Deserves got nothing to do with it

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Firstly, apologies if you’re waiting for the second half of my New York Comic-Con post (you can read part one here) – the editing deadline for Department 19: Battle Lines got on top of me, and then I was on holiday for a week. It’ll be up at the weekend, I promise…


Today sees the launch of my second non-Department 19 work this year, one that I’m extremely proud of – a novella called The Sad Tale of the Deakins Boys, which appears in A Town Called Pandemonium, the new western anthology from Jurassic London. Here’s the awesome cover…

The novella is set in 1853 and concerns four men – two generations of a family who were among the first to head west when silver was found in the foothills above the town that would become known as Pandemonium. As the first big storm of the summer approaches, a hidden cave containing the potential to turn their luck around draws three of the Deakins men up the mountain above their home. And down in Pandemonium, the estranged member of the family is sent to deal with a problem, unaware that his evening is about to take a turn for the much, much worse…

It was a long way out of my comfort zone as a writer – a western story that takes place in a shared world, populated by myself and nine other writers, with overlapping characters, a shared location and a single chronology. I’ve known Jared and Anne, the lovely folk behind Jurassic and the excellent Pornokitsch blog, for a while now, and had admired the first two Pandemonium anthologies – Stories Of The Apocalypse (a collection of stories about the end of the world, now gone forever) and Stories Of The Smoke (inspired by Dickensian London). They contained tales by friends of mine and writers I admired, so when they asked me to be involved in Panda-Town (as the project became known) I was delighted. Partly because of the other writers involved – Sam Sykes, Joseph D’Lacey, Jon Oliver, Scott Andrews, to mention just a few of them. And partly for another, simpler reason.

I love westerns.

Loved them when I was a kid, love them now. I love Clint Eastwood more than is probably healthy, his bizarre empty chair rant at the Republican Convention notwithstanding, and John Wayne, and John Ford, and Sergio Leone, and Sam Peckinpah, and too many others to list here. When I was a kid I loved the old black n’ whites – The Searchers, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – and when I was a teenager I went through the same period that most film geek goes through at some point – the period where you come to believe that Sergio Leone is basically God. Then as I got older, my tastes tended towards the sadder, the more melancholy, the slightly odd – Pale Rider, High Plains Drifter, Once Upon A Time In The West. And the film that is in my top five of all time, regardless of genre – the majestic, unsurpassable work of genius that is Unforgiven, from where the title of this post is taken. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this, stop doing anything else you might be doing, and rent/buy/stream it from wherever you can get it most quickly.

I think the thing that appeals to me about westerns, and the thing that I was so excited to explore in A Town Called Pandemonium, is that the setting is inherently temporary. The period of time in which most (not all!) westerns are set is a relatively short one – essentially the second half of the nineteenth century. A time when the frontier of what passed for the civilised world was moving south and west, where the rule of law was at its most basic, where the land and the open spaces were full of possibility and danger.

It couldn’t last, obviously.

Railways, the finite amount of farmland, the rise of militias and local law enforcement – all helped to tame the wild west, and close the book on a period of uniquely American history. But the fact that the end was always coming adds an extra level of poignancy and excitement to stories set in the period – for a short while there was true adventure, and something close to true freedom, even if it came laced with violence and the prospect of death.

The influences of all of the above will no doubt be apparent to anyone who reads Deakins Boys, although it goes to a place that few of them do – a somewhat gooey place. It’s an adult story and is, without doubt, the goriest and nastiest thing I’ve ever written – I won’t say why, but suffice it to say that a strong stomach is probably going to be an asset if you decide to give it a go. And it contains what the film censors would call adult language and themes. So because I don’t want to get angry emails from parents, I will say this…

The Sad Tale of the Deakins Boys is probably not suitable for younger Department 19 readers.

But if you think you can handle it, I’d be very intrigued to know what you make of it. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written and I’m very proud of it. If you like westerns, please support the collection – very few publishers would take a chance on a western these days, especially one as weird as this, so grab this one with both hands. And if you need yet another reason, a portion of all the proceeds from the book go to supporting the Arthur C. Clarke Award, a very worthy cause. Here’s the amazing illustration that Adam Hill did for my novella, just to whet your appetite a little further…

A Town Called Pandemonium is available in two physical editions – the Silver Dollar edition (paperback) and the Cafe de Paris edition (limited, numbered hardback edition, with interviews, a new introduction and an extra story) – and as a Kindle ebook worldwide. You can buy the physical editions here, and the ebooks at the following links:

UK readersUS and international readers

Finally, if you’re in London we’re having a little launch party tonight (Thursday 29th) with readings from several of the contributing authors – click here for the details, and come and say hello if you’re around…

1 Comment
  • Anne
    November 28, 2012

    I associate John Wayne with my father so strongly that I often dream of him – those kinds of dreams where you see one thing (Wayne) and know another (actually my dad). Which is why we dedicated the book to him (real dad, not John Wayne avatar-dad).

    I know I speak for both of us when I say how pleased and proud we are of Town, and that it wouldn’t be the same without your story. Literally!

    Look at me, getting all mushy. [Squints; spits tobaccer; kicks dust off boots.]

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