Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Western Fictioneers Library -- The Trail Brothers by Troy D. Smith

The legendary days of the cattle drive era come to vivid life in THE TRAIL BROTHERS by award-winning Western author Troy D. Smith. This classic novel follows a group of cowboys, young and old, as they push a thousand head of stubborn cattle north from Texas to the railhead in Kansas, encountering Indians, outlaws, and a vengeful lynch mob along the way. If they manage to survive the dangers that dog their trail, by the time they return to Texas they truly will be brothers for as long as they live.

Troy D. Smith is a past winner of the Peacemaker and Spur Awards, and current president of Western Fictioneers. He teaches American Indian history at Tennessee Tech University. Smith is one of the most highly regarded young authors of Western fiction, and this compelling, action-packed novel is a good example of why he has that reputation. For a great yarn, saddle up and ride with THE TRAIL BROTHERS.



September, 1914

   A.C. Royal walked down the shady street, hoping that the East River would take pity on him and roll a breeze his way. It was to no avail. His gait was considerably slower than it had been a half-century before. This was strange when he thought on it, which was often, because the world seemed to turn so much more quickly now.
   He reached his destination, a brownstone building, which he picked out from among the many others which seemed identical to it. He heaved a tired sigh and straightened himself to a suitably dignified posture. He banged on the door with his oaken walking stick.
   A brightly-garbed doorman appeared, his annoyance fading into neutral subservience when he saw his guest. "Mister Royal, so pleased to see you, sir," he said. He was not convincing. "This way, please."
   Royal followed him into the drawing room, silently basking in the breeze of the electric fans.
   "Mister A.C. Royal," the doorman announced loudly to the half-dozen gentlemen who sat chatting and smoking cigars.
   "Is that who I am?" Royal said in mock surprise. "Damn! I've been trying to think of that all day, it was right on the tip of my tongue."
   Unamused, the doorman half-heartedly held out his hand. When nothing was forthcoming, he disappeared.
   "Really, A.C.," said a fat, balding man of around fifty. "Haven't you ever heard of tipping?"
   "I've heard it's bad for you if you're in a canoe. Besides, Walsh, if you paid your help they wouldn't go around looking for handouts."
   Walsh chuckled to his other guests. "Leave it to Royal to refuse to tip my help, and then make me out to be the cheapskate!"
   Royal settled himself, with some difficulty, into an armchair. "If people paid me to open doors," he muttered, "I never would have gotten a real job."
   "Everything's work with you, isn't it?" another guest said with a smile. This man, like Royal, was in his seventies. Unlike the new arrival, however, he was clean-shaven and still had a touch of color in his hair.
   "It is anymore," Royal agreed. "Even walking. Hoffman here knows what I'm talking about," he said to the rest of the group. "You others aren't far from finding out. Before too many years, they'll have to bring the dancing girls to Evans, instead of the other way around. And he'll spend more time rememberin' what to do with 'em than he'll spend doin' it."
   Evans, who was even more corpulent than Walsh, flushed with anger. "I beg your pardon!" he exclaimed.
   "Don't beg mine," Royal said. "Save that for your wife, if she ever catches you at it."
   "Sir!" Evans shouted, struggling almost comically to leap from his chair.
   "Oh, sit down," Royal said with a snort. "Show a little good humor. When you get to be my age, you can say whatever you like. That's just about the only benefit you get out of the deal, so you learn to use it liberally."
   Evans allowed himself to fall back into place. Hoffman said, "When I met you twenty years ago, Royal, you spoke just as freely as you do now."
   "Yeah, but I was just practicin' then. Now I'm serious about it. My presence is the price the rest of you fellows have to pay for joinin' Walsh's little gentleman's club."
   A servant entered, bearing a tray. He had a decanter of brandy. He refilled the guests' glasses.
   "Are you lookin' for a handout too, Vince?" Royal demanded when he passed
   "Not today, sir. I brought your customary bottle of whiskey, sir." 
   "Good man," Royal said, taking the offered bottle and a glass. He spoke to a guest who was hidden behind a newspaper as he poured. "What about you, Thomas? You don't seem to have much to say. Did America suddenly decide to stop smoking, or did they just decide to stop smoking your brand?"
   "Oh, nothing like that," Thomas said. "I was just reading about the war in Europe. The entire affair is mind-boggling."
   "I'm glad my mind isn't as easily boggled as yours," Royal grunted. "A bunch of Europeans are shooting at each other. They do it every few years. It's like the Olympics."
   "Do you think we'll get involved?" asked Milne, the real estate man.
   "Either way, I'll make a killing," said Austin, the munitions man. "So to speak." No one laughed, and he shrugged, unconcerned.
   "I think we ought to help the Germans," Walsh said. "After all, a lot of us have German blood, like Hoffman here. And who cares about a bunch of Serbs and Russians?"
   "But what about the English?" said Evans.
   "That does complicate things," Walsh agreed. "What about you, Royal? What do you think?"
   "I, like all sensible people, think we should mind our own business."
   "You're joking!" said Evans. "Besides Austin, you have more to gain than any of us. Warships use a lot of fuel, you know."
   Royal shook his head, his white beard wagging softly. "War is a foul thing. No one that has looked on it once wants to do so again unless it's absolutely necessary." He reached toward Thomas. "Hand me that paper," he said, his tone sharp. "There's bound to be somethin' in here that's more worth talkin' about."
   Thomas, smiling, obeyed. Royal rustled through the pages, snorting. "Europe, Europe, Europe. Apparently, the only time somethin' interesting happens on this side of the Atlantic is when I do it."
He continued to turn pages impatiently. He stopped when he was near the end. He became stock-still, his mouth dropped slightly open in genuine surprise.
   "What is it?" Thomas demanded. "Did I miss something noteworthy?"
   The others began to question him as well, but they were all ignored. He read the article in apparent fascination.
   Evans walked behind Royal's chair and stared over his shoulder. He looked confused. "It's about a nigger professor," he announced to the others.
   "Oh, I read that article," Thomas said. "A visiting Negro professor, giving a lecture tonight. Where's the excitement in that?"
   "I know this man," Royal said finally. "I never expected to see him again, though."
   Thomas laughed. "What, did your father own him?"
   "Hmm? No . . . no. I've heard him speak before. He's—very motivational."
   "Don't tell me you're thinking about attending?" Hoffman said.
   "I am considering it."
   "Don't you think it would tarnish your image a bit to be seen consorting with niggers?" Evans said with a sneer.
   "I doubt it. If I go to a Negro meeting, will the nation stop buying fuel?"
   Evans threw up his hands in frustration. "Why don't you go to a Jewish synagogue while you're at it, so you can cover everybody?"
   "Evans is afraid that the Jews will take his money," Walsh told Royal with a grin.
   "He shouldn't worry," Royal said. "I doubt they'd have it."
   The guests laughed, all except Evans. Then gradually the talk turned to other matters, and the Negro professor was forgotten. Some of the club members found it noteworthy, however, that the semi-retired oil man had little further to say that evening. If that was uncharacteristic, even more so was the fact that Royal's eyes were closed. His breathing was regular, so no one was alarmed. They merely took it as a sign that his advanced age was finally catching up with him.
   As far as the gentlemen's club was concerned, he could just as well be a thousand miles away.



  1. I'm plumb tickled to have one of my books released through Western Fictioneers library... and deeply honored by the kind words that went along with the plot synopsis. I hope you'll check it out -and see how I tie together World War I, the founding of the NAACP, a trail drive to Kansas, and the relative merits of true love and fried taters...

  2. This is a true Western gem, Troy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  3. This sounds great--I look forward to reading it. And another fine cover, Livia!

  4. Just picked it up Troy and looking forward to reading it.

  5. Great cover! And it looks to be another wonderful story, Troy. Congratulations! Can't wait to read it--like I said, I don't think you've got one bad story out there!

  6. I reallly ike the opening in the gentleman's club and the interactions of the members, each hinting at their attitudes towards the Great War that is about to engulf the world. I am intrigued as to who the professor is and how Rioyal knows him. I am captivated by Livia's cover and I really, really want to know more about fried taters!

    I'm going to order it now.


  7. If there are any producers reading this, The Trail Brothers would make an excellent movie.

  8. Gotta have it! Just bought it.

  9. Intriguing opening, Troy. It takes a special talent to make a story come alive through mostly dialogue, and you did just that.