Greetings from sunny New York where the crime rises with the humidity in July. Fear not for me. I’m safe in my air conditioned lair, my killer cat always on the lookout for dangerous interlopers.
It’s been a wild month and a half with 2 books coming out one after the other. THE MONTAUK MONSTER is flying off the shelves and devouring the beach read competition. I’ll be talking all things Montauk and monsters up in Maine a week from now. I have a signing at Bridgton Books (Bridgton is a town Stephen King once lived in and penned some great books) on Friday, July 25th from 1-3pm.
I’ll also be at the North Bridgton Library to talk writing and have a fun Q&A on Tuesday, July 22 at 7pm. I’ll make sure I have all of my books on hand.
OK, now let’s get down to HELL HOLE. I wrote this western/horror for my father last year because he was such a fan of westerns. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could read the finished product, but I sense he has his copy up there in the great beyond. HELL HOLE is just one of several horror westerns that Samhain will be publishing this year, along with Jonathan Janz’s excellent western vampire, DUST DEVIL’S. It’s strange how we all decided to head out west at the same time without talking amongst ourselves about it.
Mine is a little different because it’s set in Wyoming in 1905, a couple of decades after the real wild west’s heyday. But it does have an old cowboy, Rough Riders, Teddy Roosevelt, a creepy abandoned mine, black-eyed kids, ghosts, wild men, Djinn and a hell of a lot more. And I’d be remiss if I left out a half-Mexican beauty named Selma. To whet your whistle, I’ve posted a little excerpt below. Take a gander and make the trip to Hecla, Wyoming with me, where things are never what they seem. Info on getting your own copy is on the BOOKS tab.
It didn’t take long to circumnavigate the hills, even taking it as slow as we did. By noon, it felt like the sun was sitting on the brim of my Stetson. We were about to call it a day when Selma pulled up her horse and barked, “Look over here! What is that?”
Peering down, I saw a footprint of some kind. It was made by someone that had been barefoot because you could make out all the toes. Odd thing about it was that there were only four toes.
And it was big. Longer and wider than any foot I’d ever seen.
“There’s another one over here,” Teta said.
About seven feet to the north of the first track was another. All told, we found six of them, though only two were deep enough to retain any kind of definition.
“Que demonios?” Teta said, whistling as he walked around them. “I never saw a foot that damn big.”
I jumped off my horse and bent down to get a closer look.
“Awfully wide,” I said.
“You can see there’s a right foot and a left foot,” Selma said, pointing to the nearest set.
“And only four toes on each,” Teta added.
“Let me see something, try to gauge the size.” I put my boot next to the footprint. It was bigger than mine by a good five or six inches, and I wore a size twelve.
Selma said, “Maybe it’s an old footprint. Time in the elements just wore it enough so it looks bigger than it is.”
Tracing my fingers in and around the best print, I shook my head. “Nope. This one’s fresh. Couple of days old at the most. The ground up here is too dry to keep a print for long, even one that’s as deep as this. Had to have been someone awfully heavy to make it.”
“How do you know that?” she asked.
“He did this for a living, long time ago, back before you were born,” Teta said with a wry smile.
“Then you think it’s real?”
“The print is,” I replied. “Can’t tell you about the person that made it. Hard to imagine a man big enough to leave a print like that. Maybe he was wearing some weird kind of boot. Could be ceremonial for one of the local tribes. Not every Indian is on a rez. I hear there are still Cheyenne and Crow about.”
I’d seen Apaches wear some peculiar stuff during their ceremonies. It wasn’t hard to imagine an Indian sporting something like this, though the depth of the impression bothered me. Could have been a man with someone on his shoulders.
“But why would someone do such a thing?”
“I’m just a white man. It’s hard for me to get into the head of an Indian. They have different dances and different ways of dressing for everything you can imagine. I’ve heard of some that believe in a wild man of the mountains. It’s kind of like some big, hairy bear that’s also part man. He’s said to be taller than any man, stronger than an angry bison and faster than a mountain lion.”
“Do you believe in it?”
Teta gave a quick laugh and I cut it off with a sharp look.
“No, I don’t. But they do. And when they believe hard in something, they do their damnedest to make themselves look like it. What this tells me is what I’ve thought all along. We have some rogue Indians out here keeping the white men away from their hills.”
The first cool breeze of the day whispered through the trees and shook the brittle leaves. It sounded like small bones rattling in a jug.
Teta instinctively placed his palm on the handle of his Colt. “Suddenly, I don’t like being here with so much cover.”
“Me neither. Let’s get back to camp. I have to rethink things.”
Selma was quick to mount. Her head swiveled from side to side, anticipating danger everywhere. Poor girl had no experience with things like this. I had a good mind to bring her back to her father myself in the morning.
We had only gotten a few feet from the tracks when a piercing howl erupted behind us. My insides went numb. All three horses reared.
I hoped to hell we didn’t get bucked.
Not with whatever was at our backs close enough to raise the hairs on our heads.
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