Monday, January 4, 2016

A Few Things About Crows

My eleventh novel, A Thousand Falling Crows, publishes on Tuesday, January 5th.   Here are a few things about that novel that you might find interesting.

The novel started out as a short story, “Shadow of the Crow,” published in the anthology, Beat to Pulp:Round Two, edited by David Cranmer and Matthew P. Mayo.  There are a lot of major differences between the story and the novel, but Sonny Burton, the Texas Ranger who encounters Bonnie and Clyde coming out of a movie theater, is the heart of both.  It was Sonny’s character that drove me forward to find the novel that was buried inside the original story.  A few of my novels have evolved from short stories.  I'll talk about that process on this blog some time in the future.   

I started writing this novel after I had finished the first Lucas Fume novel, Vengeance at Sundown.  I was still under contract with Berkley for one more novel, but this was just after the merger between Penguin and Random House and they had already put a hold on buying any more Western paperbacks.  This was the line where I got my professional start as a novelist. It looked like the end of the road there was coming, that the handwriting was on the wall, and I had a burning desire to write about Sonny Burton, so I decided to write this novel in between the Fume books in case my agent and I were right about the future.  I’m glad I took that risk and doubled up my work in that period of time.  After finishing Crows, I went on to write and finish the last Lucas Fume book.  Halfway through it, my longtime editor was fired and Berkley did put an end to publishing paperback Westerns… Escape to Hangtown was one of the last books to come out of that line. I had written eight books with Berkley and my professional world was coming to an end just like Sonny's.  Crows offered me a new beginning, but I had no contract for it at the time.

This is the first novel I have written where a dog, Blue, has been a central character. If you follow this blog at all, you know I love dogs.  This is the time it made sense to introduce a dog into the story.  Josiah Wolfe and Lucas Fume were wanderers.  Sonny Burton has roots and an empty house.  He needed a dog.

Probably the most important and personal aspect of this novel is the fact that Sonny Burton is an amputee, lost his right arm in the (fictional) shootout with Bonnie and Clyde.  When I was a teenager, my grandmother lost her leg due to the late onset of adult diabetes.  This was in the 1970s and medicine and the understanding of diabetes was in a much different state then than it is now.  My grandmother was a physically diminutive woman, less than five feet tall and she probably weighed ninety pounds soaking wet if she was lucky.  But she had a big spirit and one of the best laughs I have ever heard in my life.  I was lucky to spend a lot of time with my grandmother.   She is one of the major influences in my life.  I watched her, late in life, change from an outgoing optimistic woman, to a withdrawn and depressed human being, who only showed glimpses of the grandmother I knew before she had lost her leg.  She never could conquer the heavy prosthetic that was available to her. Her struggle was difficult to watch and since I was a teenager, I’m not sure that I understood everything that I was seeing.  This novel may be an attempt to make sense of that time in my life.  I could never begin to imagine the emotions that one must feel in that situation, losing part of your body so late in life, but I tried my best with Sonny’s journey to honor my grandmother the best I could.    

I have spent the last ten years visiting with a local bird rehabber and a fair amount of time around American crows.  Corvids (blue jays, crows, etc.) have long fascinated me.  They have a talent for language and are extremely social birds.  Somewhere along the line, I decided they would make a great Greek chorus and I'm glad I did.  It was a narrative that risk scared me artistically, but that same burning desire I had to write about Sonny Burton convinced me to include the crow's point of view.  Fear is a necessary ingredient in any creative endeavor as far as I'm concerned.

Every novel is a challenge to write, but this was one was more so than any other up that point.  It may be my most personal book yet.  I hope you like it. 

The Library Journal gave A Thousand Falling Crows a starred review and made it their Mystery Pick of the Month for January, 2016.  They said, “Sweazy (See Also Murder) vividly evokes the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in this gritty historical. Sonny is an engaging, determined hero drawing on his Texas Ranger experience to find some measure of justice. Sure to attract fans of Westerns and readers who favor well-plotted mysteries with plenty of atmosphere.”

Some of my fellow authors who have already read the book, had this to say:

“Sweazy has crafted a powerful, gripping novel of the American West. Parallel tales of murder and flight propel the reader across the harsh Texas plains, story lines exploding together at the end in a hail of dust, blood, and bullets. Gritty and deeply atmospheric, Sweazy has created one of the most fascinating leading characters in crime fiction. With the one-armed Sonny Burton at its helm, A Thousand Falling Crows crackles with menace, drama, and atmosphere.”

Mark Pryor, author of Hollow Man

“With a panoramic sweep of vision and language that borders on poetry, Sweazy brings to life a historic period in the Texas Panhandle, during the Depression and the days of the last outlaws—when America was trembling on the edge of the modern world.”

Terry Shames, Macavity Award–winning author of A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge

“Larry D. Sweazy’s A Thousand Falling Crows is a richly atmospheric and powerfully intense historical thriller that brings to life the ethnic complexity and free-range lawlessness of Depression-era Texas. It reads like Bad Day at Black Rock crossed with Bonnie and Clyde. Larry D. Sweazy is always good, but this is his best book yet.”

David Bell, author of Somebody I Used to Know

I’ll be presenting at a few book signings in early January.   The launch will be held at the Noblesville Barnes and Noble and I will be accompanied by Edgar Allan Crow, and American crow, and his handler, veteran bird rehabber, Liz Hatton:  January 5th: Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 17090 Mercantile Blvd., Noblesville, 5-8 p.m. If you can’t make that signing, I’ll be signing the following Saturday, January 9th from 1-4 PM at: Barnes and Noble Booksellers, The Shops at RiverCrossing, 8675 River Crossing Blvd, Indianapolis.

1 comment:

Louella Turner said...

Great blog! I'm going to order a copy today. Then when I see you in Wyoming...expect me to chase you around until you sign it...with something like 1,500 words or so praising my good taste in literature. Hug Rose for me. I already hugged Squeak for you...whether you wanted me to or not...