Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Some Halloween Viewing for CK Readers

I, for one, was surprised when Cowboys and Aliens hit the big screen back in 2011.  The thought of combining my beloved cowboys with a bunch of aliens did not sit well with me.  Even more surprising was discovering that the combination of cowboys and the various permutations of the paranormal has been going on in cinema since at least 1935. A little investigation, spawned by no less than True West magazine, has brought up this short list of films to delight and (in some cases at least) spook you through the Halloween season.  All films are currently available through either Netflix or Amazon Video:

Still from Riders of the Whistling Skull

1)     The Return of Dracula, 1958—calling this a western might be stretching it a wee bit but most of the action does take place in California.  After killing a fellow train passenger in Transylvania (where else?), the blood-sucking Count takes the man’s identity, heads to CA, visits the dead man’s family, and begins a killing spree. 
2)     Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, 1966, starring John Carradine.  With a title like that, this hardly needs an explanation.  As the poster says, ‘The West’s Deadliest Gunfighter! The World’s Most Diabolical Killer!’ The bloody Count travels west by stagecoach and has toothmarked his next victim. Presumably, Billy hasn’t been shot as yet by Pat Garrett and has some indefinable relationship with one Betty Bentley, whose blood the Count is out to get. Drac pretends to be Betty’s uncle, Underhill.  You get the idea . . . .
3)     The Phantom Empire, 1935, starring Gene Autry, plus there
was a remake in 1986. This was a series of twelve episodes in which the singing cowboy discovered the lost civilization of Mu beneath his Radio Ranch. He attempts to stop war between the Muranians led by a subterranean queen and, well, his listeners—and pals.
4)     Riders in the Sky, 1949, another Gene Autry vehicle. Anyone who knows the country/western song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ will immediately get the idea of the main event here. Detective Autry takes one last case to help a lovely lady rancher clear her father’s name when he’s been wrongly accused of murder. Gene goes looking for the three witnesses who can clear the innocent man, and ends up singing the popular song.
5)     The Valley of Gwangi, 1969, starring the rather dishy James Franciscus. They don’t come much weirder than this one, folks.  Members of a Wild West show head to Mexico’s Forbidden Valley after discovering a 50,000,000 year old midget horse. There they discover dinosaurs still exist and aim to take home an Allosaurus, Gwangi, to lighten up their act.  Great scene of the cowboys lassoing the dinosaur.
6)     Riders of the Whistling Skull, 1937, starring The Three
Mesquiteers with an early appearance by renowned stuntman Yakima Canutt. The Three Mesquiteers starred in a series of fifty-one B westerns between 1936 and 1943, including eight with John Wayne, believe it or not. In this episode, the three accompany an archaeological expedition along with a woman on the team whose father has been lost in the Indian village of Lukachukai. As several deaths occur and a member of the team appears in an adorable pajama onesie (worth the one hour viewing alone), it turns out the tribe is under the control of a power-mad white man.  Most of the actors seem to have graduated from the Wooden School of Dramatic Art, the music is strictly left over from silent films and, by my reckoning, it contains the worst Native American dancers in the history of cinema.  Somewhat hard to swallow is the 1930’s view of Indians but, if you can ignore that, for the fifty-two minutes of watching, it might be worth the laughs.
7)     The Hanged Man, 1974, starring great jobbing actor Steve Forrest, and meant as a pilot episode for a series that never took off.  With several well-known faces in this, it’s surprising it didn’t make the grade.  It has Cameron Mitchell (Buck from The High Chaparral)  as a greedy mine-owner after the heroine’s ranch and mine; the perennially old Will Geer, Grandpa from The Waltons, as Nameless, the lady’s ranch hand; and Academy Award winner Dean Jagger as Forrest’s lawyer; plus it was produced by Bing Crosby Productions. The storyline sees Forrest as wrongly convicted gunslinger Devlin who somehow survives his swing on the noose only to sport what looks like a Burberry scarf around his neck to hide the rope marks.  Devlin, now hell-bent on doing good, gets caught up in the dispute between the lady mine-owner and the villain after her mine. Numerous Biblical and Christian references throughout might not have garnered a wider audience with those who prefer their sermons on Sunday. It is, however, well-acted albeit slow moving at times.  The ending is straight out of Dante’s Inferno.
I haven’t mentioned more recent films because most of you will know about movies such as High Plains Drifter, Westworld, and the aforementioned Cowboys and Aliens.  The old films are not only spooky in several senses but good for laughs. However, should film-viewing not be your scare of choice, may I direct you to a duet by Patti Sherry-Crews and myself, and wish you all a very Happy Halloween.

The Wild West gets even wilder when Nat Tremayne sends out his agents from Psychic Specters Investigations offices in St. Louis and Denver. Across country and across time, these agents will stop at nothing to unravel the mysteries that beset poor unsuspecting ranchers and cowboys who have no idea what they're seeing . . .or not, as the case may be.
In Patti Sherry-Crews' The Ghost and The Bridegroom, P.S.I. Agent Healy Harrison is sent to Tucson to rid a rancher of the ghost in the bedroom interfering in his marriage to a mail-order bride. Healy doesn't think she's destined for romance--until she meets Pinkerton detective Aaron Turrell. But when their two cases dovetail, will their newfound love survive the ultimate showdown  between mortal and immortal.

In Andrea Downing's Long A Ghost and Far Away, agent Dudley Worksop aims to unravel the mystery of Colby Gates' dead wife. Lizzie not only seems to have reappeared as a ghost, but has time traveled from 2016 to the 1800s. Can revenge be had for her murder? And can the couple be reunited across country and across time?
 Available at all good eBook-sellers snd, of course, Amazon

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

She Chose the War Path

by Heather Blanton

Sometimes when I do research, I discover fascinating individuals who led gloriously exciting lives and then retired in peace, children and grandchildren sitting at their feet. The happily ever after. The ending we’d all like. Truth is, though, sometimes a hero has her moment early on and from there it’s not a very pretty spiral downward.

This is my impression of the life of Apache warrior woman Dahteste (pronounced ta-DOT-say).

Born around 1860 she chose her path as a warrior. The Apache let you do that. A fairly open-minded society, you could be a warrior, a homemaker, a medicine man, whatever, as long as you worked at it and could deliver. Dahteste was known for her beauty, but she was also clearly respected for her fighting, riding, hunting, and shooting skills. She was fast and she was mean. No man challenged her light-heartedly. And she proved her worth repeatedly on raids with the Apache. In fact, she rode with Cochise (you might remember him. He led an uprising against the U.S. government that started in 1861 and didn’t end until ’72). Remarkably, Dahteste was barely a teenager! Her fighting didn’t end, however, with Cochise’s acceptance of a peace treaty. She continued it by riding with Geronimo. Who knows how many “white-eyes” lost their lives to her rifle?

Geronimo surrendered in 1886. Dahteste over the years had picked up quite a bit of English, had even served as a cavalry scout for a time, so she negotiated the great chief’s surrender. Her reward? She was arrested and shipped to a prison in Florida where she stayed for eight years. Then she was moved to the military prison at Fort Sill, OK where she was a guest for nineteen years. During her time as a resident of the US Army’s military prison system, she survived pneumonia and tuberculosis. I suspect she survived much more than that.

During this time she divorced her husband Ahnandia (one of Geronimo’s original warriors) and within a few years married fellow inmate and former Army scout Coonie. The couple was released in 1919 and moved to the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.

Dahteste, reports say, never spoke English again and wore only beautiful beaded native clothing. She left her long black hair down and unbraided, but always brushed. She was a proud Apache woman who walked with her chin up.

Though she did, indeed, retire with children and grandchildren around her feet, none of them were hers by blood, and she was not generally known to smile much. I hope she spent her final years enjoying peace and happiness, but I don’t get that sense. I think Dahteste was a survivor and she did so with more grim determination than optimism.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Belly up to the Bar by Paty Jager

I'm excited to announce the first book of my Silver Dollar Saloon historical western romance series is now available!

Savannah was a lot of fun to write. When I came up with the idea to have a series revolve around a saloon, I decided that the first person to have their happy-ever-after had to marry a preacher, so she, along with the proper Mrs. Dearling, the boarding house matron, could help the community accept the women as they marry and move into the community as wives and business owners.

There were different levels of saloons in the west.
  • The lowest made their whiskey in the back room from anything they could get their hands on- kerosene, gun powder, ammonia, acids, tobacco, cayenne pepper, and various other items that would rot the gut of any man who drank profusely.These saloons catered to the drunks, less fortunate, and spend-thrifts. 
  • The next level bought whiskey, they just put a third whiskey and two-thirds water in a bottle and sold it for the same price as full strength liquor. This type of saloon could have several women who talked men into buying more drinks, or gambling more than they should, and could be paid to spend some time in a room upstairs. Usually, these woman had no family and no other means of supporting themselves and were at the mercy of the saloon owner just as they would have been at the mercy of a Madam or owner of a brothel.
  • There were also saloons that sold real whiskey and beer and sold women upstairs. This type was usually frequented by the men with money and power, and usually, the women were treated better than those working for the saloon owner who watered his drinks. 
  • The last type of saloon, had real drinks and saloon girls who sang and danced and might on occasion bed a patron who paid well.  
The last type of saloon is my Silver Dollar Saloon, only the owner of the saloon, Beau Gentry, doesn't allow the men to touch the women. They are there to place drinks on the tables, sing, and dance and nothing else. His saloon girls are women he's found in desperate situations and brought to the saloon to work and to live in the boarding house across the alley that is run by Mrs. Dearling, a prominent woman in the Shady Gulch society. When the women aren't working at the saloon, they walk about town with little harassment and attend church and all socials. One by one, the women are married off and new ones are brought in. It's kind of like a Mail Order Bride business only the brides have had hard times and are given a chance to feel better about themselves and their futures through working at the saloon and being treated with respect.

Here is the blurb for Savannah.

Escaping a past full of deceit and larceny, Savannah Gentry goes in search of her only kin, a half-brother she discovered after her father’s death. She hopes Shady Gulch in the Dakota Territory can give her a future. However, she stumbles into the arms of Reverend Larkin Webster, finds herself working in the Silver Dollar Saloon, and soon fears she’s gone from the frying pan into the fire.

After dodging death and incarceration, the Topeka Kid decides to turn his life around and takes on a new identity. Reverend Larkin Webster. It works, until he finds a temptation he can’t resist and steals the heart of Savannah Gentry. When her past collides with his, he wonders if this theft could end up with him losing everything, including his life.

Universal -

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 32 novels, 6 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters.