Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Story Behind the Story: Police Escort

By Richard Prosch

Something a little different this month.

Rarely do my stories find such a strong basis in a historic event, and even more rare that I switch genres before calling it finished.

But that's what happened with "Police Escort," a western story that started out as a noirish crime story based on a newspaper clipping.

Back in the '90s, Gina's family cleaned out an old house and found several copies of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Unlike a lot of the dobber-filled detritus of the place, the papers were clean and well preserved. I kept them and, every now and then, flip through the pages--always surprised by what I find.

A few years back, I came across this headline from August 8, 1949: Father Races Mysteriously Ill Baby Here in 454-Mile Drive.

The idea of a man and his wife racing across Missouri to save a sick baby--with the aid of law enforcement--seemed incredible.

And oddly suspicious.

Within a day or two, I wrote this story.

I liked it well enough, but the more I thought about it, the more ludicrous Billy's predicament seemed.  I wanted to have more fun with him and what better way than to dump him back into the 19th century Nebraska Sandhills.

I often think that if a story is solid, it can be set in just about any time or place and work out.

So the setting changed and the western version became the final, published version, first in an ebook collection, then in the paperback omnibus Tough Job at Driftwood.

The setup is the same, but the characters turned out to be quite different, as did the ending.  
Please take a gander and let me know what you think.

Here's the crime story version of Police Escort, seen for the first time ever.

After growing up on a Nebraska farm, Richard Prosch worked as a professional writer, artist, and teacher in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri. His western crime fiction captures the fleeting history and lonely frontier stories of his youth where characters aren’t always what they seem, and the windburned landscapes are filled with swift, deadly danger. In 2016, Richard roped the Spur Award for short fiction given by Western Writers of America. Read more at www.RichardProsch.com


  1. Richard,
    You walk in the footsteps of genius.
    Goethe wrote an extraordinary poem, "Erlkönig", (King of the Elves) that takes the same theme (except goes into the supernatural.)
    His first two lines convinced me German poetry was beautiful and worth studying:
    Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
    Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;

    It is exactly your story:
    Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
    It is the father with his child.

    Congratulations. And they says us writers of Westerns lack kulchur.

  2. Thanks, Ed! I've got some Goethe on the shelf here and need to look that one up. Wonderful!!!