Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Followers/Reading

I have overlooked the fact that I have some new followers, and I would like to correct that now and welcome Paul D. Brazill ( and Marsha Ward ( to the blog, and thanks to them and the others who I hope I haven't overlooked, but if so, I apologize for the oversight and certainly welcome them aboard, too.

Over the last few weeks, I've procured the following books to add to my bookshelf:

1. Dead Freight for Piute by Luke Short, a 4th printing in 1968, Bantam pocket book that's falling apart
2. Gunsights by Elmore Leonard, 2nd printing July 1985, Bantam pocket book
3.Texas Blood Feud by Dusty Richards, 1st printing Nov 2009, a Pinnacle pocket book
4. Texas Iron by Robert J. Randisi, 1st printing Leisure Books, Feb 2008, pocket book
5. Legend, a pocket book of short stories by Elmer Kelton, Judy Alter, Loren D. Estleman, James Reasoner, Jane Candia Coleman, Ed Gorman and Robert J. Randisi, Leisure Book, l999, pocket book
6. Showdown at Yellow Butte by Louis L'Amour, 3rd printing, Feb 1984, Bantam, pocket book
7. Arkansas Smith by Jack Martin, A Black Horse Western, First Published in Great Britain 2010, Hardback
8. Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker, Berkley Trade Paperback Edition, January 2010
9.  Meloncholy Baby by Robert B. Parker, A Sunny Randall Novel, G. P. Putnam hardback, it's either a First or Second Edition (?)

There is one other book which I wanted to list seperately in light of the Ian Fleming/Raymond Chandler interview on David Cranmer's (The Education of a Pulp Writer). There was one little mention in the interview of Chandler's last book that he was still working on that is set in Palm Springs, CA, and I am under the impression that this book is it, Poodle Springs, by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker, a G. P. Putnam and Sons hardback of 1989, a First Edition, a Spenser novel. It was just coincidental that it fell into my hands because I only buy non-westerns occasionally, and it seems the last couple of months there was a new spurt for mysteries. This book and Meloncholy Baby were purchased at different times for a dollar each at a local cafeteria bookstand.  Since both authors are now in Paradise, Poodle Springs may increase in value, but too bad it isn't autographed. Mr. Parker finished the book after Chandler's death in 1959.

Of the books listed above I have read Showdown at Yellow Butte, Appaloosa, Arkansas Smith and Meloncholy Baby, The others are on the TBR list yelling out to be read, and I am anxious to get started, but I am barely into Dead Reckoning by Mike Blakely, first things first.

I'm such a slow reader it takes me somethimes a week, sometimes a month or two to finish a book anymore.
Just too many things going on to devote time in one sitting to completely read a book. In the olden days, it wasn't like this, but time gets crowded-er as life shortens.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Desert Heat

The novel, Desert Heat, by J.A. JANCE, was an interesting read, although I thought maybe there was a little too much time spent at the hospital with Joanna Brady worrying about her husband (the patient) and her mother's meddling. Her husband, a policeman in Bisbee, AZ, was found in a gully not far from home by Joanna. He had been shot and was severely wounded and taken to the hospital in Tucson by helicopter followed by Joanna and the Bisbee chief of police. It takes nearly a third of the book to cover the two or three days at the hospital, before it moves back to Bisbee with the DEA, the police, and drug smugglers. Her husband, Andy, died and she returns to Bisbee to take care of funeral arrangements, etc.. The police are saying Andy committed suicide, and Joanna knows better, since he wasn't the type.

In Bisbee, she gets a mysterious call from a strange girl who says she knows who the killer is and wants to sell a book she stole that has names and dates, etc., of the killer's drug deals. The killer follows the girl and puts Joanna in fear of being killed along with the girl. It all comes to an end with the Bisbee police, the DEA, and Joanna, herself, wielding a weapon in a shootout near the same gully where her husband was found.

Can't say that it didn't keep my attention level at a high point as I rode along with Joanna and it was certainly worth the time. Try it you'll like it, if you are a mystery fan or even a Western novel fan. Like I said previously, this is the introduction of the Joanna Brady series of mysteries and if you like a well wrought mystery novel you may find these highly to your liking.    

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smoking/No Smoking

I see where the Spanish Government is outlawing smoking in restaurants and bars. This is a big blow to the smoking populace there, which is about everyone, at least it was back in the l950's. I can still smell the fresh buffalo chip odors of the clientele of the small hotel lobby and bar that I lived in for a couple of years as they lit up their Bisontes and puffed away. And all the other smoke-filled bars and restaurants I frequented every day of the week. By the odds, I should have died a long time ago from second-hand smoke or first-hand alcohol poisoning.

There were more than a couple establishments where the smoke was so thick you could cut it with the over-used knife. I never acquired the habit or understood the pull of cigarettes, no matter the language. Not that I didn't try a Camel or a Lucky Strike once or twice, and I would puff on a cigar once in awhile just to make everyone around me mad, and of course the pipe, which I tried out off and on over the years, maybe using three or four packages of tobacco total. 

A few times, back in the 1930's, my brother and I sneaked into the local beer tavern and pool hall to see what was going on, and the smoke was just as bad there as anywhere in Spain, although store-bought cigarettes was not the ciggy of choice due to the cost - it was Bull Durham. I used to stare in wonder at an older brother as he pulled the little white bag of tobacco out of his shirt pocket and pick out a paper from the tiny package, pour some of the baccy onto it, lick the edge of it, and roll it into a nice little cigarette with one end twisted and wet to keep the tobacco from falling out. The older brother would make a fine art of this procedure and light the end of the cigarette, tip his head back and blow smoke rings toward the ceiling, and give me that look of perfect satisfaction.
Watching this for most of my young years, I should've been converted or recruited to the practice, but I never liked the smell or the fact you had to carry all that trash around with you with no convenient place to stick 'em.

The saloons and dance halls of the Old West were just as bad or maybe even worse with all the smoke and spittoons on the floors. Spittoons were still around in the local taverns when I was growing up. In my estimation they were more destructive than the second-hand smoke and spread TB and other diseases, at least I think they did from the signs that used to be posted around San Francisco and some military bases, e.g. "Don't expectorate if you expect to rate around here".

Next up: Desert Heat

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My First Actual Writers' Conference

Although not a western in the way of the traditional western, e.g., cowboys and Indians and the like, novelist J. A. Jance writes stories set in the modern West, at least one of her novels was set in Bisbee and Tucson, Arizona. I know because I just finished reading Desert Heat, the first Joanna Brady mystery. Mrs. Jance writes mysteries, but this is the only one of hers I've read, and I picked it up on the cheap, a pocketbook in its 10th or 20th printing (one of these days I'll have to learn how to distinguish what printing a book is actually in).

I procured this book in preparation for the Avondale Writers Conference, not knowing anything about the author or the material she writes, although I've seen a number of her works displayed in the bookstores. Ms. Jance was scheduled to be the keynote speaker and have a book signing afterward, and I thought I should at least know a little about her before she appeared, hoping that I would be able to have a brief conversation with her about writing or whatever. Fat chance of that as it turned out. After her remarks at the end of the day, I attempted to get close enough to speak with her, but there were so many other writers or attendees that had the same idea, that I was on the fringe of a mob rushing to her table. Another opportunity lost, but I had to leave.

As it was, I enjoyed the conference and the speakers, but there were no editors or agents there as far as I could determine.

My perspective on Desert Heat in the next post (?).

A 10-gal. hat holds around 3qts., enough for a quick rinse-off on a hot desert day or about the same as a good boot (cowboy, not the KITA-type) .

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Journal, 1850 (Cont'd)

Aug 9: Lost some cattle.
Aug 11: Still haven't found the cattle.
Feed for the animals was poor through that area due to all the animals that traveled ahead of the them.
Aug 17: Two men from the Salt Lake valley met them to lead them to good feed. They were happy to hear about how well the valley was progressing. They were camped near the North Platte River.
Aug 18: Raining - just made it across the river before it became impassable.
Aug 19: Held a meeting of all members of the 100 wagons for the last time they figured they would be together, due to the leapfrogging of the 50s and the various pacing of travel. They settled some problems among the various 10's.
Aug 21: Cattle bloated from eating so much grass. They fed them lard thinking they had alkali sickness, but the cattle survived. They continued on.
While camped on the Sweet Water River, they sent out hunting parties looking for buffalo.
Aug 26: Final hunters came in with three dead buffalo, the only success of the hunt. Camped that night at Devil's Gate.
Aug 31: Some dissatisfied travelers took off on their own from the fourth and fifth groups of 10s. They weren't seeing eye-to-eye with the others.
Sep 2: Traveling along the Sweet Water they found discarded wagons and other items left by California immigrants. There was much bedding and clothing found.
Sep 6: They traveled through South Pass and camped on Pacific Creek.
Sep 11: Camped on the Green River.
On Sep 16, 1850, they reached Great Salt Lake City after 101 days on the road.

[In my great-grandfather's review of the trip, he said that he never imagined what troubles and difficulties and the hard work required to bring "500 people" across the plains would be. And thirty years' later he was still worried (my word) about 10 of the muskets he had checked out before they left Nauvoo. One of the party had signed for them, but he didn't stop in Salt Lake. Instead he continued on to Provo and my ggpa still had the receipts in 1880.)]

Well, that was the end of the trip across the plains, but not the end of the journal. It continues with his life in the Salt Lake Valley and other places he traveled, sometimes for the Mormon Church and other times for himself, which I won't get into.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Journal, 1850 (Cont'd)

July 21: It was a Sunday and the wagon train is resting on the other side of the south fork of the Platte River.
July 22: Started off again and traveled on to Chimney Rock, reaching there on the 28th. They took off again on the 29th and passed Scott's Bluffs on the 30th.

They had some trouble from a hitchhiker who was on the way to California - a woman, whose husband had kicked her out of an earlier wagon and she had been at Fort Kearney for a while. She was standing by the side of the road not far from Fort Kearney as this train came by and told them a sad story, but they didn't believe it and decided to leave her there near the fort. However, a single man in the second 50 picked her up. After a few days, he kicked her out, too, but he was told he couldn't leave her in the middle of nowhere alone and had to take her to Fort Laramie. He refused and he was kicked out of the train. Somebody else in the party carried her to Fort Laramie, but she wasn't finished yet. She told the Army people that there were deserters on the wagons - which there were not, but the soldiers held up the train while they searched and satisfied themselves that no deserters were among the travelers.

Aug 4: Continued traveling to the second crossing of Bitter Creek where they stopped to rest and feed and water the animals. Food had been scarce for them and they hadn't eaten the day before
Aug 7: Started up again, but some teams at the end stampeded and one man was run over and killed before they could get them stopped. If they hadn't stopped them and prevented all of them from stampeding, there may have been a big pileup of the whole company in a gulch which was a short distance ahead.

[Welcome to Wyoming Territory! There was no reference made of Independence Rock, too pre-occupied, I suppose.]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Journal, 1850 (Cont'd)

After getting organized and arranged for the trip to the Rockies, there were a total of 105 wagons, 476 people and their cattle, horses, sheep, etc. In May they set off in two groups of 50 (there terminology) and leap-frogged across the plains. If one group was delayed, the other group kept traveling. There were delays due to broken wagon tongues, broken wheels, animals wandering off, creeks running high from dreadful storms, etc.

There was an outbreak of cholera, which plagued the parties with several dying. My g-gpa fell sick in July, not from cholera, but a severe cold with lung trouble and was out of action for a few days. They passed several graves of those headed to California on July 12 of those who had died in June.

On July 23, 1850, they reached Ash Hollow and stopped for wagon repairs. [They have been traveling for two months now and are still in Nebraska! That gives you some idea of the speed of travel in those days, what with all the mishaps, the deep sandy spots, breakdowns, storms, etc., not an easy job.]

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Journal, 1850

The first part of the year was spent getting ready to travel to the Rockies, having been almost three years since the first party left. My great-grandfather neglected to report in his journal that his wife had a baby son on December 15, 1849, and added it in here.

The gold rushers poured into Kanesville, Iowa, but found the grass too dry and unsuitable to continue to California due to lack of rain. In April, they departed after getting resupplied, which cost them $2.50 per bushel of wheat and $2.00 for corn. The mill that my g-gpa owned with a partner made a good profit with which he was able to outfit himself for the journey to the mountains.

He was elected the Captain of 100 wagons much to his surprise and they commenced organizing for the trip. The company was divided into two groups of 50 wagons and further divided into groups of 10 wagons with a Captain in charge of each group. They passed some rules to travel by, one of which was that cruelty to animals would not be tolerated.

On June 17, 1850, travel to the mountains began and after about three miles a wagon wheel broke in the first 50 wagons and they had to stop. The second 50 traveled on a few miles.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Journal, 1847-1849

[My great-grandfather continued to live in the Council Bluffs area and attend the various meetings and conferences of the Mormons as the days and years go by.]

Jan - Weather intensely cold then warmed up.
Jan 23 - Walked nine miles to Winter Quarters with a friend. [Winter Quarters was across the Missouri River in Nebraska, part of Omaha today.]
Jan 24: Attended meeting.
Jan 25: Returned home.
Jan 31: Back to Winter Quarters.
Feb 1:  Meeting cancelled due to bad weather. Returned home.
Mar: Wants to head for the Rockies, but has no team to pull a wagon.
Apr: Decided to clear field for crops.
May: Brigham Young and company have already left for the Rockies. Another company leaving soon.
        Cleared and ploughed [his spelling] with borrowed team six acres of land and fenced it off with split-rails.
Jun:  Finished planting corn.
       Cut oak and black walnut logs for twelve and a half cents each for a neighbor.
Jul:  Hoed weeds in corn, weeds plentiful. No horse to plough with.
Aug: Cleared one and a half acres and planted turnips.
Sep:  Worked for father-in-law.
Nov:  Added room to house for brother-in-law to use, he returned from the Mormon Battalion a company of which  had gone to Salt Lake. More turnips than I can take care of, 300 bushel so far. [He now had a total of three acres of turnips.]
Dec 31: Thankful for the 250 bushels of corn and the 300 of turnips. Have not suffered for food and clothing.

Jan 9: Taken sick.
Jan 24: Finally able to get around a little. Lost memory.
Jan 29: Daughter born.
Mar 12: Able to do a little work.
Mar 26: Daughter got sick and died.
Sep: Worked all summer. Got 16 acres ready for planting. Built a grist mill with a couple of friends.

Worked in mill.
May: Gold discovered in California. Many people leaving. Sold a lot of grain.
Dec 31: Cholera raged this year with many dying. Gave thanks for escaping it and for a prosperous year.