Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Perfect Endings

For the last couple of days I’ve seen a lot of grumbling about the season finale of How I Met Your Mother.  First off, I have to admit that I never watched the show.  Sitcoms have never been high on my must-watch TV list.  So, this one slipped past me, and obviously, I’m glad it did.  Really, who wants to invest their time in nine seasons and walk away disappointed? 

Here’s what I think:  Endings are hard.  Perfect endings are a minor miracle, cast down from writing gods at the exact moment when a writer (or room full of TV writers) need the idea the most.   

If you don’t think so, try it yourself.  It might seem easy.  Write a beginning, a middle, an end, and Presto! you have a perfect story.  Sorry folks, it doesn’t work that way.  The truth is most writers don’t know the end of the story when they start writing it.  They might have a vague idea, but things change once a writer is inside a story.  We’re making it up as we go along.

And I suppose that’s the rub with How I Met Your Mother.  The producers, writers, whoever, pitched a show that implies a perfect ending, and at the end of the run, they were exposed, in some viewers' opinions, as frauds.  They were making it up as they went along just like the rest of us.  The viewer was swindled out of their time, out of that perfect emotional climax that they had been expecting for nine years.  They wasted their time. 

Maybe, maybe not.  Sure, that time could have been used for other things (like learning how to write a TV series on their own, how to speak a foreign language, how to do the watusi, what ever).  Or the viewer could accept that they were entertained for nine years.  They laughed and cried along the way.  The destination sucked, but the journey was fun.  What more could you expect from a TV show?  There is no warranty.  It’s the chance viewers and readers take with all storytellers in all mediums.  

Perfect endings are rare, and because How I Met Your Mother failed in some viewers’ opinions, well, maybe they’ll know a good one when they see it next time—and maybe they’ll be able to appreciate that perfect ending a little more. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Devil's Bones -- two years out

So, The Devil's Bones, my modern-day mystery set in Indiana has been on the shelves for two years.  This book took me a long time to get published, and I'm really proud of it.  To date, it's my only mystery that I've published, but that will change soon.  I've signed a contract with Seventh Street Books to publish a new mystery next year.  It will be a completely different story and setting.  I hope to continue to write Westerns as well.  But back to Bones.  It has stayed alive thanks to Kindle and Five Star, my publisher for this book.  Bones continues to find new readers every month, and that is extremely encouraging. You can click here for the Kindle version.  The book is also available in hardcover.

Here are few reviews:

June 18, 2012 -- Review by Matthew P. Mayo
Readers familiar with Larry D. Sweazy's (much deserved) award-winning Western novels and short stories will find THE DEVIL'S BONES, his new mystery, to be a gripping read sure to top a number of this year's "Best of" lists. THE DEVIL'S BONES is packed with Sweazy's masterful storyteller's voice, his thoughtful pacing and description, and the complex emotional power his readers have come to know and expect from his writing. And Sweazy isn't afraid to tackle themes that make lesser writers wince. At times reminiscent of such masters of crime writing as Loren D. Estleman, Elmore Leonard, and Joe R. Lansdale, but in wholly his own voice, Larry D. Sweazy is carving a bold spot for himself in the mystery world. Here's hoping the tight, no punches pulled, no emotions spared writing in THE DEVIL'S BONES marks the first of many such works from this emerging master. 
April 08, 2012 -- Review by Ken Pelham
The Devil's Bones, by Larry D. Sweazy, Five Star Publishing, 2012. Mystery. When the skeleton of a child turns up in a dried-up pond on the outskirts of a small Indiana town, policeman Jordan McManus’s life spins suddenly out of control, as sordid events of the past bubble to the surface. The town’s dark side—its treatment of Mexican farm workers, and its hidden meth labs—fuels the narrative with moral anger and a clear-eyed view of depravity. If John Steinbeck had collaborated with John D. MacDonald, this is the novel they might have written. Alternating scenes between present and past, Sweazy deftly weaves a story that gets to the heart of good and evil, and keeps you guessing to the end as to the secrets and motivations of those on either side of that thin line. Well-written and tightly plotted, The Devil’s Bones delivers the goods like a .38 slug to the gut.
March 19, 2012 -- Review by Bruce Grossman for

Taking a respite from the Western genre, author Larry D. Sweazy stretches his talents in THE DEVIL'S BONES, a modern thriller. It has only slight touches of a modern Western, in the sense that it takes place in a Midwestern small town where dark secrets have been hidden for years. And they are about to rear their ugly head, due to a summer drought. It all starts when local deputy Jordan McManus is called upon by his boss to meet him at a pond where he's made a grisly discovery: the skeleton of a small child. The bones could belong to the one case the marshal has never shaken: the disappearance of a young Mexican boy named Tito Cordova. In his possession, the marshal has a letter pointing him to the location, as well as a small medal the boy used to own. Things turn ugly quickly when shots are fired at both men. Could this have been a set-up all along, to finally close the case? When the marshal takes a bullet and bleeds all over Jordan, all eyes look squarely at the deputy as the culprit, leaving it up to him to unravel the truth. Sweazy has created a small town filled with enough problems and secrets to make Elmore Leonard proud. But all the while, he tells the story in his own pace and style, especially when we discover the bones don’t belong to Tito. As we see through flashbacks, the child was dropped off at a orphanage in Mexico, but the “who” and “why” remain a mystery. We follow Tito’s growth from young boy to man while concurrently getting glimpses into Jordan’s own upbringing. It’s during these moments we find out how other characters are tied closely to both storylines, especially as we see Jordan dealing with family issues he has been avoiding most of his life: a brother who became crippled in a childhood accident, the loss of his mother, and the return of his father after years of abandonment. Jordan is no angel. He understands that, but he sure isn’t going to let anyone make the same mistakes. Sweazy peppers THE DEVIL’S BONES with characters and situations that easily could take place in the backwoods of America. The novel illustrates without a doubt that when Sweazy wants to, he can go toe-to-toe with any modern thriller writer.

Monday, January 27, 2014

VENGEANCE AT SUNDOWN -- available for pre-order

I have a new Western series from Berkley (Penguin Random House) starting in August (2014), featuring ex-Confederate spy, Lucas Fume.

Here's the cover and summary:

  Lucas Fume has had plenty of fights in his life: spying for the Confederate Army, standing up to the railroad company when they tried to take his land, then getting framed for the murder of his business partner—only to lose his land as well as the love of his life. But Lucas isn’t finished fighting yet…

With help from Ezekiel ‘Zeke’ Henry, a fellow inmate and former slave, Lucas manages to escape prison. Riding with Zeke to St. Louis, he soon discovers that his former partner is still alive, using a different name, and doing big business with the railroads—and he has Lucas’s lost love with him. On the run from the law and up against a rich and influential enemy, Lucas is about to take on the most dangerous fight of his life.
You can pre-order the book here

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Winter View

It’s been a long time since winter arrived and stayed this long.  Those of us who old enough to remember the Blizzard of ’78 know that winter has been worse.  This winter may be memorable, too, a deep mark on the calendar as a matter of pride, a matter of survival. 

It is the Arctic temperatures that worry me now.  But this is not the first time that I have felt the harsh bite of a persistent winter wind, feeling instantly that it can, and will, do you harm.  I spent a couple of years in North Dakota as a young man, a boy really.  I joined the Air Force when I was seventeen.  I was wholly unprepared.

The Cold War was still fully engaged, and I was an SP (Security Police), at the missile wing in Minot. I have been closer to a nuclear missile than I care to think about now.  I was assigned to the MFT (Mobile Fire Team), and I flew in a helicopter as air support when a warhead was being moved from the silo to the base, or vise-versa.  When there was no convoy, duty was spent in the field, based out of one of the LCFs (launch control facilities), and we would respond to alarms set off on one of the missile sites.  Usually it was a coyote or bird.

I saw no battle, never fired my weapon at the enemy, and I was never tested in a way so many soldiers have been since, or before. It was a reasonably quiet time in history.   

There was a time, deep into January, that I remembered recently, staring out the window as the wind-chill dropped to minus forty-five, and the wind kicked up a snow squall so dense, so white, that I couldn’t see the back fence. 

It was my first winter in North Dakota, and thankfully, we had been provided Arctic gear.  Bunny boots, parkas, long johns, everything to keep us warm.  I got called to special duty to go up in the chopper on a really, really cold day.  Minus fifty wind chills plus.  We had to go up.  An engine had fallen off of a B-52 bomber and landed in Canada.  We needed to find it--fast (no, they weren't exactly sure were it had landed).  The helicopters were combat choppers, probably a variant of a Bell UH-1, I can’t recall for sure.  The pilot and co-pilot were Vietnam vets, and I had flown with them before.  I have never been so cold in my life.  The foot heaters in the back of that chopper could not even begin to keep us warm.  But we had our gear on, and we were driven by duty. No complaining allowed.  Luckily, about an hour in, we found the engine in the middle of an open field, called it in, and headed back to base. It was the absolute coldest experience of my life.  I saw wind-chills of minus seventy-five that year, but I came away with all of my fingers and toes.    

It was a bone-chilling cold that I will never forget.  I’m lucky now.  I don’t have to go out unless I need to.  I can stay warm.  But I think of those folks who are out in the weather because they have to be, and I sure hope they have some good socks on, because trust me, they’re going to need to them.  Bundle up, layer your clothes, don’t fool with this weather.  It’s dangerous out there.  Be safe, and use common sense.

Oh, one other thing, this too shall come to pass.  The days are getting longer, and before long, this cold will just be a memory.  A memory that will make you shiver.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Brodi at 12

Brodi is twelve today.  It’s been a rough year for the old boy, but for now he seems to be on an even plane, still able to do most everything that he likes to (weather permitting) without much pain or difficulty.  Can’t ask for more than that.  Very simply, he’s the coolest, best dog I’ve ever known.  Second best is sitting beside him.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Coyote wins Elmer Kelton Book Award

The Coyote Tracker has won the 2013 Elmer Kelton Book Award , presented by the Academy of Western Artists (AWA).  The winning novel, The Coyote Tracker, is the fifth book in the Josiah Wolfe series (Berkley).  The Josiah Wolfe series has garnered several previous awards including the 2013 WWA Spur Award, back-to-back wins of the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western fiction (2011 & 2012), and the Best Book of Indiana award in 2011.

The Academy of Western Artists (AWA) was founded in 1996 to promote the contemporary western art movement.  Awards are presented to western artists each year in categories such as bitmaking, saddlemakers, and spurmakers.  This is the first year the AWA has presented the Elmer Kelton Book Award to honor western fiction and non-fiction authors. Named after the late western writer, Elmer Kelton (1926-2009), winner of seven Spur awards and voted Best Western Writer of All Time, the AWA award recognizes writers who reflect Kelton’s high quality of writing in both categories.  The New York Times said of Kelton, "One of the best of a new breed of Western writers who have driven the genre into new territory.”  The Elmer Kelton Book Award will be presented annually at the Will Rogers Award ceremony in Irving, Texas. 


In The Coyote Tracker, fictional Texas Ranger, Josiah Wolfe must save his friend, and fellow Ranger, Scrap Elliot from the hangman’s noose for a crime that he did not commit.  Set in 1875 Austin, Texas, Wolfe must navigate a bustling city full of deception and intrigue, in search of answers that plenty of people don’t want answered.  Western and mystery elements contribute to the novel’s broad appeal. The Josiah Wolfe series concluded with the publication of The Gila Wars in May, 2013. A new Western series is set for release August, 2014, and a new mystery will arrive on bookshelves in 2015.