Tell me something about your writing habits. Is there a special place where you live that you like to go to? Do you like to write at a certain time of day?

This is a problem all writers deal with (unless they have superior self discipline, which I don’t). Between working on publicity, which is an endless job, doing my chores, seeing and talking to friends and family, and making myself stay in the chair, it’s hard. Like all writers, some days I just sit and stare at the computer screen and want to bang my head against the wall. Luckily, the wall is handy, it’s right by my desk.

In an added note, I strongly suspect writers who brag they have unbreakable work habits are exaggerating.

Please provide links to your blog, your book and other places where readers can find your work.

Scalp M0untain on Amazon

http://www.scalpmountain.com

http://scalpmountain.blogspot.com

http://www.venturegalleries.com

Book Cover

Thank you, Julia for stopping by. Do you have anything else you would like to add related to your book or writing that I failed to mention?

No, thanks Rich.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interview, Creative Process, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Publishing, Texas, Texas Rangers

Book Review — Scalp Mountain

by Julia Robb

Book Cover

My Review

Scalp Mountain is historical fiction and I’m a big fan of this genre. Before writing this story, Julia Robb did extensive research about the history and geography of the region. It shows.

That said, this book has much in common with literary fiction. Throughout most of the story we see the vast expanse of the southern plains, the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains, Rio Grande River and surrounding territory. Julia Robb uses vivid, lyrical prose to show us this landscape. While reading, I was transported back to the 1870s. Her writing takes readers on a ride where they experience the story through all their senses; sight, sound, touch, smell and mental imagery through the use of beautiful word pictures.

Unlike romanticized Hollywood westerns of our parents’ time, in this story you’ll find good and bad on all sides. These truly are three dimensional characters; characters based in the realities of life, not cowboys in white hats and villains in black.

Characters define this story and lead us through the plot. In these characters we see complex personalities. Most of the story is presented through the eyes of the protagonist, Colum McNeal. Colum faces life and death situations from multiple characters who would love to kill him. He understands the motivation of two of them; revenge. Another, long time acquaintance, Mason Lohman is a mystery to him.

Julia Robb relies heavily on inner dialog. You’ll spend almost as much time inside these characters heads as you do watching the action taking place around them. There is a powerful psychological feel to the story.

That said, there are well executed fight scenes; those between individuals and between larger groups; from gun battles to knife fights, you’ll be at the center of the action in these fast paced, rapidly changing scenes.

Julia will help  you see touching emotions from many of the characters; not just the protagonist. Much of the story is centered on pioneer settlers and their Native American rivals; other parts between Texas Rangers and the U.S. Cavalry. You’ll get a balanced, realist portrayal of each. Clementine Weaver, the wife of one of Colum’s neighbor, has adopted an Apache orphan. This orphan child is the son of José Ortero, a Jacarilla Apache and at one point we see his love for the child. Column is drawn to her as she nurses him through recovery after a brutal attack. His feelings become much more than sentimental.

Mankind has a history of brutality during war. Scalp Mountain doesn’t look the other way when it comes to violence. These scenes of gruesome violence will make you shudder at the harsh realities we humans foist upon one another. Atrocities occurred upon and from each of the opposing groups.

You’ll find things about the white pioneers and the Apaches you admire. I think you’ll come away with a fuller, richer understanding of the real dynamics of the late 1800s in West Texas.

The author has done thorough research and that research has paid dividends in this well written story about difficult times and circumstances.

Book Description

It’s 1876 at Scalp Mountain and Colum McNeal is fleeing gunmen sent by his Irish-immigrant father. Colum pioneers a Texas ranch, a home which means everything to him, but struggles to stay there: José Ortero, a Jacarilla Apache, seeks revenge for the son Colum unwittingly killed.

At the same time, an old acquaintance, Mason Lohman, obsessively stalks Colum through the border country, planning to take his life. Colum has inspired the unthinkable in Lohman. In a time and place where a man’s sexuality must stand unchallenged, Colum has ignited Lohman’s desire.

Other characters include Texas Ranger William Henry, who takes Colum’s part against his father while wrestling with his own demons. Henry’s family was murdered by Comanches and he regrets the revenge he took;
and Clementine Weaver, who defies frontier prejudice by adopting an Indian baby, must choose between Colum and her husband.

Scalp Mountain is based on the Southern Plains’ Indian Wars.
Those wars were morally complex, and the novel attempts to reflect those profound, tragic and murderous complications.

“Everyone was right, everyone was wrong, everyone got hurt.”

For more information, visit my website, at scalp mountain.com and the blog, at http://scalpmountain.blogspot.com/

About the Author, Julia Robb

I’m a former journalist and editor-I spent 20 years in the newspaper business-and I’m now a free-lance writer/editor in Marshall, Texas. For fun, I drive across Texas, to the deserted corners, the wide spaces, heading west past Waco, watching the mesas float in the distance.

I began writing “Scalp Mountain” in 2009, when I saw images in my mind; a man kicking his horse into a gallop, racing away from a crime, two men fighting in a Texas valley, a woman hugging an Indian baby, refusing to let him go.

Excerpt about the history of West TexasBuddies in the Saddle said about “Scalp Mountain,”

“This is a fine novel. If you drew a line between “Lonesome Dove” and “All the Pretty Horses,” you would find “Scalp Mountain” somewhere along the way…..there were times when this one had me and refused to let go. For anyone who likes their westerns well grounded in history, this is one you don’t want to miss.”

For more information, visit my website at scalpmountain.com, and my blog, at Julia Robb’s Blog.

“Here’s the truth:
Everyone was right
Everyone was wrong
And everyone got hurt.
Scalp Mountain, an ebook on sale at Amazon.com, is my attempt to describe this uniquely American tragedy, through the lives of fictional characters.”

To purchase the book, visit: Amazon Purchase Link  

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Filed under Book Review, Historical Fiction, Texas, Texas Rangers, Writing

Book Review — Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

“My whole work drive has been aimed at making people understand each other. . . .” —Steinbeck in a 1938 letter

Cover of "The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Cl...

Cover of The Grapes of Wrath (Penguin Classics)

After years of suffering through the Great Depression and sweeping devastation caused by ‘Black Blizzards’ during the Dust Bowl era, farmers and share-croppers of the southern plains began an odyssey toward hope and the green valleys of California. This was a time of sweeping social and economic change. This was a time when banks, powerful land owners, mechanized farming, prejudice and bigotry sent people packing.

While working as a journalist in San Francisco, John Steinbeck wrote a series of feature articles about these migrant workers. He developed a powerful respect for their initiative and empathized with their plight. Those articles were the stimulus that drove him to write Grapes of Wrath. A short time after its publication, Grapes of Wrath received the 1939 Book of the Year Award from the American Booksellers Association. In 1940 it won a Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck used powerful, lyrical prose while establishing many of the scenes his characters lived in and passed through. He had a gift of writing in the vernacular language of the people of Oklahoma, and the surrounding states. Most chapters were anchored in dialog between the Joad family members and those with whom they had contact. Most of the story centers on protagonist Tom Joad, second son and parolee from an Oklahoma state prison. Ma Joad, the matriarch of the family is the glue that holds the family together.

The first half of the book follows the family along Route 66 from eastern Oklahoma across the state into the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, Arizona and deserts until they are awed by the beauty of California. Along the way, they experience devastating losses, disappointment, and innumerable hardships. The Joad family meets and bonds with fellow travelers, and experience the generosity of a restaurant cook and waitress. After arriving in California, the family learns harsh realities of life as Okie migrants while camping in one of the infamous Hooverville camps or shanty towns.

Steinbeck gives the reader glimpses of the causes and social issues as seen through the eyes of his characters, but he doesn’t stop there. At times he breaks up the journey and branches into short narratives that read like prose poems. In these narratives he frequently uses repetition to drive home his message. He hammers on banks. He has little patience for land owners who call the migrants squatters even though many of these people acquired the land earlier though questionable means.

He shows us sheriffs, vigilantes and private security officers working as pawns of the powerful. These are the implements of injustice and the source of escalating tensions. They will stop at nothing to quash dissent. Migrants are exploited through the devaluation of their work by these land owners.

Grapes of Wrath lives up to its accolades. Be prepared for an emotional ride. Use it as an opportunity to assess your prejudices and preconceived ideas about this trying time in our history. If you haven’t read Grapes of Wrath, you need to do so.

John Steinbeck wasn’t alone in his call for better treatment of migrants. Dorothea Lange featured this population in brilliant photo essays. I’m including a link to some of her iconic images.

Dorothea Lange: Migrants in Steinbeck Country

http://louisville.libguides.com/lange

Quote from, Steinbeck, John; DeMott, Robert (2006-03-28). The Grapes of Wrath . Penguin Group. Kindle Edition..

Content resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grapes_of_Wrath

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Filed under Award, Book Review, Books, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction