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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Death ain't what it used to be - Slim McCord

Those publishing lead times - Wild Bill Williams  was published last month and a few weeks ago I signed the contract for a book which will be my fifth Black Horse title for Robert Hale Ltd. Wild Bill was actually written more than fourteen months ago, and by the time it had gone through the publishing process I had completed another western,and no doubt I will have written another by the time this next one comes out. I've got a list of ideas for new western novels that could keep me writing long into my afterlife. (pun intended - read on)


Elmer McCurdy
It's early days yet, and I'm  working on a second Granny Smith novel, but I'd like to tell you a little bit about my fifth Black Horse title, which will be published sometime next year. It's called The Afterlife of Slim McCord and uses an unusual premise - here's a very rough draft of the blurb:




“True friendship continues long after living is gone!”
Aging not so bad men Blackman and Tanner thought they had seen it all, but nothing could have prepared them for what they would find in the town of Possum Creek.
Once they had ridden with the notorious outlaw Slim McCord and when they come upon his mummified remains in a traveling carny show, they find themselves thrown into an unlikely and dangerous series of events as they, together with their dead leader, head towards a destiny that seems preordained.
Slim McCord, long after his death, is now involved in the most lucrative bank robbery of his outlaw career, as the three men, together again, face all manner of danger and find that, as the bullets fly, it’s just like old times.
It's kind of the story of the end of the frontier as seen through the eyes of two aged outlaws and one dead one. I was thinking along those lines, or at least the lines of aging outlaws when I stumbled across the real life story of Elmer McCurdy, a badman who was indeed mummified and then shown as part of a traveling carny show. 
Here's a snippet from the author's note that will accompany, The Afterlife of Slim McCord
In 1911 McCurdy was shot during a failed robbery and as no one claimed his body the undertaker embalmed the outlaw with arsenic based preservatives and put the corpse on show. From there the corpse ended up in various traveling shows before disappearing sometime in the 1930s. Incredibly in 1976 a prop man on the set of the TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, rediscovered it. It had been thought to be a wax model, and used in a fun house set before a finger broke off, revealing it to be actual human remains.  Elmer McCurdy was eventually buried in 1977 in the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery, Oklahoma with most of the cast and crew from The Six Million Dollar Man in attendance.
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction - and there was something fine and dandy about that old corpse causing such a commotion in 1976,all those years after death - the police were called in and production on The Six Million Dollar man frozen until they identified the body. And that's how Slim McCord developed in my mind. I liked the idea of the old outlaw kicking up a storm long after death  - My story is set in the Old West and our mummified outlaw finds himself playing an active part in a bank robbery long after he's cashed in his chips. I like the concept - nothing's truly new and there have been many western novels that have used a parallel between aging characters and the end of the frontier to tone their story, but as far as I know there's never been one with a mummified outlaw at the heart of the story. And I'm mighty pleased with Slim McCord - it's a larger than life story, with action, adventure, comedy and a stirring of sentiment. Above all I think Slim McCord's got a lot of heart.
Those days were gone though and Blackman knew it. It was written in his face and he had a wrinkle for every fence that had been thrown up around previously open range. He could dream though, and in his dreams there were no fences, and enough pretty ladies to warm the coldest of nights. 
Anyway that's it, The Afterlife of Slim McCord and I'm sure I'll be making a big old fuss when publication day nears, but for now the taster above is all your getting.
This book is also dedicated to the memory of Elmer McCurdy and all those who rode the Wild West, both in life and death.

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