DOUBLE-DEALING AT DIRTVILLE
By CLAY MORE (Keith Souter)
Double-Dealing at Dirtville was originally published by Robert Hale as a Black Horse Western in 2005 and is soon to be re-published as an eBook by Western Fictioneers
I wanted to write a tale about duplicity, so double-dealing just jumped out at me. And shortly afterwards, so too did the town of Dirtville. The title just snapped together and I was off.
You may wonder why there is a picture of me sitting wearing a pith helmet, smoking a pipe? Well, actually, as a doctor, I of course do not smoke! They are just props that I use to get myself into the mood. As writers we are allowed such steaks of eccentricity in our personalities, aren't we? At any rate, it helps me. I have a stack of hats, a veritable column to the side of me in this photograph (out of shot), one of which I will don when I come across an interesting character. Of course, pith helmets are more in keeping with the British Raj, so this is one that I may wear when I am writing about Doc Logan Munro in the Wolf Creek series. He smokes a pipe, too, although he favours a meerschaum.
But it was another hat, a bowler hat or derby, that I was wearing when I started writing Double-Dealing at Dirtville. All will become clear if you chance to read the book.
What is it about?
Abe Gibson reckoned Dirtville to be as good a place as any in which to live a peaceable life. He had good friends, his saloon was doing well and the town had law. Then, within the space of a few days, everything changed. It all started when Zach Holmes, the town telegrapher, had to relay a couple of strange messages to the sheriff. Shortly afterwards the stranger Ethan Grant was gunned down at one of Abe's card tables. Then a beautiful woman shot herself in the head beside Grant's grave. As all hell broke loose, Abe figured that there had to be one person behind it all. But could he solve the mystery?
Walt Burnett was madder than a coyote that had been done out of his dinner by a thieving buzzard. His weather-beaten face was redder than usual as he urged his big black up the saguaro and cardon cactus lined trail from the Rocking WB spread to the Pintos foothills.
When he finally crested the rise and looked down into the mine camp he scowled. Work had stopped and the two men were sitting by a fire sipping coffee from battered old tin cups and smoking. Water trickling down through the series of rocker cradles was the only evidence of mining activity. Even the mule tied up to the arrastra rock crushing machine was standing still, munching greedily on feed in its nose-bag, while the two men laughed and joked.
Burnett rode into the camp and immediately started berating the younger of the two men. He reached into his vest and held out a paper in a fist that trembled with rage. The younger man stood and watched contemptuously as the rancher let out a tirade of invective, as the third man hung his head when the rancher suddenly turned his ire on him. Then the younger man began to argue back. From a pocket he held out a bag, opened it and poured glittering dust into the palm of his hand.
Burnett eyed him for moments, then his anger peaked and he stepped forward and dashed the bag from his hand. Then his hand shot out, lashing the other hard across the face. And with a final curse he turned and made for his horse.
He had the reins in his left hand and his right on the pommel of the saddle, ready to put foot in stirrup when the knife thudded into his back, penetrating his heart and propelling him forward against the black’s side. He fell dying as the horse panicked and dashed forward.
The young man turned as the third man started to yell at him. Then the gun at his side cleared leather and two bullets hammered into the man’s chest, throwing him back to land on the fire.
As he pulled the knife from Walt Burnett’s dead body he grinned, unaware of the pair of eyes that had watched in horror from the top of the rise.
Bio: KEITH SOUTER is a part time doctor, medical journalist and novelist. He is married with three grown-up children and lives within arrow-shot of the ruins of Sandal Castle, the scene of two of his historical crime novels. He writes books about medicine and health and anything else his agent conjures up a deal for. He writes fiction in four genres - westerns as Clay More, crime as Keith Moray, historicals and YA fiction as Keith Souter. He also enjoys short fiction, for which he has won prizes, including a 2006 Fish award.
Blog: THE WEST UIST CHRONICLE
He also has a story entitled THE OATH, about Doc Logan Munro in the latest Wolf Creek anthology: HELL ON THE PRAIRIE, published by Western Fictioneers.