Black’s Back … And he’s still quick on the draw

I close off the Gunslinger Series.

 

Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 43 books, most of which are in the mystery and thriller genres. He has also written in sci-fi, western, horror, and sports genres. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. Black was awarded the Cook County Medal of Merit in 2010. He is also the author of over 100 short stories and articles, and wrote two novels with television star Richard Belzer (Law & Order SVU). His Executioner novel, Fatal Prescription, won the Best Original Novel Scribe Award. His latest novels are the Trackdown series (Devil’s Dance, Devil’s Fancy, Devil’s Brigade, and Devil’s Advocate) and Legends of the West (under his own name), Dying Art and Cold Fury (under Don Pendleton), and the Gunslinger series (Killer’s Choice, Killer’s Brand, Killer’s Ghost, Killer’s Gamble, and Killer’s Requiem) under the name A.W. Hart.

Last January, Paul Bishop, the acquisitions editor at Wolfpack Publishing, contacted me and said they wanted me to finish off the Gunslinger series that I, and a few others, have been writing under the house name of A. W. Hart. I’d already written three other books in the series, Gunslinger: Killer’s Chance, Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand, and Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost. I had a great time writing each one of those. With my westerns, I try to make them as historically accurate as I can while still paying homage to the western mythology that has popularized the genre.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Remember, writing westerns today, unless the book is set in modern times, deals with a rather bleak era. I mean, think about it. How entertaining would it be to read something that has total historical accuracy regarding a harsh, cruel era before toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, deodorants, personal hygiene practices, etc.? Thus my cowboys break the historical mold and take baths when they can. And I also like to pay homage to the western mythology that has been popularized through the ages. The quick draw, for example, was pretty much a myth that originated in those movies and TV shows of a bygone era. However, my intention in writing the books is to entertain. I still get a thrill each time I watch James Arness walking on that dusty street to face down the bad guy in the opening credits of Gunsmoke. Sure it probably wasn’t anything like that in the real Old West, but like I said, that’s entertainment.

As I’ve said, it’s been a blast writing this series. I started with Gunslinger: Killer’s Chance, which has Connor, Abby, and Hicks rescuing a Chinese man named Lee, who’s tracking the whereabouts of his missing fiancée. The book touches on the way the Chinese immigrants were exploited while building the railroad system in the western United States. Naturally, Mr. Lee is something of a martial artist. (Anybody remember Kung Fu? Bruce Lee came up with the concept, but was considered “too Chinese” for the role by the television big wigs and was replaced with “round eye” actor David Carradine.) There’s also a professional gunman who has a business card with the chess symbol of a rook printed on it.

THE REGULATOR

WIRE RANDALL D. LANDECKER  SANTA FE

Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand has a powerful man who, along with his sons, runs roughshod over the entire territory adjacent to his large ranch called The Dominion. Added to that one are an ex-buffalo soldier who’s charged with murder, a group of mysterious masked riders, and a courtroom scene reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost is my version of a western monster story as an enormous, mysterious creature stalks a mining encampment.

So when the opportunity to finish off the series by tying up the ongoing story arc that had been running since the first book was offered, I jumped at the chance. I quickly penned Gunslinger: Killer’s Gamble, which has the trio traveling through a California town and becoming involved in a big poker tournament as well as a boxing match. The first American Heavyweight Champion, John L. Sullivan, makes an appearance, as well as an actual western poet named Joaquin Miller. There’s way more to it than that, including Abby deciding to leave Hicks and her brother to be with a beautiful female gambler. This one sets up the final confrontation between our heroes and the mysterious man who’s been their nemesis from the beginning.

In Gunslinger: Killer’s Requiem, all of the questions about who Connor and Abby really are and the secret that River Hicks has been concealing since the first book are answered in a slam-bang, traditional western-style showdown. Let’s see; besides the revelation of the major villain and all the plot revelations, there’s a bounty hunter with a sawed-off rifle called the Mule’s Leg, a maniacal fanatic known at The Dark Deacon who leads a band of army-trained mercenaries, a masterful gunman whose skills rival those of River Hicks himself, the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s best detective, and a host of other surprises. I even found a way for the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, to make an appearance in this one. Romeo, Juliet, and Hamlet are all on hand.

I hope you’ll make A. W. Hart’s day and check out these last two books in the series. Although I finish off the story arc, there’s a chance our trio of heroes could return to strap on the guns one more time if the demand is great enough. In any case, I guarantee, if you like westerns, you won’t be disappointed.

Contact Information: docatlas108@aol.com

 

Legends of the West: A Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves Western

 I had to include this image because Mike likes it, but the real reason, it is my favorite Michael A. Black novel. gdc

 

12 Comments

  1. John Schembra

    Love the Gunslinger series, Mike. You breathe life into your characters, and your settings. Very enjoyable reading!

    Reply
  2. Thonie Hevron

    This is a fun series! I missed one or two and have to get them. Thanks for this post, Mike and George!

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    I appreciate everyone stopping by to check this one out, and my special thanks to Big George for giving me the opportunity to be on his great blog once again. It’s always nice to hear from everyone, especially those who are far away. Stay strong, everybody, and take care.

    Reply
  4. Fleur Bradley

    Gotta check these out… Great to know more about this series. And that last photo really is the best.

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Meredith

    I love this series! Of course Mike is one of my favorite authors and a good friend. This was a great post. And yes, back in the day, they didn’t bathe often or even change their clothes. The women wore long skirts that dragged in the dirt and through whatever else was in the road. Not nearly as romantic as the times were made out to be in the movies. But believe me, though Mike writes authentic Westerns, they are also full of adventure and surprises, and wonderful characters.

    Reply
  6. John Bluck

    Mike, I read several of your Gunslinger books as well as the Trackdown series, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I like the way your characters come to life on the page. I also enjoyed your action-packed books because scenes from them pop into my mind’s eye just like an excellent radio drama can make you “see” everything that happens just as if you’re watching a high-budget Hollywood movie.

    Reply
  7. Vicki Batman

    So nice to learn more about you. My hubby is from Dodge City and the truth about back then is rather boring.

    Reply
  8. Scott Decker

    Very interesting Mike. I’m going to order my copy of “Gunslinger: Killer’s Chance.” I watch reruns of “Rawhide” starring Clint Eastwood in his breakout role as Ramrod Rowdy Yates. Thanks for the great interview.

    Reply
  9. Donnell Ann Bell

    I learn something every time I read either one of Michael A. Black’s novels or read one of his blogs. I have been meaning to buy Gunslinger, shame on me! But in truth, I’ve just finished up D.V. Berkom’s Retribution and Gunslingler (her protagonist is a woman), so I imagine along with Quick Draw, that rarely happened as well. I don’t think I will ever be able to watch Matt Dillon and not think of your comment 😉 Thanks for the education, Mike. I’m big into Westerns right now! Can’t wait to read yours. George, thank you!!!

    Reply
  10. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    How can you not like Mike’s Killer series. It’s action backed has great characters both good and bad and as he said includes some historical aspects. I’m a slow reader, but with Mike’s book I have tendency to read through them faster than usual because their exciting, suspenseful and interesting. Plus I love westerns. Thanks Mike for taking on these adventures.

    Reply
  11. Mar Preston

    You are a marvel, Mike. You keep writing good books. How? You must have a clone in your closet named Mike Black.

    Reply
  12. Madeline Gornell

    You are amazing, Mike, and I keep you in the front of my mind as a guiding light to write, write, write. Finished Killer Requiem last night, and loved it! Which you should take as high kudos because I don’t read westerns, except for yours. Smile. Hope to get an Amazon review up today (or tomorrow) There are so many things you do so well in your writing–like making your characters real people I can identify with…and more.

    And prolific–how you do it amazes me. Anyway, enjoyed your post!

    Reply

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Our Guest Today is Michael A. Black

Author names: Michael A. Black, aka Don Pendleton, aka A.W. Hart

I met Mike through the Public Safety Writers Association. He is always willing and ready to help others, whether it be writing or life in general. Mike has become a friend and mentor. Mike is holding a copy of one my favorite Michael A. Black novels: Legends of the West – A Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves Western.

Genre/genres you write in: It’s always been my goal to be published in as many different genres as I could. So far, I’ve been published in mystery, thriller, western, sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, mainstream, new pulp, sports, historical, and horror. I’m still working on a romance story.

My latest ones are westerns under the name A. W. Hart, who’s an Amazon Bestseller. My titles in the series are Gunslinger: Killer’s Choice, Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand, and Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost. I try to blend historical accuracy with the traditional American western. Actually, I have some legitimacy in this genre. Author Zane Grey was a distant relative of mine.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? I’ve always had an interest in writing. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade and read it in front of the class. The teacher scrawled D—Poor work across the front of it in red pen and told me never to do it again. Naturally, I didn’t listen to her. I look back on the experience with fondness. I didn’t know it at the time, but it sort of foreshadowed my entire writing career to come: I got my first assignment, my first deadline, and my first rejection all in the space of about three days.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? I struggled for at least ten years trying to get published. In those days, they’d send you a rejection slip with your returned story. I had enough of them to paper the wall in every room in my house. One day I got another story back in one of my self-addressed-stamped-envelopes and noticed the one editor had scrawled something along the seal: Close, but no cigar. Too long. Try again. I was ecstatic. I’d finally gotten some actual feedback for an editor. I promptly rewrote the story and submitted it to another magazine, and it turned out to be my first published story.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? All of my stuff has been traditionally published. However, I started out in small press magazines. The market was a bit different back then. They didn’t pay a lot, sometimes only with contributor’s copies, but it gave me a place to learn. As Elmore Leonard once said about the old pulps: “They gave you a place to be bad.” I’ve been published by small press, big press, and a lot of them in between. To me, it makes little difference. I’m just as proud as of my stories that have appeared in those small press mags as I am the big houses. Although the money is nice, I always try to be professional and give my writing the best effort each time out, regardless of the size of the publisher.

Where do you write? I like to write at the kitchen table on the laptop. Once I’m into my zone, I don’t have to worry about anybody bothering me except one of my cats. I’m very leery about writing outside of my home because of my concern about being vulnerable. Some people say they like to write at a restaurant or coffee shop. For me, this would be virtually impossible due to me constantly watching my surroundings.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? I’ve tried listening to music, and it usually distracts me more then it helps. Normally, I don’t listen to any music and try to remain free of distractions.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? Being a military vet who served overseas and having been a police officer for thirty some years after that, I’ve had a ton of experiences to draw upon. I’m hesitant to use very many of them because so many involved victims of crimes. I’d never want a victim or a victim’s family to read something I’d written and think that I was capitalizing on their suffering, so I always mask these experiences heavily. Mostly it’s about what the characters experience, and I use the emotions and feelings that I experienced in my writing. I know what it feels like to experience danger, injury, be stabbed, have a bullet whiz by my head, etc. And I know what it feels like to be scared, and I know what it feels like to be lucky. As Winston Churchill once said, “The most exhilarating feeling in the world is to be shot at without result.”

Describe your process for naming your characters? Names are a double-edged sword for me. I tend to repeat them often. The name Jim turns up in my writing a lot for some unknown reason. I keep a character log listing each name I used when I’m writing a book. It’s one way of keeping them straight.

Real settings or fictional towns? I use both and often use fictional settings within real cities. I try to keep things realistic if it’s set in an actual location. I think a bit of artistic license and discretion is a good idea in regards to setting. It’s never good practice to portray a real place in your book in a negative way.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? I’ve had a lot of characters with quirks, so this is a hard one to answer. Writing the Executioner series (as Don Pendleton), I have to come up with James Bond-type villains who are larger than life. I usually try to put a dose of kink into some of the villains, but it’s also important to give the bad guys one of two good aspects, so they don’t come off as cardboard. An agent once advised me to give one of my villains a severe dental problem or a pet dog to which he was fiercely loyal. So I did the next best thing and gave him a phobia about tooth decay and had him brushing his dog’s teeth religiously. Since no good deed goes unpunished, I had the dog subsequently urinate on the guy’s rug.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? This is a tough one. I’d have to pick one of the books that I was forced to read in school, perhaps The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick … maybe one of Faulkner’s such as Light in August. I’d choose any one of the above, so I could cut all of the excess out of them and make sure they had satisfying endings.

Everyone, at some point, wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? I haven’t thought about it much. There are no do-overs, only regrets. But that’s why life is bittersweet.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? I don’t suffer fools gladly.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Food, water, and a quick way to get back to civilization.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? I’ve had quite a few, but I’d have to say pulling KP in the army was one. Well, maybe latrine duty … But these gave me the incentive to apply myself to become a squad leader, so I didn’t have to pull those anymore. When I was 19, I had to drive a truck around the South Side of Chicago delivering tires to gas stations. That was pretty bad.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Wow, this is a tough one. There have been so many. I suppose the best one is Deliverance, by James Dickey. He was a nationally recognized poet in the 1960s. He spent ten years writing a first-person thriller about four city dwellers who go on a canoe trip into the mountains of Georgia and have a horrific experience that changes them forever. It has the best first line of any book I’ve ever read:

It unrolled slowly, forced to show its colors, curling, and snapping back whenever one of us turned loose.

Man, that guy could write. When I finished the novel, I went back and reread that first line and realized he had summed up the entire book with that one sentence.

What’s on the horizon for you? That remains to be seen. Hopefully, more books and short stories to be written. I’m currently working on a new series for Wolfpack publishers about modern day bounty hunters. We’re calling it the Trackdown series. The first one is due on in October, and it’s called Trackdown: Devil’s Dance.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? My books are meant to be entertaining. I always try to write the kind of book I’d like to read, and this is essential because, as any writer knows, you have to read your own book several times before you turn it in.

Contact Information, Website, and/or blog links: Right now, my website is out of commission. I have an Amazon Author’s Page as well as author pages on Crossroad Press and Wolfpack Press. Anybody wanting to chat, my email is DocAtlas108@aol.com.

13 Comments

  1. John Schembra

    Great interview. Mike is a friend and fellow member of the Public Safety Writers Assoc., and a talented, prolific, and award winning author. His thrillers are always fast-paced and hard to put down. I have read some, and all are five star worthy books. The western I read was exciting, and realistic. From the action to the dialogue, Mike has nailed it. The reader will feel he is right there in the midst of the action. If you like thrilling books, check out Mikes website. You will be glad you did.

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Very enjoyable interview of a most prolific and talented author. Mike is one of the writing “shining lights” leading the way. I’ve read many (not all yet!) of Mike’s books and enjoyed immensely. I, too, can’t imagine writing anyplace except my little closet cubby-hole at home.

    Good questions, George!

    Reply
    • Michael A. Black

      Thanks, Maddie, I’m glad you stopped by. Take care.

      Reply
  3. John Eldridge

    Great interview George. I really enjoyed it. Mike Black has been a real source of encouragement for my writing and I’m grateful for the advice he has given me. I can picture him sitting with his laptop at the kitchen table, writing his books while his cats try to get his attention.

    Reply
    • Michael A. Black

      Thanks, John. One of the best things about the PSWA is that you get to meet a lot of great people. John is from Canada and gave me a lot of help with my last Executioner novel, Cold Fury, which is set in Alaska and John’s home town of Vancouver. I gave him a part in the novel as what else— a cop. 😉

      Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Great interview, George and Mike! I even learned new things about you! Looking forward to the October release of your new series!

    Reply
    • Michael A. Black

      Thanks, Thonie. I appreciat you stopping by.

      Reply
  5. Joseph HAGGERTY

    As was said, Mike is always helpful to other writers. I submitted a story to Mike in one of our workshops and he offered me some good advice. To write the story in one of the main character’s voice. I had to change a lot in the story, but when I submitted it to a contest it won an award. He keeps encouraging me. I’ve read several of his books and can understand why he is such a successful and sought after writer.

    Reply
    • Michael A. Black

      Hey, Joe, I remember that story. I wasn’t surprised when it won the award. Looking forward to the next one.

      Reply
  6. Marilyn Meredith

    I know Mike too, and I’m a fan of his writing–he is great at action and plot and making me as the reader keep turning pages to see what happens next.

    Reply
    • Michael A. Black

      Thanks, Marilyn. You’re the grand master writer of the PSWA so your comments mean a lot to me. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

      Reply
  7. Danny Smith

    Terrific interview of a great man and author. Thanks for this, George.

    Reply
    • Michael A. Black

      Thanks, Danny. I appreciate your comment. As far as greatness, it’s often been said that I am a legend in my own mind. 😉

      Reply

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