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Can a story set in Pennsylvania be considered a Western?
Probably not, if you want to get technical. But my publisher Billie Johnson thought Fallen From Grace met the test in spirit if not place and decided to make it the first entry in Wild Oaks, the new Western imprint of Oak Tree Press.
I couldn’t be happier, because I love the genre. I grew up (and now live again) in a house reputed to have been built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill. My mother said she devoured pulp Westerns while carrying me and I cut my reading teeth on the likes of Zane Grey (who, incidentally, began his writing career in Pennsylvania ), Emerson Hough, Jack London and others from my dad’s well-stocked library.
All of this contributed to a lifelong interest in the history of the West and desire to trod in the footsteps of those legendary characters, both actual and literary, discovered in my reading.
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Fallen From Grace was inspired by Sylvester Tilghman, a character I’d featured in two short stories and who asserted himself, demanding a book role. Characters can be like that. They pop up in a writer’s imagination, develop personalities and demand a place in our stories. Tilghman’s grandfather was in my first novel, Schlussel’s Woman, and his father has a bit role in Watch The Hour. Maybe he thought it was a family prerogative to be featured in a book.
Fallen From Grace is set in the 1890s. Tilghman is the third in his family to serve as sheriff in the small town of Arahpot , Pennsylvania , a generally peaceful place. Sylvester’s biggest immediate problems are lack of a deputy and the refusal of Lydia , his girlfriend, to marry him despite many proposals. That all changes when a stranger to town is fatally stabbed.
Tilghman recalls witnessing a strained encounter between the victim and Valentine Deibert, an obese man with a wife half his age. When questioned, Deibert denies knowing the victim.
Tilghman is unconvinced, but lacks a connection until the victim’s widow arrives in Arahpot. Suddenly Sylvester is plunged into investigating two murders. As he works through an abundance of motivated suspects, Tilghman finds himself in danger. And worse— Lydia is pushing her obnoxious cousin as a candidate for depty.
Fallen From Grace is available from Oak Tree Books, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major booksellers.
Fallen From Grace (March 2011), Wild OakBeing Someone Else (July 2010), Whiskey Creek Press