In the blink of an eye, it’s here—release day. The long journey from the first sentence, through the numerous revisions and rewrites, to first delivery to my editor, then acceptance, and on through production, doing as much marketing as is possible, usually all the while, writing the next book, is finally over. Release days are like Christmas to a writer. Everything is possible. Reviews can still happen. Readers can, and hopefully will, respond in one way or another. The possibility exists that this could be THE book. The breakout book. The one that gets a writer noticed, the one that changes, or saves, a career. The one that resuscitates a dream. Possibilities still exist.
I will not deny that this is all true for me, too. But a wise friend recently said to me, “Westerns are hard enough to get people to read…” It was a passing statement in a long discussion that writers are prone to have with each other, but a true statement nonetheless. I flinched because I knew he was right, but I said nothing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Oh, I don’t read westerns,” and how tempting it was, and always is, to jump into salesman mode, and try to overcome the objections of the potential reader. “It’s a mystery. It’s a crime novel set in 1875. It’s a historical.” All of the buzz words that would, and could, apply...that would, and could, be used to persuade a reader to buy the book. Westerns are usually all of those things…and more. But I hate the hard-sell, so I resist. Probably more than I should.
So there are times when the possibilities seem…well, slim, even on release day. Westerns are, after all, the smallest category genre in the publishing world. If you look at the numbers, how many romance books are bought, how many mysteries are bought, etc., most of the time Westerns aren’t even included in the discussion. It’s something a writer knows when he steps through the front door of the genre. There are hopeful signs, though, signs that the public still has a love affair with Westerns. Justified is popular. Django Unchained is on the horizon. The Hatfields and The McCoys was a ratings bonanza…and a few Western novels rise to the top, get some attention, still hit The New York Times Bestseller list, albeit rarely.
Luckily, I continue on, and consider myself fortunate to write, and publish, in the Western genre. The Coyote Tracker is the fifth book in the Josiah Wolfe series. There will be at least six. Some reviews have said that this one is “different” and it’s a “mystery-western hybrid,” and I don’t disagree. That’s true, but I didn’t do that with intent to cross genres, or to be able hard-sell the novel. I wrote this book like I wrote all of the others: I wrote it to tell Josiah’s story. And it seemed to me that it was time that he stayed home so he could be a father to his son, and spend more time with Pearl Fikes to find out if she really was the new love of his life. The previous four books had Josiah roaming all over Texas, fighting Comanche and Kiowa and Juan Cortina’s bandits and making enemies and friends—being the Texas Ranger he is advertised as. In this book, I wanted to see how Josiah navigated the streets of Austin, a growing, pulsing city that is his home, but foreign to him, too. So I needed to find a reason to keep him there. And that reason came to me pretty quick. That reason would be friendship and loyalty. It would be about believing in someone even when all of the evidence logically said not to. It would be about saving Scrap Elliot. Scrap, after all, had saved Josiah more than once. And from that grew the mystery, the crime, the pursuit of justice. The cross-genre inclusion was secondary, an afterthought, and it grew into something much more than I originally imagined.
I’m hopeful about this book because of the story. All of the labels and genre confines and whether or not non-Western readers will take chance on it, are out of my control. I have done the best I could. It is finished. The book is out in the arena, and I couldn’t ask for more than that…which means that in the end, it has as much a chance as any other book to breakout—but more importantly, it has a chance to entertain one single reader. That’s what I hope for more than anything else. That a reader is entertained by Josiah's story.
And… I still believe in all of the possibilities that a release day brings. How could I not?
The Coyote Tracker is available online and in bookstores everywhere.